Reality Skimming
3Jul/13Off

Dialogue with Nathalie Mallet

Dialogues: Lynda Williams and a guest author tackle the same topic from two points of view.

Topic: Write What You Love - Part 2

Nathalie MalletNathalie Mallet is a mystery, science fiction and fantasy writer. She grew up in Shippagan, New Brunswick, but now lives in Prince George, British Columbia with her husband and two Scottish terriers. She is the author of the The Prince Amir Mystery series published by Night Shade Books. The third book in the series, Death in the Traveling City, is now available. For more information, please visit Nathalie Mallet’s website: http://www.nathaliemallet.com/
Lynda Williams Lynda Williams is the author of the ten-novel Okal Rel Saga and integrity editor for additional works set in the Okal Rel Universe. Other publications include stories in Mythspring edited by Julie E. Czerneda , and The Future Fire

3) When should an author avoid writing to please herself?

Nathalie:It all depends on what the author wants. If you are writing entirely for your own pleasure then go nuts. But if your goal is to be published, then you might need to evaluate your work and maybe rein in certain aspects of it. You can’t let your passion for the subject affect your story in a negative manner. For example: I love historical details of all kinds—love them madly. But I try not to overload my stories with them, so it doesn’t turn into a lecture on life in the Middle Ages. Still, I have to be me. It’s a delicate balance, and it’s different for everyone. Bottom line, it all comes down to goals.

Lynda:Every decent writing coach will tell you to “know your audience” but personally I work best on the assumption I am writing to please readers “like me”: people I can connect with through the magic of story in the same way I make connections as a reader. I am always looking to touch a similarity of spirit, in another, that is both personal and universal. I’ve achieved this miracle, myself, in works as different as Love You Forever by Robert Munch and Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. I think that’s why I’m bothered by pigeon-holing for marketing purposes, even though I understand how important such things are to acheiving your goals.

4) When have you 'sold out' by conforming with external requirements?

Nathalie:I haven’t sold out yet. Fingers crossed. But as an agented author, I often have to revise my work to better fit the market. Sometime it’s just a question of length or tightening the plot. But other times the changes are more profound. I must admit that I’m very lucky. My agent loves what I do and likes my quirks. Her notes straighten my work without changing its nature. We’re a team, and that’s pretty awesome. But that wasn’t always the case. She’s not my first agent. I worked with others and it wasn’t always harmonious. I recall being asked to transform a fun sci-fi romp into Harlequin in space. Needless to say that didn’t happen. I have nothing against Harlequin books; lots of people love them. They are just not my cup of tea—set in space or not. Sometime the best thing an author can do is shelf a novel for a while and move on. The timing might just be off for that one. In this business timing is important and often is a key factor to success.

Lynda:I used to have too strict an interpretation of “selling out”. So maybe I have sold out now and then, by my old definitions. I’ve learned to re-consider if a scene isn’t pulling its weight or even to sacrifice a non-essential bit I like in order to placate an editor. The old writer’s maxim “kill your darlings” makes me cross because it sounds as if the mere fact a scene or character is beloved by the author is reason enough for mindless slaughter. It should be: “If necessary, kill even your darlings.” My new definition of selling out is warping the message to suit a trend. I want my readers to go away inspired by heroes, not depressed by the futility of everything. Not because they are blind to life’s cruelties but because they’ve done their best to grapple with them. And it means something. I believe art is about constructing meaning, not deconstructing everything to a scrap pile. Entropy will do that fine on its own without living things helping it.

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