SM Wheeler’s brand new book, SEA CHANGE, is out today, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book, and more! Please welcome her to the blog!
Also, we’ve got 3 copies of the book to give away in addition to some rather gorgeous SEA CHANGE pins, courtesy of the lovely folks at Tor, so be sure to heck the details at the end of the post!
Thank you so much for joining me! Will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
It’s my pleasure. I’ll keep mum about my background, though.
I want to say “I’ve always been a writer”, but that stretches credibility. I can still remember reading my first story aloud to my father, though: it was written on wide-ruled paper in glittery gel pen, and I kept interrupting myself to explain what was going on. I then received the most valuable piece of advice I have ever gotten, which is: You have to write it all down.
I haven’t managed to do that yet, but I keep trying.
Your new release, Sea Change, is out today! Will you tell us a bit about it, and what inspired you to write it?
Sea Change is about a woman, her kraken, and the terrible things that happen to them when he is abducted.
With the caveat that my answer to the question ‘what inspired you?’ is different every time a person asks: I wanted to understand friendship, and my method of investigation is writing. I was an isolated and reserved kid—much like the main character—and that provided a deep well of experience to draw from. Stories of friendship with nonhumans have a particular appeal to me, perhaps because I feel better able to learn and interpret the behavior of critters, so it made perfect sense for the main character’s confidante to be a giant octopus.
Related to this choice, the second most valuable piece of advice I have ever gotten is: If the option is tentacles or no tentacles, pick the former and give the person who suggested the latter a dirty look.
What do you love most about writing fantasy?
The freedom to describe what doesn’t exist. Of course Sea Change contains its share of the mundane—trees, blisters, ticks, that sort of thing. As a fantasist, though, I also get to describe what a kraken’s voice sounds like, the grungy details of an animate corpse, and the sensation of bloodless evisceration.
Who, or what, has influenced you the most regarding your writing?
Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn was read to me as a child and stuck something fierce. I also have a good friend who is the undefeated master of doing horrible, graphic damage to her characters, physical and emotional; it’s futile, but I try to compete. All the gore in Sea Change is dedicated to her, and I hope I succeeded when I aimed for quality over quantity.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Until I saw this question I had not been introduced to the term ‘pantser’. I find it distracting. In any case: I don’t know! I am whatever it is called when you write blocks of text then move them around until the order they are in makes sense, then write more text to stick them together, then delete the whole thing and start over.
What sort of research did you do for your novel?
I mainlined the complete Grimms’ Fairy Tales, watched videos of deer being butchered on YouTube, and kept my eyes open. I’ve been told that I write a very convincing middle-aged man, which I credit entirely to the demographics of my then-workplaces’ customer base.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Samuel R. Delaney’s Dhalgren. Someone spoiled a particular scene for me and I’d give money to experience it without foreknowledge.
What are a few titles that you would buy extra copies to give out to your friends?
One has to tailor these things to individuals, yes? For my writer friends, Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler. I bought the abovementioned gore buddy House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, and I gave The Female Man by Joanna Russ to a friend with an academic interest in gender studies. You can’t get a more honest brand of feminism than Russ’.
When you’re not busy with your next project, how do you like to spend your free time?
I complain about the fact that I am not writing. It is a bother to my friends and family.
What’s next for you?
The end of Sea Change is open and could use a sequel that picks up where it leaves off, but what I’m really excited about is what’s going on with the characters thirty years after the book wraps up.
About SEA CHANGE:
The unhappy child of two powerful parents who despise each other, young Lilly turns to the ocean to find solace, which she finds in the form of the eloquent and intelligent sea monster Octavius, a kraken. In Octavius’s many arms, Lilly learns of friendship, loyalty, and family. When Octavius, forbidden by Lilly to harm humans, is captured by seafaring traders and sold to a circus, Lilly becomes his only hope for salvation. Desperate to find him, she strikes a bargain with a witch that carries a shocking price.
Her journey to win Octavius’s freedom is difficult. The circus master wants a Coat of Illusions; the Coat tailor wants her undead husband back from a witch; the witch wants her skin back from two bandits; the bandits just want some company, but they might kill her first. Lilly’s quest tests her resolve, tries her patience, and leaves her transformed in every way.
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