Hi Proser pals, I'm excited to be guest posting this week in place of the lovely and talented Melanie, who is moving or some horrid inconvenience that involves packing up one's computer and being without internet service for days. It's like being back in 1999 or something.
I'm friendly with several of the Prosers, having frequented a certain speculative fiction writing board for years as well as being one of the staff readers for Flash Fiction Online magazine since the beginning too. So, natural fit, lovely stuff. Thank you so much for having me.
I write science fiction and an occasional fantasy piece for young adults and middle grade readers. (You can find my fiction for sale at all major ebook outlets, check my website www.karentsmith.com for links.)
Every writer needs other people in her life to talk writing stuff about or things get very weird very fast. I know some have indulgent spouses. I have a spouse who does not read a terribly large amount and when he does it's not generally *my* fiction. This is sad for several reasons. First, he's missing out on the rich imaginary life in my head. Second, I don't have a good local sounding board. I've had to search farther afield.
The aforementioned speculative fiction writing board has satisfied many needs for many years, but a while back I started wondering what actual authors were LIKE, not just what their fiction was like but what the person, that phenotype, the AUTHOR, was like in the wild.
Without an actual wild life habitat for authors, like a park or something that I could visit, I had to turn to the internet.
Will you be surprised to learn that many authors maintain an online presence these days? Er, perhaps all of them? Or at least all of the ones you've heard of.
So, that's useful information, right? You read a book, liked the author, searched his/her name and found a blog, maybe a facbeook fan page. Then what?
Well, this is the really interesting part to me. I've extended invitations over the years to several different writers. Some of them I shared mutual friends with, some of them are complete strangers to me and everyone I know. But even more interesting, as I've requested connections with author A, she's connected with author B so when I go invite author B to connect, he sees my relationship to author A and *bam* - instant credibility! I'm not just some silly fan-girl staying up past her bedtime to google favorite authors. I'm a person, with some virtual connections to people. That totally matters. No really.
And furthermore, depending on the writer, I've forged some really interesting connections with some of these people. For instance, my new best friend is Sarah Prineas, who is the author of the amazing Magic Thief series, but also has a new book just released called Winterling (subliminal advertising, you should totally buy her books, they are MADE of awesome.)
Last summer, Sarah was helping a friend with an upcoming book release by passing around copies of his ARC. I volunteered to read it and start an ARC tree where I read it then send it on to the next person on the list and so on. For the uninitiated, ARC stands for Advance Reader Copy, sometimes also called Uncorrected Proof. It's a paperback copy of a book available for generating buzz about a book prior to its formal release. I've been visited by the ARC fairy a few times this year and it's fantastic to read a new book before it's in wide release, very cool! So my new best friend naturally took me up on the offer and I got to be introduced to another new author, my new best friend's friend, Greg van Eekhout.
Then, the oddest thing happened. I read Ship Breaker, which honest to goodness was the best book I read in all of 2011 (you will have to note that I first read Magic Thief in 2008, so it was not among the contenders for my personal favorite of 2011), and in reading the acknowledgements (because I always do such things) I noticed that Paolo Bacigalupi happens to *also* be friends with my new best friend Sarah Prineas. SMALL WORLD! (or, well, small speculative fiction in the US for middle grade/YA readers world. Yep.)
I absolutely adore getting little snippets of writing life from these authors I've befriended. It's so cool to see the pictures of Kevin Anderson and all the storm troopers (people who make their own costumes, these folks are hard-core and apparently all live within driving distance of major bookstore locations throughout the U.S.) that show up for his book signings, or to see the backstory to elements of Mary Robinette Kowal's regency series (first book Shades of Milk and Honey, second book Glamour in Glass coming out soon.) They're Jane Austen-style stories but with magic. And Mary, in an odd and interesting twist, also makes her own costumes though in this case she makes period-accurate regency dresses, hats, etc. She's incredible.
So, my advice to you fan-girl (or boy) or aspiring author (or both) is to go forth and seek out your favorite authors online and see what develops. I hope Karen T. Smith is one of them!