The latest subject of our Writers of Fantasy interview series is Seanan McGuire, author of the recent bestseller Every Heart A Doorway, as well as the incredible October Daye series. She’s also a musician but we didn’t get into that. Probably would have gone against the aesthetic of the series, but maybe another time!
We talked about the ins and outs of being a writer, as well as delving into more Meta questions about representation, agendas, and politics. For fans and the curious alike, this interview is well worth reading.
When you look back on your first books, such as the early October Daye adventures, and compare them to something more recent, like Every Heart a Doorway, how do you feel you’ve changed as a writer? Has your process or method changed?
I feel like I’m better at it! I definitely have a more concrete idea of what it takes to write a book. A lot of what’s changed for me, personally, is language. I’m more careful about it now than I used to be, not because I’m being censored somehow, but because I don’t see the value of causing pain when I don’t have to. I will always write things that are painful, or sad, or upsetting, because I will always tell stories. I don’t need to slap people with words when there are so many other words available to me.
It‘s nearly seven years since Rosemary and Rue came out! How has the industry itself changed in that time from your perspective?
It seems to be a lot harder to sink your claws into the midlist. Overnight success stories stick around, and so do the people who’ve been doing this forever, but it’s no longer quite as practical to say “I want to sell enough that my publisher will make some money and I will make some money and it will all be okay.” It’s all or nothing, and that’s a little sad.
How long have you been writing? Can you remember some of your early stories and did any of them lead into the books you are writing now?
According to family legend–my own memories of this period are fuzzy as all get-out–I started when I was three, and never stopped. I do remember a lot of my early stories, when we class “early” as nine to fourteen, and a lot of those themes and ideas did wind up growing into aspects of my adult work.
Characters so often drive your stories; how do you usually create your characters, and do you build a story around them, or them around the story?
Most of my characters show up pretty much complete. I poke them for a while, change anything I don’t like, and then let them loose on the world. They tend to drive things from there.
One thing that has made your books stand out has been your unashamed diversity of characters. How important to you is the diversity within your own books?
As important as the diversity within my own life. I’m doing my best. I could still do better. We could all do better. If we keep trying, someday we will.
Is this something the genre as a whole needs to get better at? Have you seen it improving?
This is definitely something the genre needs to get better at, in all directions. If the question “Why did this character have to be ____?” only comes up when the character is not straight, white, cis, able-bodied, vaguely Christian, and male, then maybe there’s a problem with the way it’s being asked, because people don’t choose their reality. People are people. I’m seeing improvement. It’s not as fast as I’d like. It’s still happening.
I sure do hope so!
And finally, the next October Daye book, Once Broken Faith, is coming in September! Can you tease the fans with what to expect?
Toby’s going to have a bad day; there’s going to be a lot of blood; Arden is going to regret many of her life choices.
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