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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Guest Post: An Ode to Science Fantasy

The awesome Heather Massey runs the awesome science fiction romance site, The Galaxy Express. Is it any surprise that she writes science fiction romance as well? Here she is writing about her favorite blends of science fiction and fantasy.

An Ode To Science Fantasy

On occasion, there’s nothing more exhilarating than being a fan of both science fiction and fantasy. The former involves mind-boggling stories driven by technology and explores the impact thereof. The latter involves mind-boggling stories driven by magic and explores the impact thereof. Either way, my mind is boggled and entertained.

Naturally, there’s a difference between the two in the level of realism I expect. With SF, I can have fun speculating about and also anticipating the real possibilities implied by technology-flavored scenarios, even if I won’t live to see all of it unfold. Fantasy allows me to vicariously experience phenomena that I know will never happen, but that I want to imagine as possible anyway. Screw the laws of reality!

Part of the time, I crave a “pure” SF experience; other times nothing other than a “pure” fantasy experience will do. However, many stories don’t work that way. Historically, science fiction and fantasy have been so entwined that it’s been nigh impossible for authors/filmmakers to keep them separate. While a “pure” reading experience in either genre can be had any day of the week, there are probably thousands of stories straining mightily against the SF and fantasy genre conventions.

So what’s a gal to do? One solution, of course, is to become a fan of science fantasy!

Science fantasy is that nebulous, ever-shifting realm between SF and fantasy. In addition to SF elements, the genre includes but is not limited to things like magic, spiritual worlds, alternate dimensions, paranormal elements, mythology, planetary romance…basically anything beyond the ordinary that’s not accounted for by science and/or the technology of the setting. Impossible, implausible, illogical…you name it, science fantasy’s got it.

Why science fantasy rocks the casbah

Ironically, because of its hybrid nature, science fantasy is a very accessible genre whether we’re talking hardcore or casual SF/F fans. Is it any wonder that films and books with the widest mainstream appeal tend to fall under the science fantasy label rather than, say, traditional military SF or cyberpunk?

Many of these stories deliver a good old fashioned flight of fancy that make our imaginations catch fire. Plus, science fantasy lends itself to action-adventure and romance elements, not to mention just plain fun, weird stuff. Sometimes the fantasy aspect is a small slice; in other stories it takes up nearly the whole pie. Either way, there’s a little something for everyone.

Finally, science fantasy delivers the ultimate speculative adventure: worlds where technology and extraordinary phenomena like magic or the supernatural co-exist. Combining SF and fantasy validates the best of what both genres have to offer. Chocolate and peanut butter taste great separately, but put them together if you want your taste buds to really sing.

What’s wrong with science fantasy?

Yes, there are the heated arguments stipulating that many science fantasy tales are simply straight-up fantasy stories masquerading as science fiction (STAR WARS is the most oft-cited film example, and I daresay we can now throw AVATAR into the mix as well). OMG how dare they! It’s not real science fiction if it doesn’t stick to the real-science formula, right? Well, that depends on whom you ask. Each answer you get will have you running around in circles.

Sure, many science fantasy stories induce serious suspension of disbelief issues. The science in them, or lack thereof, can’t be bothered with things like plausibility and the laws of physics. The idea of mixing magic and technology is fantastical in and of itself. Frankly, you either buy into the concepts or you don’t.

Also, science fantasy muddies the waters, especially concerning reader expectations. Nothing beats entering a story that begins like a military SF novel and BAM! wraps you up in a big bear hug of fantastical elements. It certainly helps to have a clue going in as to which path a story will take. SF/F readers are constantly faced with the decision of whether or not they should adjust their expectations.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with science fantasy—nothing at all!

Science fantasy has been around a long time, and as long as the stories are entertaining—not to mention out of this world—it will be around for years to come.

Let’s keep the conversation going. What’s your favorite science fantasy story (books, films, TV shows, etc.)? How do you envision the genre evolving over the next 5-10 years?

~*~

Heather Massey searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express. She also blogs about the the subgenre for Germany’s premier romance magazine, LoveLetter.

Heather’s debut erotic sci-fi romance novel, Once Upon a Time in Space (Red Sage Publishing), features the last living descendant of Christopher Columbus on a desperate quest to find a new world. Standing in his way is Raquel, the deadliest space pirate in the galaxy.

