Monthly Archives: July 2009

Jack McDevitt on His Writing

When researching a subject, sometimes I struggle for ground to cover in the course of the interview. In the case of writer Jack McDevitt I struggled to narrow down what to discuss, given the rich diversity of his life. The man is the definition of experiencing life to its fullest. Consider his bio (which can be found here), in which one learns McDevitt “is a former English teacher, naval officer, Philadelphia taxi driver, customs officer, and motivational trainer. With the nominations of Infinity Beach, Ancient Shores, Time Travelers Never Die, Moonfall, Good Intentions (cowritten with Stanley Schmidt), Nothing Ever Happens in Rock City, Chindi, Omega, Polaris, Henry James, This One’s for You, and Seeker, Odyssey, and Cauldron, his work has been on the final Nebula ballot twelve of the last thirteen years. His first novel, The Hercules Text, was published in the celebrated Ace Specials series, and won the Philip K. Dick Special Award. In 1991, he won the first $10,000 UPC International Prize for his novella Ships in the Night. The Engines of God was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and his novella Time Travelers Never Die was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula. Omega received the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel, 2003. McDevitt lives in Georgia with his wife Maureen, where he plays chess, reads mysteries, and eats lunch regularly with his cronies.” My thanks to McDevitt for an enriching email interview, and to Kevin J. Anderson for his advice making this interview partially possible.

Tim O’Shea: Back in 2005, in excerpts from a Locus Online interview of you, you admitted: “I’m worried about what’s happening in the United States now with the right wing.” How much would you say the political climate of the world inspires some of your fiction (if at all)? Are you more or less worried about the United States these days?

Jack McDevitt: It’s four years ago. I suspect I was thinking about the tendency of the right to substitute flag-waving for thought. The primary responsibility of a citizen in a democracy is to keep informed, and to recognize that authority figures of whatever political stripe need to be watched. And controled. An extreme example came when the President took us to war without presenting any evidence. I will never forget JFK going on TV when he was getting ready to impose the Cuban missile blockade. Here are the photos. There are the missile sites. These are the capabilities that these missiles will have. Etc. We never saw any of that from Bush. Trust me. Let’s go get Saddam. The Republicans, who are now so concerned about waste, got in line. And the Democrats, with few exceptions, put political expediency before the nation’s welfare, and also climbed on board. Then, after we’d killed God knows how many innocent Arabs –Remember Shock and Awe?–, we re-elected the administration. Before the world, the American people showed their approval of what we’d done.

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Susan E. Isaacs on Angry Conversations With God

While researching for another interview, I was introduced to Susan E. Isaacs‘ new book, Angry Conversations With God. And I’m glad I found out about it–and even better got a chance to interview her. First some background on the book:
Angry Conversations With God began when Susan hit hit forty and found herself loveless, jobless, and living over a garage. When a churchy friend told Susan that she needed to look at her relationship with God was it like a marriage, Susan decided to take God to marriage counseling.

Angry Conversations chronicles Susan’s spiritual history, from childhood faith to a midlife crisis, and all the bizarre church experiences in between.”

And now for some info on the author:
“Susan is an actor, writer and comedienne with credits in TV, film, stage and radio, including Planes Trains & Automobiles, Scrooged, Seinfeld, and My Name Is Earl. She is an alumnus of the Groundlings Sunday Company and has an MFA in screenwriting from the University of Southern California.”

My thanks to Isaacs for the interview. Keep an eye out for her this fall, as she goes on a multi-city tour, promoting the book.

Tim O’Shea: Most religious memoirs do not have a tinge of irreverence to them, did you fear alienating your potential audience by going this route?

Susan E. Isaacs: People who don’t handle irreverence or extreme language shouldn’t read Jeremiah, Elijah, or St. Paul. Like in Philippians 3, Paul considers his previous accomplishments “loss” compared to knowing Christ? The original Hebrew for “loss” is a vulgar term for excrement. But we can’t print St Paul’s original intent because we’re Christians. I think there’s a difference between gratuitous irreverence, and irreverence that’s necessary to the character and the story. I took out all but two or three instances of profanity where I felt they were necessary to show the character’s desperation. Like, in one instance I spelled it out phonetically to show how violent my father’s cursing sounded to me as a child.

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Tad Williams/Deborah Beale on Dragons of Ordinary Farm

I missed out on the opportunity to interview Tad Williams a few years back. So when I heard he and his business partner/collaborator/wife Deborah Beale were starting a new young adult book series with the launch of the first volume, The Dragons of Ordinary Farm, I reached out to them to see if they were open to an email interview. Luckily for me, they were.

Here’s some details about the book: “Tyler and Lucinda have to spend summer vacation with their ancient uncle Gideon, a farmer. They think they’re in for six weeks of cows, sheep, horses, and pigs. But when they arrive in deserted Standard Valley, California, they discover that Ordinary Farm is, well, no ordinary farm.

The bellowing in the barn comes not from a cow but from a dragon. The thundering herd in the valley? Unicorns. Uncle Gideon’s sprawling farmhouse never looks the same twice. Plus, there’s a flying monkey, a demon squirrel, and a barnload of unlikely farmhands with strange accents and even stranger powers.

At first, the whole place seems like a crazy adventure. But when darker secrets begin to surface and Uncle Gideon and his fabulous creatures are threatened, Lucinda and Tyler have to pull together to take action. Will two ordinary kids be able to save the dragons, the farm — and themselves?”

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Technical Difficulties

Sorry for the delay in posting this week’s interview with Tad Williams and Deborah Beale regarding The Dragons of Ordinary Farm. The Internet at O’Shea Mansion was down part of last night preventing posting. I will try my best to post while watching Burn Notice tonight. If a mention of Chuck Finley pops up inexplicably, I hope you understand.  Seriously though, my apologies for the delay.

Kara LaReau on Bluebird Works

When I interviewed Cecil Castellucci a few months ago, I was impressed at the level of praise she had for her editor, Kara LaReau. So I contacted Cecil to see if LaReau would be open to discussing her new endeavor, Bluebird Works Creative Consulting. Before starting the interview, here’s a brief bio from her blog: “Hatched in a small town in southern Connecticut in the early 1970s, I eventually flew the coop and received my Masters in Fine Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, and later worked as an editor at Candlewick Press in Cambridge, Massachusetts and at Scholastic Press in New York. Now, I’m spreading my wings again — managing my own creative consulting firm, developing my writing career, and maintaining a cozy nest in Providence, Rhode Island.” My thanks to LaReau for her time and thoughts.

Tim O’Shea: How long have you been a book editor–how many books have you edited in your career?

Kara LaReau: I’ve been editing for more than ten years — first at Candlewick Press, then at Scholastic Press, and now via my own creative consulting firm, Bluebird Works. Honestly, I have no idea how many books I’ve edited; it must be at least a hundred!

O’Shea: What’s the most challenging manuscript you’ve ever edited?

LaReau: Each book presents its own thrills and challenges, so it’s difficult to single out one in particular. I’d say the most challenging situations, in general, were those where the author was reluctant to consider my suggestions. If the author and editor don’t have a reciprocal sense of trust, the story goes nowhere.

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