Friday, December 8, 2023

6 Books with Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith has published over fifty books, one of which was an Anne Lindbergh Honor Book; she's twice been a finalist for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and once a Nebula finalist. She teaches writing at Viable Paradise Writing Workshop on Martha's Vineyard,  and  has a Patreon, where she posts a chapter a day.

Though known primarily as a fantasy writer, Sherwood along with author Dave Trowbridge  collaborated on Exordium, a five-volume space opera, with Rachel Manija Brown on the young adult "hopeful dystopia" series called The Change, and with Andre Norton on four books listed elsewhere.

Today She tells us about her Six Books

 1. What book are you currently reading?     

The Kuiper Belt Job, by David D. Levine. Combine heists with science fiction, and you’ve got me interested. Add complex characters and a large dose of found family, and I am hooked. I’m not done yet, but so far it’s a terrific read.

2. What upcoming book are you really excited about?

What Monstrous Gods by Rosamund Hodge

 No spoilers, as this book is coming out next year. From the blurb; “Born with a miraculous gift, Lia's destiny is to kill Ruven and wake the royals. But when she succeeds, she finds her duty is not yet complete, for now she must marry into the royal family and forge a pact with a god-or die.

To make matters even worse, Ruven's spirit is haunting her.”

 Rosamund Hodge always goes for the unusual, with intense emotions and lavish visuals. This twist on “Sleeping Beauty” is very, very twisted in all the best ways.

3. Is there a book you’re currently itching to read again?

Code of Conduct, by Kristine Smith. One of my favorite narrative tropes in adventure stories is the protagonist living under an alias. Another trope I enjoy is interesting aliens, and a third is chases, and also characters you're not sure are villains or friends. This tightly written, vivid SF novel has it all.

Jani Killian is a "document examiner"--an interesting profession that seems a natural given the high tech of this future. There is quite a bit of flashback action as she tries to recover her extremely traumatic past, as she figures out why she's being hunted. Past meeting present accelerates like a runaway train, leading to a tense, gripping climax.

This is the beginning of a series that just keeps getting more interesting. I plan to reread them all when the new one comes out next year.

4. How about a book you've changed your mind about - either positively or negatively?

I’ve been reading for a long time, so it’s inevitable that there will be books with elements that were everyday back then that now make me wince. But talking about those is like shooting squid in a barrel—we all recognize a lot of them, and it feels like virtue-signaling to claim to have become Enlightened. Much tougher is to come up with books I’ve come to appreciate that I once was negative about. One of these would be Rudyard Kipling’s KIM, which I did not read until adulthood, and, yeah, I found the “Orientalism” and casual racism to be pretty cringy. But I reread it a couple of decades later, and though it is still very much a book of its time, as I read more slowly, and appreciated the long, vivid sometimes elegiac descriptions of the India Kipling had known when young, I realized that this book is his love letter to India, in spite of its Western-Imperial POV faults. And I think it can be appreciated for Kipling’s love for all the complexities of life in India at the end of the nineteenth century—they truly shine through. 

5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that

has had a lasting influence on your writing?

A negative influence was Enid Blyton. I devoured her Adventure books as a kid, reading them over and over. Blyton was an instinctive storyteller, and possibly a visual writer, as I am; she clearly didn’t see the clunky, clichĂ©-ridden prose she told her fast-moving, vivid stories in. I picked a lot of that up. When you see a movie in your head, you want to write as fast as you can to stay with the pacing of the movie. That means tossing down any words, because of course they’ll evoke the movie. News flash! They don’t, something I had to learn painfully late, and equally painfully had to begin the process of unlearning. I still am learning. I also read and loved many gracefully written books, but it took years and years to see the difference between good and mundane prose. Both evoked vivid movies for me.

6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome? 

I firmly believe the author is the last person anyone should trust about the relative awesomeness of their books—of course we believe passionately in their awesomeness or we wouldn’t write them. Nobody sets out to write a crappy book, whatever readers might feel! So I’ll confine my remarks to the next book to come out, which will happen December 12th, from the authors’ consortium Book View CafĂ©.  (Now celebrating its fifteenth year.) The book is a fantasy called Tribute, set in a world whose background draws heavily on various Asian cultures—(northern Chinese, Tang Dynasty, mostly, and Jurchen). It’s about culture clash, family, trust, friendship, and the cost of power as warp, the weft being music.

Thank you, Sherwood!

POSTED BY: Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I'm just this guy, you know? @princejvstin.