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Author of the WeekNext week’s Author of the Week will be science fiction and fantasy author Tanya Huff. Don’t miss it on Monday, November 16th! Two reviews will cover her newest book, The Enchantment Emporium, and the first book in her best selling science fiction series, Valor’s Choice.

Tanya Huff is a prolific writer and a really neat lady, so I hope to see you all back here next Monday to read some great interview questions.

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Devon_MonkDevon Monk is an urban fantasy author on the rise. She writes the popular Allie Beckstrom series and has published many short stories. She also has a not so secret passion for knitting, which you can learn more about on her personal website.

Q1: What draws you to write urban fantasy?

DM: The draw for me on one level is the chance to explore the unknown, the strange, the dark, the beautiful, mixed and contrasted with the more expected reality of day-to-day life. On another level, I like the fast-pacing, humor, mystery, magic, and relationship aspects of it. Plus, urban fantasy is a blast to write!

Q2: What was the first piece you ever had published?

DM: I did some articles and stories for a local outdoors magazine, but my first published fantasy was a short story, “Chosen Bond” in a now defunct magazine, Distant Journeys. The $10.00 check is framed in my office.

Q3: What did it feel like?

DM: It felt like I was standing in line to ride a rollercoaster and suddenly it was my turn, and the gate lifted, and I lucked out and got the front seat. I was so excited, I grinned for days.

Q5: How long have you been writing? What keeps you writing?

DM: I’ve been writing with the goal of publication for about 18 years. I keep writing because I love it. I love to learn. Writing has taught me so much about not only the world and the power of story, but also about myself.

Q6: Who are some of your influences? (Authors, Personal Friends, Teachers, etc.)

DM: Oh. Hard question. I grew up reading the authors my parents read: Roger Zelazny, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Zenna Henderson, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Henry Kuttner. I particularly loved Zelazny, McCaffery, Bradberry and Kuttner. I later discovered Raymond Chandler, and fell in love with his prose too. I think all of these authors have influenced my writing.

Q8: There are three books in the Allie Beckstrom series, with a fourth one, title Magic on the Storm, set to be published in May 2010. How many more books will you write for this series?

DM: At the moment I’m contracted for six books. If readers like them well enough, and they sell well enough, I hope the publisher will pick up another three books, bringing the series to nine books. I originally had nine books in mind for the series, but as I’ve been going along, I’ve discovered there are a lot of other things I could explore in Allie’s world. So who knows? I’d like to write at least nine, and if luck is with me, maybe even more.

Q9: Which of the books is your personal favorite and why?

DM: Great question! Magic in the Shadows was my hands-down favorite. I had so much fun writing it and discovering new characters I really enjoy. I think the book digs into the dangerous, exciting side of magic, and Allie continues to grow and learn and become stronger and face tough challenges. Then I wrote Magic on the Storm and it immediately became my favorite. More magic, more danger, more betrayal, more unrequited love and action, action, action. It is still my favorite so far, but then, book five isn’t done yet!

Q10: When did you first start to create the interesting magical system and was there any particular inspiration for it?

DM: I was asked to write a short story for an anthology with the theme of magic and business. Short stories take a lot of world building even for a small amount of words. So I knew I’d have magic, it would need to cost something, it would be a part of the “mundane” world, and something would be at risk because of magic. When I decided magic could be a natural resource like natural gas, coal, or electricity, that’s when it all started falling together.

Q11: What made you tie magic to pain?

DM: Everything in life has a trade off, and I wanted my books to reflect that reality. I knew magic had to cost something, but it needed to be a price anyone—the rich, the poor, the young, the old—could pay. And it needed to be something people didn’t want to pay. Pain, whether just a small ache, or a crippling agony, fit the bill nicely.

Q12: Is Allie Beckstrom based off of anyone in real life?

DM: A lot of people ask me that—it’s a good question. She’s based off of all the strong women who I’ve known who have found that strength isn’t necessarily swinging a sword or shooting a gun. Strength is the ability and courage to take every challenge that comes your way and go forward, even if you’re afraid, even if you don’t know if you’ll get through it, even if you don’t know how to do it, and somehow still maintaining your grace and humor.

