Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Published Author: Ask Him Anything! (guest blog #4, with CONTEST!)

"Vivid and accurate prose, a gripping, imaginative story, a terrifically inventive setting, a hard-bitten, indestructible hero, and an intelligent, fully adult heroine -- We haven't had a science-fiction novel like this for a long time."
-- Ursula K. Le Guin

Last Monday, you heard from my best childhood friend, Sarah, on the perils of loving a writer. Today, you get to ASK THAT WRITER ANYTHING! Felix Gilman will tell you his background himself, but you should know that he's British, so that you can imagine this post read aloud to you with the driest of Jeremy-Irons-esque accents.

Hello, all. I’m Felix Gilman, and this is a guest post while Carrie’s in wherever. [France! Back next week. -ed.] My own blog is at and gets updated essentially never. [Which is why he's written more books than I have. -ed.] I’m the author of two novels published by Bantam: Thunderer and Gears of the City. My third book, The Half-Made World, will be published by Tor in October. About a week ago I finished a fourth book, and my agent sold it to Tor. That one doesn’t have a title yet. These are what you might call fantasies, or secondary-world fantasies, if you prefer. Thunderer was billed on the hardcover version as a “High Fantasy,” which with hindsight was probably a mistake: it makes people think of Dwarves and Elves, which I don’t care for. [These novels are in fact in urban settings! The New Yorker in me loves this immensely. -ed.] Later it got described as New Weird. I don’t exactly know what that means. [Felix also has a short story in a collection called The New Weird, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, and I read it, and I don't know what it means, either. -ed.]

The Half-Made World gets described as steampunk. I don’t know exactly what that means, either. But everything has to be called something. People ask, and I say, I don’t know, just books. But that doesn’t work, they keep asking. There has to be an answer. Whereof we cannot speak, we cannot market. Anyway, I suppose all this means I’m in early-mid-career as a writer.

"Career" -- probably the ugliest word in the English language.

So far I’ve got by on blind luck and also not caring all that much if it doesn’t work out. Also, everything I’ve published so far was written or begun or at least substantially committed to before my first book was published. Now, for the first time, I’m planning out a new book with some sense of the shape of the market and my place in it and where I might want to be in five years’ time and where I might actually realistically expect to be... It’s a very different experience. There are things to balance that I’m not sure really can be balanced.

I suppose I don’t really have a point here. Does anyone have any questions about publishing or my views on writing after a couple of books? Boy, have I have got some vague and unsatisfying and potentially inaccurate half-answers for you.

Also there should be a contest. A copy of my first two books to (1) the best cute animal YouTube posted in comments; (2) the best song posted in comments, according to my own arbitrary tastes; (3) any person who proposes a workable and cost-effective solution to the Deepwater Horizon leak.

Please note that the video below is the most recent one sent to me by Felix, so the standard for cute/funny animal YouTube is HIGH, y'all.

I'm keeping this contest open until the end of next week, July 9th at midnight EST, to give the first contest some time to settle before the winner of this one is announced. TWO BOOKS! Enter now!


  1. Felix's books look fantastic! I couldn't tell if his contest requirements were an OR or AND type of thing. So I'll submit a song: The Bird and the Bee's "Love Letter To Japan" :

    I've had it stuck in my head for a week or more, and now y'all can have it stuck in YOUR heads too.

  2. Oh, yes, and a question. Sorry - I got so wrapped up in the idea of new books that I forgot to ask one!

    Would you comment a little on how you managed your time between your lawyer "day job" and the massive, utterly obscene amount of writing you do? (I mean, 47 manuscripts? Really?) Do you manage a family in the middle of all that? (This is not a roundabout way of asking if you're single, because that might be creepy.)

  3. I don't have a cute animal video. But I do have a song.

    And a solution to the oil leak: dump our trash down there until it stops (could it really make things any worse?).

  4. Those sound like some great books! I'll have to check them out! By the way, I did read this with a British accent in mind. :D

    Here's an adorable animal video:

  5. I don't have anything to enter the contest with, but I do have a question.

    What do you think of ch 1 of at my new novel, 'Lethal Inheritance’? You’ll find it at

    I'd love it if you posted a comment. It's YA fantasy.

    One of my favorites.

