Good evening everyone.
Let’s start the week off with a literary treat that I’m sure you will all enjoy to the moon and back (and then some).
I am very lucky to have spoken to Award-Winning Science Fiction/Fantasy author, actor, performer and singer Edward Willett, who has generously shared an insight into his own writer life.
Let’s get stuck in and have fun, thanks for reading folks, have a great time 🙂
Hi there Edward, a sincere pleasure to have you here today to discuss your latest novel release, along with your own passions, influences and writing experiences.
Let’s start first with your newest novel release “Master of the World”, Book Two in your Worldshapers Series, which is due out in mid-September this year Tell us more about the plot and themes of this book, along with giving us some background information on what is at stake for your protagonists and antagonists this time round, since we are dealing with a sequel to your original Worldshapers novel.
The Worldshapers series takes place in an extradimensional Labyrinth of worlds carefully Shaped by…well, Shapers. The Shapers all originated in our world and were trained at a mysterious school by the equally mysterious Ygrair. Upon graduation, they were given their own worlds to Shape as they saw fit…and now live inside those worlds. It’s a bit like authors being able to live inside the worlds they create for novels (although, to be honest, I wouldn’t want to live in most of the worlds I’ve created!).
In Worldshaper, Book 1 in the series, my main character, Shawna Keys is living an ordinary life in an ordinary town, with a new pottery shop, a great boyfriend, and a wonderful best friend. She’s suddenly brought face to face with the truth that the world she thought was the only world is in fact one she had Shaped, when her best friend is brutally murdered before her eyes. The man who did it is about to kill her, but she refuses to believe it’s happening…and just like that, it isn’t. It hasn’t. Except…her best friend doesn’t exist anymore, and nobody else in the world even remembers her.
Enter the other main character of the series, Karl Yatsar, who fully expects Shawna to know she is the Shaper of her world and is flabbergasted that she does not. He explains to her about Shapers, and tells her he is a friend of the mysterious Ygrair, who (he says) was injured in an attack on the school and has fled into her own Shaped world. In her weakened state (he also says), the Labyrinth is vulnerable to the depredations of the man who killed Shawna’s friend: The Adversary. The Adversary is also a Shaper, plus he has the ability to steal the knowledge of a Shaped world from its Shaper and then—if he kills the Shaper—remake that world the way he’d like it to be: a grim, authoritarian nightmare.
Karl tells Shawna the power she showed in resetting time after the attack that killed her friend is proof to him that she is strong enough to do what must be done to save the Labyrinth: namely, she can travel from world to world and gather the knowledge of those worlds from the Shapers within them, and carry that knowledge to Ygrair, who will then be strengthened enough to protect all the worlds of the Labyrinth from the Adversary.
Shawna’s own world (which is very much like ours, albeit with a few differences) is lost, he says. All they can do is get out of her world and into the next, and then the next, and then the next.
At the end of the first novel, Shawna escapes her world—but alone. Karl Yatsar gets left behind. In Master of the World, she finds herself in a very different world, a world of strange flying machines and submarines and floating islands: a world, in fact, modelled after the writings of Jules Verne.
In her first couple of hours in the world, she’s plucked off a disintegrating island by an airship. The airship is very shortly shot down by a flight of one-person helicopters, and the commander of that flight takes Shawna prisoner…and returns with her to a submarine very much like Captain Nemo’s Nautilus.
Shawna must navigate this strange new world (where two factions are locked in perpetual combat) alone, try to find the Shaper, hopefully find Karl Yatsar, wherever he appears once he opens a new Portal from her world, and then escape to the next world…without the slightest idea how to do any of those things.
You also have multiple different books in many other genres for us to check out. Please tell us anything you want about these books/series that you would like to include in this interview.
I’ve written a lot of books, but my first love is always science fiction and fantasy. Let’s see how briefly I can describe some of them (it’s a challenge!):
From DAW Books, under my own name:
- Lost in Translation is a far-future space opera about two empaths, one human, one a bat-like alien, who must overcome their differences to keep their respective governments from plunging into war.
