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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Interview with Jennifer Fallon (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo with several questions from Liviu Suciu)


Official Jennifer Fallon Website
Read FBC review of "The Immortal Prince"

Read FBC review of "The Gods of Amyrantha"


INTRODUCTION: The Tide Lords by Jennifer Fallon is one of the most amazing series in recent fantasy because of its great characters and unbelievable twists and turns. While published and a (general) bestseller in Australia, the US/UK markets will have to wait two more years for books 3 and 4.


Mihir asked most questions, while Liviu contributed 3 questions which are clearly labeled as such. We are deeply grateful for Ms. Fallon's candid answers and we offer thanks to her publicist Amber Hopkins at Tor for arranging the interview. Enjoy!

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1] You are a very prolific writer with your first publication in 2000 since then you have published 14 books and a short story as well. This gives you an average of nearly 1.5 books per year though this hasn't been the case literally. So what's your secret? & also could you give us a brief autobiography.

I'm not as prolific as you might think. The first two books were written and the third almost done before the first book was published, so it's really only about a book a year.

As for a biography, I was born in Melbourne, Australia, moved to Canberra when I was 11, got married at 17, moved again, had 2 children by the time I was 20, moved again to the Northern Territory, where I had my third child by the time I was 22. I've worked as everything from a cleaner and a checkout chick to a store detective, managed a cosmetics company, run my own business, been a PA, a project manager, a computer trainer, worked in the tourist industry, started a gymnastics club, had 50 foster kids…

Actually, there's not much I haven't done.

I decided I was going to be a writer when I was 14, you see, so everything else I did was just marking time until I got published.

2] Compared to your earlier books how was writing "The Tide Lords" easier, more difficult, or just different? Could you elaborate please?

Tide Lords was the first series I wrote where I had a major disagreement with an editor over a plot. I wrote my Masters Thesis on how I dealt with it. It was fun and a very interesting undertaking, but it took a lot more work than I anticipated, because of plot elements I decided to include as a compromise between what I set out to write and what the publishers thought they were buying.

3] What are your hobbies besides creating imaginary, complex worlds peopled with fascinating cultures & characters & who are your literary idols?

I review movies for a couple of radio stations. Other than that, not much. Besides, when it's so much fun to invent imaginary, complex worlds peopled with fascinating cultures & characters, why would I need anything else to entertain me?

Literary idols… hmmm… will it sound awful if I say I don't have one? To be more specific, there are so many authors I admire for so many different reasons, it's hard to pin one down.

4] You are a prolific blogger with your own blog! Are there any blogs that you like to read & what's your take on emergence of the power of the blogosphere in promoting books! As for the last few years we have witnessed several authors who were heralded quite spectacularly like Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson & Patrick Rothfuss[to name a few]?

I actually resisted putting up a blog for years, but once I got going, I found it was fun. I do read a few other blogs, not many of them writers, though.

I do believe they are powerful tools for promoting books and I try to keep that in mind as I write. I never talk politics (except for Sarah Palin once, because I just couldn't help myself… she cracks me up), or talk about religion, or anything else liable to alienate readers. My blog is partly me, but it is also a promotion tool. If I want to pontificate about politics or religion, I'll do it more subtly than that, or start a blog under a different name. You don't have to agree with an author's personal beliefs to like their work, but you can easily turn off potential readers by trumpeting strident views contrary to those who read your work and assume your stories must be flavored by your particular political or religious slant.

As for authors being heralded successfully… if only I knew the secret to getting that sort of attention! I suspect the publishers are behind a push like that and work very hard to get these authors' work under the noses of the right people to generate the buzz.

That requires a lot of enthusiasm from the publisher and their publicity people.

5] What type of writer are you. An outliner or a freewriter? And could you give us an example of what a typical day may look like?

I'm an outliner. I didn't used to be, but then I discovered life is so much easier when you know where you're going. Driving through a fog is no fun for anybody. Besides, when you sell off synopsis, the publisher needs to see the whole plot, not just a good idea. I outline chapters very loosely and take it from there, but I always know how it's going to end.