Visit her author Web site at www.heathermassey.com.

Snippet Sunday – Opening to Cinderella Story

I’ll be the first to admit that the Cinderella story is giving me fits. There isn’t anyone obvious who could have been “accidentally enchanted” and I didn’t want to write from the point of view of one of the stepsisters–that’s been done before. So I came up with a new character altogether, who I introduce–at a much younger age, in my free prequel, “Wish by a Hazel Tree“.

Last week, I really tore apart my story. I cut out 13,000 words, and then in a flurry of writing, I wrote another 4000 words and re-added a thousand back in from the cut. I got up to a certain point when I realized that something else had to change. So I did the wise thing. I set the whole thing aside and worked on a novel for the past week. I seem to write best when I alternate between a novel and a shorter story.

I do like the opening to my Cinderella story, so here it is. In it, I introduce both my character and the Cinderella character, plus I show the rather tenuous connection between them. Comments welcome.

~*~

The sign read, M. Petit, Pawn and Moneylender.

As Fayette opened the door for Tante Anne, she noticed another girl right behind them. Fayette recognized her—she had seen her here before. In fact, Fayette wondered if the girl had waited in order to enter in the company of Fayette and her aunt.

“You may as well go first,” Fayette whispered to the girl. “We’re only going to make him angry.”

The girl glanced at her, her eyes wide with alarm. She was quite pretty, but also young—surely no older than sixteen or eighteen. Her face was smudged with soot, and her kerchief covered most of her bright hair. There was something artificial about the soot streaks, and Fayette wondered if she had deliberately tried to make herself appear more unattractive than she was.

Fayette winked at her. With a small smile, the girl darted up the steps and through the door.

“Today is my lucky day!” Monsieur Petit said as Fayette limped in. “Mademoiselle Clermont and Mademoiselle duPre visiting at the same time. I shall pinch myself.”

Fayette eased herself into one of the hard chairs near the window. “Please let Mademoiselle go first,” she said with a nod to the ash-streaked girl. “Our business will take some time.” Fayette rubbed the bony protuberance outside her right knee.

Monsieur Petit ignored Mademoiselle Clermont and came over to Fayette. “My dear Mademoiselle, it pains me to see your knee bothering you again. It’s too bad you can’t afford a doctor.”

“There’s naught to be done for my knee, and we can afford a doctor very well.”

“I beg to differ, Mademoiselle. A doctor should be beyond your means. Your shop is still, after all … heh heh … in arrears.” He threw up his hands in a gesture of helplessness.

Fayette refused to be baited. “In any case, I have no need of a doctor. Please, Monsieur. Let Mademoiselle conduct her business, and then we shall conduct ours.”

“Hmm,” he said. He glanced at Mademoiselle Clermont, who stared at the floor. “Yes, your highness?” he said, his voice mocking.

Fayette exchanged raised brows with her aunt.

“Please, Monsieur.” The girl held out a stack of papers.

He took them and rifled through them. “More bills, I see. Dressmakers, shoemakers, jewelers, hairdressers—Madame is amassing quite a debt … on top of her existing debt.”

“She said,” the girl said with a gulp, “that you and her had already agreed upon a payment.”

“Yes. I wonder if you’re aware of what that payment is.”

The girl was silent for a moment. “No, Monsieur.”

“Hmm. Well, far be it for me to compromise client confidentiality.” Then, to Fayette’s astonishment, he reached out, grabbed Mademoiselle Clermont’s chin, and forced it up.

“Monsieur!” Fayette cried out.

Monsieur Petit glanced at Fayette and removed his hand. “Tell me, Mademoiselle,” he said to the girl, “are you going to the ball with your stepsisters?”

“No, Monsieur.”

“Why not, pray tell?”

“Twas … twas my father’s debt, and …”

“… and you are still paying for it now that he’s dead. I see. Hmm. Well, tell Madame Clermont that I will take care of these, as agreed.”

Mademoiselle Clermont turned to leave.

“Goodbye, your highness.” Monsieur Petit called after her.

As she rushed by, Fayette noticed that her cheeks were red with embarrassment.

