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Describe your latest book.
My latest book, Provenance
, is set in a distant star system and is about Ingray, a young woman who wants — needs — to impress her powerful mother and outdo her very competitive brother. She plans to do this by springing a notorious thief from prison, one who can tell her the location of some particularly valuable artifacts. Provenance
is set in the same universe as the Ancillary
trilogy, but it's not set in Radch space, and it doesn't deal with the same characters. It's a standalone. In this society the possession of such artifacts — called "vestiges" — are extremely important, a way of staking a claim to family and personal history, and Ingray wants to hand these vestiges over to her mother, to use as leverage against one of her political opponents. But almost immediately things start to go wrong: getting the thief out of prison cost Ingray everything she had and now she's flat broke; the person she's sprung from prison claims not to be the person Ingray was after; and she seems to have caught the attention of the eccentric — and tenacious — alien Geck Ambassador to the Presger.
When did you know you were a writer?
I've wanted to be a writer since I was a child. In fact, my family expected that I would be a writer. I tried off and on for years, but for the most part I assumed I just wasn't talented enough, didn't have good ideas, and couldn't do it. I was in my late 30s when I seriously decided to try to write. I wrote and submitted things for about three years before I sold something. All that time, when people asked me what I did, I would say, "Oh, I'm a stay-at-home mom," because "I'm a writer" just felt presumptuous, like I was claiming something I wasn't entitled to. Then I attended Clarion West, and there's something amazing about spending six weeks with people who not only take writing seriously and talk about writing a lot, but who take you seriously as a writer — we were all writers, we were all there to write, to read, and to discuss each other's writing. Some time after I got home from that, someone asked me what I did and I said, "I'm a writer." And I was astonished that those words had come out of my mouth. But the experience of those weeks of people interacting with me as though I were in fact a writer made a huge difference.
What does your writing workspace look like?
I write in a few different places, depending on where I am in the process and what I need to be working on. I have an office in the basement that my husband built for me, and I do a lot of work there. It has a comfortable chair and an ergonomic keyboard, and I have two monitors — the best for editing. The wall on one side of my desk is perfect for post-its with various notes about whatever it is I'm working on. Oh, and I have an electric kettle just behind the desk. Those are really the essentials: a desk, a comfy chair, tools to write with, and tea. Well, being able to cut off distractions is important. I also sometimes take a laptop to a café and work there, particularly when I'm feeling too distracted by the Internet, or by things that need doing at home. (There are always things that need doing at home.)
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
There are so many fabulous writers out there, any number of whom deserve more attention than they get. I feel like C. J. Cherryh
is a major writer in the field, and her name doesn't come up as much as it should when people are talking about works that are important to the history of science fiction, or that people should take a look at. There are several places to start. Downbelow Station
, for instance, provide good intros to the many fabulous books set in her Union-Alliance. But my personal favorite is Foreigner
, which stands alone quite well, but is also the first in an excellent series.
What's your biggest grammatical pet peeve?
People lecturing about grammatical errors that aren't actually errors! There's nothing ungrammatical about the singular "they," and there's nothing wrong with splitting infinitives or ending sentences with prepositions. There's nothing
wrong with using the passive voice — it's a perfectly legitimate construction and sometimes exactly the right way to say something. And nine times out of 10, the examples of "passive voice" that peevers give aren't in the passive voice to begin with! So I guess my biggest grammatical pet peeve is people who are obnoxious about their grammatical pet peeves.
Name a guilty pleasure you partake in regularly.
I guess I don't believe in guilty pleasures. I feel like, if I like something, I like it. Why should I feel guilty or ashamed of it? Because some people sneer at what I like, or look down on it? I think life's too short to worry about whether or not I'm supposed to like things, and at my age, I figure if someone is going to think less of me for my taste in movies or food or whatever, then I don't need to worry too much about them — I'll spend my energy and thoughts on my actual friends.
I also find it interesting how many "guilty pleasures" are, say, things that kids like, or foods that poor people eat (unless, of course, it's that recently rediscovered "hearty and authentic" poverty food that's taking hip cuisine by storm). Or things that women like! Because everyone knows romance novels are trashy, right? Except, not. Romance novels are like any other kind of novel — 90% of them are crap, and some of the remaining 10% are awesome. Same for anything else, not just novels.
Once I noticed that pattern — of just what kinds of things were being classed as "guilty pleasures" — I stopped calling low-prestige indulgences "guilty pleasures." They're just pleasures, straight up.
What's the best advice you’ve ever received?
To keep going. "The published are the persistent." There are so many temptations to quit, so many reasons to not keep going, so many voices telling you it's not worth it and you're wasting your time. I can't promise that everyone who continues writing will hit it big, but I can tell you that determined persistence will get you pretty far. It doesn't seem like it sometimes, of course, but no matter how far you go, you're going step by step. Each step seems small, but it's the keeping on stepping that gets you there. Which leads to a related piece of good advice I've gotten: don't compare your progress to others — you'll certainly find someone farther down your desired path than you are and then you'll feel inadequate.
The Five Awesome Books List
Book lists are hard! There are so many wonderful books and only so many slots on a list. And choosing a theme doesn't necessarily narrow things down satisfactorily, because any choice will end up excluding a really cool book that you really wish you could put on the list. (Or that I
wish I could put on the list, anyway.) And then anyone reading the list is bound to say, "The ten best space operas with sentient turtles? And Lee and Miller's Agent of Change
isn't on the list? BOGUS!"
Anyway. Here is a list of five books I think are awesome. They are not the only books I think are awesome, just a sample of five.
by C. J. Cherryh
The City and the City
by China Miéville
The Jargoon Pard
by Andre Norton
by Yoon Ha Lee
by Nnedi Okorafor
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The author of many published science fiction short stories, Ann Leckie
lives in St Louis, Missouri, with her husband, children, and cats. She’s currently the Secretary for the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). You can find her website at www.annleckie.com or chat to her on Twitter at @Ann_Leckie. Provenance
is her most recent book.