Tell us about your recent Riptide release. What was the inspiration behind it?
Among other things it's the conclusion to a trilogy, so it's the final part of a story I've been building and shaping for years (continuing from the work I did with my then-coauthor Lisa Soem in Line and Orbit, which is book 1). In many ways it follows the old SF&F trope of building to a climactic final conflict where everything is at stake. For me, the heart of the conflict is actually about family - about a fight between two figurative siblings in the form of a species-wide civil war, which is especially painful because these two halves of humanity should be united instead of violently divided. So I wanted to explore the question of what wins in the end between the urge to unite or the urge to destroy, as well as people's capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation.
What can readers expect when they read a story from you? What would you like potential readers to know about you and your books?
That I tend to explore Big Things, but what it's ultimately about for me is people and the relationships between them. I especially like to see what happens when people are pushed to their limits, both physically and psychologically, and what that does to them and those they love. So my stuff often goes into very dark places. But I believe that darkness in a story should always be balanced by light, and if there's despair there should also be a measure of hope. I like telling stories about pain and desperation, but not hopelessness.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself while writing your latest release?
The sheer amount that I can write in a twelve hour period. The last twenty thousand words or so were written over the course of a single semi-frantic night, which I don't recommend. I probably learned other things, but to be honest that's what stands out the most to me now. I'm proud of it, in a "let's never ever do that again" kind of way.
Though I probably will end up doing something like that again at some point. That's being a writer for you.
How long does it take you to write a book?
That depends on a huge number of variables - how much my day job is demanding of my time (I'm a college instructor), how into the book I am, the pace of the book itself, how much of a hard deadline I'm facing, and lots of mental health stuff - but on average it takes me roughly three months or so. I've written very lengthy things (120k+ words) in considerably shorter periods, and for some shorter books it's taken me a lot longer. But three months is the time frame I try to shoot for.
Describe your workspace.
I write almost exclusively on a tablet, so my workspace is pretty much anywhere I want/need it to be. But my two preferred places are on the couch in my living room, and on my patio. My living room is a big bright place with skylights, and it gets a lot of sun in the early and middle parts of the day. My patio is a small slab with a single table, and it's secluded by thick and frankly overgrown trees-that-used-to-be-shrubs. This spring I've made it a project to string glass beads all through the branches, so the sun catches them in the afternoon. My birdfeeder is also visible from where I sit. I call it my "writing grotto" and I love to work out there when the weather permits.
Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do to cure it?
I read. I don't read enough as a rule - which is never a good thing for a writer - but when I feel my creative well drying up, I can almost always refill it a bit from the wells of others. Sometimes it's something new and sometimes it's an old favorite that's served me well before, but either way, it helps. Other than that? I write anyway. Even if it's like pulling teeth, I pull them. There's a point at which that's abusive and one should stop, but I try to work right up to that point. If what I end up with is bad writing, I can always try to make it better later on. At least then it exists.
I've been lucky where writer's block goes, though. I've struggled a huge amount with individual projects, but I don't think there's ever been a time when I couldn't write anything at all.
What can readers expect from you in the future?
My next book with Riptide, Lineage, will be out later this year. It's set in the same universe as the Root Code trilogy and features a number of the same characters, but takes place several years prior to the first book in that trilogy. It doesn't exactly function as a direct prequel, but it's a deeper look at the world, and I'm very excited about it.
Besides that, Singing With All My Skin and Bone, my debut short fiction collection, will be released in June. I'm extremely pleased to have amassed a body of shorter work that's worthy of being compiled into a single book, so that's happy-making. And speaking of short fiction, I have two stories being published at Tor.com in the next year, which I'm looking forward to.
Do you have a favorite quote?
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
- Mary Oliver, "The Summer Day"