“Who is that girl?” Tante Anne said as soon as she left. “And why do you taunt her like that?”

~*~

I may make this a regular feature. Comments welcome. I do intend to ask a native French speaker read it before I submit it.

Congratulations, and Ongoing Contest

Congratulations to the following friends who are finalists in this years Golden Hearts awards:

P2PC by Laurie A. Green, is up in the Paranormal Romance category, but is a science fiction romance. I really think they need a science fiction romance category!

Secrets of a Wedding Night by Valerie Bowman is up in the Regency Romance catetory. Valerie is a member of my RWA chapter.

Willing to Learn by Maria Connor is up for the Contemporary Series Romance award.

Way to go, girls!!!

Here is the full list, along with the RITA award winners.

~*~

You have the rest of the weekend to comment and enter Kimber An’s giveaway. Curious about Kimber’s work? Here’s a five-star review of Crushed Sugar and of Sugar Rush by a new fan!

Nine Tropes I Love

Recently, I started reading a time travel steampunk, and I expected to like it because it seemed to contain two tropes that I love–steampunk (who can resist the blend of science and fancy?) and fish-out-of-water due to time travel. However, I was disappointed when chapter two advanced the clock by about six months, making the character mostly comfortable with the time period by the time the chapter starts. This made me feel slightly disappointed, and while I’m sure I’ll go back to reading it soon, right now I have some rather irresistible books and it was rather easy to set aside.

(What are the irresistible books, you ask? The second Mistborn novel, The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith (a #1 Ladies Detective Agency story) and Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear (a Maisie Dobbs story).)

Any, my experience with the steampunk novel, which will remain unnamed for now, inspired this post on Tropes I Love. So here are the tropes I almost never tire of reading about:

Fantasy

Warrior Women. I mentioned this in my post, 10 Blurb Elements that Work For Me, so I won’t go into detail again.

Disheartened Nobleman. I love a world-weary young nobleman–preferably a knight–going home after being disappointed by life somehow and expecting things to be familiar and comforting, but finding only trouble instead. Can I think of a novel that meets this rather specific scenario? I suppose Dragons of Autumn Twilight would be an example, but that’s not really what I have in mind. I guess I have not read a novel like this in a while.

Obscure Hero. I guess I’m enjoying the Mistborn novels because the heroine, Vin, is of obscure origins.

Immortal and Otherworldly Race. I admit it. I loved elves. I was disappointed to see that trope become a thing of the past. I thought it was so cool to have this race that was apart and above mortals, yet who yearned to be with mortals nevertheless.

Forbidden Magic. I’m not usually big on magic-using heroes–I prefer a normal hero to overcome insurmountable odds to defeat a magic-using villain–but if they do have magic, I like to to be forbidden. Make the penalty for using magic something horrific and I take note.

Magic Music. I’m a musician, and I love it when an author can make a magic system based on music work. It’s not fantasy, but Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer did this quite well.

Here’s a mystery trope.

Forbidden Love. This seems to work better with mystery series than with fantasies. This is where the man and the woman can’t get together somehow, but they must work together. One reason I want to read the next Maisie Dobbs novel so much is I’m wondering if this book is the one that at last will acknowledge the attraction between Maisie and Detective Inspector Stratton. It’s gotten almost that I expect a forbidden love trope with my mystery series.

And some general purpose tropes

Fish out of Water. As I mentioned above, I just love these, especially in time travel stories. Who could forget George McFly showing Marty how to pop the top off a soda bottle in Back to the Future? But it also works as a clash of cultures, such as in Shogun. Just today on TV, Enemy Mine was playing, which is a classic science fiction clash of cultures. Nobles having to adjust to being common also work with this trope, as do commoners who have to adjust to becoming noble. It’s just fun.

Exploring a New or Forgotten Place. This comes up in all kinds of genres. It was in Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama when they opened the alien ship. It was in every Indiana Jones movie made. It was in The Warded Man, when Arlen finally found the wards. It was in Northanger Abbey when Catherine pretends to be ill so she can sneak around the abbey.

What kind of tropes do you enjoy reading? Have I missed something obvious? (Besides fairy tales, that is?)

