Writer Wednesday: Emily June Street talks The Cedna!

flashdogsejsWahoo! It’s the brand spankin’ new FIRST #WriterWednesday of 2016, and I could not be more delighted to have multi-talented author, editor, publisher and Pilates guru Emily June Street here to kick us off in style. Emily is a #FlashDog, meaning she’s active in the flash fiction contest circuit (including my beloved, now recently retired Flash Friday), which is how we met – and she continues to astound me with everything she does (where does she find the time?) and how darn well she does it. You wanna talk fab fantasy writing, you’ve found the right woman (or should I say WRITE woman? Bwah ha ha! [Sorry, it’s day 6 without sugar, and I’m a little loopy]).

Without further ado, let’s hear more about Emily and her work!

Your latest novel is The Cednathe 2nd book in the Tales of Blood and Light series, continuing the story from book 1, The Gantean. Give us a 3 sentence summary of The Cedna.

Every Cedna serves as a sacrifice to keep the Ganteans’ magic alive, but as her homeland faces destruction at the hands of southern raiders and magic wanes, one Cedna seeks a solution that will not cost her life.

Though dangers loom on every side, she travels south in a desperate diplomatic bid to protect her island home.

Ethnic prejudices, old animosities, and a handsome stranger who pulls on her with a magical bond quickly overturn her plans, leading the Cedna on a world-shattering adventure of love, heartbreak, and war, where every choice is final.

Was book 2 easier or harder to write than book 1. Why?

GanteanCoverEach book presented different challenges. The Gantean was hard because it was the first book I ever wrote, even though it wasn’t the first I published. It took so many drafts (we’re talking probably close to one hundred) before I’d finally massaged it into something other people might want to read. Both books, The Cedna and The Gantean, are pretty unconventional, and so they were both difficult as far as training them into some resemblance of “typical story structure.” I’m juggling many balls in this series, working with a complicated story, a big vision, and various unconventional ideas about story-telling. It’s difficult all the time, in every book. One of the more challenging aspects of The Cedna was that I had an enforced timeline I had to follow because of certain connections and overlaps with The Gantean, and that timeline didn’t fit very well with said “typical story structure.”

Where do your ideas come from? (Yeah, I feel I have to ask that!)

The short answer is…I have no idea. Some bizarre mixing and reconstituting process in my subconscious mind, where bits and pieces of things I read, see, and feel get melded and processed into new ideas? I read very widely, and I do like to read anthropological and historical books for inspiration.

How long / how many drafts did it take you from start to finish on this book?

If I counted I would cry, so I don’t count. More than ten revision passes, for sure, but less than twenty.

What’s in the works for you in 2016?

velocipederacescov1_lgSo many things, and I’m excited about all of them. My first traditionally-published book, The Velocipede Races, is coming out in April from Microcosm Publishing. It’s being printed and shipped right now, and I can’t wait to see it!

My next indie-published book, Book Three in Tales of Blood & Light, Sterling, is scheduled for release in June 2016. I’ll be getting into some more revision passes on it in the next few months.

I’m one of the producers of the Flashdogs flash fiction anthologies, so I’ll be doing the formatting for the latest one, Time, this January and February.

I’ll be revising Tales of Blood & Light, Book Four, tentatively titled Mage and Source, for probably the entire year. It’s a big mess—I’m taking two books and combining them into one. Or at least I think I am.

I’m writing two non-fiction books, one about Pilates and one about basic stretches for everyday body maintenance, not to mention the constant juggle of working on 5-6 half-formed fiction manuscripts—and I’ve resolved to finish at least one of those this year.

[ML: I just fell over in exhaustion, reading all that. Seriously, Emily, how do you do it?]

Tell us about feminism and how it works (or doesn’t work) into the fantasy writing realm. 

FeminismI love how you said to answer these questions in 3-4 sentences…but Margaret, this is dissertation or thesis material! I’ll try for three paragraphs and see how I do.

[ML says: I know. I’m a stinker. But I just had to ask, as you seem the perfect person to tackle it.]

