An interview from A Novel Friend

In Uncategorized on November 27, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Trish Wooldridge at the blog A NOVEL FRIEND asked to do an interview.

Check out her blog here.

Here’s the interview:

I’m happy to share this Writerly Wednesday blog with my friend, colleague, and fellow feminist & Broad, Emilie P. Bush. Emilie was a big help with a lot of the Dragon*Con programming and a lot of fun to hang out with when we got to meet in person.

Emilie is a working mom with a 2 and 4 year old. She says, “I felt like I had to write a novel or I would die a horrible death. I didn’t realize how unhappy [I was] focusing wholly on the needs of one husband and two small children until I started writing. After several months of insomnia and mad writing, I had reconnected with myself and had a darn fine book to show for it.”

Emilie’s book, Chenda and the Airship Brofman are available at Amazon.com here. You can also hear the Chenda and the Airship Brofman podcast here, and why not also make it a favorite on Facebook? Also, find out more about Emilie, her life, and her writing on her blog.

Tell us a little about Chenda and the Airship Brofman. What can readers expect from it?
Chenda and the Airship Brofman is a classic hero’s epic, except it’s a heroine’s take. I’ve called it Feminist Steampunk once or twice. In a lot of ways, Chenda and I started the book in the same place (write what you know, right?) — depressed. In her case, this 100% sheltered child who grew up in a convent, and then at the estate of the richest man in her country – Edison Frost — is suddenly widowed. Edison leaves her a bag of stones and a cryptic note telling her she needs to undertake a journey across the sea to the Tugrulian Empire, where she is to find a holy Mystic who can reveal her destiny. Chenda does the only thing she can think of – she obeys. Along her journey, she meets an old sweetheart of Edison’s and the crew of the airship Brofman. Her adventure takes her up in the air, across a desert, under the sea and into a world of gods – who all seem to have a wicked sense of humor. Chenda transforms from a shell of an orphaned girl into a powerful woman who, better than anyone else in the world, can take care of herself.

What was your favorite part in writing this story? Why?

The original opening line of the story. Sadly, I had to cut it. I learned very early on in my writing career, back when I was writing features for public radio, sometimes you have to give up the soundbite you like the best because it doesn’t fit the story. Otherwise, I would have to say the interplay between Verdu and Fenimore – the two senior officers on the Brofman. They have a phenomenon between them that – when they are together – they start to move in tandem: one breathes in as the other breathes out, they blink together, move together. The tandem varies from quirky to creepy to troublesome as the two best friends have a falling out over Chenda. I enjoyed writing these two because they were so similar and yet so different. I also have a softspot in my heart for gay literature. Fen and Verdu are straight, but some of their interplay is homage to Gay Lit. Slightly taboo. Wholly fun.

What was the hardest part to write? Why?

The hardest part of writing for me has always been answering the basic questions “Am I saying what I mean?” and “Why should the character’s care about each other?” At first, I had the problem of knowing where my characters are going. I knew, but I didn’t want to give away too much, too soon. I know my character’s hearts and heads, but am I putting enough of it down on paper to convey their motives and character to the reader? As to the second question, that’s when I really relied on Beta Readers. I would write a chapter and send it off to my friend. When she finished, I started asking questions like, “Do you buy this plot point?” or “How can I tie these characters together so they will break their various norms?” Working this way, sending a chapter at a time to my friend, turned every chapter into a cliff hanger, so there is LOTS of excitement.

What would you say was the greatest lesson you learned in writing Chenda and the Airship Brofman? About writing, yourself, creation, life?

No one can create in a vacuum. EVERY life experience can translate into a story. In this book, I write about what it was like for me to step off an airplane in West Africa, the sadness of losing someone close forever, the blood stopping fear of being attacked, the joy of finding someone who vanished years ago. It’s all in there and more, but it’s such a better tale to tell, and much easier to let it out, when it happens to Chenda. I can change it, make events happen for her, and convey the pulpy emotions the way I felt them, but with perhaps better outcomes and more style. Also, I got to write all my friends into the story. (Again, write what you know.) When I thought of my dorky friends as characters, the book just flowed. My best friend is Henrietta Hoppingood. There are bits of my husband in both the Captain and Fenimore. Ryan and Laura are real people, and the Dia Orella Temple is a real place – it just happens to be a Hindu Mandir at the end of my street.