Guest Post – Blood-Sucking Dead Guys

I don’t usually use official bios, but I love Kimber’s, so here it is:

Kimber An never had enough books when she was a kid and the ones she had didn’t turn out the way she wanted. And so she started writing her own. She also loved babies a lot, but didn’t know how to talk to boys. Instead, she became a nanny and took care of other people’s babies. Finally, she moved to Alaska where she met a boy who understood getting whacked in the head with a wadded up piece of paper meant true love. She married him and now she reads books to her own babies, and is living happily ever after.

And here she is!

BLOOD-SUCKING DEAD GUYS

By Kimber An

If you’re an aspiring author, you’ve probably been told to write the book of your heart, don’t follow the trends, et cetera and so forth.  I tried that and my third time through Queryland with yet another book of my heart, a Young Adult Science Fiction-based Time Travel Romance set in World War II England with an African American female Spitfire Pilot and a white-as-a-bleached-sheet British pilot, I came to the conclusion that…

…I would never achieve publication unless I threw in a Blood-Sucking Dead Guy too.

Oh, yeah, I was being told right and left not to follow the vampire trend, that everyone hates Bella Swan (even though the Twilight franchise has sold bazillions in books, movies, and related merchandise), and so on.  But, then, I’d stroll the Young Adult aisle at the bookstore and see nothing but Blood-Suckin’ Dead Guys.  And I thought, “Um.  Yeah.  Right.”

Now, I’m not saying all that advice was wrong.  It was possibly true that after polishing three novels for submission and pestering every published author I knew for advice and reading every book and cyber-article I could get my hands on that maybe, just maybe, my writing skills had improved too.

Whatever the case, it was the Blood-Suckin’ Dead Guy who scored a hit on my fourth trip.

The funny thing is I’ve never been into vampires.  I had to look them up on Wikipedia and I didn’t read Twilight until my daughter made me.  (P.S. She prefers Buffy The Vampire Slayer.) I can’t think of vamps as anything other than just another humanoid species making its way on planet Earth.  ‘Cause, I’ve always been more into Science Fiction than Fantasy.  A lot more.  We own three different versions of Star Trek The Wrath of Kahn. I couldn’t see how a species could be all evil.  And magic is just unexplained science, right?  How can an average human get bit and suddenly be transformed into a super intelligent and sophisticated vampire?  I’m a lifelong professional childcare provider and now the mother of four.  I canNOT wrap my brain cells around a species which does not have a childhood.  And if it has a childhood, then it must have an adolescence during which time it would rebel against the adult status quo.  It’s only natural when any younger person begins to find his or her own way in life.

Anyway, I was writing this little story called Sweet about a girl who escapes an alien/human hybrid who kidnapped her.  She can’t find her way home and her boyfriend comes to her rescue.  Trouble is, he’s been turned into an alien/human hybrid too.  I knew it would never do.   So, I threw in the Blood-Sucking Dead Guy too, and he morphed into this adorable overgrown little boy named Brandon who likes Twinkies (he can only enjoy their smell now) and Nintendo DS.  He’s eager to help, follows Ophelia around like a lost puppy, and rebels against the other Oldbloods to help his new human friends.  Get this, he’s not even the hero of the story.  He’s a Beta Male, a really cute Beta, but very firmly a Beta.

Crushed Sugar is a *prequel* to Sugar Rush, like Star Wars Phantom Menace is a prequel to the original Star Wars movie released in 1977, now officially titled Star Wars A New Hope. A much shorter tale of a faint heart, a fair maiden, and, yes, a blood-sucking dead guy (not Brandon, but an Asian-American one this time), Crushed Sugar takes place over the first two days of the Heroine’s junior year in high school, three months *before* the start of Sugar Rush. If you’ve read Sugar Rush, please bear in mind that in Crushed Sugar the villain starts out fully human and doesn’t even become Addicted before The End.  He’s seriously hot and has always been nice to Ophelia.  She has no idea what he will become.

The Blurb

Be careful what you wish for.

Ophelia’s had a wicked crush on Martin since they were kids, but she was always just his geeky little friend.  Then, on the first day of her junior year, he’s suddenly and wildly attracted to her.  She can’t imagine what’s changed, but shocking her small school’s social order fills her with vindication for insults suffered.

Ophelia meets Adrian right after and true love extinguishes the wicked crush.  In secret, he gives her courage against a specter threat.

