C.J. Cherryh, who wrote The Chanur Saga, The Dreaming Tree, Merchanter's Luck, and the Hugo Award-winning Downbelow Station, and who writes the Foreigner series, has been one of our favourite authors for many years now. We recently got the chance to interview her.
How long does it take for you to write a book?A BOOK TAKES FROM 3 MONTHS TO 9 DEPENDING ON THE BOOK. I HAD ONE ONLY TAKE 2 WEEKS, BUT THAT WAS WHEN I'D BEEN BITTEN BY A POISONOUS SPIDER AND WAS SLEEPLESS ON MEDROL. How long does it take to write a short story? ABOUT A WEEK TO TWO WEEKS: THE PAY SCALE IS NOT COMMENSURATE.
Do you prefer writing books or short stories? Why? SHORT STORIES DON'T MUCH INVOLVE THE ASPECT OF STORYTELLING I LIKE BEST: CHARACTERS. MOST SHORT STORIES ARE IDEAS GIVEN FLESH, BUT YOU DON'T VERY DEEP INTO THE WHYS AND IFS OF CHARACTER.What kinds of writing quirks do you have? I WRITE WHILE WATCHING DISASTER DOCUMENTARIES AND HISTORY. I CAN WRITE ANYTHING, BEING A 'TECHNICIAN' IN THE SENSE OF SKILL; BUT I HAVE DEFINITE PREFERENCES FOR STORIES WITH CHARACTERS I LIKE.
Who is your favourite author and why? CURRENTLY, MOST OF WHAT I READ IS JANE FANCHER'S BOOKS AND LYNN ABBEY'S. I ALSO LIKE PATTY BRIGGS, MARTHA WELLS, LARRY NIVEN, NIVEN-POURNELLE, FRANK HERBERT, JACK WILLIAMSON, ROGER ZELAZNY, JACK VANCE, LEIGH BRACKET AND CL MOORE.
What was the most challenging thing about writing the Chanur Saga? COPING WITH THE TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF COPYEDITING AND GALLEY CHECKING, WHILE TRYING TO WRITE THE OTHER BOOKS: TRYING TO REMEMBER WHERE YOU ARE IS REALLY HARD WHEN THE PUBLISHER NEEDS YOU TO REMEMBER WHAT YOU WERE WRITING LAST YEAR.
How did you get the idea or inspiration for Pyanfar? FRANKLY---IT WAS BECAUSE I'D GOTTEN A COVER WITH AN AIRHEAD FEMALE AND GOT SO VERY ANGRY I DECIDED TO WRITE A FEMALE NO COVER ARTIST COULD TURN INTO BARBIE.
Who is your favourite character to write about, and why? I THINK ARI EMORY (I OR II) OR BREN CAMERON ARE MY FAVORITES. ARI AND BREN ARE BOTH A BIT AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL, AND ALSO HAPPEN TO BE IN A POSITION TO KNOW JUST ENOUGH TO MAKE THE STORY WORK. NEITHER TOO MUCH, NOR TOO LITTLE.
READING MOST OF MY WORK. THERE ARE A FEW BOOKS I WOULDN'T RECOMMEND BECAUSE OFHow do you make a living as a writer? I WRITE FULL TIME, AND WROTE and TAUGHT UNTIL I HAD BANKED ENOUGH MONEY TO GO ONE YEAR WITHOUT TEACHING; THAT WASN'T THAT HARD. I NEVER DEVELOPED CHAMPAGNE TASTES, SO LIVING ON A WRITING INCOME IS NOT AS HARD AS IT COULD BE IF I DECIDED TO BUY NEW CARS AND DIAMONDS OR TAKE UP POKER. MAIN RULE---PAY YOUR TAXES ON TIME, HAVE AN AUTOMATED SAVINGS WITHDRAWAL FROM YOUR REGULAR ACCOUNT, AND NEVER SPEND MONEY YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY GOT IN THE BANK...REMEMBERING ALSO THAT THAT MONEY HAS TO LAST UNTIL YOUR PUBLISHER PAYS YOU, OVER WHICH YOU HAVE NO CONTROL. MANY THINGS MAKE PAYMENTS LATE; NEVER GET BEHIND THAT EIGHT-BALL, AND NEVER RUN THE ACCOUNT LOW. CURB YOUR WANTS LONG BEFORE YOU GET IN THAT SITUATION.Would you ever consider writing for children? THERE'S NOTHING STOPPING CHILDREN FROM
LANGUAGE OR CONTENT, BUT IF THEY CAN READ THE SENTENCES, THEY SHOULD HAVE NO
Tell us something about Closed Circle. How did it come about? LYNN ABBEY, JANE FANCHER AND I ALL HAVE BACKLIST PROBLEMS IN THE MODERN WORLD ---WHEN BACKLIST USED TO BE YOUR RETIREMENT PLAN, IT BECAME DEAD AS A DODO IN A DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM THAT WANTS ONLY 'NEW' BOOKS. STUPID PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW THE FIELD GOT IN CONTROL, AND STILL ARE. SO SF, WHICH DEPENDS HEAVILY ON BACKLIST TO EDUCATE NEW READERS, FOUND THOSE GATEWAY BOOKS UNAVAILABLE---AND THOSE OF US WHO HAVE BACKLIST---COULDN'T GET THEM OUT THERE. SO---WHAT THE INTERNET AND COMPUTERS CAUSED---IT CAN ALSO SOLVE. WE DECIDED THERE'S NO REASON WE CAN'T BE A COMPANY AND PUT OUT OUR OWN, WHERE WE HAVE THE RIGHTS. AND WE DID. AND WE HAVE. WE BRANCHED OUT FROM THERE IN THE NOTION THAT IF WE CAN DO OLD BOOKS, WE CAN ALSO REDO BOOKS TO MAKE THEM WHAT WE WANTED TO BE INSTEAD OF THE CONSTRAINT OF THE TIMES; AND WE CAN ALSO JUST FLAT DO NEW WORK THAT WE WANT TO DO.