10 Questions with Steve Savile

Interviews with Contest judges, past winners, current winners, and entrants
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Brad R. Torgersen
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10 Questions with Steve Savile

Postby Brad R. Torgersen » Wed Dec 01, 2010 2:09 pm

"Steven Savile has no life. It's official. That's probably the most important thing you can know about him. So, now we've got that out of the way, the good stuff, like what's he done, where and to whom.

Steve's a man of many hats - like many people without hair.

Hat number one, the bright colourful scotch tweed flat cap, is Steve's original fiction. Most recently he has written SILVER. His other stuff include various novels and short story collections like The Hollow Earth, Temple: Incarnations, Laughing Boy's Shadow, Houdini's Last Illusion, Angel Road, and the graphic novel Fragrance of You (with artist Robert Sammelin). Steve was a runner up in the 2000 British Fantasy Awards, a winner of a 2002 Writers of the Future Award, and was nominated for the inaugural 2006 Scribe Award for best novel adaptation for his novel Slaine: The Exile. His novel Primeval: Shadow of the Jaguar is currently nominated for the 2008 Scribe Award for Best Young Adult Novel. Fingers and toes are naturally crossed."


Brad R. Torgersen wrote:1. How much writing did you put in, either in hours spent or words accumulated, before you won Writers of the Future?

Steve Savile wrote:Oh my. That's one of those almost impossible to answer questions because I wasn't counting... but I wrote my first 'novel' in 1993... and had written 4 complete - unpublished and probably unpublishable - novels before I even submitted. I would think in terms of words I'd probably written in the region of half a million words worth of 'story' before I sat down to write Bury My Heart at the Garrick, which won WotF in 2003.

2. Do you feel like winning Writers of the Future boosted your visibility with editors elsewhere, after your story came out in the WOTF anthology?

Steve Savile wrote:Absolutely. 100% no doubt about it. It was a very strong credit when I pitched to write for Games Workshop, for instance, as it proved I could write to a professional standard. The contest has a strong reputation and being associated with it is never going to hurt an upcoming writer. People in the field know the award, know how difficult it is to win, and take you seriously as a winner.

3. Do you feel like you learned anything unique or valuable at the WOTF workshop when you went?

Steve Savile wrote:I'd say it clarified a lot of swirling thoughts that were already in my head, in terms of the craft, but in terms of the business of writing I learned so much it's hard to pick out one thing. I joke about it, but I say I went into the workshop as someone who could write, I came out of the workshop with the tools I'd need to become a professional writer. You want an example? Kevin J. Anderson's advice on productivity... worth his weight in gold.

4. What do you think is the biggest key to becoming a successful, professional writer after winning Writers of the Future?

Steve Savile wrote:Same as before it, persistence, drive, obsessive determination, wanting it. I mean really wanting it. Plenty of people in my graduating year were 'better' writers in terms of raw flair, but very few were a match for my quiet determination.

5. What do you think is hardest about transitioning from writing short work, like that which appears in WOTF, to long work, such as your novel "Silver?"

Steve Savile wrote:Well, my wotf piece was 16,997 words long, so it's not exactly succinct. I've always been drawn more naturally to a longer form. But, hardest? Maybe it's the focus on a single idea and not letting the imagination run off and start working on the next and the next idea until you've actually taken the story at hand over the finish line. Simply put, finishing what you start. I used to write 3 or 4 short stories at once, bouncing between them. If I do that on a novel it can take a week to find the voice of it again, which can be calamitous in terms of momentum.

6. What's been the biggest surprise for you, as a working novelist after your having won the Contest?

Steve Savile wrote:Not so long ago I received two letters, one from a woman whose mother had died the day after she bought my novel Shadow of the Jaguar, and she wanted to thank me for writing the book, because it was the only way she managed to get through those days between her mum's death and the funeral, and almost back-to-back with that, I got another letter from a profoundly disabled teenager who wanted to thank me for giving him an escape with Vampire Worlds and saying he had been contemplating suicide up until he found these other worlds he could lose himself in... stuff like this, the connection with real people, is profoundly humbling.

7. Do you have a "five year plan" or anything mapped out for the future?

Steve Savile wrote:I had a 21 year plan, if that counts..? It expired when I turned 40, and I managed to tick off all but perhaps 2 things... the one that stands out was 'to write my own personal Weaveworld'...Weaveworld, by Clive Barker, was what I was reading at the time, and it was one of those few books that really inspired me to want to be a writer of magical stories. I haven't written my own 'Weaveworld' yet, so I would say that's my five year plan right there, to write the book I'd like to be written on my tombstone when I go.

8. What do you think are the five biggest mistakes beginning writers make?

Steve Savile wrote:Oh gods, lack of patience - desperation to see their work out there somewhere, no matter where... lack of faith, in that they devalue their words and think exposure actually means people will read it, when really no one reads websites that offer to pay by exposure... lack of courage - they write what they think the market wants, rather than having the courage to write the stories only they could write... lack of restraint - they think it's wise to get out on the internet and waste days in work-displacement stuff like commenting on message boards, fanning flame wars, and generally not writing... and lack of focus - they don't put their backsides in the chair, they talk about being a writer, but don't put the hours in... you get better the more you write. The imagination is like a muscle, the more you exercise it the stronger it gets.

9. What five pieces of advice would you give to new entrants to the Contest, or those unable to get much more than an Honorable Mention after successive tries?

Steve Savile wrote:Find something you are passionate about and use that as the thing your story explores. Read voraciously OUTSIDE of the genre, not just inside. If you only read SF or Fantasy you're influence pool is very small. Thing about the story as a whole - beginning, middle and end, does it all gel together with a sense of inevitability, like it *had* to work out this way...? Think about the story people - you need to be writing about vibrant characters, characters with depth you care about and therefore the reader will care about, cyphers are dull, find the story your characters want to tell... and lastly... have fun with it. If you're not having fun with what you're writing, it's not going to be fun for the person reading it.

10. Do you feel like the Contest has had other benefits, beyond simply providing you with exposure and prize money?

Steve Savile wrote:The obvious one was the workshop, and the friends that came out of it, but for me, winning came at the right time. It came when I was thinking about giving up. It gave me faith that I could do this. That's priceless.

There is a decent chance you'll get to meet Steve, if you win the Contest in the not too distant future. A regular fixture in Los Angeles at workshop time, he's a terrific fellow. Please visit his blog and give a shout if you liked this interview?


Coming up: "Life Flight," in Analog magazine
Coming up: "The Chaplain's War," from Baen Books
Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell nominee.

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Re: 10 Questions with Steve Savile

Postby Patty » Wed Dec 01, 2010 3:52 pm

Thanks for this interview.

'Find something you are passionate about' in question 9, has been invaluable to me. I think you can get the craft, the storytelling skills all pat, but unless you find something that you can explore in depth in your stories, you'll risk remaining an also-ran who may never get much more than a couple of runs on the board. Stories need an extra something that makes them interesting, that makes them stand out from the slush.
This Peaceful State of War - WOTF 27 (1st place second quarter 2010)


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