Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Inside the Writer's Mind with Joyce Reynolds Ward

Welcome to another edition of Inside the Writer's Mind with Joyce Reynolds author of Netwalk's Children and Pledges of Honor; and many other books. You can check out her Amazon and Goodreads page to learn more about her books.

Same DiNamics Books: Writing can be a daunting prospect, what made you decide to share your story with the world? 
Joyce: I’ve wanted to tell stories ever since I started school. When I was in second or third, I wrote some sort of fanfiction about Mighty Mouse (thankfully now lost). In sixth grade, it was the novel about the palomino filly Golden Thunder and her girl rider Linda Vert who won the Triple Crown (my answer to Walter Farley’s Alec Ramsay and the Black Stallion; also now lost). In high school, I began work on the fantasy world that is now my Goddess’s Honor series. I also papered my locker with rejection slips my senior year in high school. I like telling stories and playing with words. I’ve gone for spells without writing fiction and been very sad as a result.

SDB: Who has influenced you as an author?
JRW: There are a lot of influences, some stylistic, others for plot and character, and still others for genre. I tend to fall in love with great landscape writers with American West settings, but you don’t always find that in speculative fiction writing. John Steinbeck was one of my stronger earliest influences, for his themes, his characterizations, and settings. Ken Kesey, especially in SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION, lays out a visual setting and characterizations that nail the Western Oregon of my youth. The political writings of Hunter S. Thompson inspired me during my political activist days, and Ed Abbey fed my love for desert spaces.

Alice Walker inspired me to think about feminism in a new way. Josephine Herbst pictured radical politics come to life in the early 20th century. Laura Ingalls Wilder and the biographies behind her stories which illustrated the struggles between mothers and daughter made me think about my own relationship with my mother and the family history on that side. Within genre, both Lois McMaster Bujold and C.J. Cherryh stimulated ways of looking at power dynamics as part of family life (especially Cherryh’s CYTEEN). Of course, for family interactions, there’s nothing like a good dose of Jane Austen.

And then there’s my friends, whose work I sometimes see or hear about in rough form. Sitting around visiting with other writers at science fiction conventions often provides good food for thought not just on story ideas but on techniques or approaches that I might be working with at a particular moment.

SDB: What is your writing method? Do you outline first or do you purge your brain on paper until your story is told? 
JRW: I’ve done both. Sometimes a difficult story needs to be written without structure until I reach a point where I draw the line and say “stop. It’s time to reorganize this mess.” Structureless can be an effective means of writing for me if I have a lot of time to fiddle with the idea—like several hours a day without distractions. These days, I do a lot of traveling as well as part-time teaching side work, so it’s harder to write and get my brain back in the flow if I don’t have a good solid external reference structure. Right now I have a short story that needs polishing and a novella that needs to be ripped apart and fixed for continuity before I finish it.

I wrote NETWALK’S CHILDREN in the middle of a move, and had character/timeline/event matrices with outlines down to a scene-by-scene level. It’s the most structured work I ever created, but it had to be since it was the third standalone novel in a series. Quite simply, my worldbuilding had reached a level where I needed to have continuity details readily at hand to keep the words flowing. That level of intensive structure meant that I could snatch a few moments out of the work of moving to get 1500-2000 words down to move the story rather quickly.

The novella I referred to above, BEYOND HONOR, is a prequel to PLEDGES OF HONOR in the Goddess’s Honor universe. It’s reached the point where I need to rip it up and impose a structure on it. The formless work is good when you are still worldbuilding, but it’s devilishly hard to maintain when you’re in the middle of a lot of distractions. But I needed to explore just how the relationship between Alicira, Heinmyets, and Inharise came about and who’s driving what, and it wasn’t responding to a more cerebral analysis. Inharise has been hiding from me and she finally came forward to be the driving character I knew she was. But the rest of the story’s a bit of a mess, and I need to do a lot of fixes to make it a tight little novella. I broke off writing just before the climax—now that I know what that is, I can go back and fix the story itself.