Tristan Li is pale and hungry, and draws Martin’s immediate ire.  He knows things about Ophelia which she assumes are delusions brought on by an aggravated illness like her own, diabetes.  When battle breaks out between his ancient race and new blood, even the courage of her secret love might be crushed.

Crushed Sugar is a novella and, therefore, a shorter, cheaper read.  It’s due to be released this Friday, March 25th, but you can enter to win a free copy today by leaving a comment.  Please pop over to my book review blog, Enduring Romance  enduringromance.blogspot.com   to win other cool prizes, including an Alaskan souvenir.  I live in Alaska and The Ophelia Dawson Chronicles is set almost entirely here too.

Tia here. You can find out more at Kimber’s website or Decadent Publishing. Decadent Publishing is going to give a random commenter a free copy of CRUSHED SUGAR, so be sure to leave a message for Kimber if you want to enter. Also, leave a message for her if you just want to chat, because she’s pretty friendly.

To start the conversation, how about sharing a time you’ve bucked the conventional wisdom, like Kimber did, and found success anyway.

Aschenputtel – the Brothers Grimm Cinderella

The Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella is quite different from the one with the fairy godmother and the glass slipper. The story we are most familiar with is by Charles Perrault, the same guy who wrote the version of Sleeping Beauty that we know the best. The Grimm version is also probably the most adult version of the story, mostly because of its goriness. But I’ll be chasing down all the other Cinderella legends, just to be sure.

Goriness? Did you say goriness?

In this version, the girl’s mother was buried in the back garden, and she wept over her grave every day. The father remarried, and the stepsisters were beautiful. However, their hearts were “black and ugly” and they treated Aschenputtel very poorly, and they called her Aschenputtel because she was always dusty and dirty.

And all throughout this, Aschenputtel’s father was still alive. Yes, alive, the jerk! One day he was going to the fair and asked all the girls what he should bring for them, just like the father in Beauty and the Beast. And, as in Beauty and the Beast, the stepsisters asked for finery and riches, and Aschenputtel asked for a random piece of nature. What did she ask for? The first twig that struck his hat on the way home. It happened to be a hazel twig, so he gave it to Cinderella and she planted it on her mother’s grave, and thenceforth she watered it with her tears.

Angsty, huh?

A tree grew from the hazel twig and the tears, and two white birds took up residence in the tree. Somehow, Cinderella figured out that the birds would grant her wishes–whatever she wanted. (I’m not sure why she didn’t wish for better circumstances for herself. Giant plot hole!)

Anyway, there came news of a festival given by the prince, which was to last three days. There was to be a ball every night. And only the beautiful girls were invited. The stepsisters won the beauty contest and prepared to go by having Aschenputtel do everything for them. Aschenputtel asked if she could go, but the stepmother put her off by having her pick lintels out of the ashes. Lintels that the stepmother threw there of course. (They do such things to new recruits in the military.)

However, Ashenputtel called the birds to pluck the beans out of the ashes and she presented them triumphantly. The stepmother only threw more beans in the fireplace and why Ashchenputtel didn’t order the birds to pluck out her eyes is beyond me.

Finally, they left for the ball and Ashchenputtel was alone. She went to her magic tree and wished for gold and silver to cover her, and this vague wish was granted with gown and slippers of silver and gold. So she got dressed and went to the ball. She ran away from the ball early, just as in Perrault’s Cinderella, although the good Brothers don’t give us any reason for her precipitous departure. The prince followed her home and demanded that her father fetch her, but dear old Dad doesn’t believe that the prince is talking about Aschenputtel. So after much searching (which included chopping down the tree where she supposedly hid), the prince gave up while overlooking the girl sitting in the ashes.

At this point, it appears that the lazy Brothers copied and pasted the text to cover the next day at the ball; the only difference is that she had a finer dress, and another tree was felled. At length, on the last night of the ball, she ran away again, but the prince had covered her escape route with pitch (ew!) in order to entrap her. Because, yanno, we all secretly long for a guy who’s going to entrap us. He ended up with her shoe.

