Happy New Year, everyone! Today, I got the chance to interview Eleanor Konik, blogger extraordinaire.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first “real” book I ever read was Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey. A friend saw the cover on my dad’s bookshelf and suggested I might like it. Writing Pern fanfiction was some of the first writing I ever showed anyone, and the complex history and politics of Pern really impacted me. I always loved the idea that there could be an overarching menace that wasn’t another person — though of course there were often human obstacles to overcome — and it remains one of the few series about a colonization effort that doesn’t end in war or conflict with natives or invaders.
What is your favorite sequel?
I’m not sure if it’s the best sequel I’ve ever read, but The Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven is definitely my favorite, probably because of the backstory. He wasn’t planning to write it, but between the popularity of Ringworld and the MIT students confronting him at conventions about how his math was wrong, he felt compelled to go back and write a follow-up dealing with the flaws that fans had pointed out. I think it’s amazing that his fans were so passionate about his work that they actually ran the numbers, in such a large group that they disrupted events with their chanting.
The Ringworld is unstable!
What made you decide to write fantasy, as opposed to another genre?
I think fantasy is more flexible than most other genres, which is something I value. It gives me a bigger toolkit of things I can accomplish, and ways I can make the points I’m interested in making. I enjoy reading a lot of other genres, but despite my occasional forays into writing other types of speculative fiction, my heart belongs to fantasy.
Besides, fantasy readers aren’t quite as judgmental as the science-y folks.
When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
Pre-planning my characters is not one of my strengths, unfortunately. It takes a lot of words before I start to feel like I really know a character, no matter how many character sheets I put together or how much I explain my intentions. My characters grow and change as I write them, depending on the circumstances they face, and it can be tough to know how they’ll be impacted by those situations until I know all of the details of their story.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
One pretty common refrain of mine in my writing group is “if your characters are bored, so are your readers.” There’s nothing worse than reading, say, a young adult novel where the teenage protagonist is sitting in class twiddling their thumbs waiting for the action to start. If a character is yawning their way through a lecture about something “important” for the sake of worldbuilding, chances are I’m already skimming.
What do you struggle with most in your writing?
I have a hard time showing my characters’ emotional state, sometimes. I try to be a very calm, contained person — you can’t let your students know when they get to you — so a lot of the time, my emotional “tells” are subtle and that is true of my characters as well, at least on the first draft. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in having good worldbuilding that I forget to show how my characters are feeling, because it seems so obvious to me. Thankfully, I have beta readers and critique partners to keep me on the straight-and-narrow.
Some people say they hear their characters’ voices in their heads, telling them what is happening in the story. I hear my friends’ voices whispering things like “where is your tension?” and “What are the characters’ motivations?” instead.
Thank you so much, Eleanor, for the great interview.
Eleanor Konik was born and raised in a close-knit neighborhood just outside of Baltimore, where she is putting the final touches on her teaching certification. She spends her free time gardening and playing cards with coworkers. She also enjoys fishing, hiking, and visiting attractions around the city. Her blog showcases insights she’s gleaned while researching THE LAST COLLARED MAGE, a fantasy mashup of Rome’s greatest defeats.