Generally, I wake up about 6, check my email, have breakfast, go to my day job, do what I must to remain employed and look busy, and then I start writing. Sometimes it's a bit, sometimes a lot, depending on the project and how much work I need to do to look busy and remain employed. I get home about 5, write some more, watch TV for a while, then write some more before bed at around midnight.

I have a fun job. I need the social interaction of other people, or I go a little loopy. I am surrounded by people who think what I do borders on magical and I do nothing to disillusion them. Also, I cannot be replaced (I live in a remote area where there are more jobs than people), which kinda keeps me here because I know they'll be screwed as soon as I decide that getting up and driving 10 minutes to work to write and tweak the odd database is just too much hard work, and I make more than enough as a writer to stay at home and write.

6] Another noticeable thing amongst your publications is that all your series books are usually published with a year's or 18 months time frame, any peculiar reason for it being so?

That is a publishing decision over which I have no control and no input.

7] On your blog you have these rules called "Elezaar's Rules of Gaining and Wielding Power" which are from the Wolfblade trilogy. How did you come up with these Machiavellian criteria?

I'm really not sure how they evolved. I remember having Elezaar tell Marla a rule and they just sort of blossomed from there. I suppose they're really just a disturbing little glimpse into my psyche :)

8] What is your next series going to be about, I believe it is tentatively called "Rift Runners" & features twin protagonists. Will this series be an urban fantasy-ish one for you as I recall reading something about researching druids & how it might be a situation where "Druids in that reality represent a society that has evolved over 2000 years."

The series is set in alternate realities, ours and a reality in which 2000 years ago, Claudius failed to successfully invade Britain. This has changed the world dramatically, and in the alternate world technology has been ruthlessly repressed. The twins are psychically linked and feel each other's pain as well as manifesting each other's wounds. The story is about them being reunited and the impact that has on both realities.

I've started writing it and have to deliver the MS of the first book to the Australian publishers in June 2010. I'm still waiting to hear from the US publishers about delivery dates.

9] In fantasy, some authors like to put an emphasis on characters or worldbuilding; others on storytelling. Where do you fit in this picture and what do you feel are your strengths as a writer? What about weaknesses or areas that you'd like to get stronger in?

I think I write better characters, but my worldbuilding seems to work quite well, too. Honestly, these days a writer can't afford to be a master of only one, you have to do both equally well to get published.

As for weaknesses… well, I have always maintained that the day I write a book that isn't better written than the last one, is the day I need to quit writing. No writer is every really satisfied and always thinks they can do it better. At least that's how I feel.

10] All your previous series have been drastically different from each other, Hythrun trilogy [high fantasy], Wolfblade trilogy[Prequel series with a chart for characters to be killed], Second Sons series[Anti-fantasy in your own words] & The Tide Lords [ Based on your thesis "Subverting the trope of Immortality] what is it that are you striving for & looking back on your previous publications, what do you feel you have achieved with each book/series?

A bit of clarification first… my thesis was based on the Tide Lords, not the other way around.

As for what I have achieved… I'm not really certain I set out to achieve anything other than to write a ripping yarn that many people might enjoy for my first series, and the prequel was an off-shoot of that. I guess my aim there was not to write a prequel that, well, sucked.

Having said that, I had an agenda with The Second Sons series to see how many appallingly bad things my hero could do and remain sympathetic (quite a bit, as it turns out). And with Tide Lords I wanted to write about immortals who really couldn't die.

11] You have one short story publication and the premise in it is a "demon who haunts a group of women in a Domestic Violence Support Group" what was the inspiration, if any, for it & where can we get to read it?

I have no idea. I wrote the whole thing in about 3 hours on day. Haven't a clue where it came from.

Every other short story I have written since has been akin to pulling teeth. Short fiction is not my forte.