So the prince went to her house, shoe in hand, and vowed to marry the girl whose foot it fit. The stepmother told one of the stepsisters to cut off her big toe so that she shoe will fit, and low and behold: it does! The idiot prince was at first taken in by this deception until the birds in Aschenputtel’s magic tree unmasked her with a tell-all rhyme.

Cut and paste with the second stepsister, except she cut off her heel.

After discarding the second stepsister, prince came back one last time and asked the father if he had another daughter, and he actually said no! “only my dead wife left behind her a little stunted Cinderella; it is impossible that she can be the bride.” The bastard. The prince insisted, Cinderella appeared, the bloody slipper fit, and thank God it’s over.

In the end, Cinderella lived happily ever after, the lame stepsisters got their eyes plucked out, and we don’t know what became of the horrible father and stepmother. Maybe they get punished with each other.

If you feel like braving the ponderous prose, the full story is here. Here is an artist’s illustration of the lopped toe and heel.

There is apparently another version of Cinderella, one that originated in China, and I’ll investigate that one next.

As you can tell, I’m not fond of this version of Cinderella. I much prefer the glass slippers. However, I do use a ghost of this story in the prequel to my Cinderella story.

What do you think of this version? Do you have any particular favorite? I still like the Rogers and Hammerstein Cinderella the best, and my favorite production is the one with Julie Andrews.

 

Changes in my Book-Saving Habit

Today, I saw an interesting article on GalleyCat on how Mass Market paperback sales plunged in January. Hardcover sales dropped as well. And ebook sales “grew dramatically”. It made me think of how my reading habits–not only purchasing habits–have changed since I got my Nook.

We are contemplating moving to a smaller place, and in anticipation of that, we are decluttering. As a first step, I cleaned out my bookshelves. I now have about 15 plastic grocery bags filled with both fiction and nonfiction books, destined for either the used bookstore, the library, or the veterans, depending on who wants them.

I’ve cleaned out my bookshelf before. This time, I was brutal. Why? Because many books I had formerly designated as “keepers” are no longer so. Not because I never want to read them again. Because when I do want to re-read them, I’ll re-buy them for my Nook. Which equals a nice cha-ching for the author, assuming the books in question are available digitally. (For that reason, I kept all my Harry Potters.)

This is doubly true for classics. I kept many of my classics–especially ones I think my daughter will read one day–but I got rid of just as many, and I never got rid of my classics before. Why keep them when I can download them for free from Project Gutenberg?

I am not in a complete ebook paradise, however. Recently, I finished Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. I went online, intending to buy digital copies of the next two books. Unfortunately, the ebook price is the same as the paperback. I find this perplexing. An ebook should be cheaper. Why? Because I don’t have all the rights with an ebook that I do with a regular book. The ebook is going to be encumbered with all this DRM, and it is going to be illegal for me to give it away. I was reluctant to pay the paperback price without having a paperback in hand, so I went to my local Borders and bought the next two books at a steep store-closing discount. I would have much preferred to buy it digitally, but I think in exchange for not having the rights that I have with the physical copy, I ought to get a decent discount. Pricing it the same as the paperback just annoys me.

But that seems to be the future of ebooks as more and more publishers are moving to what’s called Agency pricing. That’s where the publisher can set the price. This, I think, is only going to slow down the growth of ebooks. Is this the intention? I don’t know. Some publishers just seem to be fighting the inevitable. The public loves ebooks. They want ebooks. And I don’t think these artificial pricing structures are going to hold up. I’m just glad I was able to buy Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy before his publisher instituted Agency pricing.

Have you tried ebooks yet? I love reading on both my Nook and my iPod Touch. My Touch, especially is nice to read at night when my husband is trying to sleep. (And I still love that iFlow app!) If you have not tried ebooks yet, do you think you ever will? Are you just waiting for the readers to become really cheap (we’re getting there!) or do you just think you’ll always prefer real books?

Conversational Interview with Victoria Patterson

Victoria Patterson is the author of THIS VACANT PARADISE, a contemporary novel that is earning praise from places like The New York Times. This is her first published novel, although she has a short fiction collection out, called Drift, and her short fiction has been published in a variety of places, including The Florida Review, The Southern Review, and The Santa Monica Review. She spent a few weeks trading emails with me about her story.

 

To get started, please tell us about THIS VACANT PARADISE. In your own words, what is it about and what was your inspiration for it?