Why did you decide to publish independently? What advice can you offer from your experiences?

Truth be told, I would have rather had an agent and a publisher and the kit and kaboodle, but after 27 query letters to agents, I started to realize, from a publishing perspective, my book was a problem: at 107,000 words, it was too long for a first novel, it was feminist Sci – Fi in this new Steampunk sub-genre, it wasn’t chick lit, and it wasn’t romance, and I wasn’t a celebrity telling all. It didn’t fit. Beyond that, I started to realize that I couldn’t get an agent unless I was published and I couldn’t get published unless I had an agent.

The last piece of the decision came at Dragon*Con. I got talking with some smaller publishers, who thought they could get my book on some – few – shelves in two years (assuming I was willing to cut 10,000 words – as one publisher told me to do – even before he read it. Said it would be cheaper for him to print. YIKES!) Just looking around the Con, it didn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that STEAM is way IN! Two years??? I’d rather strike with the iron hot, thank you very much.

I went to a talk [at Dragon*Con] about independent publishing. The panelists – successful self publishers all – had one thing in common; they new how to give their stuff away. They developed a following over several years and then were able to sell effectively both written content and logoed merchandise After hearing that most writers junk their first novel anyway (because even the ones who snag an agent have little success with Book #1), I decided to give it away. I started a blog and a website (CoalCitySteam.com will get you to both) and started to podcast the chapters. I plan on giving the whole book away a bit at a time. It’s important to ask yourself “What is success?” In my case, it’s telling my story, not selling my story. (However, that would be a nice.)

What are your next plans?

I will be going to several Sci-Fi Cons to sit on Steampunk panels and do some readings. Hopefully, I will be able to garner a few readers. Otherwise, I have a new book in the works, it’s based on a short story I wrote about a girl in New York City who cheeses off a Greek God by accident and starts to see all manner of “imaginary” and mythic creatures. I’m eager to get back to it, as I also set it aside time to focus on getting Chenda up and out the door. I hope to have the first draft of that one done by Spring. At the moment, it’s called Cryptid, and it is nothing like Chenda and the Airship Brofman. I’m not done with Chenda, however. She has a lot more to do, so look for the next installment of her story in a year or so. I’m calling it The Gospel According to Verdu.

What piece of advice do you wish you had when you started that you’d like to give people now?

The people who snark about authors who don’t have agents and publishers are, not surprisingly, agents and publishers. The old model of publishing and distributing books is not particularly efficient – for writers or publishers. It won’t work for every book. As long as you are willing to work inside the learning curve of self publishing, I would say GO FOR IT. Write what you feel. What’s that song from Seasame Street? “Don’t worry if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear… Just sing! Sing a Song!”

Write – Write your book!

What are you most thankful for now that Chenda and the Airship Brofman is available?

The help. My spelling sucks out loud, and I have two small children. I needed proof readers in the worst way and my husband to take the kids. I’m also very pleased that my dad, in his reply to my announcement that the book was on Amazon, signed his reply “Proud Father.”

That made my day. Did he buy a copy of the book? Um, no. But we eat an elephant one bite at a time, don’t we? I’m also glad to be happy. Writing makes me happy, do I don’t care if Pops every BUYS a copy.

Here is a bit of trivia for you. I named the airship Brofman after Sir Martin Brofman – who said: The words you use to describe your reality, create reality. I came up with the words to make Chenda’s world and then I put her into it. What I write is real to me– it’s a place I like to walk around in. It makes me happy. So why would I ever stop writing?

Thank you very much for the interview, Emilie!!

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  1. What a fantastic interview! I was there for the whole ride, but I loved this “outside-looking-in” discovery!

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