She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.
– Annie Dillard
She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.
– Annie Dillard
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publisher: Daw Books
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
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Shawna Keys has fled the world she only recently discovered she Shaped, narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Adversary who seized control of it...and losing her only guide, Karl Yatsar, in the process.
Now she finds herself alone in some other Shaper's world, where, in her first two hours, she's rescued from a disintegrating island by an improbable flying machine she recognizes from Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror, then seized from it by raiders flying tiny personal helicopters, and finally taken to a submarine that bears a strong resemblance to Captain Nemo's Nautilus. Oh, and accused of being both a spy and a witch.
Shawna expects--hopes!--Karl Yatsar will eventually follow her into this new steampunky realm, but exactly where and when he'll show up, she hasn't a clue.
In the meantime, she has to navigate a world where two factions fanatically devoted to their respective leaders are locked in perpetual combat, figure out who the Shaper of the world is, find him or her, and obtain the secret knowledge of this world's Shaping. Then she has to somehow reconnect with Karl Yatsar, and escape to the next Shaped world in the Labyrinth...through a Portal she has no idea how to open.
Where do you get your ideas for your books? Who or what inspired your idea?
EW: Ideas come from everywhere. For example, my science-fiction novel The Cityborn began with a mental image of a towering city, squatting over a canyon filled with a massive garbage dump, in which there are people scavenging to survive. My YA science-fiction novel Andy Nebula: Interstellar Rock Star came out of an exhibit at the Saskatchewan Science Centre about how memory works, combined with a news item about teenaged Japanese pop stars who were one-hit wonders. In the book, there are aliens whose memory works differently, and Andy is plucked off the street to become a one-hit superstar—it’s drugs, rock and roll, and aliens for teenagers. For Worldshaper, the trigger was wondering what it would be like if the creators of fictional worlds could actually live in them. So, it can be a mental image, something I've read, or simply sitting and thinking, "What if...?"
How did you develop the plot and your characters? Are your characters based on anyone?
EW: My process of developing a story is to ask myself questions. In The Cityborn, for exampe, I asked myself, "Who are those people living in the garbage dump? Why are they there? Why has this city been fouling its environment for so long? Where did it come from? Who lives inside it?" Conflict, and hence plot, arises from the answers to those questions: the people in the garbage want into the city. What would they do if someone from the top of the city, where the rich people would logically live, ended up down in the garbage dump? Every answered question presents other questions that must be answered. I typically write writes a synopsis of maybe ten pages, not a chapter-by-chapter outline, just a rough description. I don't follow that synopsis particularly closely, though. The overall shape of the book is there, but the writing process may take me in a very different direction. For instance, in Terra Insegura, sequel to Marseguro, a character introduced only because a viewpoint character was needed in space while everyone else was on the surface of the planet became so important that I had to replot everything about two-thirds of the way in. A lot of this happens organically. I write fast, and the process feels seamless--things come out of my had through my fingers into the story. One sentence leads to another, which leads to new characters, new problems, new solutions. Characters arise from the story. Who'd be hurt? Who benefits? How are they in conflict with each other? Sometimes there are purely technical reasons for a character to be introduced (like the one mentioned in Terra Insegura, above). In Worldshaper, much of the story is written in first-person, but there were things I needed to reader to know my first-person character couldn't know, so I wrote a few third-person scenes, as well.
Do you write when you're inspired? Or do you have a schedule you keep to?
EW: I write all the time. If I'm not working on fiction, I have non-fiction to work on. So I write every day, but I'm not necessarily working on a novel every day. I type a LOT.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? Maybe a piece of advice that stuck with you from your adventure into the world of publishing?
EW: My advice to writers is always the same: read a lot, write a lot. You have to read (especially in your chosen genre) to understand how stories are put together, and to discover how other authors have solved the same problems you're trying to solve, of plotting and pacing and dialogue and description and more. And then you have to try to put it into practice. You learn to do by doing; you learn to write by writing, and by letting people read what you wrote (so you can find out if it's working or not) and then by revising and writing more. Try to make everything you write better than the last thing you wrote. Being a writer, someone once said, is like having homework every day of your life for the rest of your life.
Tell us a bit more about yourself. How did you know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspires you to write?