This Vacant Paradise is about Esther Wilson, a woman who has been raised to marry a rich husband.  She lives in Newport Beach and it’s the mid-90s.  She’s very beautiful and emotionally aware, but every time she’s about to land her man, she self-sabotages.  There’s quite a bit of back-story and intrigue as well, complex family dynamics, and a love story.  I imagined the novel as a modern day House of Mirth (by Edith Wharton), which is one of my favorite books.  I read everything I could by Edith Wharton and Henry James.  I was very inspired by these two writers.

 

Were you similarly inspired by a particular Henry James title?

There wasn’t a specific Henry James title that inspired me.  I read The Ambassadors, The Golden Bowl, The Turn of the Screw, Washington Square, and more.  By immersing myself, I developed these sort of swooping Henry James-like sentences, which contrast with the subject matter.  It gave the subject matter a formality and elegance.

 

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a mom–two sons, 13 and almost 11.  Right now I have the flu–caught it from my youngest son!  I’ve been writing since I was in the 2nd grade, mainly keeping journals, recording my life.  I always wanted to be a writer.  I waited tables for many years to support my writing. My husband is also an artist–a painter.  I’m 41.  We have a basset hound named Lucky Gus.  He’s lying on the bed with me as I type. 

 

Why did you choose to set the novel in Newport Beach? And why the 90s?

I always knew that I’d write about Newport Beach.  I lived in Newport during junior high and high school, and I swore to myself that I’d write about it one day.  So I’m fulfilling a promise I made to myself all those years before.  My first book, Drift, also takes place in Newport Beach.  It’s an area that has been portrayed on TV and in movies.  The area has been sort of mythologized and castigated; but it hasn’t been written about in the way that I envision it.

The 1990s seemed especially ripe for writing, and I wanted to include the OJ Simpson trial.

 

I’m intrigued about how the OJ Simpson trial plays into it–but I won’t ask you to give us a spoiler! We’ll just leave it as a tease … unless you care to add something more.

 

The OJ Simpson trial is tangential to the story line–but it provides a cultural framework.  Everyone is hyper-aware of OJ’s guilt, and it’s a community sport to discuss it.

 

Was it difficult to sell a novel that took place in the recent past?

It’s always difficult to sell a novel!  But the time period didn’t seem to be an obstacle.  I tried not to think about the commercial prospects of the book while writing it.  Nothing will sink my work quicker than if it’s got the whiff of desperation or money on it.  I’m at my best when I write like I don’t care.

 

I understand you are also a short fiction writer. Please tell us about your growth as a writer and your journey to publication.

I just began documenting my life in a journal and kept going.  I knew I wanted to be a writer but didn’t know how to go about it.  I’d never really met a writer before.  In college, I took a creative writing class and I was not very good.  But I kept writing. All the journals and years of writing were necessary.  I have many, many rejections from over the years, and I was impatient to be published. But at some point, I really understood that whether I was published or not, I could honestly call myself a writer because I wrote every day.  I knew that I’d continue to write whether I was published or not.  I waited tables for over fifteen years to support my family and myself while I continued to write.  My husband supported my writing and encouraged me to go back to graduate school, which I did in 2004.  I got my MFA from UC Riverside in 2006.  It was incredibly helpful to have a concentrated amount of time devoted to my writing–to me as a writer.  I hadn’t had that freedom before.  In the summer of 2006, I received a scholarship to the Squaw Valley Writers Conference.  I met my agent Michael Carlisle.  Eight months later he sold my story collection to Houghton Mifflin.  I worked on the collection over a three-year period before its publication in 2009.  I also began my novel.  But, just so you know, I’d buried two novels before this one, and countless stories.

 

We always love learning about how many books it took to make that sale, so thanks for anticipating that question. There are a lot of writers on my blog–what would your number one piece of advice be, other than to keep writing?

 

I would tell other writers not to let the rejections stop them from writing.  It can be disconcerting to get so many rejections, but it’s just the nature of the business.

 

Thanks for your patience during this interview, Victoria!

See–we do all kinds of retellings here, not just fairy tales. If you could retell a classic tale, which one would it be? I’ll give it some thought and answer my own question in the comments. Please join me!