An interview with: Elizabeth Moon

Elizabeth Moon, award-winning science fiction and fantasy author, answered a few questions about her writing experience.

1) Please start by saying a little bit about yourself. 

(wicked grin)  You’re asking a woman who writes 170K volumes in multibook groups to say a little about herself?   We may not have the same definition of “a little” but I’ll try to hold it down.           

I’m officially a senior citizen now.   My educational background includes degrees in both history and biology.  I live in central Texas, where it’s mostly hot and dry except when we have the occasional flood.  My nonwriting passions include family, music (classical, including singing in a choir),  photography, nature, horses, chocolate,  and (revived after decades of neglect) knitting.  We have some land on which we’re doing prairie restoration and wildlife management…I get to drive the BIG tractor (well, not big, as tractors go, but not a riding mower, either.)   We do home meat processing, vegetable gardening,  rainwater collection; we have two pasture-pet horses and a cat.

2) When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’m not sure…I started writing very young (at six I tried to write a book about our new puppy) but did not consider “being a writer” until sometime later.   Not seriously, anyway.  Daydreaming, perhaps, but I did not have contact with any writers and had no  idea what “being a writer” meant.   Pictures on dust jackets of men in tweed jackets holding a pipe and patting a dog, or beautiful women wearing a string of pearls did not give me any hints.  In college, genre writing got no respect, not in classes or from a student writing group.  Every time I tried to think about “being a writer,” it was someone who wrote a different kind of fiction–not the kind I wrote or wanted to write.   A serious commitment to writing–and submitting–came later, in my mid-to-late thirties.

3) Speed of Dark is very different from most of your other books. Was there any particular inspiration or reason behind that novel?  

Yes, our autistic son.  Without the experience of parenting an autistic child, and watching attitudes about disability slop back and forth, I would never have thought of that book.  Nor would I have had the experience necessary to write an autistic viewpoint character, or known how to approach the research for the SF part of the book.

4) Do you have a favourite of all your books? 

Not really.   When I’m writing a book, it’s always my favorite right then…it has to be, for me to put up with it while it’s in the mill.   Once it’s done, the next one takes over my attention.  Looking back,  I have reasons to like each one, and reasons to wish I’d done that bit–that bit right there–better.   They’re individuals, those books, and I like them differently, not more or less.
 
5) With the experience you have now, is there anything you would have done differently with your early books?

If you mean, would I write them differently…not very differently.   Because I wasn’t published early in life (I sold my first fiction the year I was forty), I had a lot of writing experience behind me, including several years of writing and selling nonfiction.   Of course I’ve learned more since, but the early books aren’t as different from how I write now as they are from the way I wrote in my twenties.   Certainly I wouldn’t change the subject matter or the underlying deep logic, just phrases here and there.  

 6) You’ve written some books in collaboration. Is it very different to write a novel with another author compared to on your own?

 Certainly, especially when the other writer is famous and you are an unknown working in that writer’s created world.  It’s not your sandbox; you’re a guest in the kitchen, as it were.   I had a great time, because Anne McCaffrey is a very generous senior writer, but there’s no question that this was her world, and her stories.  I was the apprentice…and privileged to learn from one of the great writers in the field. 

Writing solo, it’s my sandbox, and all the decisions are mine, for good or ill.   

7) Are there any writers you’re particularly fond of reading?

Dozens.  That’s the problem.   I’ve always been a voracious reader, gobbling books by the stack–fiction and nonfiction– and in the process found many writers I re-read with great pleasure.  At any given moment I could list a dozen, but that would leave out others who escaped me for the moment.   Some former favorites are sliding down the scale as I get older (over 60, that is)  because of wonderful new books that are current favorites.   And I read across genres, which mean some favorites are not SF/F at all (mysteries, nonfiction, etc.)   With the understanding that I’ll be kicking myself the moment I hit SEND for leaving out the other dozens, here are a few in genre:  Lee & Miller (the Liaden books), C.J. Cherryh,  Lois McMaster Bujold, LeGuin,  Octavia Butler, John Moore (light but fun.), Tolkein: all re-readable.   (I find a lot of books satisfying one-read experiences, but fewer authors deliver reliable “multiple read” books.)

8) What was the most exciting moment for you as an author?

 Two moments tie.   When I first saw my first book, Sheepfarmer’s Daughter,  on a bookstore shelf, and when I won the Nebula Aware for The Speed of Dark.

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