The only big fiction genre that I would say emerged outside of “the patriarchy” is the romance genre, which has historically been women writing for women—and that’s one of the reasons I love romance and try to include a bit of a romantic plot in each of my books—though I can’t guarantee HEAs in worlds so rife with chaos and conflict as the ones I write.

The “fantasy writing realm” has long been ripe for a feminist revolution. One way I actively try to incorporate my feminist ideals* into my fantasy books is by writing complex, multi-layered female leads who balance a variety of goals and concerns in their lives—as all women do. I also work consciously to subvert some of the traditional tropes and values in the fantasy genre—for instance, repaving the masculine heroic path with more feminine ideals and values, or giving a woman’s perspective on warfare. One line I really like along those lines from The Gantean is: “War and politics seem like petty games of men when there are children to raise.” I like to play with the expectations of the genre using the voices of the women I write.

*by feminist ideals I mean the notion that women and people of fluid gender deserve and should be granted the same rights, privileges, and respect in the world as men—and here’s where I get radical—and that historically and currently women-identifying people are denied this equality due to biases in our world that have vested modes of power in men. I also mean that women and people of fluid gender should feel free and safe in public spaces and in their homes the world over. Just for the record.

[ML says: Great answer. Not that I expected anything less.]

What inspires you to write?

Oh, anything and everything. It’s sort of a natural extension of reading, and I am an avid reader. You could say that reading inspires me to write.

Which type of fiction do you love most, and why?

Planetary OceanI am drawn to historical fiction and complicated fantasies because I like world-building, and I like to explore a world different from the one I live in as I read. I’m interested in how setting shapes characters, how environment shapes psychology, so I enjoy the thought experiment inherent in a setting that is unfamiliar to me. As I read, I like to question what remains the same about people’s motivations and what changes, given the circumstances of setting.

Name one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book.

I did a fair amount of research about peoples who live in the extreme north, though in no way should this be taken as me modeling the Ganteans after any particular culture. The Ganteans are very much a figment of my imagination. I just wanted their lifestyle to be somewhat realistic, so I wanted to learn how people who live in extreme climates get by, what kinds of game they hunt, what kinds of resources are available to them. I especially enjoyed learning about what these people eat. One treat for the Alaskan native people is whipped fat— from seal, walrus, moose, or caribou—mixed with berries and moss or greens. I’d really like to know what this tastes like.

Name two things people don’t know about you.

sunset in heart handsI imagine most people reading this know very little about me, so this should be easy!

1) I have a strong aversion to driving—it gives me migraines and makes me feel sick—and so I get around mostly by bicycle.

2) To all those people who say insta-love isn’t real—I knew the very moment that I first saw my husband-to-be that I was going to marry him. Even though I knew this, I wisely avoided proposing anything more than a Pilates session and trip to the Honolulu aquarium on that first day.


And now, a bit on The Cedna:

Every Cedna is born to die, paying the balance that keeps magic alive.

One Cedna desires a different path, free from the pain that comes with the sacred duty.

As her homeland faces destruction at the hands of southern raiders, the Cedna fights against her fate as a ritual sacrifice.

Though dangers loom on every side, she travels south in a desperate diplomatic bid to protect the island.

Ethnic prejudices, old animosities, and a handsome stranger who pulls on her with a magical bond quickly overturn her plans, leading the Cedna on a world-shattering adventure of love, heartbreak, and war, where every choice is final.

Want to find Emily’s books? Amazon book links:

The Cedna: http://www.amazon.com/Cedna-Tales-Blood-Light-Book-ebook/dp/B018PZZ9DE

The Gantean: http://www.amazon.com/Gantean-Tales-Blood-Light-Book-ebook/dp/B00ZJOV0SI

The Velocipede Races: http://www.amazon.com/Velocipede-Races-Bikes-Space/dp/1621060586

Author Bio:

Emily June Street is the author of four novels and numerous short stories. She co-founded Luminous Creatures Press for her independent publishing endeavors with Beth Deitchman in 2013. Emily lives in Northern California, where she splits her time between teaching Pilates and writing. She is an avid cyclist and occasionally attempts ballet.

