Authors: Stories Behind the Books, E.M. Epps
Something I didn't really take into consideration when I started this project was the actual publishing process and my next Author in this project gave me information to think about as I continue to move forward with this project. I introduce to you, E. M. Epps (who goes by Emma in the real world). E.M. Epps is a science fiction and fantasy writer, manager of the used/new bookstore Pegasus Book Exchange in West Seattle, book reviewer, and freelance fiction editor. I really enjoyed my interview session with Emma because she eloquently touched on a lot important points of being published, how fast she writes, and her history of being a "pantser"?! I'll let her take it from here....
What genre do you write?
Science fiction of the adventure/space opera type and fantasy that I will describe as "non-epic, non-urban." Which is to say - no battles between good and evil, and no vampires. A grounded setting with a bit of magic and a lot of dialogue is more my thing.
As a friend put it to me once, "Fantasy allows a huge canvas with an infinite number of colors - and you're painting these tiny Dutch portraits in chiaroscuro." And that's so true. I write because I am fascinated by humanity and how we interact with each other and with the society and environment we live in, whether that's a pre-industrial village on the edge of the Arctic Circle, or the far future.
Yes, the actions of my characters are sometimes important in their greater world - in my last novel my characters have to defend a kingdom from invasion - but even then the problems that inspire me are human-scale. Sure, there's a battle scene: but my characters don't get a pass on all of the preparation...or the clean-up. And they're never going to be entirely sure they're doing the right thing.
What are some of your books, and where can we find them?
Mrs Fromish's Guests, a novelette about a witch who was trying to enjoy her retirement, but did not reckon on a pesky demon knocking on her gate. http://www.emepps.com/mfg
The Interpreter's Tale: A Word With Too Many Meanings, a novel about a linguist/interpreter amidst diplomacy, culture clash, magic, and love in a variety of forms.http://http://www.emepps.com/it
The Portrait of Géraldine Germaine, a novelette about a writer in turn-of-the-century Paris whose kitschy magazine serials start to become real. http://www.emepps.com/pogg
You Made My Heart a Hunter, a novella about a sorceress who goes to a small village to figure out her faith and life's path after being widowed. http://www.emepps.com/ymmhah
To Hell and Back Again...With a Little White Dog, a novella about an accountant who has to rescue his stepdaughter from Hell with the help of two quirky magicians and their pet dog.http://www.emepps.com/thaba
How long does it take you to write and finish a project?
Well, there were the days in which I was a "pantser" - I did not outline. One novel took fifteen years. Another one took two years (in the middle of the fifteen-year book, you understand). Then I started outlining, and that allowed me to write a short novel in two months. After years of brainpower wasted on figuring out what order scenes should go in or what to write next, being able to sit down and start typing immediately is a miraculous thing!
You talk about being a “pantser” (what is that?) and now you are transitioning in to being a more methodical writer. Can you explain that difference?
A pantser is a writer who writes by the seat of his pants - making up the plot as he goes along. The opposite is "plotter," which means someone who poisons his uncle with arsenic to make his rightful claim to the throne......or...wait....
You talked about writing one of your book in just 2 months, which is a very short amount of time. Did you have any doubt of your story or were you very confident in this piece compared to your other books that you have written?
It turned out to be exactly the book I wanted to write, and it required very little editing. I think they call that Inspiration(tm).
Can you talk about the benefits and frustrations with self publishing and/or traditional publishing?
I had someone ask me this while I was working and I said "do you have an hour"? Instead of soliloquizing on the topic at large I'll just speak about my own choices. When I finish one of the novels I'm working on right now, yes, I'll pursue an agent and a publisher, because I think these works will have wide appeal. But, so far, I've self-published. One reason is length. There are two - count them, two - professional markets for fantasy novellas. I have an extensive relationship with the editor of one, consisting of my SASEs and his rejection slips. (To be fair, I don't much enjoy reading his magazine, either.) The other one has a reading backlog, so it is reputed, of as much as a year.
I also self-published a particular novel because I thought it would be a hard sell. The cover letter would have gone something like this: "Hello, friendly agent! I have written a short fantasy novel about an interpreter on a diplomatic mission, which I wrote to fill what I felt was a huge void of Fiction for Linguistics Nerds....
As a bookseller, I have the advantage of being familiar with the market, and I am averse to wasting my time searching for a venue or agent for work that simply doesn't fit what's desired. I write different types of stories. Some I think are suited to traditional publication. Others I think are better served by being self-published.
What is the response to your work?
Either dead silence or rampant enthusiasm. And that suits me just fine. I'd rather be the favorite writer of ten people than mildly enjoyed and then forgotten by a hundred. I could (in theory) write to the median, the widely-acceptable. But I'd rather have a distinctive voice and a point of view.
I write to please myself, so I use long words and colons and lots of snarky dialogue. I obsess over the languages my characters are speaking and never let them get too mushy, even when they fall in love. I don't make any promises about happy endings. I've spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide whether the drinking vessels in one setting are glass or clay or metal.......and whether you just went "I get that!" or "you're crazy" probably tells you whether you would enjoy my work or not!
What are you working on next?
Thanks for asking, because I just started a new book and I'm very excited! It's a science fiction novel about a genetically engineered fox-woman whose brain implants give her the ability to subdivide her consciousness into multiple, fully functioning sections. She has no idea how she came to have this technology, and she has always kept it secret, so when someone shows up claiming to be able to do the same thing...hijinks ensue.
There is also a wolf. Not a werewolf. A wolf-man. A man-wolf? Anyway. He's a hot nerd. It's going to be great.
Lastly, I gotta ask are you the type of reader who picks up a book and always finishes it?
Oh, God, no. Far from it. In order to answer this truthfully I have to put on my bookseller hat.
If you're reading for pleasure - which is why most people read - I honestly don't think you should ever finish a book you don't enjoy. We all have limited time in our life and to waste it on something that's ostensibly an entertainment, but isn't giving you pleasure - simply, why? You should value your time more than that.
When you see as many books as I do, day in and day out, you come to realize that they aren't sacred. If the only reason why you're continuing to read a book is because you want to find out what happens, but you're not enjoying the interim, just read the last few pages and move on. That may sound like blasphemy to a lot of readers and writers, I'm sure. But there are more books in the world than you could read in ten lifetimes. Some of them will speak to you. Most will not. Kind of like finding a partner, actually. Why waste your time on a second date when you had no spark on the first?
Sometimes, I grant you, a book may build slowly and won't hit its stride for fifty or even a hundred pages. But that mainly has to do with the plot, and there are other kinds of chemistry. Perhaps you love the atmosphere, or the dialogue. Or he's not so much to look at but he has a great sense of humor.
That said, I personally have finished a lot of books I didn't enjoy. But I'm not strictly reading for pleasure. As a bookseller and reviewer, it's important that I'm familiar with the Western Lit canon; as a science fiction writer it's important that I'm familiar with the history of the genre.
And, when I don't like a book, at least I get the pleasure of giving it a bad review afterward!
Thank you E.M. Epps for being a delightful part of this project.
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