Q13: Do you feel that, as a woman of action, Allie serves as a role model?

DM: I feel that Allie, as a strong woman, could be seen as a role model. She’s more than willing to step up and handle anything that comes her way, but isn’t trying to be anyone’s definition of kick-ass, or strong, or tough. She’s not letting other people tell her who she is. She just tries to do what is right for her heart and soul, and along the way, tries to help the people who she cares about, too.

Q14: The relationship between Zayvion and Allie has become more and more equal as the series progresses, with Zayvion pushing Allie to become self reliant. Do you think romantic partners today could take some tips from that attitude?

DM: I think any relationship is best when there is mutual respect. I think it’s best when both partners can stand on their own two feet, yet also rely on and trust each other to be there if they need them. So, um, yes.

Q15: Do you think that being a woman author has made getting published harder or easier for you?

DM: Who knows? Publishing is a hard business, and I personally, haven’t experienced degradation toward my gender. The only way to find out if it would have been easier to be published if I were a man, would be to somehow go back in time, change my gender and then make all the same choices and actions I have made along the way. And if I ever had a time machine, that’s not what I’d do with it!

One thing I do know is good story trumps all, and cares not one whit if you are male or female.

Q16: Do you see Urban Fantasy as a genre that will appeal to both men and women? Why or why not?

DM: Early on, I assumed my target audience was women, maybe in the twenty to thirty year range. I was so wrong! I’ve received fan mail from thirteen year old girls, sixty-eight year old men, and every age in between. I think the blend of action, paranormal, humor and relationships makes urban fantasy a fun read for everyone.

Q17: Where do you think the future of fantasy is going?

DM: I don’t know, but I hope I’ll be writing it!

Q18: Urban fantasy as a genre has increased tremendously in the past few years. Is that good or bad, and why?

DM: I think it’s fabulous! I know urban fantasy will continue to grow and morph and change, and I can’t wait to see where it will go.

Q19: What are you working on right now? Any other series or stories in the works besides Allie Beckstrom?

DM: I am working on another series, but it’s not under contract yet so I don’t want to give anything away. It’s not urban fantasy but I think it’s something urban fantasy readers will really enjoy. Keep your fingers crossed for me, ok?

Thank you so much for the questions! I really enjoyed being here!

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For more information about Devon Monk and her writing visit devonmonk.com or follow her on Twitter @DevonMonk

You can purchase Magic to the Bone and the rest of the Allie Beckstrom series through Amazon, Borders, and Powell’s Books.

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bookgiveawayAs a special event just for the readers of A Working Title, Devon has kindly offered to send a signed copy of her newest book, Magic in the Shadows, to one lucky commenter. You have 48 hours to comment on the interview using the form below, and on Wednesday morning I will choose one lucky commenter using Random.org. This event is open to all participants, including international readers.

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Author of the WeekNext week’s Author of the Week will be urban fantasy author Devon Monk. Don’t miss it on Monday, November 9th! Three reviews will cover her Allison Beckstrom series, Magic to the Bone, Magic in the Blood, and her newest release, coming out tomorrow, November 3rd, Magic in the Shadows.

As an added bonus, Ms. Monk will be offering a signed copy of Magic in the Shadows to one lucky commenter on her interview. You’ll have 24 hours to comment, then I’ll announce the winner Tuesday afternoon. This book giveaway is open to international participants as well. I’m really excited about this giveaway, and I hope to see lots of great comments next week.

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tobiasincentralparklgTobias Buckell is the author of many short stories, three speculative fiction novels, plus a novel set in the Halo universe. He’s also an avid gamer, and a brand new dad to twin girls. Born in the Caribbean, he strives to include that flavor in his novels.

Q1: What draws you to write science fiction and/or fantasy, hereafter referred to as speculative fiction?

TB: The sense of possibility, the open-ended ability to write just about anything you could imagine.

Q2: What was the first piece you ever had published?

