From an Aurora Award-winning author comes the first book in a new portal fantasy series in which one woman’s powers open the way to a labyrinth of new dimensions.
For Shawna Keys, the world is almost perfect. She’s just opened a pottery studio in a beautiful city. She’s in love with a wonderful man. She has good friends.
But one shattering moment of violence changes everything. Mysterious attackers kill her best friend. They’re about to kill Shawna. She can’t believe it’s happening–and just like that, it isn’t. It hasn’t. No one else remembers the attack, or her friend. To everyone else, Shawna’s friend never existed…
Everyone, that is, except the mysterious stranger who shows up in Shawna’s shop. He claims her world has been perfect because she Shaped it to be perfect; that it is only one of uncounted Shaped worlds in a great Labyrinth; and that all those worlds are under threat from the Adversary who has now invaded hers. She cannot save her world, he says, but she might be able to save others–if she will follow him from world to world, learning their secrets and carrying them to Ygrair, the mysterious Lady at the Labyrinth’s heart.
Frightened and hounded, Shawna sets off on a desperate journey, uncertain whom she can trust, how to use her newfound power, and what awaits her in the myriad worlds beyond her own.
Worldshaper is available to purchase in paperback and MP3 CD formats.
Thank you for returning to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise Worldshaper in 20 words or less.
A woman, shocked to learn she Shaped her world, must flee to others to save them from a terrible Adversary.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
What would it be like, I wondered, if authors could live inside the worlds they create? How would they shape them? How would they be shaped by them?
In Worldshaper, those with the power to Shape worlds are given that opportunity: they get to live inside the worlds they create, and those worlds can be, literally, anything: a world like ours, a fantasy realm, a Gothic labyrinth, a film noir world, Oz.
With that central idea in place, I just needed to find an excuse for my heroine to travel from world to world, exploring them and experiencing them alongside readers. The premise that lets me do that: the extradimensional realm of the Labyrinth in which the Shaped Worlds exist is under threat. An enemy, the Adversary, has found his way in, and is traveling from world to world, taking them over, killing the Shapers, and moulding the worlds to his uniform, authoritarian ideal. The heroine, Shawna Keys, even though she (for some reason) didn’t realize she was living inside a world she’d Shaped until the very day it was stolen from her, must travel from world to world, gathering the knowledge of each and transporting it to Ygrair, the mysterious woman at the Labyrinth’s heart, to protect them from the Adversary.
Did you do any research for your book Edward? What resources did you use?
The world of the first book is a slightly altered version of the “First Reality,” a.k.a. our own. (For example, lacrosse is the big professional sport, kite-fighting is big on college campuses, there are colonies on the moon, and people have HiPhones instead of iPhones.) You’d think setting a story in a world much like our own wouldn’t require as much research, but in fact it did. I found myself looking up everything from the correct callsigns for FBI helicopters to the latest sailboat technology to what exactly a surveyor’s mark atop a mountain pass looks like.
This research was done on the fly: as my writing took me to something I needed to look up to get right, I’d suspend typing while I researched it. For this book, I was able to find everything I needed online. You can find photos of just about anything with the correct search terms (like the aforementioned surveyor’s mark).
In the past, especially for nonfiction books, I’ve drawn more on print resources. It all depends on the kind of book and where you can find the information you need.
What inspired you to write?
Reading. I learned to read in kindergarten. By elementary school, I was winning awards for reading the most books of anyone in the class. I glommed onto science fiction and fantasy pretty early, because I had two older brothers who read that kind of stuff, so those books were around the house. I remember writing bits and pieces in elementary school, but the first complete story I wrote was when I was 11 years old. Just something to do with a friend on a rainy day (no Internet or videogames back then), it was called “Kastra Glazz: Hypership Test Pilot,” because apparently one thing I’d learned from reading was that science fiction characters needed weird names.
My junior high English teacher, Tony Tunbridge, did me the courtesy of taking it seriously: he critiqued it, pointing out ways it could be better. I took that to heart, and kept writing, trying to get better. I ended up writing three novels in high school. My classmates read them and enjoyed them, which showed me I could write things people might enjoy reading. Somewhere in there I decided to be a writer, although I went into journalism in university, based on the (alas, entirely true) belief that it would be impossible to make a living at writing for years, if ever, and at least as a newspaper reporter, I’d be writing, while at the same time getting paid (bonus!). I was a reporter and then editor at the Weyburn Review newspaper, and then communications officer at the Saskatchewan Science Centre, for a total of fifteen years—then I quit to go freelance, and have now been a fulltime freelance writer for twenty-five years.
No matter what else I was writing, though, I kept writing fiction, and eventually started selling short stories and then novels…and here I am.
Panster or plotter?
