Monday, September 19, 2011

Meet the Author(s): Grace Bridges and Walt Staples

(This month, I'm interviewing two people--Grace Bridges, the publisher of Aquasynthesis (who also had some short stories in it) and Walt Staples, who wrote the narrative that tied all the Aquasynthesis

stories together. This is going to be a long post, but bear with us--it's going to be a fun one!!

Let's start with Grace:

Grace Bridges is the owner of Splashdown Books, and an incurably voracious reader and author of sci-fi. She has two published books: Faith Awakened (2007) and Legendary Space Pilgrims (2010). Grace is a Kiwi of Irish descent living in New Zealand, and is a multilingual do-it-yourself gal.

Catch up with her at http://grace.splashdownbooks.com.

How did you get started with writing? With publishing? How do you balance being a writer and a publisher?

I have always been a writer, from my very earliest days - first in epic, sweeping stick-figure sagas on that old-fashioned computer paper that came joined up in rolls. I would take the roll sideways and just keep going across the joins. Later in words, still with plenty of illustrations! Then I wrote a novel. It took seven years. It was a very weird one (can anyone say first-person-present, dual storylines, supernatural and sensual Christian cyberpunk?) so instead of trying to submit it somewhere, I decided to go into business for myself. After that... once I had learned the tech skills for making books, it just seemed obvious to do it for others as well.

Balance? There is none. I write when I feel like it, blindly pushing other projects out of the way to let the lightning strike. Still, writing must often take a back seat when the publishing schedule looms. I write on occasional afternoons off - and mostly far away from my desk.

I know your publishing model is a bit different than other publishing houses. How did you come up with the model? Why?

Well, I hate that whole publishing culture of rejections. So I set out to minimise my production of them. The first manuscripts I picked up came out of casual critique exchanges with the members of the Lost Genre Guild, and I liked that so much I decided to continue doing it that way. It's not an actual submission, so there doesn't have to be a rejection, see? And if I critique something I really like, then that author is going to hear from me.

That's cool! So how long does it usually take from signing a contract to publishing the book?

It really depends on how ready the book is. Some authors write so clean, we can do it in a month. That's how long I generally need for final editing and project design. If it takes longer, it's mostly because the schedule is full. No matter how I try, I cannot do more than one book a month and survive. I'm currently looking hard at the available slots for next year, and they are almost all full up. It saddens me that I won't be able to move fast on any project for a while because of that, but there's only one of me. Perhaps someday if I have someone in my team who can do everything I do, we could increase our output.

The way you put the anthology together (as a bunch of stories connected by a narrative) is pretty unique. How did you do it?

It wasn't my idea! I have my team to thank for that. Originally I was just going to stick the stories in by author and be done with it. But Travis suggested they should be arranged by theme, and he came up with the first draft order. Everyone helped to finalise it, and then Keven had the idea to write a joining narration. We asked Walt to write it, and Keven helped with that. Keven's wife DeAnna provided the stunning cover art. And several people aided in editing as well. It was truly a team effort, and I'm so proud of my crew.

And you guys all did a really great job. Do you have a favorite funny writing quote?

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. ~ G. K. Chesterton.

That's going in my quote book for sure! Any advice to future publishers/editors?

Aim at perfection. Nothing else will do. Don't allow yourself to put out a sub-par product for reasons of speed, cost, effort, or friendship. The buck stops with you - you will be associated with that book for a good long time to come, and yes, maybe even forever. So you'd better be sure you're 100% happy with it.

