As I have done for several years in the past, I will be running interviews with my fellow contributors to Sword & Sorceress 28.
It’s fun to do, and a good chance for the writers to talk about themselves and their work. This week’s interview is with Steve Chapman.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m an engineer by training and a publisher of technical nonfiction by profession. I live with my wife and daughter at the New Jersey shore, and when I’m not commuting in and out of Manhattan I write fiction.
Tell us about your S&S 28 story.
”The Vine Princess” is my fourth S&S story about the trouble-prone Princess Shada of St. Navarre. This time around Shada’s pursuit of a dangerous assassin leads her to inadvertently conjure a murderous doppelganger – who seems rather better at being a Princess of St. Navarre than Shada ever has been.
Can you share an excerpt from your story?
She was staring at herself.
This second Shada wore an emerald-studded dress the color of her eyes. Her hair, brushed out and radiantly blond, fell perfectly to her shoulders. A necklace of violet gemstones encircled her throat. She was beautiful.
Shada stood frozen, as if in a dream. She felt a punishing wistfulness, like she was looking at something wonderful that had been hers, but she’d long ago mislaid.
Five young soldiers, joking and laughing, vied for her double’s attention. Shada knew all of them vaguely. They seemed to be having such a good time.
And if you see yourself, run.
This doppelganger had nothing to do with deGroat. Shada had created it herself, by staying too long in the Passages. It had tried to murder her and now it had taken her place.
A mixture of fear and anger rose like bile in her throat. She was going to make this creature terribly sorry it had chosen her for its game.
Bells chimed. Four soldiers headed through the opposite door, her double following. One boy remained. She tried to remember his name. Westin Charles.
She let the others depart then slipped inside. “Westin.”
“Princess?” He blinked in the direction her double had left.
She drew him away from the door, feeling acutely aware of what a mess she looked. “How long have I been acting strangely?”
“Strangely?” His gaze took in her clothes, her hair. “What happened?”
“The girl you were flirting with tried to kill me,” Shada said. “How long have I been dressing like my sister?”
Westin stared into her eyes. It was inappropriate and unnerving but she needed an answer.
“Since the Solstice Blessing.”
The vine girl had taken over Shada’s life for a fortnight and no one had noticed.
“It’s a changeling from the Passages,” she said. “Pretending to be me.”
“Princess Shada.” Westin looked at her too intently. “Forgive me, but how am I to know that she, rather than you, is the imposter?”
Shada registered this like a punch to the throat. “She’s that convincing?”
“Ask me about things we’ve done together.”
“She knows all that. We were joking yesterday about last year’s tournaments.”
Shada felt a new sort of fear, a fist of ice at the base of her spine. The vine girl had her memories as well as her aspect?
But Westin believed her, Shada realized, and then she understood why. “You like her.” Her laugh sounded like a sob. “You never liked me. That’s the difference.”
Would you say fantasy needs to reflect real life, or offer an escape from it?
Good fantasy provides the frission of coming at the things we fear or yearn for from an oblique angle. By making metaphors literal fantasy can dig beneath the surface of real life in unexpected – and pleasurable – ways.
What are your preferred tools and environment for writing? (Typewriter, computer, pen, coffee shop, and so on.)
I do most of my writing in my home office (MacBook Pro, coffee) or in hotel bars (iPad, wine).
How many drafts of a story or novel do you typically write?
I usually do only 2-3 formal drafts, but I revise constantly as I move forward, then take a break and do ruthless draft for length and logic at the end. I try to avoid doing that final pass in hotel bars.
Have you tried any self-publishing projects yourself?
I haven’t – at the moment the time commitment required to edit/layout/marketing would eat deeply into my writing time.
If offering advice to a new writer, would you suggest they pursue traditional publication or self-publication?
I think it depends both on individual proclivities (do you enjoy self-promotion? Do you have the time?) and on whether you can find traditional markets for your work. For writers whose work doesn’t fit into traditional slots, self-publication seems like the logical move.
Thanks, Steve, for the interview.
Check out our interviews with past S&S contributors – Sword & Sorceress 22, Sword & Sorceress 23, Sword & Sorceress 24, Sword & Sorceress 25, Sword & Sorceress 26, andSword & Sorceress 27.
And the novel featuring my Sword & Sorceress character, spy and assassin Caina Amalas, is now available for free in all ebook formats: Child of the Ghosts.