Many of us balance writing, family, day jobs, and taking care of ourselves. Juliette Wade, whose stories have been featured on the covers of magazines like Analog, brings her own inimitable style to the challenge.
Juliette Wade is a rising star in science fiction, writing thoughtful, provocative pieces based in extraordinary insight into culture, language, and personal agency. Of her recent novella, Gardner Dozois wrote:
“The best story in the March Clarkesworld, and one of the best stories published so far this year, is “The Persistence of Blood” by Juliette Wade. … “The Persistence of Blood” is strongly reminiscent of C.J. Cherryh's work, and if you like Cherryh, you're likely to enjoy this story too.”
Deborah J. Ross: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Juliette Wade: This actually took me a long time. I wrote a lot in elementary and junior high, but then got into nonfiction (i.e. class assignments) and didn't try writing fiction again until I was married and studying for my Ph.D. Maybe it was the fact that I'd been musing on the idea for a secondary world for quite a lot of years by then, but when I started writing, I couldn't stop. The desire to write was so strong and so clear that I knew immediately this was what I was meant to do. It was frightening and wonderful.
DJR: What is your writing process? When do you write?
JW: Writing for me is about moments stolen in between running life for myself and my family. The impact of this on my process is that a lot of my work gets done in the form of thinking while I'm doing other things. Then whenever I get a chance, I sit down at the computer and write everything down. It's easier now than it was when my children were first born, but still, a constant challenge. My favorite time to write is when I'm by myself in the house, and that doesn't happen as often as I'd like.
DJR: How would you characterize your fiction? Are you writing to/for a particular audience or audiences?
JW: My fiction is as realistic as I can make it - from the perspective of psychology, sociology, linguistics, and anthropology. I am aiming for a wide audience, but hoping particularly to appeal to people who are looking for diversity, intersectionality, and respect of other cultures.
DJR: What writers have been major influences in your work and why?
JW: The writer who most influenced me when I was first beginning to write was Ursula K. LeGuin. The language she uses is graceful, and she brings a cultural sensibility to her work that always impressed me. I could see the evidence of her deep thinking about societies and cultures as well as individuals, and try to emulate her in those ways as best I can. In more recent times, I have found inspiration in the works of N.K. Jemisin and Ann Leckie. It's hard for me to pinpoint any one thing about these authors that I admire, because I admire so much about what they do. One thing they are both good at, though, is making sure to keep an intimate emotional connection to characters at the same time that they bring cosmic significance to events and stakes in their stories.
DJR: What is your most current project?
JW: My most current project is a novella that just came out in the March 2018 issue of Clarkesworld Magazine. "The Persistence of Blood" takes place in my Varin world, where people live in a complex caste society in underground cities. Lady Selemei is a noblewoman who nearly died giving birth to her fifth child, who takes the revolutionary step of refusing to bear any more children, despite the fact that the noble caste is in decline and expects every woman to have as many children as possible in order to sustain the Race. Her husband is supportive, and together they attempt to change the law to protect more mothers from death in childbirth, but when things go terribly wrong, she's forced to stand on her own and become a unique political voice in her own society.
DJR: What was the inspiration for the project?
JW: I had a conversation with Ann Leckie a couple of years ago, and she encouraged me to try writing a novella in the Varin world. I chose to focus on Lady Selemei because it's important to me that Varin stories reflect the kinds of social issues we are dealing with right now in our own world. Selemei is a very grounded person, and a mom, and has to step out beyond what she has known in order to protect herself and her family from government policies that put her life in danger. It should come as no surprise that she ends up having to fight in the political arena, and that this fight turns out to be very difficult.
DJR: What lies ahead for you as a writer?
JW: I'm currently working on a sequel to "The Persistence of Blood," which will feature a character from the Imbati servant caste and take on a very different set of social issues. I'm also working with my agent's help to publish a novel of Varin.
DJR: What advice do you have for new and aspiring writers?
JW: I guess my advice would be something Lady Selemei believes in, which is to believe in your own gifts and keep persisting, learning as much as you can along the way.
DJR: What do you do when you’re not writing?
JW: When I'm not writing, I do lots of different things. I like to work in my garden, and to take long walks and hikes, all of which help me to think. I like to go top-rope climbing in the gym, and to do yoga, because both of these activities help to relax my over-active mind. I work as an English and French teacher, and I work with my family on things like school homework and life in general!
Juliette Wade combined a trip to the Gouffre de Padirac with her academic background in linguistics and anthropology to create the world of Varin, a grand experiment in speculative ethnography. She lives the Bay Area of California with her husband and two children, who support and inspire her. Her fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Analog, and Fantasy & Science Fiction. She runs the Dive into Worldbuilding video series and workshop at www.patreon.com/JulietteWade.