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LitTalk: Lunar Exploration's Elizabeth Moon

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Elizabeth Moon’s latest book, Oath of Fealty, came out just last month, continuing her Lunar Exploration series.  Science Fiction and Fantasy World spoke with her about writing and her influences:

SFFWorld: You’ve read SF/Fantasy since you were young, I believe. What do you think is the power of the genre? What attracts you now, still?

Elizabeth: Traditional storytelling values: interesting characters doing interesting things in a plot that satisfies the itch for Story.  Beyond that, science fiction can present intriguing “what if?” scenarios, and fantasy can present “how did we get here?” scenarios.

SFFWorld: How did you become a full-time writer? Was it an easy path or one that took determination and , dare I say it, stubbornness?

Elizabeth: Stubbornness.  Definitely stubbornness.  And desperation.   We’d moved to a small town, my husband’s business was teetering on the brink, and there were no jobs I could afford the gas to drive to.  However, the county paper needed a new stringer for the town.  Their starting rate paid for gas to drive my column in (no internet in our area then) and extra typing paper and ribbons as I needed them.  I realized that I could write something saleable and started looking for more markets–all nonfiction at first.  Then tried fiction, very unsuccessfully for years.  Covering the walls with rejection slips was not a cartoon, but reality.  What I didn’t realize was that I’m a natural long-form writer, not a natural short-fiction writer.  Once I let myself keep going on a story–The Deed of Paksenarrion began as a short story–everything fell into place.

SFFWorld: How important is ‘getting the details right’ to you? When does research stop becoming an obsession?

Elizabeth: Very important.   Mistakes throw readers out of stories–they throw me out–so I try not to make them.   Research is the natural activity of someone with a very large bump of curiosity (What do you mean obsession?  It’s a necessity, like breathing.)

SFFWorld: In your experience, is a writer born or trained?

Elizabeth: Both.  There are innate neurological differences that affect just about all human abilities, including writing, but we’re a species that develops culturally as well.   Born storytellers have a natural ability, but it’s like a talent for jumping high or singing on key or visualising molecules interacting with one another:  it must be nurtured, trained, and practiced to reach a useful level.   Writers need to be exposed to storytelling–both oral and written and then they need to write, write, write, and write.

SFFWorld: Strong female leads: there’s a clear template there in much of your work, from Paks to Haris to Ky Vatta, and one that many, I think, have emulated since. Conscious or subconscious? Is it just easier for you to write female fantasy leads?

Elizabeth: When younger, I wrote mostly male leads because most of the books I enjoyed had male leads…however, none of those works reached publication.  Even in the 1980s, when I first submittedSheepfarmer’s Daughter, the rejections from multiple publishers commented negatively about a woman writer tackling military topics and/or a woman soldier as the protagonist.  This may have made me just a wee tad stubborn…though first post-Paks books of my own both had male protagonists (Surrender None and Liar’s Oath.) My then publisher wanted me to write military SF with a female protagonist (building on the success of the McCaffrey collaborations) so that’s how the Familias Regnant/ Serrano-Suiza books started.  I actually enjoy writing both female and male characters (of my forty short pieces, twenty-four have a male protagonist) but every time some guy whines about my not writing enough stories about men (and it still happens occasionally)  I find no reason to comply.

Check out the rest of the interview, with more on writing and publishing, on SFFWorld.com.  And don’t forget to comment for a chance to win a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls!

– Alyssa

Photos: Elizabethmoon.com

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Written by whitney teal

April 16, 2010 at 8:02 am

Posted in Lit Talk

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