Want to connect further with Emily? Find her here:

WordPress: https://emilyjunestreet.wordpress.com/
Twitter: @EmilyJuneStreet

Wahoo! I so love it when Emily comes to visit. I feel smarter (and fitter) just being around her – even virtually. Thanks, Emily – wishing you the best of luck on all of your future endeavors! 

Guest Author Interview: Emily June Street

EJSWoo hoo! Strap yourselves in, ladies and gents, because you’re going on a ride today as we get to know Emily June Street, author of the new epic fantasy The Gantean. I know Emily from her flash fiction from the weekly Flash Friday Fiction contest, so I know the superb quality of her prose. I’m not normally an epic fantasy reader, but you can bet I’ll be delving into The Gantean when it releases Saturday (but you can pre-order it right now)!

Give us a three-sentence summary of The Gantean.

After she is violently kidnapped from her stark existence on the cold island of Gante, Leila must learn to survive in a southern culture that her native people hate. In the south, exotic temptations greet her at every turn: rich flavors, profligate magic, and dangerous love with a forbidden man. As a civil war threatens, Leila has to choose between southern love and northern rituals—but at what price?

GanteanCoverWhere did the idea for The Gantean come from? How long did it take you to craft such an intricate fantasy world?

Don’t laugh, but the idea for The Gantean came to me when I was twelve, and I was told in class to write a story. I started the story with a girl on a cold northern island, watching the sea as a foreign ship crested the horizon. My character ended up being a prophesied “chosen one” in the typical fantasy narrative that I’d read so often at that time in my life—though always with heroes rather than heroines. Since then, the story has changed tremendously, of course, although I still have the original handwritten draft. I’ve rewritten the book over and over again over decades and written other books in the world, too. The world-building aspect of the story is always a work in progress, always changing depending on what different characters reveal and the needs of the story as it grows.

What authors have most influenced your own writing?

This is such a difficult question. I’m not sure how much others’ great writing can penetrate this thick skull, but I have admired many writers over the years. I’m a voracious reader, and I read widely. I do wish that I could pick up tight, smart prose by osmosis, but unfortunately, developing that skill isn’t so easy. So here are some writers I love to read, always hoping they’ll influence me, though I’m well aware that brilliance can’t really rub off just through reading: Margaret Atwood, for stark and intelligent prose; Carol Berg, for fantasy world-building and intricate plotting; Colum McCann, for building deep internal worlds for his characters; Tana French, for deft structure and timing; Toni Morrison, for economical and beautiful sentences packed with meaning. That’s an all-star team that, in my wildest dreams, would influence me. More directly, my writing partner/critique buddy Beth Deitchman influences me because she is my first reader who interacts deeply with my work. She’s great at helping my writing get clean and clear. She blends a perfect combination of creative looseness and literary rigor.

You write novels and you write flash fiction. Which do you prefer? Do you think one influences the other?

My brain thinks in novels. My ideas are big and complicated. I find flash fiction really difficult, because every idea I have feels larger than a few hundred words. I’m still trying to figure out how to narrow the focus in such short works. Also, I think I have a plain writing style, stripped down and not very poetic, which doesn’t always work, because you have to put the flash in flash fiction, right? I got into flash fiction because my critique buddy Beth Deitchman sent me a prompt from Angry Hourglass showing a beat-up bicycle. I love bicycles, and I wrote a whole novel about my love of bicycles called Velo Races, so the prompt was a natural starting point for me. I liked the challenge of being economical with my words and my story, and I recognized short writing as a good exercise, but it really is like eating my Brussels sprouts without bacon. Good for me, but not my great love. I will always be a writer of novels. That’s what I love; that’s my bacon.

You run a publishing company, Luminous Creatures Press. How does that inform your own writing? And how the heck do you find time to write, with how many other things you do?

secret roomLuminous Creatures Press began as a way for my writing partner and me to self-publish our work, together. We put out some collections of short stories as practice runs, and then I put out Velo Races, my bike novel, and a second novel called Secret Room. Beth published her novellas set in the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Self-publishing is still our primary focus, but we are experimenting with avenues for publishing other authors, too, and hosting our own flash fiction contests a few times a year, the results of which we sometimes put out in book form. I do freelance editing and formatting under the umbrella of Luminous Creatures Press. Reading other peoples’ work always teaches me, and editing rougher, less polished pieces is just as educational and important as reading the great published works—it teaches me how to develop something from the ground up.