    And in case you've already seen that one, here's another classic:

    Question for you:
    I'm in the middle of writing my first novel and even though I feel like the plot and characters are just the way I want them, I get a bit discouraged sometimes.
    Is there anything you wish someone would have told you while you were writing your first novel?

    Also, how the heck did you get stuff published with Tor? That's totally awesome! I'm a wee bit jealous.

  7. Sean - with increasing difficulty. The first book was mostly written on a long break between jobs. The second book was mostly written in another long break between two different jobs. Since then it's been weekends and mornings while working. It's surprising how much writing you can get done in a hour a day and working on the mornings on the weekends -- and I can't realistically write for more than three or four hours a day anyway. I find writing and job-work use mostly different parts of the brain anyway, so to some extent writing helps recharge. The difficult thing is keeping up momentum: it's inevitable that some days will slide, which turns into weeks very easily, which turns into months.

    (Note that I didn't actually write 47 manuscripts).

  8. Adam: they tried trash. It didn't work.

  9. Carrie! Remove your word filter. It stifles the free flow of posting. Let a thousand spams come forth.

  10. or word verification or capcha or whatever it's called

    who here wants some ci@lis or vic0din? you know you do. This per-post spam filter keeps you from learning about all the ci@lis you're missing out on. It demeans us all.

  11. Tahlia: the internet is right there at your fingertips. A million cute animal youtubes await you. E.g. here is an otter playfighting with a badger.

    I'll try to take a look, but I can't promise it will be any time soon (see above comments, re: extreme busyness).

  12. Or e.g. here is a raccoon dismantling someone's kitchen:

  13. Felix,

    Here's my question: how much have your books changed between completion by you and publication? In other words, I'm curious about the editing process (with an editor).

    And here's my animal youtube cuteness:

    (I have days like fact, I'm having one right now.)

  14. hmm, very strong contender there, very strong indeed

    So far, there've always been fairly significant changes. (I should note that I've been lucky to have two very very good editors, very engaged and thoughtful editors - Juliet Ulman at Bantam and Eric Raab at Tor. One hears some editors are less engaged. I don't know.)

    What's happened with all three books so far has gone to structure, not really to substance - I've never had anyone tell me to make significant changes to the substance of the story, to change the ending or make a nasty character nice or that sort of thing. What
    I have had is advice like "this minor character needs to be brought forward and given a more prominent role earlier on because otherwise it feels abrupt when he appears and the structure of the book feels imbalanced"; or "this part of the story is important and needs to be shown as action not just narrated through quickly;" or "this bit goes on too long and is losing the reader's interest." This generally ends up resulting in quite a lot of rewriting and new writing - and so far it's ended up, on net, adding a large number of pages.

  15. Cute animal video here:

    As for song, what about The Curse of Whitechapel by Vernian Process?

    As kind of a follow-up question to your answer to Lisa, I was wondering if there have been any changes you've received from editors that you've disagree with them on and what the process is when that happens.

  16. Well, like I said, I've rarely had a big difference of opinion about issues of substance. It's usually questions of structure, focus, point of view. If my editor says "this is going on too long and the reader is getting bored" or "this is hard to follow" then I'm inclined to think they're necessarily right about there being a problem there that needs to be addressed. If it was hard for them to follow, it's hard to follow. So I would pretty much never respond to those sort of comments with a flat "no, we're doing it the way I want to do it."

    Which doesn't mean that I always take the solution they suggest to the problem - so usually they'll say, this needs to be fixed, why don't you try this, and I'll come back and say, well, I've done something sort of like what you suggested, and then there's further discussion if necessary.

    What would happen if I did have a big disagreement where I did not want to compromise? Well, let's be frank here, I'm not exactly Stephen King. I do not have a lot of leverage. One way or another I would lose.

  17. Reesha, I'm not ignoring your question, I just can't think of any particularly good advice.

    Getting discouraged is just one of those unavoidable things about writing, isn't it? Beats working down a mine, though.

  18. Shit, I completely forgot there was a contest.

    animal-wise it comes down to Lisa's kitten slide v. Matthew's jazz-hands kitten. Matthew's music youtube is a tiebreaker here for him. I can't really decide whether it's good or bad or neither or both at once but it's certainly steampunk as hell.

  19. so Matthew send me or Carrie your address I suppose? then I will probably forget to mail you anything for a month or until someone reminds me.