In the Spotlight is a new feature here at Second Run Reviews. I’ve invited authors, publishers and editors to take part in interviews, guest posts, giveaways and anything else that they can dream up that is appropriate for a blog.
Today we welcome Lettie Prell to Second Run Reviews. I met Lettie last year at ICON 39 where she was a honorable guest and did a late night reading which I enjoyed listening to. Apparently she believes she has a horrible writing habit. I don’t think that’s a horrible habit at all.
In the Spotlight Lettie Prell
Welcome to Second Run Reviews, Lettie! Thank you for being In the Spotlight. I appreciate you stopping by and answering a few questions. So let’s get things started
In a tweet (140 characters or less), tell us a bit about yourself.
I have a respectable job as research director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, but I have this horrible writing habit. It’s the SF.
The Department of Corrections? That must provide some inspiration for your “horrible” writing habit.
Women who write science fiction seem to be somewhat in the minority. Who or what inspired you to write science fiction? What stereotypes do you encounter or have to overcome?
From an early age I was drawn to stories about the future, space travel, and alien cultures. Then in college, when I was majoring in public administration—a decent enough career path—I filled every elective class with writing and literature. There was even a science fiction class, which I pounced on. Later, after I’d graduated and landed a government job, I was walking in the park with a close friend and I found myself telling him I was thinking of writing science fiction. I had no idea I was going to say that; it was like another person speaking. He replied, “I think that’s a good idea.” And that was it.
I have a career in the justice system, which like hard sf is traditionally male-dominated. To me, it’s normal being around men. I’m comfortable in that crowd. I did hang out at WisCon regularly for a decade, so my budding writing skills were nourished in a feminist environment. When you say stereotype, I remember when someone at a con said I looked like a suburban housewife. It started to feel like a put-down, but she added I reminded her of Nancy Kress. So it turned out well, but just for the record—I’ve never lived in the suburbs. I like the city.
I never imagined myself as a city girl. Then I discovered bookstores and coffee. Now I can’t imagine living in the country again.
How do you balance your full time job with your life as a published author? What fascinates (or frustrates) you most about trying to maintain a balance between the two?
Hoo boy, you’re asking me this right after I’ve just finished revising my new novel, and it had to be done in 60 days. There at the end I spent my Saturdays holed up in the house in my pajamas. That was out-of-the-norm extreme. I loved that level of immersion, but I was relieved when it was over. Normally I grab shorter segments of free time on weeknights and weekends to write. But I’m looking to the future and am seriously eyeing a trajectory where I can become a full-time writer.
Congrats on finishing up your novel! I spend most of my Saturday mornings writing and coding posts. It’s become such a routine for me that I feel lost when I’m not doing it regularly.
What was the most difficult thing about getting published? What was the easiest? If you had to go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your stories or getting published that you’d change?
First, here’s the only thing that was easy for me: having the ambition. I’m talking on the order of fierce. Everything else was tremendously difficult for me. Learning how to write well was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Research and statistics are a snap compared to that. Sending my work out. Taking the rejection letters. Networking at cons. All hard at first. It gets easier, and it helps if you can be a bit philosophical or Buddhist about it. If I had to do it over again? My first con, I wouldn’t have tried to pitch my novel to an agent in the middle of a very loud Tor party. Or maybe I would, because you have to have those awkward, whacky moments that you can laugh about later.
The next time I see you, I want to hear about your first awkward pitch.
What type(s) of books to you enjoy reading most and what three books to you find yourself recommending to your fans over and over?
I enjoy reading science fiction. There are a lot of good writers out there. My current rave is Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. I regularly recommend M. John Harrison’s Light, China Miéville’s The City and The City, and Nekropolis by Maureen McHugh. To balance all the sf I’m in a book club where we actually discuss the books, and the menu is varied.
I’ve found that variety can be good and bad. But I do enjoy exploring different genres from tiem to time.
What’s your current obsession? Any secret obsessions you want to share?
I’ve been immersed in a major phase of writing about downloaded human consciousness and the singularity. But I’m starting to obsess about how to bring my knowledge of the justice system into sf.
Oo, both those topics sound intriguing. I wish all the luck with trying to tie your full-time job into your writing.
Any last thoughts or wise words you want to pass along?
Find out what you’re passionate about, deep down, and spend your life pursuing it.
Wonderful advice, Lettie. Thank you for stopping by Second Run Reviews and thank you for offering some unique giveaway items to the fans. I wish you luck as you finish up your recent finished work and in all your future endeavors. I hope you will stop by again and give us an update on your future projects.
author interview Lettie Prell