Today we’re talking with J.D. Moyer , author of THE SKY WOMAN. The book is about post-apocalyptic Germans and giant mutant cannibals, but, preposterously!, I didn’t ask him any questions about either. I asked about his writing process. Here we go.
What comes first when you write? What do you add later?
With The Sky Woman the world and the characters came first. In terms of world-building, I like to think in terms of plausible (or semi-plausible) scenarios — possible futures that could actually occur, depending on what choices we human beings make in the coming decades and centuries.
I don’t know where my characters come from — that’s a more intuitive process. They seem to bubble up from my subconscious, often fully formed, a combination of my own fantasies, flaws, and fears.
What was the first inkling you got of the characters in The Sky Woman?
Plots come together as I outline, and then change radically as the characters make decisions different from those I originally anticipated.
I always go with the character decisions, and adjust the plot as needed. I guess I would feel as if I was betraying them if I didn’t, and that might lead to a feeling of disconnection (or loss of immersion) which could grind everything to a halt.
In The Guardian (the sequel to The Sky Woman) the main protagonist, Tem, is ten years old. He’s loyal and brave to the point of being reckless, and made some life-endangering decisions that I didn’t anticipate in the outline.
What keeps you writing?
Habit, mostly. But that habit was hard to develop and it’s easy to fall out of. For me, the daily practice of writing takes a great deal of energy and concentration. Once I get in the zone the words flow pretty easily, and I always feel fulfilled after I put the work in.
How did you develop your writing habit?
Carving out and protecting the time, mostly. Butt in chair. I do take breaks sometimes, but I don’t let them stretch too long. If I do, it takes awhile to crank up the gears.
What do you do when you need ideas?
Walking, travelling, and reading both fiction and nonfiction. I take walks every day (we have a dog, so I have to). Walking is great for working out the kinks in whatever I’m working on that day. I don’t like travelling very much (I hate airport security), but when I do travel it usually generates an explosion of ideas. And of course I read every day. I’m a relatively slow reader but I try to read widely (fiction of every genre, nonfiction, old and new, authors from different countries and cultures, etc.).
What sort of choices do you have to make when writing? How do you make them?
I’ll usually have a rough outline so I know where I’m going, but the big choices belong to the characters. So I mostly just try to stay true to how I imagine they would think, feel, and behave.
In terms of craft, there are so many choices that I try not to think about it while I write. I can always polish the prose and fix problems while revising.
What have you learned about writing since you started doing it seriously?
That writing isn’t a solitary process. Of course part of it is, but it wasn’t until I actively started to pursue a writing community, both online and from attending conventions, that everything began to click in terms of my identity as an author.
Attending my first writing conference, which was the 2018 SFWA Nebula conference in Pittsburgh, was a big step for me. I didn’t know anybody going in, and I felt like an outsider. After a few days of putting in volunteer hours, hanging out in the SFWA lounge, and doing my best impression of an extrovert, that feeling dissipated significantly. I’ve kept up with those friendships online, and I take advantage of SFWA opportunities including volunteering and being a mentor/mentee.
What mistakes did you make when you started out?
I wish that I had committed to a daily writing practice earlier, though I may not have been emotionally ready for that until I became a father, which seemed to crank up my capacity for commitment.
Submitting my first short stories I probably submitted too widely, and before the stories were fully polished. I was too impatient to be published, but ultimately that may have slowed me down.
What kind of book would you like to see more of in stores?
More Flame Tree books! But generally a wider range of science fiction, especially sci-fi with a philosophical or sociological/anthropological perspective.
What’s your next project?
I’m currently working on a novel entitled The Savior Virus. It’s about a bioengineer who is recruited by a mysterious consortium to help design a mind-altering retrovirus.
Where can I find your stuff?
On my website. I have a list of my published fiction there, as well as links to short stories, many of which are free to read online. I also make electronic music so I have a Discography page as well.