- Marseguro, winner of the Aurora Award for Canadian science fiction or fantasy (Best Long-Form Work in English, specifically) in 2009, is set on a water world populated by humans genetically modified to breathe underwater, who fled a murderous theocracy on Earth. Said theocracy has now discovered their hiding place…
- Terra Insegura, the sequel, an Aurora Award finalist, takes the adventure back to Earth, which (spoiler) has not fared well after the release of a deadly pathogen in the previous book.
- Magebane (written as Lee Arthur Chane) is a stand-alone epic fantasy/steampunk cross. Centuries ago magic-users fled a mysterious enemy called the Magebane, and set up a kingdom on the far side of the world, tucked behind a towering, all-encompassing magical wall. But outside the wall, technology has advanced, and one day, a young man flies an airship over it…
- The Masks of Agyrima trilogy (Masks, Shadows, and Faces, all written as E.C. Blake), is the story of a world where, at the age of fifteen, everyone must don a magic-infused mask that reveals to the despotic Autarchy and his minions anyone who might pose a threat. Mara Holdfast has magical ability and expects to be a mask maker, like her father, but on her fifteenth birthday, when she dons her own mask, it shatters, and she is sent into exile at a brutal prison camp. Rescued along the way, she fall in with rebels seeking to overthrow the Autarch. It’s essentially a YA dystopian novel in a fantasy, rather than science-fiction, setting.
- The Cityborn is a stand-alone science fiction novel, set in a metal city towering above a deep, garbage-filled canyon. The ruling class lives up on top, things get progressively worse the lower you go, and in the garbage heap, scavengers scramble for survival. A girl from the top of the city literally falls out of it into the garbage and is rescued by a young scavenger. Suddenly, all the forces of the city are after them. They don’t know why, but to survive, they have to find out.
- The Worldshapers books you already know about!
From other publishers (just mentioning books still available):
- Spirit Singer, winner of a Saskatchewan Book Award, is a young-adult fantasy set in a world in which the spirits of the dead must be sung through the Between World to the light of the Upper World by those with the power and training to do so, known as spirit singers. Amarynth is only an apprentice, but when her grandfather and tutor is slain by a mysterious Beast that has invaded the Between World, she must embark on a hazardous quest to find out what’s going on and how to stop it, or her village cannot survive. I just republished this through my own little publishing company, Shadowpaw Press.
- Also from Shadowpaw Press, Paths to the Stars, a collection of my short fiction, twenty-two tales of science fiction, fantasy, and even a touch of horror, drawn from my entire career, many previously published, but some published for the first time. It was short-listed for two Saskatchewan Book Awards this year.
- The Peregrine Rising duology (Right to Know and Falcon’s Egg), published by Bundoran Press, is far-future space opera. In Right to Know, a slower-than-light generation ship arrives at its destination to find, not only was it leapfrogged by faster-than-light travel developed after the departure, it’s been in flight so long the ships have stopped coming and the planet of Peregrine is on its own. The ship’s arrival stirs up a hornet’s nest of political and religious conflict…and the reverberations continue in Falcon’s Egg, with the added element that the world is suddenly put back into contact with the rest of the galaxy, and the long war that’s been going on out there.
- The Shards of Excalibur is a five-book young adult fantasy series, published by Coteau Books, in which a teenaged girl in Regina, Saskatchewan, discovers she is heir to the power of the Lady of the Lake from the legends of King Arthur, and is tasked (along with a slightly younger and much geekier boy) with finding the scattered shards of Arthur’s famous sword before Merlin can reassemble it, use it to seize control of Earth, and then launch an invasion into his own world of Faerie. Over the course of the series, the young characters magically (and non-magically) travel all over the world, but they always end up back in Saskatchewan. The five books are Song of the Sword, Twist of the Blade, Lake in the Clouds, Cave Beneath the Sea, and Door into Faerie.
- Finally, I Tumble Through the Diamond Dust is my collection of science fiction and fantasy poetry, which grew out of a challenge issued by the former poet laureate of Saskatchewan, Gerald Hill. For Poetry Month, he sent out, each weekday to members of the Saskatchwan Writers Guild, two lines from published Saskatchewan poetry. The challenge was to write a new poem either incorporating or responding to those lines. Much to my surprise, I wrote a new poem every day, incorporating the proffered lines. Less to my surprise, they all turned into science fiction, fantasy, or horror. The book was published by Your Nickel’s Worth Press and is illustrated by talented Alberta artist Wendi Nordell (who happens to be my niece!).
