Monday, December 3, 2018

Sword and Sorceress 33 Author Interviews: Dave Smeds

Enter a wondrous universe…the latest volume of Sword and Sorceress, featuring stories from new and seasoned authors. Herein you will find tales of fantasy with strong female characters, with some version of either martial skill or magic. Not all the protagonists will be human, and sometimes the magic will take highly original forms, but the emotional satisfaction in each story and in the anthology as a whole, remains true to the original vision. The release date will be November 2, 2018.

Deborah J. Ross: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to be a writer?

Dave Smeds: I loved fiction from an early age. I was particularly drawn to stories of imaginary worlds, or at least by settings that were in effect imaginary, such as Mars as depicted by Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age fifteen, it occurred to me I might be able to write a short story or two. I did that. The result was crap, of course, but every time I did another story or fragment of a novel, I could see how to improve. (It was, as you might imagine, REALLY OBVIOUS how I could improve.) I felt driven to eventually write something at a level I'd want to read if someone else had written it.

DJR: What inspired your story in Sword and Sorceress 33?
DS: Six years ago, when pondering what I would write for Sword and Sorceress 27, I decided it was the right time to initiate a story sequence. A number of S&S contributors have resorted to the series format. I had not done so, other than my gullrider tales in S&S 4 and S&S 5. In my teens I very much enjoyed the Conan stories. Part of the joy of those -- speaking now of Howard’s original eighteen tales, not of the scads of pastiches that have been added to the canon over the seventy years -- is that he skipped around, presenting views of his character at various stages of life, in all sorts of settings. I also greatly appreciated the economy and focus of a sequence made up of short-fiction installments. It’s so much work to devour a series made up of four or six or eight novels, but four or six or eight short stories? Great from an author perspective, and hopefully great from a reader perspective as well. Somehow the image of my characters making a getaway on a flying carpet came to me, and that led to the first outing of my characters Coil and Azure. I like coming up with original worlds too much to limit my S&S contributions to nothing but Coil and Azure stories, but I had not featured them since S&S 29 and I missed them, so here we go for at least one more time with “The Citadel in the Ice.” At this point I have no idea how soon I’ll do another installment. I promised myself to do them only when the muse is really nagging me.

DJR: What authors have most influenced your writing? What about them do you find inspiring?
DS: In the early days, I never thought of myself as deeply influenced by any particular author, except perhaps in the sense that I loved to write sword-and-sorcery, and back then, anyone doing that was standing on the shoulders of Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien. In retrospect, I see L. Frank Baum's influence upon the way I structure a story. Baum did not write The Hero's Journey. He wrote The Heroine's Journey. That is to say, he wrote books in which the protagonist -- usually a girl -- makes alliances, as opposed to the Campbell paradigm where a young man pulls himself up by the bootstraps, stands alone, and takes sole credit for defeating an antagonist. I prefer the complexity and subtlety of The Heroine's Journey.

DJR: Why do you write what you do, and how does your work differ from others in your genre?
DS: At first I wrote to prove I could do it. Next I wrote to earn money. Both motivations, in my view, demanded that I write the best work I could, so in that respect, I have no regrets. But I write now with the awareness that an author of fiction has an obligation to inject meaning into an essentially meaningless universe. That's our job as human beings. We are creatures of pattern recognition. It's our chief survival trait. A fiction writer must do it better than anyone. That’s a challenge. However, at this point in my life I feel I have fulfilled my former writing goals and what keeps me putting the words down on the chance it will fill an existential void for someone out there.

DJR: How does your writing process work?
DS: My process would drive any other writer nuts, I suspect. The ideas -- whether it is for a scene, a character, a setting, a plot, a premise -- bubble up and I go with what fascinates me at the moment. I see the whole story and fill in the pieces almost randomly as if assembling a jigsaw puzzle. I might write the ending first. I might write a little bit that fits two-thirds of the way along. it's just about unheard of that I proceed from page one to the end in chronological order. I think that's happened only three or four times in forty-eight years of writing, and only with very short pieces.

DJR: What have you written recently? What lies ahead?
DS: In terms of output, I've slowed down tremendously in the past fifteen years. Lately quite a bit of my creative work has been on the art side of my career, doing covers of other authors' books. For example, I have done a lot of the Sword and Sorceress covers. The big thing on the horizon is the novel The Wizard's Nemesis, the final volume of my War of the Dragons trilogy. I would have been done with a complete draft last autumn, but the evening I sat down to begin the final push to get the last fragment of it done, there was this thing called the Sonoma County firestorm that drove my family and I out of our home for nine days, and left me in a jittery and non-creative mood.

DJR: What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
 Shamelessly plagiarize Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin.

Dave Smeds sold his first story in early 1979 to the anthology Dragons of Light, edited by

Orson Scott Card. He describes himself as a non-prolific writer, but has nevertheless sold hundreds of stories since then. In addition, he has written novels, screenplays, comic book scripts, reviews, and articles, primarily in the arena of science fiction and fantasy. His work ranges across a variety of sub-genres, but he particularly enjoys crafting imaginary-world fiction. He has done so for the Sword and Sorceress series nearly twenty times.

Deborah's note: The beautiful cover design for Sword and Sorceress 33 is by Dave Smeds.

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