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Back to the Grind
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Because I'm not working on any fiction projects at the moment, I did my necessary freelance work this morning and then went to catch a matinee of Grindhouse. Given that I spent only $6 and the popcorn was free (the Grand Lake Theater is having a special this month), I'm content with the experience. I thought the flick was 70% boring and 30% awesome -- mixed together in random lumps -- though the last twenty minutes or so of Death Proof was my favorite, so I left in a good mood. The trailer for Machete was awesome. I liked Rose McGowan's killer prosthesis. Freddy Rodríguez was good. Kurt Russell was great. Zoe Bell is my hero. Otherwise, meh.


As promised -- questions answered!

Mike Jasper asks "Why 'T.A. Pratt' for the Marla novels?"

The sort-of-pen-name (pseudopseudonym?) was a suggestion from my editor and the marketing department. You see, most of the popular urban fantasies with ass-kicking heroines are written by women, and since we're trying to appeal to those fans, the hope is that a gender-neutral name might overcome any unconscious psychological barriers casual readers might have about picking up such a book if it's written by a man. (The only prominent man writing books in this ballpark is Jim Butcher, and his hero -- Harry Dresden -- is a guy.) Whether this will actually have a positive effect on sales, I dunno, but I'm happy to go along with it. People who are already fans of my work are certainly likely to know about this series -- I talk about it enough -- and if the pen name helps entice some of the vast readership that's never heard of me, I'm all for it. The name also serves to distinguish this series from my standalone, non-Marlaverse work. Given that the history of SF and fantasy is full of women who took on male or gender-neutral pseudonyms to help their careers, I'm rather pleased things have changed sufficiently that it may be in my best interest to adopt a pen name that seems more feminine.

Michael Canfield asks "Can you name a book or two that you've bought multiple copies of?"

Well, back when I used to buy books (before I got buried in review copies at home and at work) I bought a couple of copies of The Waste Lands by Stephen King (because I lost one). I've bought multiple copies of Theodore Sturgeon collections by mistake, because he produced a lot of 'em back in the day, and I couldn't remember which ones I had. Back in college I bought extra copies of Charles de Lint's collection Dreams Underfoot to give to people. I've bought multiple copies of The Books of Blood by Clive Barker because I had very ugly paperback editions originally, and more attractive paperback editions came out years later, so I picked those up. I hardly buy any books except non-fiction these days, though.

Mark asks, "Do you enjoy the physical aspect of writing? If you could get an implant that would allow your thoughts to appear in written form just by thinking them, would you use it?"

Writing at the keyboard is a kind of meditation for me. If the work is going well, I cease to be aware of the physical act of typing, and it's a state akin to levitation. I wouldn't use a mental machine like you describe, for the same reason that I don't dictate my work into a recorder and pay someone to type it up -- I don't work that way. I don't think the words and write them down. Instead I write a line, back up, change the line, move lines around in a paragraph, etc. I learn what I mean and what I think by typing or writing. The process seems essential.

Andreas asks "In all of your fiction, you do an excellent job of portraying the emotions of your characters, and getting the reader to pick up on them. So, How do you approach this aspect of characterization?"

People have told me this about my writing before, and I'm happy to hear it, but this is one of the things that I do without really thinking about it. (Plots I have to think hard about. Setting, ditto, though I think I'm getting better at setting. But characters? I've always been able to do characters. Characters and an ability to come up with cool shit are my gimmes, the things I got naturally as a writer.) So, painfully looking inward and trying to think about how I do it, practically speaking... I think about those rare moments when you get a sense of what people are really like. For example, in junior high, I had these two friends. One was a very close friend, and one was a more casual friend, but if asked, I would've said I knew them both very well. One day after school, while waiting for the bus, some dudes came up and started hassling me (they hassled me fairly regularly -- life sucked for me in junior high, as it did for so many of us). Now, for whatever reason, on that day, I was sick of their crap, and decided to stand up to the ringleader. It was clear -- there was going to be a rumble! And, reasonably, I looked to my two friends for support. The more casual friend of the two? He stepped right up beside me, made it clear that he would help me if it came to blows. But the guy I considered one of my best friends in the world? Shook his head no, almost imperceptibly, and stepped back. I was stunned. I would've fought for him, no hesitation, if our positions had been reversed. That moment utterly changed my understanding of his character, my other friend's character, and, hell, even my own character! Such a simple thing, and so revealing. I try to work moments like that into my fiction. (In radically altered form, that experience appeared in my story "The Witch's Bicycle".)

Greg asks "Why the dirty word all the time?" and also "Why the dirty words?" which I'll treat as a single question for the sake of brevity:

Cussin' is fun. A lot of my characters are the kind of people who'd cuss. If they aren't the kind of people who cuss, they don't cuss. Also: too much exposure to David Mamet in my formative years.

Mark also asks "For me, inspiration likes to strike in places like the shower and the car. Is there a particular place or time of day when your thoughts most seem to congeal into ideas or inspirations?"

In the shower. Or while washing dishes. (Must be something in the water.) When I took long car trips regularly, back in college, I used to get lots of ideas while driving. Which wasn't so much a case of inspiration as of boredom, and thinking a lot about whatever story I was working on to entertain myself.

Question answering is fun. Ask more if you have 'em, but if not, I was sufficiently entertained, and am content.

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