As far as time management goes, my life is organized and routine-oriented; that’s the only way I can keep all my balls in the air. My real-life, everyday profession is teaching Pilates. I run a big studio in Marin County with my husband. That takes up the vast majority of my time. I teach Pilates seven days a week, 363 days a year. Having that regular, relentless schedule actually helps me with writing, because when I do have time to write, it’s an explosion—I want to do it so badly, it just pours out. That said, my schedule is difficult—I can only get new writing done two or three days a week. I edit in the little bits of time between appointments or whenever I have a spare hour. I get up early to work, and I don’t sleep as much as I probably should. I’m not complaining—it’s good problem to have, being hungry for more time because you love everything you do so much. I’m grateful to have the privilege and the freedom to be creative.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d wished you had when you started writing?

No one ever gave me this piece of advice, but I figured it out over the course of rewriting The Gantean so many times. HAVE A PLOT PLAN, even if it’s only a few hastily sketched directives on post-it notes. Have a sense of what the story is about on its deepest level and use that to shape where the story goes.

What’s your take on the traditional vs indie discussion?

velocipederacesMy basic take on it is: do what pleases you. Experiment. Try everything. Deciding which way to go is a personal choice, and may have to do with goals for a given book or goals for personal development. My book, Velo Races, was originally self-published, but it has been picked up by Microcosm Publishing to be revised and then re-published by them. I’ve had a great time working with them to make something bigger and better than the original. The traditional route pushes me out of my comfort zone. As a time-challenged introvert, marketing is hard for me. I don’t like to spend my precious time doing it, and it isn’t a satisfying experience. I’m not someone who likes to garner attention. I’d much prefer to stay holed up, writing, but with a book being produced traditionally, I feel more pressure to put myself out there. With self-publishing, I can just do the parts that I love, writing and making books, and the marketing can flow more organically. I’m extremely glad to have some experience working both ways. It’s helped me understand my motivations for writing and helped me clarify what I want. I’ll keep going with the hybrid route, doing some self-publishing and some traditional. Spanning the two worlds suites me, perhaps because I’m a Gemini? For whatever reason, I like to work with dualities.

What’s next in your writing career? Is The Gantean a stand-alone novel, or will it continue? Perhaps a trilogy?

Hahahahahaha! A trilogy! If only! The Gantean is part of a series of seven books. All of them are drafted right now. The next book in the series, called The Cedna, is tightly connected to The Gantean, and so I consider those two books a duet within the seven-book series. Then Book Three is stand-alone, in terms of its plot. After that, things get messy. Books 4-7 are tangled in a big, complicated knot, as yet unraveled. I’m not sure how to structure them to best tell the conclusion of the story, so I’m ripping them apart and putting them back together in various ways right now. I’m hoping to release Book Two, The Cedna, later this year and Book Three sometime in 2016.

Want to connect with Emily? Find her here:

EmilyStreetemail: emily@luminouscreaturespress.com

Twitter: @EmilyJuneStreet

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/emily.street.378

WordPress: https://emilyjunestreet.wordpress.com/

Luminous Creatures Press: https://luminouscreaturespress.com/

My Amazon Book Links:

The Ganteanhttp://www.amazon.com/Gantean-Tales-Blood-Light-Book-ebook/dp/B00ZJOV0SI/

Velo Races: http://www.amazon.com/Velo-Races-Emily-June-Street/dp/1507535678/

Secret Room: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Room-Emily-June-Street-ebook/dp/B00LUCZZIE/

Other file formats:

Velo Races: https://payhip.com/b/n54k
Secret Room: https://payhip.com/b/O2wv

Whew! What a wonderful interview – I’m so glad you took the time to join us today, Emily. We wish you the best of luck with The Gantean – and all the marvelous books to follow!