TB: Besides the high school newspaper? I think it was a short, 750 word piece up on Jackhammer Magazine. It’s the first piece I got a check for ($8.00, the editor rounded up their penny-a-word rate). I still have a framed photocopy of the check. My first ‘big’ sale in the genre was to Science Fiction Age, where I sold my story ‘The Fish Merchant.’

Q3: What did it feel like?

TB: There was a lot of inarticulate and loud happiness.

Q4: What was the defining moment that made you say “Yes I’m a writer”?

TB: Seeing my first story in print, in a magazine that people could buy at most stores and was even in grocery stores at the time, made me feel a writer.

Q5: How long have you been writing? What keeps you writing?

TB: I’m 30, I started submitting short stories to markets when I was 15. What keeps me going? I love doing it!

Q6: Who are some of your influences? (Authors, Personal Friends, Teachers, etc.)

TB: I enjoyed Clarke and Asimov, though Clarke a bit more, to be honest, as an influence. Later the cyberpunks got me pumped up about SF/F, because they were a bit more blue collar, street-oriented, inclusive, bringing in developing world countries as players on the global scene. That struck a deep chord in me, growing up in the Caribbean and all. Clarke was also way more of a globalist as well, and I think that’s what attracted me to him more than other authors.

Q7: What’s your favorite speculative fiction work?

TB: I’m rather fond of Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep. I startled Vernor at San Diego Comic Con at a bar once when I told him I’d read it 40 times (I read rather fast, books I enjoy usually get reread several times) in high school, and charted out how many pages there were in each chapter and what POV they were in so I could draw a chart of how the novel was constructed because I wanted to write a novel like that. I’ve since dissected more novels in similar fashion, but his was the first that I kept coming back to going ‘how’d he accomplish this?’ over and over again.

Q8: Tides From the New Worlds contains 20 short stories, each one a little different. Will any of them ever lead to a book?

TB: One of them already did, Fish Merchant lead to Crystal Rain, my first novel. There are some other stories in there that I wouldn’t mind taking further, like Tides. I’ve written another short story in that universe, and I would really like to explore a fantasy world where magic is tied to how much life you use up for a spell, or magical event, and where there are progeric children wandering around cities who’ve been used up by magic.

Q9: Which of the short stories is your personal favorite and why?

TB: Fish Merchant, all these years later, is still one that I like because it was the first time I suddenly got the bike to stay up as I pedaled, so to speak. Before that I kept falling over.

Q10: When you set out to write Crystal Rain, did you ever think it would be published?

TB: I had a hunch. I was still writing short stories when I met my agent, and he asked me to write Crystal Rain. He was very excited about the book, so I was very hopeful for it.

Q11: Do you think that the fact that Crystal Rain features an overwhelming array of characters of color, including the main character, affected how quickly the book was picked up?

TB: Hard to say. On one hand, it got a lot of rejections, but they didn’t specify why. One house said it was confusing because I was white-looking, but the people in the book were all minorities, and they weren’t sure how to sell that. I know it’s affected some sales, some have emailed me hate mail based on the idea that Caribbean peoples would rule the stars. But on the other hand, I’m still plugging away selling books and gaining readers, so it’s not a show-stopper. Some people are just never going to be your audience.

Q12: Is John DeBrun based off of anyone in real life?

TB: No, I don’t know anyone in my life with a hook for a hand.

Q13: What about Pepper?

TB: Pepper is my homage to the dangerous action hero. He’s just as liable to get you killed as to save you.

Q14: Why do you think so few authors of color and characters of color show up in speculative fiction?

TB: There are so few characters of color because the authorship isn’t very diverse, and it’s not high on awareness of most white authors to focus on main characters of color. Because the field then looks white, there is a perception that non-white people aren’t welcome (a perception not helped by a lot of cluelessness from core genre in all sides of diversity, inclusiveness). If you look at the number of diverse authors working in mainstream literature, particularly in academia, which has nominally higher levels of authorship than SF/F, it’s because some effort was made to reach out and cultivate and invite authors in. We haven’t had a ton of that until very recently, where thanks to the internet, non-white authors have been able to discern that there are non-white friendly editors/fans/readers. Since like-minded non-white authors could confer, there is also more of a sense that they can try to stand up and be counted, whereas before they might have felt like they were the only one trying to do so, and maybe give up after a while.

