Why did you write The Godling?I think a lot of the time, novels get written because there’s a story the author really wants to read but no one else has written it yet. Obviously, the story of carrying a divine child has been done once or twice. But not in a manner that really interested me. I wanted it to be mysterious and sensual and told in a textured, realistic way. The image I had was of a completely ordinary woman – not radiant, not special, not pure; just a normal human being – and she’s all alone and trying to make sense of these overwhelming things. I wanted to know what it would be like, and I wanted to know what would happen to her. But no one had written the story, so I had to write it myself.
I spent about a year-and-a-half planning the book and then about five years getting it the way I wanted. That’s a long time to spend in a world that no one else can see and with people who no one else knows. What helped a lot, though, is that I discovered very early on how the book ends. And that ending – needing to earn the beauty of that ending – there were many late nights when that kept me going.
What kind of reader would enjoy The Godling?
I see the audience as fairly broad. It’s a serious book – we’re dealing with war and religion and sensuality and violence – but it’s not a particularly difficult or demanding book. I find that readers move through it quickly. My mission from the start was, above all else, to tell a really engaging story – to make it funny and moving and exciting, all those things that make you eager to turn the page.
How did you develop your characters?
Ha, well it was an adventure. I’m a firm believer that characters shouldn’t be just toys that the writer plays with. You need to treat them as people, not as devices. John Fowles, the novelist, has a great moment when he talks about his characters deciding their fate, not him. For me, that’s the single greatest thrill of fiction writing: when your characters begin to surprise you, when they take over.
With each character of The Godling, it was different. I knew Callie from the very beginning. Her situation was the seed of the idea, and I knew very early what she was like. Having said that, though -- at one point, I threw away over a year of work because I realized I’d been getting her voice wrong. Ephraim was the second thing I knew about the story – he came to me all at once and changed very little. His final voice did take a while to emerge, though. The only character in the book that didn’t change a bit – not voice, not anything – was Caida Daar. She and I just hit it off right away. That’s about it, though. Everyone else played hard-to-get and made me chase them.
Why did you decide to publish The Godling yourself?The value proposition for traditional publishing houses has really eroded. They have an important role to play, and they serve some authors well. But I think authors are more and more going to look very seriously at independent publishing. Especially with most publishing houses doing less and less to invest in emerging authors and support them.
Think about it: I get to maintain ownership of my own copyright, I get to control the book and the promotions for it, and I get to keep a higher percentage of the proceeds from the work that I created. Not that it’s all upside. There’s a big heap of responsibility that comes with that autonomy. You have to educate yourself about a lot of things and treat it like a job. And to make it work, I think you really need to find other professionals – editors, graphic designers, and so on – who can help you prepare a high-quality product.
Fortunately for me, I found a brilliant editor, Christina Elmore, who really believed in the book and everything I wanted to do with it. And it’s really burgeoned from there. We’ve started a blog – foldedstory.com – to talk about our approach to storytelling and independent publishing. It’s been fun, and our to-do list is pretty exciting.
Are you working on any new writing at the moment?
Well, there’s the Folded Story blog of course, but I try to keep boundaries around that. What excites me the most, of course, is writing a sequel to The Godling. I spent the better part of a decade in the world of the first book, and now it’s wonderful to explore what happens next in Masalay and where these characters go. It really is a discovery process – I’m finding new characters and new angles that I never recognized before. Now it’s a matter of fitting it all together.
I’ve also written the script for a Godling graphic novel. There’s just the minor matter of finding an artist for it. If you’ve seen the Godling website or our blog, you know how interested I am in extended content – ways of expanding the world of the book. And I have new content in mind. For instance, I want to write news stories and other material that bridge the time between the first book and the second. That’s just one example.
I have a screenplay too – not The Godling, different story – that I’m excited about. I just finished and the initial reception has been very encouraging. Film writing is a great format to work in -- you get to exercise different muscles and look at storytelling from a different perspective. I’m a very visual writer anyway and dialogue-oriented, so it’s a good fit for how I think.