Filed under Interviews on September 6, 2011
Tagged: Cynthia Ward, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Pirates & Swashbucklers, Pulp Empire, pulp fiction, Relvan's Rescue, Robert E. Howard
The release of Pirates & Swashbucklers, the anthology featuring my short story “Relvan’s Rescue,” quickly approaches. We’ve had some great interviews with the other authors I share the table of contents with, and I’ve got the last batch of them for you this week. Today’s interview is with Cynthia Ward.
When did you first realize you were a writer?
I started writing fiction in kindergarten. Apparently, I assumed this meant that I was a writer. Inaccurate, to be sure, but it did spare me wondering “Am I really a writer?”
What authors influence or inspire you?
A full answer to that question could go on for pages, even if I stuck to making a list. So I’ll stick to the main influences for “Sea-Child,” my story in Pirates & Swashbucklers. And those influences (visible or not) would be the pulp deities Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and Leigh Brackett, and the historical fiction goddesses Mary Renault and Rosemary Sutcliff, all of whom I first encountered in my teen or tween years.
What book(s) have you read more than once? What drew you back?
I recently re-read ERB’s A Princess of Mars and Tarzan of the Apes. I hadn’t read them since high school, over 30 years ago, so I was curious as to how they’d hold up. Pretty well, actually. They’re far more racist and sexist that I realized as a small-town Maine schoolkid in the ’70s, of course, but other aspects are strong. The prose, for example, was a lot better than I’d expected. Time to re-read REH’s Conan stories, I think.
Brackett, Renault, and Sutcliff I revisit for the prose, the characterization, the world-building. A couple of other titles I like to re-read are Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint (does another novel offer better insight into the way a swordsman’s mind might work? I doubt it) and Georgette Heyer’s The Masqueraders (sword-fights! cross-dressing! wit!).
In 25 words or less, how would you define “pulp” as a genre?
Fast-paced, colorful action/adventure fiction in any genre, with more emphasis on entertainment and excitement than literary prose or deep character-excavation.
What made you decide to submit a story for the Pirates & Swashbucklers anthology?
I thought my story “Sea-Child,” already written, might fit the theme.
How did you come up with the idea for your story?
Pirates being all the rage, I wondered if I could write a story about them. But I’ve been burgled a time or two, so I wasn’t feeling particularly sympathetic to the pirate viewpoint. Meanwhile, I’d noticed that there are far fewer undersea characters than you might expect in fantasy fiction. When it occurred to me to combine these thoughts, I had my story.
What is your writing process like?
I do a lot of mulling. When the idea has mostly gelled into a story, I start typing. Sometimes, the mulling can go on for decades. Sometimes, I’m still mulling. Fortunately, like most people who regularly write fiction, I have a lot of ideas.
By editorial fiat, I recently had to outline a story. That seems to clarify plot problems pretty well, so I may outline again:)
Do you consider yourself a “pulp” writer? Why? Is there another genre you like to write?
I consider myself a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction, since those comprise 99% of what I write. Some of it is pulp fiction, but not all, so it never occurred to me to identify as a pulp writer.
Care to weigh in with your opinion of the e-book?
I prefer to read e-books. The e-readers I’ve handled (Nook and Kindle) don’t weigh as much as many physical books. I’m not going to read a Stephen King or George R.R. Martin tome in hardcopy. Also, you can prop up an e-reader or tablet for a mostly hands-free reading experience, which is nice for readers with disabilities or chronic pain. On the down side, your e-reader or tablet may run out of juice or spontaneously reboot, and you can’t leave it on during takeoffs and landings.
Are e-books going to replace physical books? Only in the sense that television replaced film or the stereo replaced the radio or the Internet replaced all of the above. With an enormously transformative new technology, people predict the death of the old technology. But the usual effect is that the old technology survives and adapts, even thrives. Stereos evolve iPod jacks. Movies and television shows appear on Hulu and YouTube. Radio stations stream on webpages and apps (as I write this, I’m listening to NPR in an area with no reception over the air). CDs and DVDs and LPs specialize for collectors, completists, and fans. I suspect physical books will join CDs/DVDs/LPs in targeting collectors, completists, and fans. After all, how many of us are likely to get our e-reader autographed?
Where can someone find more of your work?
I haven’t published a collection or novel yet. However, Fictionwise has several of my stories for sale in a variety of e-book formats. Most (though not all) of my fiction publications are listed at my website. As for nonfiction, Nisi Shawl and I coauthored the fiction-writing handbook Writing the Other: A Practical Approach.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about your writing?
It continues to improve. Thank you for interviewing me.