Today I’m thrilled to interview my friend Traci Loudin, spec fic author extraordinaire!
I’m Traci Loudin, author of The Last of the Ageless, a post-apocalyptic adventure set more than three centuries in the future. My books combine science fiction and fantasy elements into a unique blend of speculative fiction, often with a few dashes of action, adventure, and end of the world disasters peppered with mutants, aliens, and telepathic shapeshifters.
I’ve always enjoyed reading about fantastic worlds and writing intriguing characters. As a young West Virginian, I looked forward to library trips with my mother and the evenings when my father read H.G. Wells to me. Nowadays, I spend my time exploring geeky topics and scientific findings on my blog, www.traciloudin.com
Though Capricorns are known for their blunt honesty and law-abiding nature, I like to imagine outrageous answers when people ask me innocuous questions like “Where are you from?” and “Where did you go to school?” So ask me something fun on Twitter or Google+ sometime. You can also reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. What is “Speculative Fiction?”
To me, speculative fiction is the umbrella over science fiction and fantasy. I know plenty of other people have other ideas about what it means, but it’s a nice term for lumping them together, since they’re so similar in so many respects.
2. Are genre lines solid or fluid?
Definitely fluid, or we wouldn’t have so many arguments over what counts as fantasy and what counts as science fiction in the geek community! I love exploring the gray area between scifi and fantasy and seeing just how far I can push that envelope.
3. What aspects of Spec Fic pertain to your writing?
I love blending, bending, and mixing the genres together, so speculative fiction is the easiest way to describe what I do. The Last of the Ageless is the first novel I’ve published, and it has a scifi setting with fantasy elements. It’s set on Earth 300 years or so after the apocalypse, or what people call the Catastrophe. It’s got aliens and remnants of Ancient technology. But it’s also got shapeshifting mutants, telepaths, and ageless wizards.
4. Is post-apocalyptic fiction necessarily dystopian?
Definitely not. In fact, I have a whole blog post dedicated to the differences between these genres over here.
5. How many Dune novels have you read?
Depends how you count them. 🙂 Dune is a masterpiece, that much is true. But when I tried to read the sequels, they just weren’t the same. I think I made it through Dune Messiah but not Children of Dune. It made me sad to see what had become of Muad’Dib’s world and his people. The prequels, cowritten by the author’s son and Kevin J. Anderson, get a bad rap, but I actually think these two authors did a fantastic job. They highlight the evolution of the characters up to the point where we meet them in Dune.
The earliest memory I have of an Edgar Rice Burroughs book was around age 8. We had a built-in bookcase in our house, and all my father’s science fiction novels filled its shelves. The image I remember most is not from ERB’s more well-known Tarzan or Barsoom series, but rather Lost on Venus, Book 2 of the Venus series, with its white cover and the two main characters riding atop a strange unicorn monster.
Once I was old enough to read them, my father bought me all the Tarzan series, combing through ebay and used bookstores to find them all. I now own all of the Pellucidar, Moon, Mars, Venus, and Tarzan series by ERB. In high school I wrote a paper about him, and in college I wrote about his influence on the science fiction genre.
7. Have you always considered yourself to be a writer, or was there a time in your life when you decided that is what you were?
I think I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, at least for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, the whole family used to go on camping trips in the summer. And while my cousins would play softball, I would sit in the shade and write. I was an outliner even way back then!
8. How much writing did you do before being published?
I wrote a couple short novels (around 50-60k words each), a couple of novellas, and many short stories. In more recent years, I rewrote one of those old novels before I published The Last of the Ageless. Its working title was The Century, but I’ve since decided to trunk that novel. The characters are far too wooden for me to ever publish The Century. I’ve since moved on to a brand new universe I’ve never played in before.