( LS) 12] When I [Liviu] read the superb Second Sons trilogy, I realized immediately the similarity in set-up with the famous SF novella Nightfall by I. Asimov, later expanded in a novel with R. Silverberg. Was it intentional or just a coincidence?

Quite accidentally. I was told about Nightfall while I was writing Second Sons and decided not to read it until after I'd finished, so I could be content that every idea in my book was mine alone, and not influenced by someone else's work. Unfortunately, I still haven't gotten around to reading it.

(LS) 13] Did you plan the numerous twists and turns that made Second Sons such a big hit with me from the beginning or did they flow from the story as it went along?

Oh yes… that was an evil plot that was pretty much laid out from the outset, although Misha was meant to die in book one and Eric was quite a late edition to the cast, but generally, the book followed the path it was meant to.

(LS) 14] Regarding the Tide Lords series, one notices its structure almost as two distinct duologies - The Immortal Prince and The Gods of Amyrantha give us a story, great characters and an inkling of an outcome, but then you start pulling the rug under our expectations with the major twist at the end of GoA and the story goes in a completely unexpected direction from then on with revelation after revelation in volumes three and four which are quite different in scope and focus. Do you see it that way and if so, was it intentional or it just flowed from the story?

The series was plotted to end the way it does from the get go, although as I mentioned earlier, there was a disagreement with the editors which resulted in the addition of another character that kept wanting to take over the story.

This made for some interesting dilemmas I had to resolve along the way, but they were factored in very early, and even without the addition of the new character, the revelations in the later books were always meant to happen where they did. Most of them are referenced in the first two books if you know what to look for.

15] In speculative fiction, arguably more so than other genres, cover art is very important. How important is cover art to you and how do you feel about the cover for all your various books & especially with the Tide Lords which have some fascinating cover art!

I think cover art is hugely important, because regardless of what people say, they absolutely judge books by their covers. Having said that, I get little or no input on the covers.

In a perfect world, though, I would insist the artist read the books). This usually doesn't happen so we are left with the artist "guessing" or getting emails from the editor that say "can you describe X in a couple of paras" when you've spent half a book setting the scene.

And for the record… my favorite covers are the ones where nobody asked my opinion at all. That should you tell you something :)

16] You have given some quite useful & informative tips on writing & publishing industry[81 entries in your blog] Could you give aspiring the top 3/5 of your choosing which you believe are of utmost importance to any newbie [or for that matter any writer]

You want me to pick the best out of 81 blog entries over 3 years? Are you serious?

The best I can do is this. My top 6 hints for writers

  • Never give up. Until the day you quit writing, you are not "unpublished" you're just "not published yet".
  • Learn to recognize when you're writing crap. Learn to take it on the chin when someone who knows what they're talking about tells you you're writing crap. And remember, the very best gardens are well fertilized because their roots are well supplied with, well, crap.
  • Know when to abandon one idea for a better one. The story you've been trying to write since you were 14 is not necessarily the one you'll get published at 40. With the possible exception of Harper Lee and Margaret Mitchell, most writers will have more than one bright idea (and novel) in them.
  • Just because your mother, your grandmother and your three best friends from high school think your story is fabulous, doesn't make it so. Ask someone who doesn't care about your feelings what they think.
  • Before submitting a manuscript, make sure it's clean, as typo free as possible and grammatically correct. Be sure you read the publishers guidelines. You will impress people with nothing but your amateurishness if you try to get cute by sending your MS in on scented paper, printed in a curly font, bound and printed like a book, or any other such fancy. No editor wants to work with someone who can't follow basic instructions.

17] In closing what can we expect from you in the future & is there anything else you'd like to say to your fans?

I worked out once that if I don't have another idea until I die, I have enough in my head to keep me going until about 2098, which is a problem, because by then I'll be about 140 years old…

For now I am focusing on the Rift Runners series. After that, we'll see. It will really be a case of which idea engages me the most at the time.

Whatever it is, rest assured, I will keep writing.

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