On Sunday last I posted my review of Wide Open by Deborah Coates, an amazing debut novel with a great mix of fantasy and contemporary elements. Today, I am very pleased to have an interview with Deborah to share with you!
– Wide Open (2012)
+ short stories
Welcome to Escape Through the Pages!
Thanks so much for inviting me!
On your site you talk about where Wide Open comes from, and you say you “care about the vast wonderful what-if possibilities of fantasy” (and I agree!). Are there specific aspects of fantasy lit that speak to you more than others?
What a wonderful wide-open question! I think I’ve always read fantasy and science fiction, pretty much since I could read. You may have guessed from what I choose to write, but one of the things I particularly like are fantasies that are solidly grounded in a particular time and place. That can mean contemporary fantasy but it can also mean really well-done epic fantasy as well.
I really like stories where ordinary people have to step up, where they must reach beyond what they thought their abilities were and find new strength and abilities. I recently listened to the first two books in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Five God’s series: The Curse of Chalion and The Paladin of Souls. Both novels, for me, start very slowly and, in fact, I gave up on The Curse of Chalion the first time I tried it, but persistence paid off for me. Both of them have complex characters who have to change their world views, their ideas about who they are, and step into something they don’t want and would walk away from if they were different people with different principles. It’s not that realistic novels can’t highlight people in the same ways, but the challenges, the world-changing potential, and the roles that people can play have greater stretch in fantasy even when the people are the same. And that’s something I really like.
The process of writing and publishing a book can be incredibly daunting. Have you always wanted to write and become published?
I didn’t start writing seriously with an eye toward publishing until quite late. This sounds silly to say, but I don’t think I really understood the process of revision until I worked on my master’s thesis. Before that, I thought that you had to get it right the first time, that you corrected your spelling and grammar, but moving whole sections or tearing something apart and putting it back together completely escaped me. Revision was a revelation to me. I mean, seriously, you could just fix things!
For a long time I wrote short stories, which I love. I love the process, though it takes me a long time to write one. Writing short stories taught me tons about voice and character and setting. Mostly importantly, writing short stories taught me endings. Articles of a Personal Nature, which is up on my website, is the first story where I felt I really nailed the ending.
By the time I started writing Wide Open, I had several friends who were going through or had already gone through the process of getting an agent and getting published. I had their example and their advice and it helped me tremendously.
What has been your favourite part of the publishing experience so far?
I liked the part where I got an agent and I liked the part where my agent sold my book.
More seriously, I’ve also liked, better than I thought I would, the process of working with someone else to edit the novel. When I’ve gotten feedback from my agent or my editor, there’s always been a moment of panic–I don’t know how to do this! But given time to think about what they’re saying and about the story I want to write, I start to figure out the way to fix things and the story really does get better.
If you were stranded in the middle of nowhere, in the Wide Open – what one book would you want to have with you to help pass the time?
I’m going to go off on a brief tangent and then circle back to the question. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I listen when I walk my dogs, so a little over an hour every single day. On average I listen to about 4 audiobooks a month. One of my obsessions is making sure I have a next book and a next one because I really really don’t want to run out of books. For a while, I was most interested in any audiobook that was long. It turns out, though that a really long book that isn’t particularly appealing is either a tedious exercise in listening that I don’t look forward to or something I abandon (and I don’t like to abandon audiobooks because–what if I end up with nothing to listen to!). A book that I can listen to more than once is a better investment for me than something that takes a long time.
So, if I were stranded in the middle of nowhere, I would want a book that would hold up to repeated re-reading. Pride and Prejudice, maybe, which I like for both the writing and the story or The Lord of the Rings, which manages to combine interesting and long.
If you could be visited by any ghost, who would you be most interested in meeting?
Oh, that’s a tough question! I would like to hang out with Eleanor Roosevelt. She was such an interesting person and led a particularly interesting life. I think she’d be a particularly busy ghost, though because I’m not entirely sure she ever actually stopped doing things in life. If she were a talking ghost, unlike the ghosts in Wide Open, she’d be so much fun to talk to. And I bet she’d somehow manage to make me a better person in spite of myself!
Thank you very much!
Thank you! Your questions were fun and I had a good time answering them.
My review of Wide Open.