Author name: Sherry D. Ramsey
*Please tell us about your publications. I enjoy writing both short fiction and novels. I have a series of science fiction novels published by Tyche Books (Alberta, Canada) (The Nearspace series: One’s Aspect to the Sun, Dark Beneath the Moon, and Beyond the Sentinel Stars); a middle-grade fantasy from Dreaming Robot Press (New Mexico, USA) (The Seventh Crow); and a self-published urban fantasy/mystery (The Murder Prophet). I also have two collections of previously-published short stories, To Unimagined Shores and The Cache and Other Stories.
What have you found the most challenging part of the process? I feel somewhat frustrated that I don’t write faster—in the current publishing climate there’s a certain pressure to publish consistently and often for greatest success. I see many authors publishing three or more books a year, and I just don’t seem to work at those speeds. Last year I had a short story collection, a new novel, and a couple of short stories come out, and that seems like a lot for me. I know it’s usually not a good idea to compare oneself to other writers, but I would like to be able to work a little faster. I’m not a perfectionist—but I am a bit of a procrastinator. Maybe I need to work on that!
Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’? I’ve always been a pantser, for sure. A long time ago I tried outlining a novel, and then found that I was no longer interested in writing it; the fun of “discovery” seemed to have disappeared during the outlining process. Lately, though, I’ve begun to find a middle ground—I’ve discovered that minimal outlining actually helps my writing process and reduces the chance that I’ll run out of steam/ideas on a project. So now I guess I’m a hybrid between pantser and plotter. Plantser?
If you could have dinner with any literary character who would you choose, and what would you eat. I think I’d have to choose Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe to have dinner with. No doubt he’d wax forth on some fascinating topic for dinner conversation, and of course the meal would be superbly prepared by his chef, Fritz. We might have corn, “roasted in the husk in the hottest possible oven for forty minutes, shucked at the table, and buttered and salted,” since Wolfe considered that to be ambrosia. It’s probably cheating, but I expect Archie Goodwin would also be there for dinner, so I’d get two characters for the price of one. If I were particularly fortunate, Wolfe would show me his orchid collection after dinner. The perfect literary character interaction!
What are your views on authors offering free books? Do you believe, as some do, that it demeans an author and his or her work? I think that offering some work for free can be a valuable promotional tool for writers who would like to find new readers. Many readers are wary of taking a chance on a new-to-them writer, and most of us watch how we spend our hard-earned dollars these days. It’s also a way to introduce a new reader to a series or character. I don’t think it’s demeaning to authors or their work when it’s done sensibly, professionally, and as a promotional choice.
Sort these into order of importance: Good plot, Great characters, Awesome world-building, Technically perfect. For me, the characters come first. Sometimes a character arrives on the doorstep of your mind with a suitcase in hand and not even a name, but they have a story they want you to tell. You can’t turn them away. I think most of the time, we keep reading a book or put it down forever because of the characters. If you love the characters, you can forgive a lot of other sins in a book. Plot comes next—the smooth, flowing experience of reading a well-plotted book is such a rewarding experience for a reader, I think we should always strive to create that as writers. World-building is important, of course, and sometimes the world can even be like another character in a book—but the most fabulously-imagined world can’t carry a book if the characters and story are not strong. Technical perfection—I’m not convinced it exists. I do some work as an editor, with two co-editors, and even working as a team I don’t think we’ve ever ended up with a technically perfect work. It’s important to create the best work you can, but striving for perfection might mean no-one else ever gets to read it. I think we have to learn when our work is “close enough” to perfection, and let it go.
How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at? I write many flavours of both science fiction and fantasy, so I’ve done research on topics from medical nanomachines to particle accelerators to how magic might be fueled by different minerals. One of the most interesting things I researched lately was the question of how two machines/computers, each created by a different alien species, might learn to communicate. I learned a lot of fascinating things about both computing and language acquisition!
Which authors have influenced you the most? I read a LOT, and over the years I think there have been many authors who’ve influenced me in my writing. I love to write humour and humorously convoluted situations, so the influences of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Connie Willis are there. I love science and the future, so Nancy Kress, Jack McDevitt, and classics like Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl have left their mark. And I love to work with the wide reaches of imagination in fantasy, so Dave Duncan, Maggie Stiefvater, and Elizabeth Bear have made an impression. So many more I could name!
What is your writing space like? I’m very fortunate to have a small but wonderful office at home. I have a normal sitting desk and also a treadmill desk, where I try to spend at least part of each writing day. Too much sitting is not good for me! The walls of my office are covered with overflowing bookshelves and inspiring artwork, and I have a large southwest-facing window that gets lots of light and houses many plants. There’s one extra chair so a friend or family member can come in and visit. This sounds idyllic, but now add in lots of notes, maps, knickknacks, filing cabinets, binders—and some folks might find it too cluttery! For me, it’s inspiring and comfortable, though, and although I might sometimes write elsewhere in the house with a laptop, I always come back to my office as my main creative space.
Tell us about your latest piece? Coincidentally, one of the projects I’m currently working on is another Olympia Investigations story, featuring Acacia Sheridan, the main character from “The Goddess Problem.” Acacia is a private detective with a special gift – she can communicate and interact with supernatural creatures of all sorts. Her clientele includes ghosts, demons, fae, and many more denizens of the otherworld…which makes for some interesting cases. In the new story, her client—who is also a suspect in a series of murders—is a vampire, so I’m having some fun playing with traditional vampire-story tropes.
What’s your next writing adventure? I have another Nearspace book underway, and several other partially-finished projects trying to get my attention. I’ve also seen a few interesting calls for short story submissions in the past few weeks, so ideas are percolating for those as well. I may write slowly, but there’s never a lack of things to write!
What is the last book you’ve read? I just finished listening to the audiobook of Blade Runner by Philip K. Dick. Although of course I shouldn’t have been surprised, I was struck by how much deeper the book is than the movie (although I’ve always loved the movie) and what themes and ideas did not make it into the movie, despite being central to the book. I never expect movie adaptations to be particularly true to a book—the demands of the media are completely different, after all—but the book gave me a lot to think about in terms of choices made at the time concerning what to include and what to leave out. How do we decide what’s vital to a story? Can you separate out certain themes and still have a complete tale? Lots to ponder.
Sherry D. Ramsey is a speculative fiction writer, editor, publisher, creativity addict and self-confessed Internet geek. When she’s not writing, she makes jewelry, gardens, hones her creative procrastination skills on social media, and consumes far more coffee and chocolate than is likely good for her.
Her books include the Nearspace series from Tyche Books, One’s Aspect to the Sun, Dark Beneath the Moon, and Beyond the Sentinel Stars; the middle grade fantasy The Seventh Crow; The Murder Prophet; and two collections of short stories. With her partners at Third Person Press, she has co-edited six anthologies of regional short fiction and a novel. A member of the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia Writer’s Council, Sherry is also a past Vice-President and Secretary-Treasurer of SF Canada.
Sherry lives in Nova Scotia with her husband, children, and dogs. You can visit her online at www.sherrydramsey.com, find her on Facebook, and keep up with her much more pithy musings and visual life on Twitter and Instagram @sdramsey.
Sherry’s book The Goddess Problem features in Immortals
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