Amanda Divine: You're a big believer in
helping out young authors. How did that develop?
Irene Radford: Helping upcoming authors
is payback for all the help I got when I first
started taking my writing seriously. I grew up
(as a writer) in the Romance Writers of America.
That entire organization is a big helping hand.
They taught me how to write and the business of
writing. When I was in school, the prevailing
attitude of both my teachers and family was "Why
bother trying to write, You Are Going To Fail."
I don't want that to happen to any other writer
ever. It took me a long time to realize that I
can't know I've failed until I try. And you aren't
a failure until you stop trying. Best advice I
ever got follows. If you want to be a writer,
you have to follow three of Heinlein's four rules
1. You must finish what you write.
2. You must submit what you write to venues that
will pay you.
3. You must keep those submissions in the mail
until you sell.
Amanda: And the fourth?
Irene Radford: The fourth rule is: never
rewrite except under editorial direction. I rewrite
when I find I've taken a wrong turn. I add to
and subtract from the original draft. I don't
agree with the fourth rule (actually the third
in the list) so I rarely post it.
Amanda: Were there any writers who helped
Irene Radford: When I first started writing,
I thought I was writing romances and so I joined
Romance Writers of America. In my local chapter
Lisa Jackson and her sister Nancy Bishop, both
multi-published by Silhouette and Pocket at the
time (Lisa has gone on to the New York Times
Bestseller lists) gave me a lot of support and
advice. Once I made my first sale, Steve Perry
(Tom Clancy's Net Force and Star Wars
Shadows of the Empire) helped guide me through
some of the traps and pitfalls of the business.
There were dozens of others who read first drafts
and judged contests. But those three stand out
in my memory because they were multi-published
before me and yet lent a helping hand up.
Amanda: How did learning in that particular
genre help shape your writing?
Irene Radford: The Romance Writers of
America really taught me how to write as well
as the business of writing. This is a fabulous
organization that truly takes their writing seriously.
From them I learned everything from plot structure,
Point of View, and characterization, to how to
write a synopsis that can sell a book and how
to read and understand a contract. There is so
much more to writing than just telling a good
story. The mechanics are essential. Managing my
career is equally important.
Amanda: How did you transition to science
fiction and fantasy? Were you always interested
in those genres?
Irene Radford: I'd been reading fantasy
for some time when my son made a remark at dinner
one night. "Gee, Mom, I think that dragons are
born real dark pewter color, like the one on your
knick-knack shelf. Then they get more silvery
as they grow until they are as clear as the glass
dragon I gave you for Christmas... Ding, ding,
ding. Idea bells chiming in my head for weeks.
And then I had three crises in a matter of about
two weeks. Decided life was too short to wait
and started writing The Glass Dragon. The
rest is history. Or hysterical.
Amanda: How long had The Glass Dragon
been in your head?
Irene Radford: Only a few months. I really
didn't have much more than a premise when I sat
down to write. The story flowed from an opening
line. Took a lot of rewrites to make it publishable,
but the basic story remained the same once I figured
out what it was.
Amanda: Musician Heather Alexander is
releasing a CD based on your Merlin's Descendants
series. How did that come about?
Irene Radford: Long story short. I've
been acquainted with Heather for years, bumping
into each other at cons. Sitting on panels together
etc. Then a couple of years ago at RadCon she
asked if I had written anything she could filk.
She wanted to get back into working with the written
word and out of her own self-contained box. We
talked about my books and settled on the Merlin's
Descendants series. I sent her copies. She read
them. Both our lives took drastic turns. We waited.
Finally we both got our acts together and the
results will be released May 1. I couldn't be
more pleased with the results. In the process
I've gotten to know Heather a lot better. We've
had long discussions on the philosophy of the
books--and our own. After hearing some of the
pieces I believe that Heather *groks* my work
better than I do.
Amanda: Had she been looking specifically
for this type of project?
Irene Radford: Apparently she had. Heather
explains that she tends to spin very well in her
own little box. She needs to find other boxes
to play in to stretch her creative muscles. Filking
a book--or 5 books in my case--gives her new outlets.
Amanda: What made you decide on the Merlin's
Irene Radford: The entire Arthurian genre
has always fascinated me, as it does a number
of people. I think the vast numbers of very knowledgable
readers kind of scared me. If I did an entire
series in one period I'd have to do research on
the PhD level to stay ahead of them. By following
later generations I get to be a generalist. I
can dabble in a number of interesting periods
without having to specialize. There are too many
interesting periods to limit myself to one. Just
as there are too many interesting books for me
to write to limit myself to one world.
Amanda: How would you describe the series'
Irene Radford: I've taken dynamic periods
of history, inserted a descendant of Merlin who
has to nudge events to make them happen the way
Amanda: What did you enjoy most about
playing with history like that?
Irene Radford: I think most historians
love the sense of discovery, some little tidbit
they didn't know previously. Finding obscure bits
of data that really could change history if they
didn't occur are goldmines. What would have happened
if King John had not signed the Magna Carta? The
resulting chaos of fractious barons more powerful
than the king would have opened England to even
more massive and prolonged civil war. A ripe situation
for an agressive King Philip of France to invade.
Without the Magna Carta we'd all be speaking French
now and the whole idea of rule by law instead
of the whim of the king might not have happened.
So in my world King John had to sign that
document and it became that much more valuable
to me as a person and an historian. Conveying
that to my readers became the focus of the book.
Amanda: Is there anything you wish had
Irene Radford: The French Revolution is
a period of history that truly bothers me--A lot
of 20th Century history too but I don't study
that era. I wish the French could have brought
about a republic without the horrendous violence
and slaughter. But I also realize that the system
was so corrupt a quiet revolution would never
have happend. The entire government and social
regime had to be discarded. They even tried to
discard their own history too. Starting from scratch
was painful and didn't always work, coming out
of it took a very long time with a couple of reversions
(Napoleon's Empire) that didn't work either. Peace
in history was even more elusive than it is now.
Amanda: What are you working on now, peaceful
Irene Radford: I'm working on the second
book of a new series under a different pseudonym
that I can't tell you until the book is out. The
first one will be released in September and has
a killer cover [by Donato Giancola]. There will
be a link from the website close to that time
Amanda: What's next?
Irene Radford: Hee, hee, hee. I have contracts
for 4 books in two different series under the
new pseudonym. I've just sent in a proposal for
more dragon books. I'm collaborating on another
series with Bob Brown that hasn't sold yet. Give
me a couple of weeks and I'll probably come up
with some more projects. And don't forget Heather's
CD of the Merlin's Descendants series. If that
brings up my sales there may be two or three more