If you could invite any one of your characters to dinner, which one would it be and what would you cook for them?
It would definitely be Shawna Keys from the Worldshapers series. We share the same sense of humor. (Not surprising, since she’s written in first person.) I’d make her my mother’s signature dish, and still my favorite of all, Green Enchilada Casserole, accompanied by pinto beans. Yum!
If any of your novels were to be made into films (or even a TV series), who would you cast in the lead roles?
For Worldshapers, I’d cast Tatiana Maslany as Shawna Keys, both because she’s a wonderful actress, and because she’s from Regina, Saskatchewan, and I’ve known her since she was a little girl. I even directed her once in a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (all the dwarves were played by little girls with fake beards – it was adorable!).
Karl Yatsar…I think Orlando Bloom. He can do the world-weary grizzled type well these days, based on what I’ve seen of his new series on Amazon, Carnival Row.
What would you choose as your own personal mascot or spirit animal when it comes to you and your style of writing?
I’m a cat, prone to being lazy but very curious and prone to occasional bursts of wild activity.
What do you think most characterizes or defines your writing? Do you have any writing quirks or themes that constantly crop up in your stories?
I think, over and over, I come back to the power of the individual. My characters just keep going, no matter what. They strive to do what’s right or best, and make terrible mistakes along the way, and yet, they never, ever give up.
What do you find the most difficult thing about writing? And what do you find the easiest?
Writing can be a slog, when you’re pushing through the troublesome middle of a book (as I am right now). It’s a bit, as someone once said, like having homework every day of your life for the rest of your life. So, the most difficult thing is persevering and keeping the words flowing.
Yet, oddly enough, the easiest thing is also keeping the words flowing, when you’re not pushing through a troublesome bit but instead know exactly what’s happening and is going to happen, your characters are alive in your head, and you can see the shining path of the story laid out ahead of you.
So: when everything is in alignment, making the words come out of my fingers onto the screen is the easiest thing in the world. When nothing is in alignment, it’s the hardest.
Who are some of the authors, musicians, poets and/or historical figures that inspire you?
I don’t know about inspire, but there’s no question my fiction is influenced by the authors I read growing up: Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Andre Norton, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien top that list.
Do you listen to music when you are writing and if so, then what type of music do you listen to?
Rarely. I only listen if I’m writing in a public place (a coffee shop or bar, for instance) and there are people talking loudly close enough to me I can follow their conversation. (Just the general white noise of background conversation doesn’t bother me, usually.) Then I’ll put on my headphones and play something without words – jazz or classical, just a random streaming station. It’s literally just to drown out other extraneous noises, and the minute the annoying conversationalists move on, I’ll stop listening.
What sort of research do you do to write your books?
I research what I need to research as it comes up in the book. For instance, in Masks (Book 1 of the Masks of Aygrima trilogy, written by E.C. Blake), there are several scenes set in a mine. I did a lot of research into how people moved up and down inside mines in the days before modern elevators and found a wonderful (and scary) technology called a man-engine. In Cave Beneath the Sea, Book 4 of my Shards of Excalibur YA fantasy series, I had to research tourist submarines. In Worldshaper, I had to research things like modern sailing yachts and what surveyor’s marks at the top of U.S. mountain passes look like. Etc., etc., etc. Thankfully, the Internet has made looking up the kinds of things I usually need to research a matter of a quick search.
Why do you write? What inspired you to become a writer?
I write because I want to tell stories that will move and entertain readers the way I was moved and entertained by the stories I read when I was growing up. And that’s what inspired me to become a writer, too. Along the way, I move and entertain myself.
What keeps you motivated during creative slumps? How do you deal with Writers Block?
I’m a fulltime freelance writer. What keeps me motivated is needing to find something to do that brings in some money. (Although, to be honest, the need to do things that bring in money is often my biggest obstacle to creating the science fiction and fantasy that is my first love.)
As far as writer’s block goes, one of the best cures for it is to spend a few years working for a newspaper. I was a reporter and editor at the Weyburn Review, a weekly newspaper, for eight years right out of university, and wrote multiple features, news stories, and columns week after week. There’s no time for writer’s block when there’s a hard and fast deadline you must meet every week. You sit down, you type. I can still do that.
