Brought to you by OBS reviewer Valerie
- Be sure to read our review for Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler here at OBS
S.M. Wheeler: This question has several answers depending on one’s interpretation of the term “prompt”. At the most general level I write without needing a reason. I produce a great deal of prose, though most of it is fragmentary and takes the form of ideas rather than stories. That’s a daily matter. It’s also from those ideas that spring full-length novels, and in the case of Sea Change it was a stylistic exercise that led to the novel itself.
In a narrower sense, I wrote this particular novel due to the personal desire to see how the conflicts would be resolved. I move forward with perfect surety of where I am going to end up in a project and rarely actually reach that conclusion. The characters and plot evolve as I write actively, and by the time I’m two-thirds of the way through the piece has invariably mutate from its original intent. Therefore I am, in a way, my own reader: I know that I don’t know precisely what’s going to happen.
The quest-plot is particularly useful for motivation; with such a solid goal, it’s easy to see where the characters need to be pushed.
Valerie: What authors do you consider yourself to write as?
S.M. Wheeler: I am so shy of answering this question! I feel that there would be many raised eyebrows over my answers. Other people have made comparisons to Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn (over which I was both gleeful and argumentative, because Beagle is better than me), and the formality of my prose has been compared to authors of the Canon (specifically, Jane Austen; I’ve also gotten Dostoevsky, but I sincerely hope I am a better stylist than him—I don’t use nearly so many exclamation marks).
Valerie: I’ve tried so many times to write books, but sadly they never end up being finished. How long did it take you to finish writing Sea Change?
S.M. Wheeler: The oldest draft was started in 2008, and the final was finished in—2012? 2011? My time sense is crap. It seemed a much longer time than that. Years is not as significant a measure as hours, I think, and as to those, I put in a hell of a lot. The first finished draft was completed over the course of a winter in a summer vacation area during which I had nothing much else to do, which meant hours upon hours of writing each day. That’s the trick of it: persistence. The fact that I find a great deal of fun and pleasure in writing is important, too; it means that I can put in the time without feeling all sorts of bored and frustrated.
Doing what you like is the advice that I give to people who ask me outright how I would recommend finishing a work, particularly to those who launch into a spiel about writing for a particular market. I don’t mean that targeted writing is a bad thing—only that I respect those who can actually manage to do so. It seems impossible.
Valerie: What type of reader do you recommend Sea Change to?
S.M. Wheeler: Not kids. I am rather anxious at the interpretation of the book as YA, although I don’t know that genre well enough to actually say whether it fits. I am not much of a buff o children, either, so perhaps scenes of closely described violence and a general tone of body-horror are appropriate. To be fair on the matter, it’s the sort of thing that I was reading at age thirteen and up, and it was fairly formative for my style. Which, now that I think about it, might not actually be a recommendation for letting teens at it.
That ramble aside, those who like genre shifts, oblique and dense prose, and the abovementioned violence should enjoy it. There’s also the kraken, Octavius, who seems a big draw. Likewise the themes of gender, sex, and sexuality—which are not much emphasized in any of the summaries—could bring an appeal to certain people.
Valerie: What did your family think of Sea Change?
S.M. Change: Many of them have read it and are full of praise; it’s very sweet and has me closer to being able to take positive reviews with grace rather than a great deal of flustering and denial. I will forever be guilty for making my sister cry, though.
Valerie: Can you let us know what you’re working on now?
S.M. Wheeler: Sure! But the answer is pretty useless: everything and anything.
I am an inconstant soul and don’t make promises for anything where writing is concerned. There are two sequels to Sea Change which are all concept and a smattering of prose, and while I would like to get those written it is always an uncertain matter where my interest will fall on any particular day. In the meanwhile I am enjoying writing prompt fic—simple, small pieces made to be posted publically for my circle of online buddies. I should probably try to write publishable short fiction but “should” isn’t a word that I respect very much.
I will say: My attention keeps returning to a novel about magical middle-aged lesbians
in a moldering house, one of whom is working through colonial guilt while the other is deeply
unimpressed by the theatrics which accompany this. It’s got erotic letters and people who turn into rats for journeys to the fecund land of the ancestral dead. Very hard to resist, that.
Thank you to author S.M. Wheeler for a great interview.