There’s a somewhat racist fallacy that inviting, encouraging, or growing non-white talent instantly means imposing quotas, and then someone stands up and says ‘and we only want the *best* fiction, not quotas.’ It’s interesting because it assumes at its core that casting your net wider can only work if you include lesser work, or that non-white authors can’t produce work as good as white. Encouraging and seeking out don’t equate to quotas, but even now, many resist even specifically asking or stating they’re looking for more diversity in both characters, outlook, worldview, and authorship.

Q15: Do you feel that by writing books like Crystal Rain, you’re making a difference with readers about their perceptions of speculative fiction and who should be included?

TB: I hope so. I know I’ve made a difference to some, I had one reader break into tears when they met me because I had main characters of color and they got so little of that in science fiction they felt left out and invisible, and coming across the few books that did this was always an emotional event for them. I’ve had a few readers email to say that they didn’t want to read a ‘Caribbean SF’ book because they were resistant to the whole idea, but after getting recommendations, ended up reading and enjoying.

Q16: Where do you think the future of speculative fiction is going? More inclusive or more exclusive, and why?

TB: Orbit just sent me Nora Jemisin’s first Fantasy novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, of a series that I’m really looking forward to cracking open. I’m supposed to get a copy of David Anthony Durham’s next book here soon. Nnedi Okorafor is writing some awesome stuff. I can’t wait for Nalo Hopkinson’s next book. So that’s a sign that things are not hopeless. On the other hand, if you compare demographics of novelists to the demographics of the US population, diversity is still vastly out of sync in the field. I think if SF wants to survive, just looking at the US census’ estimated makeup of the US in 20-30 years, we will need to be able to speak to more than just a monochromatic future, because it’s certainly not where the very obvious near future is going.

Q17: What are you working on right now? Will there be any more books set in Crystal Rain’s world, beyond Ragamuffin and Sly Mongoose?

TB: For now the Crystal Rain world is on hold, the sales were not moving up as quickly as hoped, and while online sales and preorders for Sly Mongoose gave me my best opening week yet, chain bookstores hardly carried Sly Mongoose. I may look into taking the series (I have 2 more books carefully plotted out, and 20,000 words written of the fourth book) around to a smaller publisher, as it might be a good book for them (like I said, we had awesome sales via Amazon.com and indy stores), but we’re trying to reboot the chains’ interest in me with a new direction. I’m writing a near future novel called Arctic Rising for Tor, about what happens when people start trying to terraform Earth in the near future to prevent further global warming. As a near future cyperpunk/techno thriller sort of thing it’s a new direction, but early readers have been pretty psyched about it.

I’m also, at the same time, enjoying writing a young adult novel called The All Tree. But I’ll have more information about it in January or so.

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For more information about Tobias Buckell and his writing, including excerpts for reading, visit tobiasbuckell.com or follow him on Twitter @tobiasbuckell

You can purchase Crystal Rain and the rest of the series through Amazon.com and Tides From the New Worlds through Wyrm Publishing.

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Author of the WeekStarting next Monday, November 2nd, I will be interviewing a science fiction/fantasy author every week, as well as reviewing one or two pieces of their work. There will be questions about their pieces, getting published, the experience of being an author and a writer, how they choose their characters and why, along with many other topics.

There will also be some book giveaways, for those who might be interested.

I’m looking for suggestions on your favorite science fiction and fantasy authors who you might like to see interviewed. I love talking to the big name authors, but I think an interview and review event such as this would most benefit the less well known authors, those authors just getting started. I’m hoping that the draw of the bigger names will help bring attention to the smaller authors.

And of course, I’m hoping that everyone who stops by will learn something about what being an author means, and what science fiction and fantasy mean to readers and authors alike.

My first guest author will be Tobias Buckell, Caribbean science fiction writer. I’ll be reviewing Crystal Rain, the first book in his science fiction series, and Tides From the New Worlds, his short story collection.

For a full list of the authors already signed up and scheduled, visit the AOTW page tab at the top.

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