This week’s interview in the Writers of Fantasy series is with Aliette De Bodard! She is best known for her incredible historical fantasy novel The House of Shattered Wings. She is a master of both short fiction and long novels, with a number of historical fantasy settings that have kept readers hooked for years.
We talked about her development as a writer, comparing her short stories to novels, the writing process, character building and much, much more. Take a listen! There are key quotes below.
“The first book in English that I bought with my own money… and it turned out to be Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet. I didn’t know anything about her at the time, but all I knew was that it looks thick… and it has dragons on the cover! I mean, hey bring it on, right?”
“I made my way through [Earthsea] with a dictionary because it was so bloody hard!”
“I picked up a book titled ‘How to Write Fantasy and Science Fiction’ and I read it and I was like ‘You can DO this?’ I never really thought about this because an awful lot of French literary canon is people who have been dead for quite a bit!”
“I actually started by writing novels. They were these epic, like, 200,000 word novels. The kind of thing you can use as a weapon against other people. Obviously at this length it’s difficult to find readers for them, especially when the quality is not great. So I had this brilliant idea, I thought ‘I’m going to write short stories so it’s going to be easier for people to give me feedback and then I can work on my craft!'”
“Writing a novel and writing a short story are actually not very much alike, so for the first five to six years I was writing a lot of short stories and I was getting better and better at writing short stories. But when I decided I was going to write a novel I suddenly discovered that I might know how to write short stories but novels were different and in particular pacing was a big problem.”
“My very first draft, my husband read through it and said, ‘I think I have one major comment before we get around to any of the other stuff like logical points and character development and so on and so forth… You realise that your characters have not slept or eaten for at least four or five days.'”
“Ever since I’ve been very careful to give the characters lunch breaks.”