I’m a mixture. I typically do an outline of, oh, maybe five or six single-spaced pages. I print it and put it in my computer bag and then hardly look at it. Occasionally this leads me into trouble (forcing me to, say, replot the whole thing to the end, or even back up a few dozen pages to get out of the dead end I’ve written myself into), but usually the mere act of creating the outline sets the general plot in my head, and I’m able to fill in the details on the fly.
The downside to this, in writing series, is that you occasionally make a choice on the spur of the moment that comes back to bite you a few books later, when you realize something you’d really, really like to do can’t be done because of your earlier decision.
If your book is part of a series, what is in the future?
The second book is in the works right now. After that, we’ll see. I’m hoping it will have a long life, because every book will allow me to explore a very different sort of world. I’d love to do some of the worlds I mentioned earlier—a Gothic world of vampires and werewolves, a film noir world of hard-bitten private detectives and mysterious femme fatales.
Maybe even Oz. Who knows?
Can you share with us what you are currently working on?
That would be Book 2 of the Worldshapers series, called Master of the World. At the end of Worldshaper (minor spoiler, but very minor, because if it hadn’t happened, the series would have ended!), Shawna Keys, my heroine, is in a new world that she knows nothing about. I’m having great fun with it: it’s a kind of steampunky world inspired by, and including some of the technology invented by, Jules Verne (from whom, of course, the very title of the novel comes). So, there’s the Albatross airship from Robur the Conqueror, submarines like Captain Nemo’s Nautilus, even the mobile island from Propeller Island, and more. It’s very different from the world Shawna Shaped for herself, and the Shaper of this world Shaped it for very different reasons—reasons Shawna finds troubling.
Readers of the first book will be interested to know that Shawna finds out a bit more about her life in the First Reality (our world), which, for mysterious reasons, she can’t remember.
Finally Edward, are there any tips you could share with new writers?
I teach writing from time to time, and the number one tip is simple: if you want to write, you have to read, and you have to read in the genre in which you want to write. The second tip is just as simple: you must write. You can’t become a professional athlete without practicing (and, yes, some built-in talent), and you can’t become a professional writer without practicing (and, yes, some built-in talent). Read, read, read. Write, write, write.
All authors are trying to solve the same problems in their stories. As you read, try to figure out how the authors you like do things like fill in background information, introduce characters (and make you care about them), describe settings, and pace action scenes.
Then, every time you write something, try to make it the best thing you’ve ever written. Along the way, look for opportunities to get feedback from readers, attend writing workshops, and all that kind of stuff, but then get back to the two most important things you can do: read books like the books you want to write…
…and then write.
Thank you for being my guest today. Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Edward Willett is the author of more than 50 books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for adults, young adults, and children. Marseguro (DAW Books) won the Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English in 2009, and the second book in The Double Helix duology, Terra Insegura, was short-listed the following year. His young adult fantasy Spirit Singer (Tyche Books) won the Regina Book Award at the 2002 Saskatchewan Book Awards, and several other of his novels have been shortlisted for Saskatchewan Book Awards.
Ed’s eighth novel for DAW, The Cityborn, came out in July, and he’s currently working on a new fantasy series for DAW, entitled Worldshapers. Other recent titles include the Masks of Aygrima trilogy for DAW (written as E.C. Blake), Flames of Nevyana, a YA fantasy from Rebelight Books, and the five-book Shards of Excalibur YA fantasy series for Coteau Books, of which Door into Faerie, the concluding volume, like the second book in the series, Twist of the Blade, has been short-listed for an Aurora Award. His non-fiction runs the gamut from science books to biographies to history: his most recent is Government House, Regina, Saskatchewan: An Illustrated History.
Born in Silver City, New Mexico, Ed moved to Saskatchewan with his parents from Texas when he was eight years old, and grew up in Weyburn, where his father taught at Western Christian College. He earned a B.A. in journalism from Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, and returned to Weyburn to being his career at the weekly Weyburn Review, first as a reporter/photographer (and columnist and cartoonist), and eventually as news editor. He moved to Regina in 1988 to become communications officer for the then-fledgling Saskatchewan Science Centre, and became a fulltime freelance writer in 1993.
For two decades Ed wrote a weekly science column that appeared in the Regina Leader Post and assorted other newspapers; an audio version also ran weekly on CBC Radio’s Afternoon Edition in Regina for 17 of those years. He hosted his own arts-oriented radio program on community radio in Regina for several years, and for ten years hosted a local weekly phone-in television show focused on computers. He has also appeared on CBC TV nationally to talk about science topics. In addition to writing, Ed is a professional actor and singer (he’s a member of Canadian Actors’ Equity), who has performed in numerous plays, musicals, and operas in Saskatchewan, as well as singing with various choirs, including the nationally auditioned Canadian Chamber Choir. He continues to live in Regina with his wife, Margaret Anne Hodges, P. Eng., a past president of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan, and their teenaged daughter, Alice.
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