Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A few words with Ann Aguirre  

Continuing the coverage…

I was so impressed with Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace (see the two previous posts) that I tracked down her website and got in touch with her yesterday. Open and approachable, she took time out of her busy schedule and graciously agreed to a brief interview which I’m now thrilled to present in its entirety…

BG: To start things off, Grimspace is listed and categorized as "romantic Sci-fi". After reading it, I'd be more inclined to simply call it "a great book". Countless sci-fi novels over the years have had romantic elements and female protagonists, yet the "romantic sci-fi" label is relatively new. What are your feelings on the label?

AA: Thanks for calling it a great book! However, they have to shelve it somewhere. It goes in SF&F, so it's nothing more than a marketing angle. The label is designed to appeal to women, and to communicate that there's a romantic element alongside the action / adventure aspect. Since women can be shy about trying out a SF novel because they think it's always about killer robots, I'm fine with calling my books "romantic science fiction."

Along the same lines, are you concerned at all that some potential readers may be put off by Grimspace's categorization?

Not really. Most of them won't even hear about it, and will see it in the SF&F section along with all the other books. If it looks cool, they'll try it out. Once they're hooked, it won't matter what genre it's shelved in.

Grimspace moves along at a breakneck pace and maintains a high level of energy all the way through. As I was reading, it felt like the kind of dramatic ride I take when watching the Star Wars films (the good ones, anyway) play out onscreen. Was the pace intentional, and were there any structural influences from film, sci-fi or otherwise?

The pacing was intentional. I balanced between emotional / relationship arc and action-driven plot. I didn't pattern it after anything structurally, however. I just wrote it. I wanted to take readers on a wild ride, and leave them feeling like they'd been thoroughly entertained when they were done with the book. I did want to invoke the attachment that springs up in really fantastic TV and film SF projects, however. There's a reason people become die-hard fans of such series, and I wanted to see if I could achieve that same effect in books by making the writing very snappy and visual.

An unusually large (to me, anyway) number of characters seemingly meet their makers over the course of Jax's adventure. Were you ever concerned that you were giving too many the axe and cutting off future possibilities?

Not really. There are always prequels! *g* But seriously, I killed the number of people who had to go to make the story work. As countless people will tell you, I never give any thought to anything. Over-thinking will kill a book for me.

With regard to the writing process, you've been quoted in other places as saying that your usual habit is to get down 3000 words a day, to which I bow deeply and tip my hat. Out of curiosity, do you find that you scrap a lot, or do you end up with mostly solid stuff the first time around? More specifically, do you know where you're going before you write?

I actually tend to err on the minimalist side. If my target length is 90K, then I will usually wind up around 80K. I let it sit for a couple weeks, and then I go back through it, fixing obvious mistakes, spackling plot holes and the like. My agent reads it and gives me notes; I repeat the process. My editor reads it and gives me notes; I repeat the process. Then it goes through copy edits, wherein I go through it a final time. During all the polishing, I'll add 10-15K to the book, fleshing out, elaborating, adding to scenes or writing new ones.

So yeah, pretty much everything I write is usable. I seldom cut chunks of a book to make it work. If revisions are proposed, I might rewrite a few scenes inside the manuscript, but I don't really go through cutting extraneous material. Since I write lean, I end up needing more detail. I assume the reader knows stuff that's in my head and then my editor is like, "Ok, we need to see X in order to understand Y." So I make that happen.

I don't plot or outline. I generally have a starting point in mind and an ending point, but I don't know what the heck will happen in getting from point A to point B. It's a lovely adventure.

Do you envision the Jax books as an indefinite series, or do you have an end point in mind for the books, or the character herself?

I have enough plot for at least six books, possibly more, depending on the way certain story arcs play out. I don't have an end point in mind because I don't know what happens to Jax. When I do know, I suppose that'll mark her swan song.

What can you tell me about Wanderlust (Jax book 2) and your upcoming Corine Solomon series? Also, with juggling two series simultaneously, do you have your writing hands full, or are you working on other projects as well?

Well, here's the blurb for Wanderlust:


Sirantha Jax doesn't take chances... she jumps at them…

Sirantha Jax is a "Jumper," a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. Jax has worked for Farwan Corporation her entire career. But now the word's out that the Corp deliberately crashed a passenger ship, and their stranglehold on intergalactic commerce has crumbled—which means that Jax is out of a job.
She's also broke, due to being declared dead a little prematurely. So when the government asks her to head up a vital diplomatic mission, Jax takes it. Her mandate: journey to the planet Ithiss-Tor and convince them to join the Conglomerate.

But Jax's payday is light years away. First, she'll have to contend with Syndicate criminals, a stormy relationship with her pilot, man-eating aliens, and her own grimspace-weakened body. She'll be lucky just to make it to Ithiss-Tor alive...


It comes out in September. My copy editor said it's better than the first book, impossible to put down. It has some fine writing, fun banter, and plenty of action.

My Corine Solomon series is urban fantasy with a twist. There are no werewolves, no vampires, no fairies. Just human beings, ritual magic, and Powers Above & Below. I'll never write anything without a relationship arc, so it has a romantic thread as well, but Corine's love life won't be settled in the first book.

On my blog you said that you're a fan of BioWare's Mass Effect, the game I selected as my top pick of 2007 and one of only two '10' scores I've awarded in eight years, so you've obviously got superb taste. What's your relationship with videogames? Old-school player or recent convert? What are some of your favorite games and what consoles do you prefer? Any online games activity?

Yes, I do have superb taste! *g* I guess you'd have to call me old school. My first game was Zork; I played it on my neighbor's computer as a kid. I eventually moved up to the Eye of the Beholder games (woo, graphics!) but I didn't own my own computer until after I was out of college. I loved the Baldur's Gate series, and still play both NWN (Neverwinter Nights)1 & 2. Planescape holds the record as being the only game to succeed in making me cry. My favorite games right now are probably (ranked in order): Mass Effect, NWN 2, KotOR (Knights of the Old Republic), Jade Empire, KotOR2. I prefer story over pure action, but I thought Mass Effect struck the perfect balance.

I prefer Xbox 360, mainly because it's hooked up to the giant HDtv, and I get to loll on the couch while trouncing the forces of darkness. I used to play MMOGs, but no longer. I found they suck too much of my time, and I heartily dislike being accountable to other people. If I'm wandering around the house, I want to be able to pause the game and make it wait on me.

Finally, if you had to pick between corn, wheat, or rice knowing that the two not chosen would disappear off the face of the earth forever, which one would you choose, and why?

I'm going to say rice. You can do a lot with it. I can live without bread or corn on the cob, but I don't think I can live without fried rice.

A carton of fried rice and many, many thanks to Ann for the words, and you can catch her at Omegacon happening in Alabama, March 14-16.

…Now click over to Amazon and buy her
book, if you know what’s good for ya.

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