Back in October Ruby and I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with and interview world-renowned (some say legendary) author Tamora Pierce! Known for her young-adult epic fantasy books with strong female protagonists, Tamora Pierce has published nearly 30 books in the worlds she has created, including the popular Alanna books (Song of the Lioness quartet), The Immortals quartet, The Circle of Magic quartet, the Beka Cooper series, and more. Her most recent book, Mastiff, is the third and final installment in the world of Beka Cooper, a rookie being trained in the Provost’s guard as a law-enforcer in the lower city. It was published just before our interview (and the event that followed). Tamora was a hoot to chat with and gave quite the fun performance after. The long delay between October and now is over, and the interview is posted below–enjoy!
Jenny: According to the Frequently Asked Questions on your website, you get your ideas from everywhere. Do you ever have too many ideas—do they ever cramp up in your brain? How do you release them?
Yes, I have too many ideas for books, but I’ve just learned to schedule them rather than let them overtake me all at once. It used to be that I’d have pages and pages of notes of ideas for different projects, and my first agents actually told me I had too many ideas. I didn’t see that as being a problem, but she seemed to think it might be. What I do now is if I get an idea for something, I’ll put it into my brain and let it cook, and if I can’t remember it–and this isn’t something I recommend for most people, ‘cause it doesn’t work always, but for me, I’ve been at this long enough, I know my own processes enough–and I know if I can’t remember it again (and this is for longer-term projects), then it wasn’t meant to be, but if it’s something that I’m meant to work on, then it will come back. And then I will work on it some more, I’ll take it out when I’m doing dishes or showering… There’s something about writers and water and ideas. ‘Cause Bruce Coville, who is my writing buddy and my best writer friend, says that when he’s working on a book there isn’t a dirty dish in the house. […] But I will keep doing that. I’ll put [the idea] back and then take it out and work on it when I’m driving–although that’s not always a good idea–or when I’m feeding the wildlife in back or feeding the cats, and eventually I’ll reach the point where I’ll feel up to saying it aloud to my husband. Sometimes I’ll open my mouth and the idea will come out and it will die right there. But if it survives the conversation with my husband, then I’ll put it back in and let it cook some more. So I’ll repeat the process until I’m feeling confident enough that I’ll go to whichever of my editors is appropriate and I’ll mention, “I’ve been thinking about this.” And we’ll talk about it, […] and eventually, when I’m reaching the end of a contract with that publisher, my editor will say, “Contract?” And I’ll say, “Yes, I think so.”
Jenny: How do you organize your ideas and writing?
It used to be when I started I’d have to do the whole book, and then it was three chapters and an outline and sample outlines for other books in the series, and then it got to be a three page outline for four books, and now it’s four books and a one-page outline, except I can’t even keep it that short, so I had to write three pages of outline for four books. And we’ll draw up a contract on that, and eventually by the time I reach the point of working on the first book, I will have the main character and the main secondary characters. If it’s a series, I’ll have the story arc for each book–because each has to have an enclosed story–and the overarching series arc as well. And I’ll have the ending for each. I’m not so good on middles. Continue reading Author Spotlight: Interview with Tamora Pierce