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Interview - Anne Bishop

Friday, Mar 14, 2008 at 9:41pm

Two of the highlights of March's schedule for us booksellers are the appearance in pocket book size of Anne Bishop's Belladonna as well as the release of her new Realms of the Blood book, Tangled Webs, featuring Surreal SaDiablo. It also marks the tenth anniversary of the publication of her first novel, Daughter of the Blood,. With nearly a dozen books in ten years, her fans are fortunate in having an author who can keep them satisfied, while keeping them guessing. I'm fortunate that Anne has agreed to do an interview with me, via email, which I'm pleased to share with you below.

KP: Anne, thanks for chatting with me today. I'd like to start by asking a bit about what brought you to writing as a career. When and why did you begin writing, and was there any particular catalyst that started you writing?

Anne: I began learning the basics of writing stories before I ever put stories down on paper. As a child, I would insert a ďMary SueĒ character into a favorite TV show and replay the show in my head with my character being one of the heroes. From there I advanced to writing teenage-girl-and-her-horse stories, as well as ghost and horror stories. (The ďTwilight ZoneĒ was a strong influence in terms of showing me how to take a walk on the weird side, and we do tend to write what we like to watch and/or read.) After graduating from high school, I stopped writing until I was 30. Then the Muse came knocking, and I opened the door. I havenít closed the door since that day.

KP: There is a strong mythological component to the Blood books, and to a lesser extent in Ephemera. Did you have a particular interest in myths as a child?

Anne: I donít think I separated stories into categories during childhood. Was there a difference between Jason and the Argonauts and The Black Stallion? Or between learning about Greek and Roman mythology and absorbing the information that thereís a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow? Asking when I developed an interest in myths is like asking when I first started liking dogs. My answer has to be, ďWas there a time when I didnít?Ē

KP: Do you manage to make a living from your writing full time, or do you rely on other revenue?

Anne: I can support myself with my writing these days, but I still work part-time as a proofreader because I like my co-workers and I like the work. The biggest change in the past couple of years has been scaling back to part-time at the day job, which gives me more time for writing.

KP: What are you reading now, for fun, and/or research?

Anne: Recently I binged on J.D. Robb, Patricia Briggs, and Charlaine Harris. Iím also dipping into the work of Donna Andrews, Kat Richardson, and Carrie Vaughn. As for research, if I need to know a specific thing—what if X happens to Y—I either look it up or ask someone who works in that field. Most of the time, my idea of research consists of simply paying attention and making notes of sights, sounds, images, or tangible things that blip on the Museís radar as potential. An example: In a PBS ďNatureĒ show, an octopus moved through a small-diameter pipe in order to get from one tank to another. That piece of imagery helped shape the Eater of the World in the Ephemera books.

KP: I think many of your readers would like to know a bit more about the writing process, and how it works for you. Is writing always smooth for you, or are there particular aspects of the process that you find more difficult than others?

Anne: Drafting is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle that has a rough pencil sketch of the finished piece as a guide, some pieces in full color for the scenes and information I know, and blank pieces for all the bits that are unknown. I think about characters and place, the reason for the story (what is happening or about to happen to these people), the culture(s) and the world. Pieces get put together and work or donít work. Ideas about how the world works get added or discarded. Then comes a moment when I hear that internal ďclickĒ and the world and people are set. I have the who and the where. When I know as much as I can know, there are still big gaps and blank spaces, but those canít be filled in until I begin the journey with these characters. I learn the story as I write the story. I know the destination, but there are a lot of ways to get there, and thatís what I discover as I write.

First draft is to catch action and emotion. The second draft is where I try to fill in the details and record the scene I see in my mind. The hardest draft for me is the Editorís Revisions because thatís where Iím trying to smooth out whatever rough edges are left or spots where the details didnít make it to the page.

KP: Do you write to any sort of time or word-count schedule?

Anne: I have four writing days in each week. When Iím drafting, the goal is to hit 6000 words each week. When Iím doing second draft or revisions, I put 20 hours into the writing. Thatís usually as much as I can do well, and it gives me time to ponder what needs to be pondered.

KP: Do you ever run into problems moving forward with a story and if so do you have any favorite technique for getting past it?

Anne: There are several reasons why a story can block for me: physical or mental fatigue, input overload, something else absorbing the creative energy, a shift into left-brain-letís- do-filing-mode, or a piece of the story puzzle is missing and I canít go forward until I figure out that piece. Fatigue is solved by getting enough sleep or taking an evening to do nothing. Input overload is solved by quiet time. If other kinds of storytelling (either reading or watching movies) is absorbing energy instead of feeding the creative well, Iíll avoid those things for a few days. Since Left Brain usually kicks in when the creative side is tired, some days itís just smarter to close up the computer and do busywork. And story puzzles are solved by ďmusings.Ē Thatís when I just ponder on the page, thinking about the characters or the story, what is happening or needs to happen, and how the characters might get from point A to point B.

KP: Do you find yourself itching to write something outside of the fantasy genre, or is it more of a comfortable home for you?

Anne: I did write a story a few years ago for the Mossy Creek series of books. I love that series, so it was great fun to write a story in someone elseís sandbox. (For those who might wonder, thatís the ďLaurie and Tweedle DeeĒ story.) But I like the magic and wonder of the fantasy genre. For me, it is a landscape with tremendous scope, and there is no type of story that canít be written within its boundaries. Romance, mystery, thriller—these are being blended with the traditional imagery of the genre. So more than being a comfortable home, fantasy is the most natural fit for my particular creativity.

KP: Do you do a lot of traveling to promote your work, and do you generally find travel invigorating, or is it a tiring process and do you find it inspirational, or does it tend to interfere with your writing?

