Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Interview with Rosemary Jones!

I was interested in interviewing Rosemary Jones because she writes for a shared world, the Forgotten Realms. As an occasional reader of Forgotten Realms (and occasional player of AD&D--not D&D; we never upgraded), I was curious about how the process worked. Plus I had a few other questions.

Please tell us a bit about your inspiration for THE CRYPT OF THE MOANING DIAMOND. Does Wiggles the small white dog have a real-world counterpart?

A friend once owned a Maltese that used to climb on the top of her sofa and bark into the phone whenever she was talking to me. That's where the earsplitting yip came from!

I knew it! -TN

This novel appeared to leave room for a sequel. Do you have anything else in mind for these characters in future books? If not, what else are you working on?

Like any author, the minute I finished this story, I thought “oh they could do this now.” But my editor at Wizards has no plans for a sequel (and she's the one who gets to make that decision, not me!). At the moment, I'm finishing up a big nonfiction project for Collector Books and doodling around with some other ideas.

I loved how you incorporated the unglamorous job of the sapper into your story. Are you a student of history?

I love reading histories and historical fiction. The sapper aspect came from reading a magazine article about how the “sappers” might have brought down the walls of Jericho. Which got me intrigued with the role of sappers throughout history and then thinking about how that would work in the Forgotten Realms.

What's your favorite historical period?

In my college, the majority of my history classes were Asian history, particularly dynastic China. Right now, most of the historical fiction that I'm picking up is either Tudor England or Roman Empire. But really, any period is interesting if the author has a good story to tell. I love the books of Pip Granger, who sets her mysteries in post-WWII Britain, and the fiction of Judith Merkle Riley, which ranges from middle ages to the period of the Sun King in France. Laurie King's Mary Russell series mixes historical and famous fictional characters from early 20th-century Europe and America. Gillian Linscott's Nell Bray series uses the fight for the vote in the England as a springboard for the mysteries. And since this is a blog devoted to fantasy, I'd also recommend Judith Tarr's
Throne of Isis and, even older, the works of Mary Renault such as The King Must Die.

I also loved how you twisted stereotypes in your novel. Yes, there's a big, strong warrior, but she's a gentle-hearted half-orc with a big voice. Yes, there's a mage, but she's more worried about her appearance than amassing power. Yes, there's a dwarf, but he's more of a thief than a warrior, with an assortment of yipping dogs. Can you discuss how you develop your characters?

This is toughest question for me to answer because the characters tend to develop subconsciously. I know exactly where the plot idea of sappers started but my characters grow more organically in writing. The “halfs” in D&D character classes, like half-orc and half-genasi, inspired some ideas. I kept thinking, what if all the “halfs” in my story came from one family where the father was human and kept marrying different types? So that led to these two sisters who are very different physically but have a definite big sister and little sister relationship.

Mostly though, I wanted to write about a group that were really good friends, liked working together, and got dumped into this crazy adventure! And their personalities developed from there, because they had to be the type of people that I would want to hang out with for a year or more (which is about how long it took to write the novel, rewrite, and edit).

You work as a writer for an opera company. Did you write your scenes with any particular music in mind?

I wrote a lot of scenes where somebody isn't able to sing but has to sing to get out of a situation. I was hired for my ability to write about opera in press releases and websites, not for my musical talent (which is basically zilch). But, of course, I'm surrounded by people who can break into amazing harmonies at the drop of a hat.

At home, I play a mix of stuff when I'm writing which ranges from classical to crazy groups like Red Elvises. So some scenes should be read to the sound of Russian immigrants playing surf music and others are more Puccini or Bach.

What was your favorite scene to write?

Oh, any of the fights, but probably that big finale where everybody gets to rush around and hit something! And some pretty weird magic happens.

Which part gave you the most trouble?

Saying good-bye to everyone. The conclusion kept getting longer and longer, and more and more minor characters kept crowding in to have one last speech. I actually went back and trimmed a lot in editing. Perhaps some of that will resurface some day in another story.

Crypt of the Moaning Diamond takes place in the Forgotten Realms shared world. How does one break into writing for Wizards of the Coast? Is there a selection process or did you get noticed with your short stories?

Basically, I followed the guidelines on the Wizards' website. Actually I wrote to them first and asked “how do I write for you?” They wrote back and said very politely “check our website for submission guidelines.” Which is what I should have done first.

That year, there was an open call for a Forgotten Realms novel called “The Maiden of Pain.” My submission for that was rejected but the editor liked my writing style and asked if I'd be interested in doing something else for the Realms series.

After that, I was rejected several times until they bought the idea that became
Crypt. During that period, they also bought a short story from me called “The Woman Who Drew Dragons” which appeared in Realms of Dragons II.

Anticipating the reader of this interview's next question, I went and checked the website. Wizards will open submissions in September for the new Discoveries line. (http://ww2.wizards.com/Books/Discoveries/Submissions.aspx).

Without discussing contracts or anything else that might not be our business, can you tell us what happens to your characters once they go off into the great Forgotten Realms mythos?

I like to think that the two bugbear brothers finally get girlfriends.

What authors have you admired?

The list is huge. I live in a small apartment with more than a thousand books in all genres and from all periods. For example, I own more than a dozen “automobile romances” published between 1900 and 1919. There's a sub-genre most people don't know! I post what I'm currently reading at Good Reads or on the My Space blog (www.myspace.com/jonesbooks). If I like an author, I always want to hunt down everything that she has written. Right now, I'm busy reading my way through P.N. Elrod's Vampire Files and Cherie Priest's wonderful series that begins with
Four and Twenty Blackbirds.

But the author who has had the biggest influence on my professional life is my mother, Diane M. Jones. She's my first reader on all projects and the consummate professional who has sold more than a dozen novels and numerous nonfiction projects. We co-wrote one nonfiction series together and we talk about writing all the time. When I e-mail her a chapter, she's also the one who says “you need to beat up your hero a little more! Don't be soft on your characters!”

Thank you, Rosemary!


Tia Nevitt said...

I don't know what's up with the font; that probably happened because I pasted it straight from my email. (grr) I'll have to remember not to do that again. I apologize for any eyestrain I may have caused.

Dark Wolf said...

Great interview. Congrats, and the font is no problem.

Kimber An said...

Great interview, Tia!

Sara J. said...

No worries about the font. Unless it blinks, it's all good ;)

Nice interview!

Tia Nevitt said...

Thanks, everyone! I hate the way when you paste, all the formatting is preserved. I wish you can change a global setting somewhere that just pastes text only. (Anyone know of one?) I VERY RARELY want to preserve formatting.

Rant over.