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  • Charlie Jane Anders on Diversity, Creating Unique Voices and Pushing to the Finish Line
This blog was featured on 02/21/2019
Charlie Jane Anders on Diversity, Creating Unique Voices and Pushing to the Finish Line
Written by
She Writes
February 2019
Written by
She Writes
February 2019

Charlie Jane Anders received critical acclaim for her novel All The Birds in the Sky, which was released in 2016. Her story about a witch and a mad scientist who became friends and found themselves on different sides of a war went on to win best novel in the 2017 Nebula Awards, the 2017 Crawford Award, the 2017 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and was a finalist for the same category in the 2017 Hugos. It also topped writer lists such as fellow author Roxanne Gay's list of best books in 2017.

This month she debuts The City In the Middle of the Night, her latest science fiction novel that takes place on another planet colonized by humans many years in the past.

“When the book is set, the human society is slowly breaking down and falling apart,” she described to The SpinOff. “One character learns a huge secret, and there are disastrous consequences and brave choices and all that good stuff. I’m excited for people to see this book.”

And people are excited to see her book too – it’s already been recognized among The Verge's Science Fiction and Fantasy Book We're Looking Forward to in 2019, Book Riot's Most Anticipated Books of 2019, Kirkus' 30 Speculative Fiction Books You Should Read in February 2019Bookbub's Best Science Fiction Books Coming Out in 2019, and YA Books Central's Buzzworty Books of 2019.

On Diversity

Diversity is a prominent theme in all of Anders’ work. Here she discusses the importance of incorporating a diverse range of characters and experiences.

I think it’s vitally important we hear from all types of voices,” she said. “Science fiction and fantasy are about imagining new worlds and inspiring people to try and build a better future. What we see in science fiction ends up being reflected in future technology. If those things are imagined with only a narrow subset of the human race in mind, it creates all sorts of problems down the road, and holds back our progress."

"It’s really hard to write the last year or two, for sure. I know many writers who are stalled because of just how unstable and scary everything has been in the world political scene. I try to keep my head down and power through, but it’s really hard. I was just glancing at my computer a second ago and I saw a news alert about a school shooting and it feels like there are upsetting headlines every minute now. It’s hard to tear yourself away from that.”

This excerpt was originally published on The SpinOff. Read the full interview here.

On Advice for Beginners

“Keep writing,” she encourages. “Write all the time. Never stop. You don’t have to write every day if that’s not your speed, but keep writing and moving forward. Try to keep interrogating the meaning of what you’re writing, and write with intentionality so you end up with something that captures what you were trying to get out of yourself. But most importantly, keep going. Don’t let anybody stop you.”

This excerpt was originally published on The SpinOff. Read the full interview here.

On Giving Characters Unique Voices

“This is something I've struggled with in my own fiction, and it's a much messier problem than you would think. Even when you feel like your tough woman space captain and your sensitive young astro-biologist are incredibly well drawn and full of character and neuroses, and nobody would ever imagine they were the same person. And then you're looking over your novel for the tenth time, and you realize that they're all sounding absolutely identical.”

As a resolution, she offers these tips:

“Listen to how people talk,” she advises. “Don't listen to how people talk on television or in the movies — go to a bar or cafe and just listen to the conversations around you, and try to hear how people are speaking.”

“Try to "hear" your characters' individual voices. If your characters are really that vivid in your head – if you really feel like they're real, breathing people that you've brought to life inside a living story – then you should be able to hear their voices.”

“Realize your characters are not talking to you, or directly to the reader. Think about what kind of reaction your characters are hoping to get when they say something. It sounds obvious, but it's often hard to remember: the response you're hoping for shapes the way you talk. And every one of these characters has a script in his/her head for how this conversation is going to go, whether it goes that way or not.”

This except was originally published on Tor.com. Read Charlie Jane Anders’ full post here.

On Finishing a Novel

The perseverance required to finish a novel can be exhausting, but the common advice among authors who have succeeded, seems to always be to keep writing, drafting, editing, and persisting.  

Anders offers a few more original strategies.  

“Write the ending first,” she offers. “This strategy has never worked for me, but it works for some people. Even just writing the final line in advance might give you a sense that you're heading in a worthwhile direction.”

“Write a terrible ending,” she says. “And no, I'm not talking about writing a "vomit draft" or accepting that your first draft of your novel is going to be bad and you'll fix it in rewrites. You've probably already taken that advice on board, and you're probably already racing to create the best bad draft you possibly can in a month. But go one step further and create a really ludicrously bad ending for your novel, either in advance or when you're reaching the end. A terrible, melodramatic ending, in which people are throwing plates and shouting "I can't believe I almost married you even though we're telepathic cousins!" This accomplishes two things: First, you've already written an ending, albeit a terrible one. Second, you may find it liberating to imagine the worst way that your book could end, and you may even get some ideas from it. Make it as bad as you can possibly imagine.

Lastly, Anders suggests writing down the whole story from your villian's point of view (or someone else who's not one of your viewpoint characters).

“Chances are, the antagonists in your book have a very different view of what's been going on than your heroes. They probably don't even think the same events are important. Things are happening that your viewpoint characters are totally unaware of, but which will nevertheless affect them – either directly or indirectly, via the actions of the people they do affect. If you're having a hard time getting to the next bit of your actual outline, try imagining what some other character thinks is going on. (This doesn't have to be the antagonist, it can be anybody.)”

This excerpt was originally published on iO9. Read Charlie Jane Anders’ full post here.

Photo Credit: Goodreads

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