9. What was your path to publication?
For a while I maintained the illusion that getting in with a big publisher was the “right” thing to do, partly because I’d always dreamed of joining SFWA with the big kids (and at the time they couldn’t figure out how to include indies). But the more I learned about publishing, the more I realized that it made more sense to start out with self-publishing and ease into traditional publishing later to become a hybrid. (Here’s why.)
10. What kind of online presence do you maintain as a writer?
I try to be everywhere without wasting too much time when I should be writing. My digital home is at www.traciloudin.com of course, but my favorite social media site is Google+. From the moment I joined, I found people who shared my interest and enthusiasm for all things science fiction and fantasy, unlike Facebook, though I do have a small presence there. Twitter is not my favorite (I’m a novelist, not a poet!), and I confess I really don’t understand Pinterest or Reddit. Goodreads is awesome for talking about favorite books.
11. What is your favorite way of connecting with readers?
I love replying to messages on Google+ and Goodreads. And I’m always super giddy whenever I get a review on Amazon or Goodreads. I definitely understand not having enough time in the world to write reviews of every book you read, but reviews really do mean so much to authors, especially when we’re just starting out.
The ebook form of The Last of the Ageless is currently only available on Amazon. The print book appears in various places, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM, local Charlotte bookstores, and other European bookstores listed on my site.
13. How much world-building went into the Ageless universe?
Years and years. Sometimes I would fall asleep thinking about the world and have to rouse myself enough to hurriedly write it down so I wouldn’t forget. Sometimes I would wake up and have an idea already forming, as though I’d been living in the world in my dreams. Initially, though, I had a lot more unfamiliar terms and the various classifications of the races were very splintered. Through the suggestions of my editors and beta readers, I simplified some of terms to make it easier to get right into the story without needing some sort of bestiary.
14. How did you create your cover?
My wonderfully talented cover artist Rebecca Frank created it based on detailed direction from me. She’s fantastic and won’t stop until the author is satisfied. She started out by sending me several concepts based on what I’d told her about the characters, plot, and symbols in the book. Then we refined it together. I asked her to give it a little more of that Mad Max: Fury Road orange vibe, and I think the result is magnificent.
Right now I’m working on a project codenamed “Seasons,” until I think of a better working title for it. The story centers around a dysfunctional family with magic-as-technology as the backdrop.
Three centuries ago, a war broke out, creating a magical catastrophe known as the Rending that was so powerful it could be seen from space. Not only nearby space — the radiation from the Rending projected through the outer reaches of the galaxy… And attracted a space-faring race that feeds on magic. It took them three hundred years, but now they’ve arrived…
And they’re hungry.
16. What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
Scrivener and Evernote are such a powerful combination. I use Evernote to stash my ideas until they’re gestated enough to go into my outline in Scrivener. I also use Evernote once I get to the revision phase, to help me keep track of plot arcs, character arcs, and so on. When I think about the strange contortions I used to have to go through with Word, it makes me appreciate Scrivener all the more.
17. What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
When I absolutely can’t figure something out, sometimes putting things on little slips of paper and rearranging them helps my mind reassociate ideas together. But it’s rare that I have to resort to that these days, and I always end up retyping everything so that I can find it.
18. What is the most persistent distraction from writing?
For me, I don’t have a problem with working a lot. I’m a workaholic when it comes to my passion. So my biggest distraction is all the business and publishing and marketing I have to do now that I’ve become my own little small business. It’s exhausting staying on top of all the other commitments and requirements of being an indie author besides writing.
19. What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?
I’m not sure, but I hope to figure that out someday! I’d like to get more inspirational artwork in my office so I have something to gaze at while my mind is churning, but we’re still sort of moving in.
20. Who shot first? Han or Greedo?
Han shot first. Once a story is loose in the wild, it belongs to the fans, no matter how much we may want to take it back or change it. Especially these days. The Internet remembers all…
The Last of the Ageless by Traci Loudin blends SciFi and Fantasy.
The House on Paladin Court by AmyBeth Inverness is Urban Fantasy about three modern-day paladins with a secret locked in their basement.