Anne: My Muse works better within the confines of routine, so I donít do much traveling. Being somewhere new and visiting with people is fun and invigorating. The actual traveling is exhausting and usually requires a fair bit of recovery time.

KP: Next I'd like to ask a bit about your philosophy of writing. How do you see the role of the author, in general, and the fantasy author in specific?

Anne: The Storyteller holds up a mirror that shows us a reflection of the world. And in that reflection we are entertained by events and people that let us laugh, let us cry, let our hearts pound with excitement or fear, or let us look at emotional truths that would be hard to look upon in the world we live in. Stories are the soulís bread. The Storytellers are the bakers.

KP: The rise of the Internet has redefined many author's lives, with the rapid access to research material and, at the same time, distractions. Do you find it has been a help or hindrance to your efforts?

Anne: E-mail and discussion groups available through the Internet have made it possible to be in contact with readers in ways that werenít possible before. Having a website means readers can find out about new releases and read excerpts of a new book. But because there is so much information available, I reach overload a lot faster on the Internet than I do browsing through a few books, so I donít spend much time online and rarely surf the net.

KP: Now I'd like to move on to your work. It's ten years now, since the first of the Black Jewels books was published. You continue to explore the world and its people, and I wonder if the world has always been complete as it is now, for you, or if there were things you've discovered about the world as you write that were not part of the original concept?

Anne: The culture was set by the time I started writing the first book, and that hasnít changed. The Blood are the Blood. So the world doesnít change, but I continue to learn new things about the people and their history.

KP: Your latest novel, Tangled Webs, is out this month. Is this a story that has always been at the back of your mind to tell, or did it come up more recently?

Anne: Itís a more recent idea—as in the past 2-3 years. I like reading mysteries, and I started wondering what it would be like to write a locked-room mystery. Then I pondered writing a getting-trapped-in-a-haunted-house mystery. Then I wondered, ďWhat would happen if someone like Surreal got trapped in a haunted house?Ē From there I began to gather thoughts about how that could happen, and by the time I finished writing the Ephemera books, the idea had enough shape for me to start writing the story.

KP: Do you have any favorite characters in the Blood? Perhaps characters that are particularly difficult to do damage to in the stories?

Anne: As a group, itís the SaDiablo family, but edging out the others just enough to be the favorite favorite is Daemon. Is it hard to write the scenes when one of them gets hurt? Oh, yes. Especially when the damage canít be fixed.

KP: Have you noticed a clear favorite among your fans?

Anne: There are four that seem to have equal weight among fans: Daemon, Lucivar, Saetan, and Surreal. There is also a fair amount of interest in Karla.

KP: Surreal is front-and-center in Tangled Webs. She seems to strike a chord with a lot of people. Do you have any theories on why that is?

Anne: Sheís a strong, scary woman with a lot of sass and attitude (not to mention sharp knives). She also cares about people, and sheíll put everything she is on the line if thatís what it takes to protect someone. And she has some vulnerable spots. That combination makes her a lot of fun in a story.

KP: Many writers find that they can't look at earlier work without wishing they could go back and do it over again. In light of your time spent preparing for the newer Black Jewels book, if you had to do the original series over again, would you change anything?

Anne: I would consider whether the life spans of the long-lived races should be quite that long. Other than that, I wouldnít change anything about the world or the characters.

KP: The stories in Dreams Made Flesh fill out some important and interesting details for the original series. Are these stories you always hoped to tell, or have they grown out of readers' interest in the background?

Anne: The embryo for two of the stories—Lucivar and Marianís courtship and Zuulaman—were part of the original trilogy and were stories I knew I would write one day. And I, like many readers, wanted to see Daemon and Jaenelle get married. Happily, I had the opportunity to write those stories.

KP: The Realms of the Blood are dark and dangerous, yet you manage to convey that without resorting to the prolific shock images that have become so prevalent in the entertainment industry. Do you have any comment on that?

Anne: Atmosphere and attitude. The darkness and the danger are inherent to the people and the place, so there is nothing that the Blood do that isnít steeped in atmosphere and attitude. Iím not a fan of those shock images you mentioned, so I prefer to imply a lot or show the results of the violence rather than the violence itself. The exception is when not showing a graphic scene would cheat the story. While I donít pull any punches when I do write that kind of scene, I also donít see any reason to say more than is necessary.

KP: Do you have to do more books about the Blood in the future, or are there other projects drawing your attention?

Anne: I would like to go back and do more stories in the Ephemera and Tir Alainn worlds, but those stories are still gestating while the Blood are clamoring for attention. In fact, I just turned in another Black Jewels book, which goes back to the Realm of Terreille and has a connection with the characters from The Invisible Ring..

KP: Is there anything else you'd like to share with the readers?

Anne: The enthusiasm readers have felt for my work has been a wonderful experience. I hope I can continue to entertain people—and offer some emotional truths in the process—for a long time to come.

Categories: Interview, Authors, SciFi & Fantasy, New Releases

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From the New York Times bestselling author of the Novels of the Others comes the award-winning Black Jewels trilogy--Daughter of the BloodHeir to the Shadows, and Queen of the Darkness--together in one volume for the first time!

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The Blood have waited centuries for the coming of Witch, the living embodiment of magic. But Jaenelle, the young girl singled out by prophecy, is haunted by the cruel battles fought over her--for not all the Blood await her as their Savior. Some dismiss her as a myth. Some refuse to believe. And still others look forward to using her, making her a pawn to their shadowy devices.

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Jared is a Red-Jeweled Warlord bound as a pleasure slave by the Ring of Obedience. After suffering nine years of torment as a slave, he murdered his owner and escaped--only to be caught and sold into slavery once again.
 
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