Awesome! Now for Walt:

Walt Staples spent far too many years thinking the unthinkable for a living. He maintains this has had no effect on him though he admits to a predilection for collecting odd people and an inordinate thirst for Dr Pepper. While his physical position is generally indeterminable, his heart is firmly located at 38.9N, 78.2W. His work has appeared in Digital Dragon Magazine, Avenir Eclectia, Wherever It Pleases, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Christmas: Peace on All the Worlds, and Residential Aliens Magazine. His rather questionable humor appears the first Monday of each month on the Catholic Writers' Guild Blog. Walt also wastes everyone’s time with his blog at: http://gkfields.blogspot.com . He is a member of a number of organizations which shall remain nameless with the exception of the Catholic Writers’ Guild and the Lost Genre Guild--both of whose blackmail payments are in arrears. In lieu of the normal payments, he was elected president of the CWG (a move that proved far more costly to that organization than the previous arrangement). He agreed to move on after everything of value was piled outside the gates. Walt is also rumored to be a member of the Marine Corps Association.

According to Walt, the future trend of his life was probably foreshadowed when he was three. Driving with his parents, as they looked for a place to go to the bathroom on a Virginia fire trail, he was involved in a head-on collision with another family coming from the other direction also looking for a place to go to the bathroom. He credits this experience for his rather cockeyed view of the world.

How long have you been writing?

Walt: Quite a while. Apparently before I could read in fact (and, yeah, I don't understand that either). Looking at my first notebook (“Big Chief” brand, first grade lined, 80 pages, tear-off), there appear to be runic/Sanskrit-like inscriptions between the burning ducks, automobiles on horse legs, and cats in warbonnets (like I said, I don't understand either).

I've been fouling up and getting published sporadically for the last 25 years. I started writing hard science and geohistory, followed by general literature and mystery, took a turn into radio play scripting, tripped into comic book scripting, and since my retirement, things have exploded with science fiction and fantasy, historical mystery, small town fiction, and a head-on collision of all of the above at times.

Wow, that's quite a journey! In all that time, what is your favorite character you've created? That you've read about?

I think it's a dead heat between Conrad Ritter, a former Bavarian homicide investigator trapped in the Afrika Korps; his grandson, E.D. Ritter, sheriff of Danube County in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley; and Uncle Onslow, chief engineer on the intra-system tanker, Tau Ceti Maru. E.D. has appeared in stories published online by The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature http://www.deadmule.com/fiction/2011/02/walt-staples-enough-gun/ and Uncle Onslow has appeared in stories published in Digital Dragon Magazine http://www.digitaldragonmagazine.net/ and Avenir Eclectia http://www.avenireclectia.com/ . The nice thing about writing my characters is they're easy—I just cheat and use people I've known (and I've associated with some pretty strange types too).

As to my favorite character I've run across in my reading, I'd have to say Robert A. Heinlein's sneaky, little old man. If you notice, he seems to show up in just about every one of Heinlein's stories—kind of a combination Deus ex machina from below and Greek Chorus. A close second is Brian Freemantle's Charlie Muffin.

I love Uncle Oslow! He's one of my favorite characters on Avenir Eclectia. Next question: what was it like bringing a bunch of stories together with the narration you wrote for Aquasynthesis?

My end was easy. I was handed the stories (which are a major pleasure to read—even for the third or fourth run through) and the order of their appearance in the book (according to the police scanner, homicide and C.S.I. are still working the scene of the editorial conference). All I had to do was come up with Master Tok and his student Gizile, a coherent plot line linking the stories, and write it (with a heck of a lot of help). Like I said, dead easy.

Yeah, sounds sooo easy! ;) What's your favorite funny writing quote?

“Remember: Sleep deprivation is a writing tool.” – G.K. Fields, author of Chained Dogs

No joke! Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

No. But if you hear some, please tell me--I need all the help I can get. Seriously, a good story is a tripod made up of character, setting, and plot. If any of those three legs are weak, the beast is going to fold up on you.

Good advice!

Awesome interviews, Walt and Grace. Thanks for stopping by Magical Ink!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

**Next Week: Another fun writing exercise to get your creative juices flowing!

3 responses:

Mary Ruth Pursselley said...

This was fun, Thea. Thanks for posting this.
And thank you to Grace and Walt for sharing!

Galadriel said...

Ditto, that was very fun to read.

R. L. Copple said...

Good interview. Thanks Grace and Walt for sharing.

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