Jane Lindskold is the bestselling author of the Wolf series, as well as many other fantasy novels.
Photo by Patricia Nagle
Photo by Patricia Nagle
I would like to begin this interview with a journey down memory lane. What can you tell us about the day you found out your first novel was accepted for publication? How did you find out and what were your reactions?
My first published novel was Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls.
I learned it had sold when my agent called me. I was at home in my house in Virginia. She was very business-like, discussing advances and terms for royalties. I listened. I probably asked a few questions (I usually do), but what I remember was being stunned.
Here’s a perspective note. I just pulled the contract from my files. It’s dated March 26, 1993. Contracts often take months to be issued, so that phone call would have been months earlier. The book itself would not come out until December 1994.
This is not a business to get into if you want rapid gratification.
What can you tell us about the first letter you have received from a fan? Did it have the same impact as actually getting published?
My first fan mail came via e-mail. I was very excited. I think until that point, despite sales figures and all, I really didn’t believe anyone but my immediate friends and family read my books.
However, the book coming out had a bigger impact.
What would you advise aspiring writers to do and not to do when submitting a manuscript?
Follow guidelines from the publisher. If the guidelines ask for a summary and three chapters, don’t send them the whole manuscript. I’ve talked to lots of people who read “slush” and they say that one way they do a fast triage is based on whether or not people read directions and follow them. After all, who wants to work with someone who can’t bother to follow directions?
Also, try to target your submission to the market. If it’s a magazine, read a few issues first. If it’s a book publisher, read some of their books. A publishing house like Baen Books has a distinct “flavor.” Even a bigger publisher like Tor has many editors. These have their own tastes. See what they are buying. Often, you get only one chance, so don’t blow it by failing to prepare.
Do you plan a novel before writing it? If yes, how much do those plans change, if at all?
No. I’m a very intuitive writer. I think about ideas, then I see where they take me. I often do research not only before I start writing, but as I am writing, and when I am done. I don’t recommend this for everyone, but I it works for me, partly because I am ruthless about throwing away things that didn’t work out.
How did you handle the submission of your first book? Was it a difficult market to break into?
I didn’t handle my submission, my agent did. The market was tough. It’s always tough. It’s even tougher for your second book, because the shine of “new discovery” is off.
What are the most effective methods you’ve developed in marketing your novels? How much marketing assistance does your publisher provide now as compared to when your first novel was published?
I’m a writer. That means I thrive on being left alone to make up imaginary worlds and people. I don’t mind book signings or interviews, but that’s about my limit. Oh, and I have a website.
I think that publishers should provide more marketing assistance than they do. Asking me to go out and be a salesperson is not a good use of my aptitudes. Ask me to write a book or story. I’m good at that.
I can’t really compare the situation between my first novel and my current novel. One reason is that fourteen or so years have gone by. In 1994, most people hadn’t heard of the Internet or e-mail. An interview like this one wouldn’t have happened.
Do you work directly with your editor and/or are there times where you work through your agent with the editorial staff at Tor?
I work with my editor. I’ve always worked directly with an editor. Happily, I’ve usually liked my editor, and usually taken away something valuable from the relationship. That goes for both my Tor editors, Teresa Nielsen Hayden and Melissa Singer. I am still friends with my first editor, John R. Douglas.
What can you tell us about your new series Breaking the Wall? What inspired you to begin this series and what have been the reactions of your fans thus far?
The “Breaking the Wall” series was inspired by on odd conjunction of my interest in mythology in general and a game of mah-jong played one Christmas Eve.
A good number of years intervened between that Christmas Eve and actually starting the books, but once the idea was there I began reading more intensively about Chinese mythology and culture, preparing to give those vague impulses shape.
If you’re interested in reading more about this, I did a series of blogs for Tor.com about how my research shaped the eventual books.
Reader reactions so far have been positive and interested. Brenda seems to cause the most debate, and I expect that this is because she’s so unlike Firekeeper.
Thank you Dr. Lindskold, we are looking forward to more of your work in the future.