Interview With Author Deborah J Ross

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I’ve been writing and editing science fiction and fantasy for 35 years now. My first professional sale (under my previous name, Deborah Wheeler) was to the very first Sword and Sorceress anthology in 1982. Other sales of short fiction followed to F & SF, Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy, and other anthologies including Star Wars: Tales from Jabba’s Palace, Sisters of the Night, DAW 30th Anniversary Fantasy, and Bruce Coville’s Alien Visitors. My first two science fiction novels were Jaydium (1993) and Northlight (1995), and they’re still in print. In 1999 I began collaborating with Marion Zimmer on her Darkover series and after her death have continued it (The Fall of Neskaya, Zandru’s Forge, A Flame in Hali,The Alton Gift, Hastur Lord,The Children of Kings, Thunderlord, and the forthcoming novels, The Laran Gambit and Arilinn.) My work has earned Honorable Mention in Year’s Best SF, Kirkus notable new release, the Locus Recommended Reading List, and James Tiptree, Jr./Othrwise Award recommended list, Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, and nominations for the National Fantasy Federation Speculative Fiction Award for Best Author, and the Gaylactic Spectrum Award.

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I’m also on Facebook and Twitter (@DeborahJRoss)

# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

Every project is different. In the case of the Darkover novels, I write in an established world, so it’s a lot like writing historical fiction. My science fiction novel, Collaborators, was inspired by the time I lived in Lyon, France, the center of the French resistance to the Nazi occupation. I was intrigued by all the ways and reasons French people either resisted or collaborated with the Germans, and what it cost them. My epic fantasy trilogy, The Seven-Petaled Shield, had its origins in the “Azkhantian Tales” first published in various issues of Sword and Sorceress, and those stories were based on the conflict between the Romans and Scythians. History is a veritable treasure trove of fascinating topics. To turn those into good fiction requires dramatic structure and compelling characters, of course.

# How do you deal with creative block?

For a long time, I used to joke that I couldn’t afford writer’s block. I began writing professionally when my first child was a baby and I learned to use very small amounts of time. This involved “pre-writing,” going over the next scene in my mind (while doing stuff like washing the dishes) until I knew exactly how I wanted it to go; when I’d get a few minutes at the typewriter (no home computers yet), I’d write like mad. I always had a backlog of scenes and stories and whole books, screaming at me to be written. The bottleneck was the time in which to work on them. Now I understand that it is indeed possible to run into a brick wall, creatively speaking. This usually means there is an issue in my set-up or I need more time to mull over a problem that just under the surface. In all of these cases, the best thing I can do is to write something else: a journal, poetry (I’m a terrible poet), blog posts, something hideously self-indulgent and unpublishable, letters, shopping lists…the point is to keep the words flowing while the “back” part of my mind sorts things out.

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

What is an author to do in the face of a negative review? First, find a safe place to let your feelings settle. Don’t pretend it didn’t hurt when it did. The goal is let go of that upset feeling so that you can move forward with the next project, but most of us need a moment or twelve to allow the adrenalin to drain away and to regain our composure. Sympathetic fellow writers can help, but not ones who tell you to get over it before you actually are over it. Let’s face it: having our precious literary offspring shredded hurts.

What shouldn’t you do?

Respond, either publicly or privately. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

No matter how hard you want to give that #$%^&* reviewer a piece of your mind, refrain. Even if there’s a crucial piece of information they missed, refrain. Even if they gave the book a terrible review because the book-seller shipped it a day late, refrain. Even if It’s Just Not Fair What They Said, refrain.

To read more about the writing life, check out my collection: Ink Dance: Essays on the Writing Life.

# What are your plans for future books?

The next two Darkover novels, The Laran Gambit (2022) and Arilinn (2025) are in editorial stage and second draft, respectively. I’ll be editing another Darkover anthology for the year in between. I just finished editing an anthology in honor of my friend, Vonda N. McIntyre, Bright Morning, and it’s being formatted now. I’ve also been bringing out stand-alone editions of my best short fiction for readers who enjoy stories they can finish in a single sitting.


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