So, I don’t get writer’s block. I get writer’s laziness, which is a whole other thing.
You have access to a time machine. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Go into science or engineering, not journalism.
How do you spend your free time when you are not writing?
Reading, watching a certain amount of TV (mostly science fiction, fantasy, or documentaries), going to concerts, and plays and musicals, and rehearsing for concerts, plays, and musicals.
What are you views on audiobooks and would you consider having your novels made into audiobooks? If so, then who would you get to narrate them?
I don’t listen to them, but many people do. Several of my novels have been turned into audiobooks. The ones published by DAW have been recorded by major audiobook companies. The ones I’ve arranged to have recorded, I’ve auditioned narrators, or narrated them myself. I recently recorded Right to Know, Book 1 in my Peregrine Rising duology, published by Bundoran Press, and I’m working (slowly) on Book 2, Falcon’s Egg. After that, I hope to record four of my DAW novels, whose audiobook rights have returned to me. But it is a very time-consuming process.
Tell us more about your upcoming projects. Are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?
Book 3 of the Worldshapers series is my current focus. After that, I’ve got Star Song, a YA science fiction novel (a rewritten version of a novel I wrote long ago that was almost published, but never quite found a home) coming out from my own Shadowpaw Press. I also hope to put out a non-fiction book, and possibly an anthology, through Shadowpaw that draws on the interviews I’ve done with other authors for my podcast, The Worldshapers, and (in the case of the anthology, which will be Kickstarted if it goes ahead) on the authors themselves. Down the road, I have a young adult fantasy novel about shapechangers that will be published by ChiZine, and could be the first book in the series.
Speaking of the podcast: The Worldshapers features an hour-long chat every two weeks with another science fiction or fantasy author, focused on the creative process. I’ve had many of the biggest names in the field as guests over the first year, and I’m looking forward to continuing it indefinitely.
And, finally, right now I’m writer-in-residence at the Saskatoon Public Library, which is keeping me busy meeting with writers seeking my advice, giving workshops, and commuting (it’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive each way – I go up from Regina on Tuesday mornings and return on Wednesday afternoons).
Finally, are there any nuggets of wisdom that you can impart to other aspiring writers?
First, read the kind of stuff you’re interested in writing. Absorb it.
Second, write every story to the best of your ability…and then try to make the next story even better.
And third, don’t give up. I wrote several novels, over several years, before I had one published…but I didn’t quit. That’s either foolish stubbornness or admirable stick-to-itiveness. Whichever it is, that’s what being a writer takes.
And that’s a wrap! Thank you for spending time with us Edward to give us more information on your incredible worlds and for sharing your writing advice with us. We simply can’t wait to get stuck into all of your books 😊
Edward Willett is an award-winning author of science fiction, fantasy and non-fiction for both children and adults.
Born in Silver City, New Mexico, Willett lived in Bayard, New Mexico, and Lubbock and Tulia, Texas, before moving to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, with his family when he was eight years old.
He studied journalism at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, then returned to Weyburn as a reporter/photographer for the weekly Weyburn Review, eventually becoming news editor. In 1988 he moved to Regina, Saskatchewan, as communications officer for the Saskatchewan Science Centre, and in 1993 he became a fulltime freelance writer. He still resides in Regina.
Willett is now the author or co-author of more than 60 books, ranging from computer books and children’s non-fiction books to science fiction and fantasy for both adults and young adults, and host of the new podcast The Worldshapers: “Conversations with science fiction and fantasy authors about the creative process.” (www.theworldshapers.com)
Willett is represented by literary agent Ethan Ellenberg.
Besides being a writer, Willett is a professional actor and singer who has performed in dozens of plays, musicals and operas in and around Saskatchewan, hosted local television programs, and emceed numerous public events.
He’s married to a telecommunications engineer and has one daughter.
You can connect with him via the following Social Media channels:-
Facebook:- Edward Willett – FB Author Page
LinkedIn:- Edward Willett (LinkedIn)
Twitter:- @ewillett (Twitter)
Website:- The Fantastic Worlds of Edward Willett
You can buy his books here:-
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