I finally got around to catching up on my Twitter feed this morning, and it served me up this fantastic interview with Ursula K. LeGuin. (Ignore the click-bait headline; the interview goes into so much more than Amazon.) LeGuin is one of my absolute idols, one of the few authors I can really identify as a direct influence on my work. When I encountered her books as a teenager, already weary of Tolkienesque fantasy, she demonstrated that so much more can be done with the genre beyond wizards and epic battles, from the way it can explore social conventions to the way it can use allegory to pinpoint things about the human condition.
She’s also an inspiration from a publishing standpoint, especially for a writer like me who doesn’t fit into boxes:
I didn’t follow the sf rules and conventions unless I felt like it; essentially I went on writing what I wanted to write, and they could call it what they liked. To publish genre fiction of course branded me as a sub-literary writer in the eyes of the literary establishment, critics, award-givers, etc., but the great potentialities of the field itself, the open-mindedness of its editors and critics, the intelligence of its readers, compensated for that.
I’ll leave the rest of the writing discussion to her. (Seriously, go read the interview.) But I’ll take this opportunity to tell my Famous Person story, and explain the image at the head of this post. (The full-size image is below.) LeGuin was once a guest of honor at the now-defunct Arizona Book Festival, which happened to be shortly after I sold my first novel. The announcement for my sale** appeared in Locus, a genre trade magazine – in a column right next to an announcement about LeGuin’s latest sale. That alone made up for every single bad review Confidence Game has ever gotten. I stood in line for autographs and presented LeGuin with the photocopy of the announcement that my agent sent me, explaining the situation with the words, “I’m sure you’ve been asked to sign a lot of weird things, and here’s one of them…” She smiled at my story and gave me this wonderful signature. Write on!
** Michelle McCliment was my name in a previous life. I’ve got funny stories about the difficulty in getting my name change updated, since the ISBN was registered in the previous name. It took until about a week before the publication date to get it corrected everywhere.