The themes of my stories are usually quite different, so far as I can tell, though I have to take care, as more books proliferate, that I don’t get repeating situations or characters. When I say “situation,” I mean not so much specific incidents as narrative arcs or lines. But I do try to make my stories as unalike each other as is possible.
Do you leave a finished work feeling you have grown in any way? Creatively, emotionally, whatever? What does the act of creating a book do for you?
Mostly, I don’t feel “grown” in myself. Finishing a “work,” well, short stories do give me a sense of achievement. Or even excitement, heh, at least until the first rejection arrives. But if “work/book” means “novel,” it’s very different. The first novel I ever wrote, a massive historical that never saw more than a couple of agents’ desks, involved 10-18 years gestation, a couple of years overseas travel, and enormous quantities of research. And when it finished, what I felt was a gaping sense of loss. For the characters, for the story, for the whole gynormous event.
Though nothing since has taken that sheer amount of time and travel, the sense of loss remains, because, once you finish a novel, the characters are severed. However much chagrin, exasperation or just plain fury you may have felt at their shenanigans, as yet another carefully laid chapter plan went down in ruin, while you’re writing they’re as live and unpredictable as real people. Once you’re finished, you can re-read, but it’s like watching a video of an important event in your life. Everything’s there. It’s just no longer real time. You’re not bone-deep involved. Which sensation may be why readers of well-loved books demand sequels, and even without that demand, writers may feel impelled to produce sequels, just as I did for Amberlight. Those characters were not finished with me. They wanted the rest of their lives, and like, I hope, some of the Amberlight readers, I also wanted to have what happened next.
You're involved in other projects also, right?
Indeed. I do some work at the local University, currently supervising two and a half (one almost finished) PhD students, and some academic research. In 2008 I finished a two-year project as guest editor of an academic journal special volume on Ursula K. Le Guin. It was a great project, especially editing up the papers to the best I could imagine, but even with Dave Willingham, the general editor, as mentor and support and consulting referee, it was quite a job.