I went to see Nancy Pearl interview Jo Walton at the UW Bookstore last night. It was an opportunity to chat briefly with some local folks I only know from online (which was a nice surprise; usually I slip in and out of these things without talking to anyone) and of course Jo Walton is a very smart person.
One thing she said that stuck with me (the whole session will air on the Seattle Channel in the near future, so you can probably hear everything she said when (if) it goes online) was that she can’t have the usual fantasy writer’s career–defined as working on a long-running series or two within a particular subgenre, and she didn’t say it in a pejorative way–because she’s too easily bored. When she was supposed to be writing the fourth book in the King’s Peace series, she couldn’t force herself to do it, and she wrote Tooth and Claw instead.
Luckily, it was accepted by her publisher. Then she added that, when she won the World Fantasy Award with it, it gave her the freedom to write what she wanted. She went from Victorian dragons to alt-historical parody mysteries, and has now released Among Others, which I haven’t read but seems to be a semi-autobiographical coming of age story with magic and a gigantic reading list.
In other words, she’s writing whatever she wants.
Unsaid (by her) is that she’s a smart and skillful writer which, you know, helps. But I hadn’t expected her to attribute so much to an award.
Maybe that’s my prejudice, since I’m not all that interested in them (don’t expect to see me post a list of my award-eligible works any time soon) and it’s possible that she’s placing too much weight on it.
Still, it’s thought-provoking. There’s an awful lot about the publishing/genre ecosystem that I don’t understand.