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SFFWRTCHT: A Chat With Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The author of numerous shorts stories and dozens of novels, Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a popular writer in several genres. Her bestsellers include the fantasy series The Fey, the space opera mystery The Retrieval Artist, Star Wars: A New Rebellion and several Star Trek novelizations. Her short stories regularly appear in publications such as Lightspeed, Analog, and Asimov’s. To find Kristine Kathryn Rusch online, please visit her website kriswrites.com.


SFFWRTCHT: Why don’t we start by asking how’d you get into writing?

Kristine Kathryn Rusch: I’ve written my entire life. I wrote a book when I was seven. It was about ponies. My sister has my first novel. I wrote it at 12. She won’t give it back. And when I was sixteen I wrote a column for my high school paper, which was the first time I got anything published.

SFFWRTCHT: What’s a typical writing day look like for you? Do you write daily after work? Get up early?

KKR: I don’t have a day job. So writing *is* my work. I don’t get up early. Don’t have to. I write after breakfast, exercise, go to lunch, write more, have dinner, write more, read, watch TV or a movie, bed.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you outline? Do character sketches? Or let the story unfold?

KKR: No. No outlines, no sketches. I’m a very, very, very organic writer.

SFFWRTCHT: So which comes first: the character or the world?

KKR: Sometimes one or the other, sometimes just an image. For example, Diving Into The Wreck came from reading Shadow Divers, but I’d been planning to do a big space opera for some time. Besides, my husband, Dean Wesley Smith, is a diver and has done search and rescue, so I kept wondering how to make that work in science fiction then I got the first image, and I wrote from there.

SFFWRTCHT: It’s an interesting world you’ve set it in: people on the fringe diving for fun and profit. And Boss is complex with her past history and her own codes of conduct which are all questioned throughout The sequel is coming out in May, correct?

KKR: Yes, boss is a very complex character. The sequel is called City of Ruins and PYR will publish it. I am finishing the third book, Boneyards, this week. I’ve got a lot more ideas in that world. It gets bigger by the hour. The next two are separate stories, each 5 years after the previous.

SFFWRTCHT: One of your biggest successes has been The Retrieval Artist series. How did that idea come about?

KKR: The witness protection program. I wondered what would make it science fiction. And then it got complex. The next book comes out in November and an Analog story in August/September before that.

SFFWRTCHT: You publish a lot of books each year under several pennames. Do you find that useful in jumping between genres?

KKR: At the moment, three dominant ones. Kris Nelscott in mystery, Kristine Grayson in romance, with a few others. Starting up a new one later this year. I like the pen names as branding. My romances are very sweet, and I don’t want to offend those readers with something dark like my mysteries or the Fey.

SFFWRTCHT: A lot of people say you have to use different names to write different genres. Do you think that’s true?

KKR: Of course you can write different genres under the same name. Lots of folks do it. It wasn’t advisable five years ago when computers ran publishing. Science fiction sells less than Romance, so if you use the same name and alternated genres you would watch your numbers decline because the sf would pull down the romance. Not true any longer w/ all the changes.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you get a lot of cross readers between the various genres you write?

KKR: I do get cross readers (is that like cross dressing?). Mostly my science fiction readers are secretly reading my romance novels. Romance readers read most everything. Mystery, science fiction, and mainstream readers are genre specific.

SFFWRTCHT: One of the benefits of working across several genres seems to be the ability to mix elements well, such as in “The Retrieval Artist” books which mix noir mystery with science fiction.

KKR: I didn’t know what a genre was until Kevin. J. Anderson explained it to me in college, so I mix genres because I mix them when I read. And writers are influenced by what they read, you know.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you use different agents for different genres then?

KKR: I use an agent for some things. But I have more experience w/contracts than 90%  of the agents out there so my current agent is also a lawyer. But I do so much, I mostly handle things myself. I’m not sure how valuable agents are any more. In the New World   of Publishing, agents really have no place. Agents are screwing themselves every which way from Sunday ignoring new writers. However, new writers should stop trying to get   an agent, and instead market the book themselves. Yeah, yeah, I know. Publishers say they don’t read unagented writers but publishers lie. Learn to write a good proposal. Add the first 50 pages. Go to Publisher’s Marketplace. Learn editors names. Add SASE. Mail. For those who don’t know contracts, 1) Buy the Copyright Handbook. 2) Read contracts of other writers who’ll let you. Learn them.

SFFWRTCHT: You spend a lot of time on your blog offering free advice to other writers, offering in depth analysis of the publishing business, agents, etc. Is helping others a passion of yours?

KKR: I have all this knowledge. I really want to share it. Besides, what kills careers isn’t bad writing; it’s bad business.

SFFWRTCHT: Any suggestions how to avoid writer’s block?

KKR: I find writing multiple things helps to avoid writer’s block as I can just switch when one is blocked. I do write multiple projects at once. Dean says it’s because I’m a Gemini and can multitask.

SFFWRTCHT: Any plans to do more “Fey” books or another fantasy series perhaps?

KKR: The next Fey book will come out in late 2012. I have to research my own world. It’s been a while.

SFFWRTCHT: That brings up a good question. Do you keep files on your worlds or a spreadsheet of data? Or is that organic, too?

KKR: Yeah, but it’s haphazard. I’m not a spreadsheet kind of gal. Right now, a writer friend is doing a Guide to the Fey which WMG will publish when it’s done. Mostly, though, it’s to help me. Post-Its can only do so much. You should see my research books. Filled with Post-its. That’s why I don’t research on my Kindle.

SFFWRTCHT: You’ve collaborated with your husband, Dean, and Kevin J. Anderson. How does collaboration work for you? Do you alternate scenes?

KKR: Collaboration is different with different writers. Kev and I are more compatible. Dean and I fought until we found a system.  Some of that is relationships. Kev is like my second brother. Dean is my spousal unit and therefore can be wrong. Kev and I fought about who got the great scenes and alternated. (We ultimately chose who got the “gushy” parts). Dean writes the plot draft, and I “color,” add setting and characters. We can’t brainstorm together or someone will die.

SFFWRTCHT: Well, we’re glad you figured that out in time.

KKR: It was a near miss.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the forthcoming space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter.