Monday, September 23, 2013

Author Interview: Wendy Wagner

You’ll not find a nicer person in the SFF community than Wendy Wagner. By some odd coincidence, she and I actually went to college together at Pacific University many moons ago. Since then, thanks to the glory of the Interwebs, we’ve been able to strike up an online friendship based on our shared love of everything spec-fic related. Wendy isn’t just a nice gal, though. She’s got the writing and editing skills to cement herself firmly in the SFF community. She’s worked as an assistant editor for Fantasy Magazine, she’s had her short fiction appear in top publications like The Way of the Wizard, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, and Armored, and she has a new tie-in novel coming out as part of the Pathfinder RPG. I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy for my recent article on the writing life at Blackgate, and I’m happy to present the entire interview transcript here.

Welcome, Wendy. Can you please describe your writing career up to this point, and what's the story with your Pathfinder Tales novel? When and where is it coming out?

I started out writing novels about eight or nine years ago. I struggled through drafting and endless revisions of two books (one of which sold, but the publisher went out of business before release), and realized that I wanted to practice on something a little shorter. So for a long time, I focused on short stories, even doing some work for an online magazine to learn more about the craft. Now I'm writing novels again, including a
tie-in for the Pathfinder RPG. That book, Skinwalkers, is due out sometime next year, and you'll see it on shelves in bookstores and game shops all over.

Congratulations! That’s great. So, how are you making ends meet these days?

Funny you should ask that! I'm between day jobs right now and living on my writing paychecks while I finish up some projects. I'm sure I'll have to get a day job again, but for a few months, I'm just going to dream a little!

You worked as an assistant editor for Fantasy Magazine, you're a regular blogger for the Inkpunks and at your personal blog, and you're very active in the social media world—do you envision these activities as laying the groundwork for the release of Skinwalkers and future novels of yours? Can you see an author in the modern age becoming successful without being active in the online world?

I think there are ways to work in this industry without being a social media user. But for me, social media has been a real boon. It's allowed me to meet people from all over the world and make some wonderful connections. I do think the friendships I've made online have helped me open doors. If you produce good work and are a nice person, people tend to be a lot more interested in working with you than if they think you're a big jerk.

What are the biggest challenges you face trying to become the author you want to be? Is it on the writing end? The publishing end? Finding an audience? A combination? Something else entirely?

At this place in my career, I'm really focused on the writing end of things. I'm just trying to sell things to editors, so that lets me work really hard to create good fiction. And work hard to keep pushing myself to be a better writer! Right now, I'm a little worried about balancing all the things I want to write. Writing short fiction, it's been easy to explore every kind of writing—I've written (and sold) poems, YA, erotica, horror, fantasy, and science fiction. I've even got some literary shorts making the rounds, although it's weird to admit working outside of genre fiction! I'm not sure if I can maintain that as my career progresses, but I'm really hoping I can make it work.

So I mentioned becoming the author you want to be. What's the storybook ending for your writing career? If your wildest dreams came true, where would you be as an author ten years from now? 

My storybook ending? That I someday get to teach at Clarion, and that I can afford to write full-time while still feeling artistically fulfilled. If my wildest dreams came true, I'd finish writing the Great American Novel simmering on the back of my desk, make a ton of money, and then underwrite a Speculative Fiction program at a local university. Including a small press! It would be so fun.

Sweet! If you start your own spec-fig program, I’ll be sending in my CV. Alright, last question for you, because it sounds like you have a lot of work to do. It's not easy becoming a successful author. Why do you bother?

Because I keep writing and people keep paying me to do it? But seriously, I can't remember a day that went by when I wasn't making up some kind of story. It's what I do. I'm also a sharer. If I have some kind of great idea, I've got to share it, or I feel like I'm going to explode. I guess it's my giant ego or something.

If you're crazy about writing, you should do it. People will try to discourage you and warn you about how badly it pays and how unstable the markets are. That's all true. But I think writing fiction makes for a terrific part-time job. As jobs go, the work is fun and the co-workers are fantastic, even if the benefits stink and the boss is a real jerk.

Speaking of which, my boss is telling me break's over. This novel isn't going to write itself!

Good luck, Wendy, and thanks for your time.

-Garrett Calcaterra

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