I am very happy to introduce out interview with Sherwood Smith, a fantasy and science fiction author know for her works in the Sartorias-deles world, such as Inda, and much more!
Her latest novel, A Chain of Braided Silver, came out in December 2022, completing the The Norsunder War series.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Probably incredibly boring to anyone but me? Alas, we don’t have helpful minions, so there’s stuff like laundrag, dishes, cooking, walking the dog, etc, etc. We know all that stuff. In and around it I write as much and as often as I can. Including in dreams. (That’s useful roughly half the time.)
What makes a great character?
Complexity. Gaining agency. When I can’t predict their arc, that’s a draw. Though I do really love me some redemption arcs.
What elements of fantasy make you like reading and writing in the genre?
The cool stuff, of course! Cool clothes, awesome buildings I can imagine living in, instead of standing in line and paying to tour with 600 other sweating gawkers. Magic, and its possibilities. Anything is possible: awe, fun, and always a glimpse of the ineffable.
If you could be any fantasy character, who would it be and why?
Since naming one of my own characters is likely to just sound like pompous twittery, I’ll leave it at that. Why? Eh, they have more agency than I do—and are a lot more interesting.
The conclusion to The Norsunder War, A Chain of Braided Silver came out this month. As the ending of the Sartorias-deles arc, what are some of your spoiler-free highlights of writing in this world and watching your characters develop over time?
I sympathize with writers of long arcs, or romans fleuves in which the books get longer and longer because you want to give everybody equal attention. (If I were writing Treason’s Shore now, it would be a hundred pages shorter.)
These things are always a kaleidoscope: one reader wants more of X, another wants to skim or skip X and thinks that person irrelevant. Person. Yup. When you live with a story as long as I have, you keep forgetting to say “characters” instead of “people” especially as memory of incidents and backstory are as vivid as life among real people. For example, when I’m in a waiting room, and there’s no connectivity, or in the past when I was a kid, having to sit quietly, my mind would shift over into the story world, and the incremental drip of time would downshift and zoom again.Those images have staying power.
Anyway, what I tried to learn in this one was how to clip threads that were threatening to take over the book. Whether I succeeded or not, of course, is up to the reader!
When did you start reading? And what books/series did you read over and over again?
I was apparently eighteen months old when I started reading. I remember the frustration of working out the wild-eyed mess that is English spelling, but by the time I hit kindergarten, I was getting a clue. Stories I reread as a kid: Enid Blyton’s ADVENTURE series. As a teen, LORD OF THE RINGS, Patrick Dennis, Georgette Heyer, Theodore Sturgeon, Andre Norton, and Lloyd Alexander. Later on, it was Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse, Dorothy Dunnett, Donald Westlake, and a zillion SF and F writers.
What are some of your favourite recent reads?
Tang poetry in translation, especially ghost poems. PEN PAL, by Francesca Forrest. Kate Elliott’s Sun space opera series. Lois McMaster Bujold. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s less horrorific books. See above: a zillion others. We are definitely in a golden age for SF and F.
What do you enjoy doing outside of writing and reading?
If you only had one piece of advice to give to an aspiring author, what would it be?
If you’re passionate about writing, keep at it, and don’t listen to the nay-sayers. But if it stops being fun, go do other things. Chances are pretty good the well will refill.
Are you working on any new books or other projects at the moment?