EW: I decided to be a writer in high school (where I wrote three novels, after having written shorter things before that). It came out of my voracious reading. I wanted to tell stories that would entertain and move other people the way my favorite books moved and entertained me. My other interests were music and art and science, but by about age sixteen I knew I wanted to be a writer. I went into journalism out of practicality: I figured I would be writing and getting paid for it, even if it wasn't the fiction I wanted to write, and then could write fiction on the side. Eventually, I quit my job and became a full-time writer. I still write as much non-fiction (or more) than fiction, because I have to make a living. It's all of a piece: using words to communicate with other people, to put your ideas into someone else's head. It's quite magical, when you think about it.
How much of yourself goes into your writing? Or do you keep yourself separate and base the character on someone else entirely?
EW: All my characters contain a piece of me because I'm the only human being whose inner workings I have access to. That said, I've never been a fifteen-year-old girl with magical powers or an alien with wings or a woman genetically modified to breathe under water, all of whom I number among the characters I've created. Still, at core, the only reason fiction works is that human beings are human beings. I start with the human being I know best, me, and then imagine how I might be different if I were an alien or a magical girl or a genetically modified mer-woman.
What has helped shape and improve your writing?
EW: Reading, as mentioned. Insightful editorial comment from the many editors I've worked with. And conversations with other writers (as in my podcast, The Worldshapers--one reason I started it).
What are you reading right now? Do you recommend it or have any other recommendations?
EW: I'm currently reading The Core, the final book in Peter V. Brett's Demon Cycle. I recommend that series highly, as I do the books of all the authors I've talked to in my podcast (currently, my fiction reading is largely dictated by which author I'm interviewing next, since I like to be prepared).
Do your novels carry a message or do you feel it's subjective?
EW: Messages arise organically from the fiction. I never preach, but of course my view of how the world works infuses my stories. But the message readers take from a work can be different from what an author thinks he or she put in there, anyway.
What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
EW: I write on a laptop computer, but when I started, I wrote on a typewriter. I don't miss it.
Edward Willett is an award-winning author of more than sixty books of science fiction, fantasy and non-fiction for readers of all ages.
Born in Silver City, New Mexico, Willett moved to Saskatchewan from Texas with his family when he was eight years old and grew up in the small city of Weyburn. He returned to the States to study journalism at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, then came back to Weyburn as a reporter/photographer for the weekly Weyburn Review, eventually becoming news editor. In 1988 he moved to Regina, Saskatchewan, as communications officer for the Saskatchewan Science Centre, and in 1993 he became a fulltime freelance writer. He still resides in Regina.
Willett's science fiction novel Marseguro (DAW Books) won the 2009 Aurora Award for best English-language science fiction or fantasy book by a Canadian author. He has also won a Saskatchewan Book Award for his YA fantasy Spirit Singer. He has been shortlisted for the Aurora Award and Saskatchewan Book Awards multiple times. Most recently, his short-story collection Paths to the Stars (Shadowpaw Press) was shortlisted for two Saskatchewan book Awards. His novel Worldshaper (DAW Books) has been long-listed for Canada's Sunburst Award for speculative fiction, in the YA category.
Other novels include SF novel Lost in Translation (DAW Books), Terra Insegura (sequel to Marseguro, DAW Books), Magebane (DAW Books, written as Lee Arthur Chane), and the young-adult science fiction novel Andy Nebula: Interstellar Rock Star. In the works, in addition to the next Worldshapers book: a dark-fantasy YA novel, featuring shapeshifters, for ChiZine Publications.
Willett's non-fiction titles run the gamut from science books for children on topics as diverse as Ebola Virus and the Milky Way to local history books like Historic Walks of Regina and Moose Jaw for Red Deer Press, awarded a Municipal Heritage Award by the City of Regina in the education category and A Safe and Prosperous Future: 100 years of engineering and geoscience achievements in Saskatchewan, published by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS). He's also written biographies for children of Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Andy Warhol, Orson Scott Card, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Ayatollah Khomeini.
You can find Ed online at www.edwardwillett.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @ewillett. He is represented by literary agent Ethan Ellenberg (www.ethanellenberg.com).
Besides being a writer, Willett is a professional actor and singer who has performed in dozens of plays, musicals and operas in and around Saskatchewan, hosted local television programs, and emceed numerous public events. He hosts The Worldshapers podcast (www.theworldshapers.com), featuring conversations with other science fiction and fantasy authors about the their creative process. He's married to an engineer, and has one daughter.
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