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Most Read Interviews

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First, congratulations on the release of your latest book The Moonlit World, Book 3 in the Worldshapers series, just this last September. You now have over 28 Sci-Fi and Fantasy works under your belt. Was there anything with this newest release that surprised you? If you haven’t “grown used to” the process of a big new release in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, do you think you ever will? 

It didn’t surprise me, but it pleased me. I had a ton of fun writing this, and it's full of my sense of humor, so I hope it will be a ton of fun for readers, too. And have I grown used to being published in science fiction and fantasy by a major publisher like DAW? I suppose I’m used to it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find it cool!

Is The Moonlit World the final book in the Worldshapers series, or will there be more? 

I hope there will be more, but for the moment, this will be the last one from DAW books. My next book for them will be a big space-opera adventure called The Tangled Stars. Book 4 of the Worldshapers series is all planned out, though, so I hope to get it written and published next year, though I might be publishing it myself through my own Shadowpaw Press (www.shadowpawpress.com).

What inspired you to create this series based on alternate world and universes and the idea of Shaping these worlds within the Labyrinth? 

I set myself the task of designing a fictional universe in which I could tell many different kinds of stories set in many different kinds of worlds, but with a continuing character. I like to compare it to Doctor Who, which I think has the greatest storytelling conceit at its center of all time. Within the framework of Doctor Who, you can tell any kind of story, set in any time or place that has or will exist, or never has and never will exist. I wanted something like that, and the Labyrinth of Worldshapers was what I came up with.

Where did you come up with the idea for the Worldshapers series from the beginning? Has that initial spark of inspiration remained true throughout all three books, or has is morphed along the way as the story grew with your characters? 

Beyond the Doctor Who inspiration mentioned in the last questions, the seed from which Worldshapers grew was the idea of authors living inside the worlds they create. Now, in all honesty, I wouldn’t want to live in most of the worlds I’ve created, since horrible things are often taking place within them, but then again, if I were designing a world I was going to physically inhabit, I’d design them differently than when I’m designing them for maximum adventure. What would that be like, I wondered?

That continues to be the heart of the story. Each world was Shaped by someone who now lives within that world, with varying degrees of ability to continue to Shape the world. That raises all sorts of interesting questions about reality and ethics and personal responsibility that I continue to explore while also, I hope, telling a rip-roaring story. Those questions were inherent in the design of the world, but they weren’t something I planned to talk about; they arise from the interaction of the characters, so in that sense, the story has definitely morphed alongside them.

What is your favorite element of The Moonlit World? What do you anticipate readers enjoying the most?

In all of these books, my favorite element is the sense of humor. Shawna Keys is as steeped in geek culture as I am. She knows Star Trek and Star Wars and Buffy and The Lord of the Rings and Dracula and all of that kind of stuff (plus musical theatre!), and she makes jokes about them, sometimes just to herself, sometimes to the often bewildered Karl Yatsar (whose own pop-culture references are current as of around 1910, but no later). I get to indulge in wordplay and other such amusements, which are near and dear to my heart.

For readers new to Edward Willett, which of your novels would you direct them to first? 

That’s a hard one, so I’ll be wishy-washy and name a bunch of titles. If you like science fiction, either Marseguro (which won the Aurora Award for Canada’s best science fiction novel in 2009), or The Cityborn, my most recent stand-alone SF novel, both from DAW. If you like fantasy, then the Masks of Aygrima trilogy, which I wrote as E.C. Blake, or if you want a standalone, Magebane, which I wrote as Lee Arthur Chane. Again, both are published by DAW. If you like modern-day YA fantasy, then the Shards of Excalibur series, which I just re-issued in e-book, with new print editions to follow eventually. And if you like something that feels like fantasy but also has a soupcon of science fiction—plus jokes!—then Worldshapers is for you.

What comes easier for you, writing stand-alone novels or writing consecutive series? 

The effort is the same for the first book in a series as for a standalone novel. After that, series become harder because you have to make sure you don’t contradict what you said in earlier book. Continuity is the bugbear, for sure.

What would you say is the most important aspect of writing fantastic Sci-Fi and Fantasy that sweeps readers off their feet into different worlds—or dimensions—while still maintaining that believability of character that still makes your novels feel so real and relatable? 

No matter when or where a story is set, what makes it work for readers is the believability of the characters. Human nature is a constant throughout history, however technology, laws, and even morality may change. As the author, you have to get inside your characters’ heads deeply enough to understand what motivates them and how they would feel in the situations you put them into. If you can grasp that accurately and convey it to readers, they, too, will identify with those characters. And once they’re locked into a character and invested in their actions, and as long as you keep that character behaving like an actual human being and not just a plot-puppet, readers are willing to buy into whatever fantasticality you may have imbued the world they inhabit with.

Who is your favorite Sci-Fi and/or Fantasy author? Can you narrow your favorite books in these genres down to, say, three or four? (We know that’s a tough one.)

It’s not that hard. I love a lot of authors, but my favorite science fiction authors are the ones who most influenced me as a young reader and turned me into a science fiction author myself. Those would be Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Andre Norton. (Arthur C. Clarke to a lesser extent—I never enjoyed his books as much.) Specific books? Have Space Suit Will Travel (Heinlein), I, Robot (Asimov), and Moon of Three Rings (Norton).

On the fantasy side, again going to the writers that influenced me as a youth, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (of course), Madeleine L’Engle (although you can classify some of her works as science fiction, I always think of her as a fantasy author), and, a bit later, Guy Gavriel Kay. So, The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien), The Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis), A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels and related books (L’Engle), and The Fionavar Tapestry (Kay).

Your Worldshapers series carries the same name as your podcast, The World Shapers. Was this an intentional overlap? Have either the books or the podcast influenced each other as you’ve been working with both in tandem? 

Totally intentional. The idea of the series, of authors living inside worlds they’d created, tied in well to the idea of talking to authors about how they go about creating those worlds. The podcast both promotes the books and is also kind of a real-world exemplar of what Shapers of worlds do.

And, of course, the podcast has also given rise to a book of its own, not in the Worldshapers series, but an anthology featuring some of the authors who were first-year guests of the podcast. Called Shapers of Worlds and successfully Kickstarted earlier this year, and published by the aforementioned Shadowpaw Press, it includes brand-new stories from Seanan McGuire, Tanya Huff, David Weber, L. E. Modesitt, Jr., D. J. Butler, Christopher Ruocchio, John C. Wright, Shelley Adina, and me, plus reprints from John Scalzi, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Julie E. Czerneda, Fonda Lee, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Gareth L. Powell, Derek Künsken, and Thoraiya Dyer.

The anthology is, in a way, its own Labyrinth of Shaped worlds, and as you read it, you take the role of Shawna Keys, traveling from world to world and trying to discover the wisdom held within each one.

Thank you so much for joining us for this interview, Edward. And congratulations again!