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There are two different versions of how I got my start writing, mine and my mother’s. Some years ago, I gave a reading in a town near where my mother now lives. She attended, and during the Q&A following, told the audience that when I was quite young I used to draw pictures, tell her what to write under them, staple them, and say that someday I was going to make real books. I have no memory of this whatsoever. I do know that when I was that age, I intended to be a palaeontologist. I even made a museum in a disused hen-house. So there.


Reading Blackdog in a Tantramar wind

My version of things is that, although I had every intention of being a university professor (because, after all, what else did proper grown-ups do?) I used to tell stories to my sisters. This is the reality I remember, me telling stories, long, serial stories that went on night after night, full of highwaymen, warriors rallying resistance against magic-wielding tyrants, werewolves and other shapeshifters, pirates, spaceship-tramp-freighters, and princesses — not the modern pink glitter princesses, but king’s daughters who went off and did things involving horses, swords, disguises, and so forth. Proper princesses. Eventually, I began writing them down. A couple of those characters even evolved and made it into my real books. I have a sneaking suspicion that the ancestry of most of my shapeshifters could in part be traced back to a particular werewolf hero of those days, too. Anyway, my father, a scientist, also decided I was literary and bought me all sorts of odd and interesting books to encourage me, because he had a great love of history and literature and thought this was a more rare art than doing science, in which I should be encouraged. (However, he also made me memorize the periodic table.)

KVJ and Julie Czerneda

Talking research with Julie Czerneda after the end of a panel on world-building at Ad Astra in 2014.

Now I write the books I want to read, ones with a rich and detailed world spilling off the edges of the maps, with characters who are drawn or dragged into adventure more often than ones who go seeking it out, who find themselves in circumstances that try them and force them to become more than they thought they were, or who might be people driven to get out of where and who they are and become something else. I write about people on the edges. I want them, in the process of surviving, through struggle, suffering, and sacrifice, to change their worlds, too, whether it’s at the level of a small community or tribe, or on a larger scale — for the better, if they’re to be the heroes, but I find the enemies of the heroes just as interesting to write. They, too, may have begun their journeys just by chance, or been pushed by that same need to escape or explore or stretch beyond their initial position in life, but the things they’ve done and the decisions they’ve made have come at the cost of other people’s welfare or lives. There’s a selfishness that underlies their actions and poisons all they do, small selfishness, growing into what Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax in Carpe Jugulum called the only sin, treating people as things. I find that root of evil in a character’s choices far more interesting than the blatant cruelty of an insane sadist, though both may lead to tyranny and horrors, because such a character’s descent into evil has a story to it, a series of roads taken and not taken.

KVJ reading, June 2018.

Read local, they say. Read around the world.

If you want to send me a note, there’s a contact form on my website, and I’m (far too) often on Twitter.

These aren’t good times for writers. My first book came out in 1997 and by 2000 the publishing industry was changing dramatically, making it harder and harder to earn a living. I used to be a full-time writer. I can’t do that anymore, and that makes writing much slower and harder. If you enjoy my writing and want to encourage others to explore the books, the best recommendation is always a friend’s — talk to people about the books you love! Get enthusiastic and wave your hands in the air! Give the books you love lots of stars on on-line review sites like Goodreads and Amazon and Kobo! That helps more than you might imagine. And if you’ve found some loose change down the back of the couch, virtually speaking, you can always buy me, or another creator you want to support, a coffee on Ko-fi.

Thanks for reading!

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