A short interview with Rowena Cory Daniells...
1. I wanted to ask you about the work ethic/work demands on fantasy writers. When I interviewed Sara Douglass last year for Flycon she said that writing fantasy for a living can be like 'stepping onto a treadmill'. Can you relate?
Well, I've been writing madly all these years since my last trilogy came out so I have books up my sleeve in final draft stage. I can see what she means though, because the books are so long and the readers devour them. There has to be joy in writing. I find I just disappear into the stories and resent it when I have to stop and do the cooking or the shopping.
2. When I spoke to you at Trent Jamieson's book launch recently, you told me about your latest series King Rolen's Kin. I note that the books (you said 120-140k each?) are coming out just a month apart (with the third due out this month). Is this a new trend in publishing, and what impact does it have on you as a writer?
I like books coming out a month apart. Like many other readers, I hate waiting for the rest of the trilogy. From the writer's point of view it means completing the trilogy before publication, which in some ways is good because you can go back and tweak things in books one and two to foreshadow things in book three. (I'm the sort of person who writes on the fly. I don't know the intricacies of the plot, I only have a general idea of where it will go and the characters constantly surprise me). So I like the control of completing a trilogy before publication.
3. I guess whether books are released a year apart or a month apart, the writer still has to deliver the three books they are contracted to produce – but did you approach this trilogy differently to previous series?
My first trilogy was sold on the strength of the first book, and I had the second book in draft form. Before I could hand in book two, I had to complete book three so that I could slide clues and foreshadowing into it. That was a mad scramble and I decided then that I would much rather write the whole trilogy before selling. So I'm glad Solaris are doing it this way.
4. You're on a panel about 'pitching the novel' (Saturday 1200, Room 203). Do you think that speculative fiction writers (particularly fantasy writers) really need to think about writing a series of books rather than just one-offs?
So much work goes into building a fantasy world and one book is not enough to explore it, so I would much rather write series. There is no reason why the writer can't write self contained books within that world, as well as trilogies. And from the publisher's point of view they want series because the author and the series develop a following.
5. What's the most common mistake inexperienced writers make when pitching their novel?
They get lost in the story. They know the story inside out with all the back-story as well. The editor just wants to hear the 'high concept' as they call it in the movies. It is really hard for a writer who has spent years with their head inside a book series, to distil the series down to the high concept. You have to be able to say -- It's a book about X who wants X but can't get it because of X. Despite it sounding easy, it is really hard to do.
6. You're also on a panel about writing for games. What's the key for writers looking to move into this growing area?
I wish I could say it was a growing area. It is in some ways, but the GFC hit the games industry hard. Many of the large companies collapsed. The traditional games are still being made, but these take years to develop with created worlds and back story. A market has opened up for small games that came be played on facebook and iphones and indie companies have taken these on because you don't need the huge team and years of development. If you want to write for games you need to play games and play the games made by the company you want to write for. Plus you need to do some research into screen writing because that is closer to the kind of writing that's needed in games, rather than the traditional book writing.
Take a look at this video: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/1887-Video-Games-Bad-Writing
7. Would you like to see any of your books/series turned into a game and, if so, which one?
King Rolen's Kin would work well as a traditional game, lots of battles and quests.
8. If you could go back 10 years, is there anything writing-wise you'd do differently?
Arrgh! What a loaded question. There are career decisions I made which impacted negatively on me, but I made them with the knowledge I had at the time. The most important thing would be find an agent who is simpatico with what you write so that they keep in touch with what the publishers are looking for in your genre. The next would be believe in yourself. It has been a long time between trilogies for me, but I kept writing and writing and writing...
9. What's your tip for making the most of AussieCon 4?
You can plan all you like but it is the things you discover by accident, the people and the panels, that are often the high point of the convention!