Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Stephanie Osborn: Hitting the Ideas (Back)

Stephanie Osborn is a regular here at the blog, particularly for the roundtables, but it's only fair to devote a little time to her all by herself.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

Which one?! I have 3 books actively being written at the moment, in 3 different series; at least 3-4 more are on the back burner!

The one I’m trying to focus on is a book for a publisher new to me. Pro Se Press contracted me to write a Victorian-period Sherlock Holmes novel – hopefully a series. The editor in chief turns out to be a fan of my Displaced Detective series, and as they were venturing into Holmesian territory, wanted to bring me aboard with it. We’re calling the series Sherlock Holmes: Gentleman Aegis. Aegis is the Greek word for “shield,” and I liked invoking a kind of dual meaning: Holmes is a gentleman, but he’s also a shield FOR gentlemen (and -women) against the forces of evil. The first book, on which I’m actively writing, is Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse. Be forewarned: it isn’t going to go in the direction you’d think!

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?  

Oh, I think in the main, the usual themes: good versus evil, the importance of communication, staying true to oneself. That sort of thing. Parallelism is another one that’s particularly big in my Displaced Detective series.

What would be your dream project?

I have a couple books that I really want to work on, but that both require a TON of research to do right, and consequently they intimidate the *bleep* outta me. One is an epic miniseries about Atlantis, and the other is the story of Jesus’ life — told from a Jewish perspective. But since I’m not Jewish, that’s not nearly as easy as it sounds. And since my intent would be to tie Atlantis in to a bunch of other ancient civilizations, some of which we’re only just getting information on, it means digging deep into all kinds of archaeological research. It’s overwhelming, and I don’t even know where to start.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

I think I’d go back and tidy up Burnout a bit more. I look at it, and I look at my more recent books, and I see how much I’ve grown as a writer, and I think how crude Burnout looks — at least to me — by comparison.

What inspires you to write?

Ideas. That’s the best answer I know to give. When the right idea hits, I can’t NOT write it. When the idea for The Case of the Displaced Detective hit, I wrote 215,000 words inside two months. THEN started on the NEXT story in the series. (Given that most novels in the SF and mystery genres run 80,000-100,000 words, my publisher made me split it into two books. So basically I wrote 3 books in as many months. I didn’t finish The Case of the Cosmological Killer at that point, due to an illness, but it was easily half done. It, too, ended up having to be split into two books.)

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Mm. I have gotten this question a few times and it’s always very difficult to answer, because SO MANY have been a major influence. And surprisingly for someone who’s known as an SF writer, many, probably most, of them were NOT SF authors.

I would name Arthur Conan Doyle right up there, as well as Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. James Joyce. Edgar Rice Burroughs — interestingly enough, NOT his SF, but his Tarzan books. Charles Dickens. Bram Stoker. H.G. Wells. Mark Twain. Jack London. More recently, Jerry Pournelle, Travis Taylor and Lois McMaster Bujold, I suppose.  I’m fairly well-read for a scientist sort, so I could go on for a long time on this. But I think those are likely my principal influences. I’m probably forgetting someone.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

About halfway in between. 50-50. Because I write hard science fiction often combined with mystery, there is a lot of research I do, as much in its own way as if I were writing a research paper. And there are specific forms and formats that must be used. It’s the WAY I put it all together than constitutes the “art” part, I think. Or at least I hope so; I try hard.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Well, let’s see. I already mentioned the new Holmes series, first book Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse. I’m also working on book 6 of the Displaced Detective series, called Fear in the French Quarter. And book 4 of the Cresperian Saga is in work with a co-author, one of my protegés, Dan Hollifield, titled Heritage. Those are all still in work, so it’ll be awhile before they show up on store shelves, but I’m working as fast as I can!