SDB: How long does it take you to write your story, from getting it down on paper to publishing? 
JRW: If I’ve planned it well, I can turn a book around in about eight months to a year. That’s two to three months of intense rough draft work, a month to rest, then extensive review and revisions followed by a submission to beta readers or an editor. My NETWALK SEQUENCE series has the same editor and gets priority for paid editor work, because the continuity is complex and I’m working on a multi-book series arc with standalone books that have their own individual arcs. This editing phase can take up to three months, while I’m preparing publicity materials including the cover. In some cases I do my own cover but in others I don’t.

That said, I can also produce two books in rough draft per year (at about 100,000 words), as well as some side fiction projects. Over the past few years most of my short fiction has either been aimed at expanding the Netwalk Sequence or in response to editorial request, so my short fiction production for other projects has fallen off. I hope to change that, plus produce more books this year. So I need to spend more time writing as well as doing other stuff.

SDB: Can you tell me a little bit about your book(s) without giving away too much? Why should I read it? 
JRW: My NETWALK SEQUENCE stories are a multi-generational cyberpunk family saga in a mostly Pacific Northwest future setting. They feature powerful corporate women interacting with a mysterious device that has its own plans and agenda. Each of the women has her own agenda as well, however, from Sarah the matriarch who tries to control everything via digital upload after her death to Sarah’s great-granddaughter Bess who just wants to be out in space and explore the universe. One of my friends calls this series “Regency cyberpunk.” I don’t quite think that label captures the essence of NETWALK SEQUENCE, especially since I think of it more as a futuristic DALLAS with dominant women in the place of the dominant men in that series. The most recent installment, NETWALK’S CHILDREN, passes the dominant role from Melanie, Sarah’s granddaughter, to Bess, Sarah’s great-granddaughter.

In NETWALK’S CHILDREN, the mysterious war machine device known as the Gizmo is getting restless and trying to use Melanie’s daughter Bess and her nephew Richard as a means of escape from its confinement. Meanwhile, problems arise with potential rogue Netwalkers tied not just to Melanie’s past but to her parents and the original capture of the Gizmo. Can Melanie work with her estranged Netwalker grandmother Sarah as well as Bess to stop the Gizmo and deal with past shadows that threaten to dominate Bess’s future? What are the secrets that may drive Melanie's mother Diana to try to take all three of her grandchildren? Come along for the ride as Melanie, Bess, and Sarah race to stop the Gizmo from breaking free from confinement as well as trying to save Diana from herself. It’s a fast-paced book with young adult as well as adult characters and I’d like to think it’s a nice quick read.

My other recent release, PLEDGES OF HONOR, is also part of a standalone series, Goddess’s Honor. This is a high fantasy series placed in a non-European setting which examines the choices a powerful sorceress, Rekaré, must make between political and religious power. What happens when she is intertwined in the ongoing schemes of Gods and humans? PLEDGES OF HONOR introduces us to Katerin, a wandering circuit healer seeking to avoid both her past and a prophecy that could mean her doom. But when the suicide of a village healer sweeps her into the intrigues of Gods and humans, she has no choice but to face past and prophecy to do what is right. Can Katerin forge an alliance with the dangerously attractive Metkyi, avoid the curses of her destiny, and help restore Rekaré to her rightful place? PLEDGES is another fast-paced read that I hope people enjoy and appreciate.

Both series are tales about worlds I enjoy revisiting and finding new snippets to share with others. I really hope other people enjoy visiting my worlds.

SDB: How much of yourself is in your character(s)?
JRW: I don’t think any more than any other writer usually does! Some of my characters like some of the same things I do, but more than that, I’d hope to have a quieter life than most of my characters do.

SDB: What advice would you give to an aspiring author? 
JRW: Be patient and keep writing. Practice, practice, practice, and find workshops and classes that help build up both your skill level and your ability to translate critique into productive rewriting. Find someone whose judgment you trust and get feedback from them about your work. Critique groups work for some authors, beta readers are better for others. Polish your work and make sure you put together an entertaining story. Learn what the clichés are for your chosen genre and avoid them.

Most of all, don’t stop reading. The best writers are also the best readers.

SDB: Is there anything else that you'd like to share? 

JRW: Go out and have fun with stories and words!

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