26. Was there an established author who, for lack of a better term, mentored you or otherwise helped you achieve your first sale?
No. In point of fact, when I made my first sale, short fiction, a story that has since been disavowed in a market that is now out of print, I knew exactly nobody in the business. I barely knew what Standard Manuscript Format was (in point of fact, I was doing it wrong.) When I made my first SFWA pro sale (poetry, to F&SF) I had met a bunch of people through the Online Writing Workshops, of a range from wannabes to neopros to first-novelists, and while their critique certainly helped my writing, it was more peer-review than mentoring.
After that, I fell in with the writer-gang on livejournal, and I've gotten a ton of helpful advice from many of them, but my most significant writerly relationship through lj has been with truepenny, and she and I are blundering cheerfully pretty much neck-and-neck through the publication process. "Hey, watch out for the---! ... never mind. I see you found it."
Since I've sold my first novel, I've made some accomplished writerly friends.
Oh, and there's my co-Las-Vegan Steve Brust, who is full of cheerful "Don't do this stupid thing wot I did" stories and general encouragement, but he never actually looked at my book before I sold it.
So no, it really isn't about who you know in the industry.
27. How did writing The Stratford Man change your life?
It was my journeyman piece. I'm not sure how else to accept it. In writing that book--which terrified me--I learned that not only can I tackle a huge, intimidating project... but I can do a good job on it, too. And that's given me a lot of confidence with regard to later work. It helped put paid to the worst of the impostor syndrome. I mean, I still have impostor syndrome--"This is not my beautiful writing career."--but I no longer have impostor syndrome over my ability to write books. I know I can write books.
It's just freaky every so often to realize that I'm more or less making a living at it.
Come on, guys. three more questions!