Reality Skimming

Sherry Ramsey interview


After a brief stint of legal practice, Sherry turned her attention to writing. She is a member of the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia and a past Secretary-Treasurer of SF Canada, a graduate of Writer’s Digest School’s Novel Writing Workshop and a local community college Creative Writing course, and a founding member of a local writer’s group, The Story Forge. She spent several years as a copyeditor for The Internet Review of Science Fiction and is an editor for Third Person Press. Furthermore, she is an active member of several online writing groups, including the Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop in Second Life. You can find more about Sherry and her publication credits at

Interview by Christel Bodenbender

It is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), and I am impressed how many years you have been participating in the event. Tell us more about the story you are writing this year?

This year, I’m writing a sequel to my novel The Murder Prophet, titled The Chaos Assassin. These books are set on a future Earth where, thanks to spores from a shattered meteorite, the human race now has, to greater and lesser degrees, magical abilities. The main character is a private detective, so these books are a fun mashup of contemporary fantasy and mystery. Did I mention there's also a sentient goose and some sort of magical intelligence in the Internet? Like I said, fun!

For NaNoWriMo to what degree are you already laying out the story before the start of the event? If so, how closely are you staying to your outline, considering the word count you have to reach in a short time?

This is my thirteenth year of NaNoWriMo, and I think I have finally figured out my writing process (to some extent). Every year I think I'm going to work up an outline beforehand—but I'm terrible at outlines. I like to start with a general idea of the story and the central conflict and maybe some character ideas. If I’m really planning, I might scribble out a lot of disjointed ideas and notes and scene fragments. That's about it, though. Then I just start writing. By the time I get twenty-to-twenty-five thousand words in, I begin to see how things are going to fit together and how the story is going to go. A discovery writer (aka "pantser"), all the way! This is, admittedly, more problematic when writing a mystery, because when it's time to start scattering clues—you'd better have a clue! But I firmly believe that the really hard work comes later, in rewriting. First drafts, for me, are for exploration, listening for the muse, and having fun with the story.

While many authors work with sequels within the same universe, you have penned an impressive array of stories that are unrelated from one another. What is your inspiration?

I have written a couple of sequels—my novel this year, and the sequel to One's Aspect to the Sun. And I do have a series of short stories centered around the same character. But you're right, I do write more stand-alone stories than sequels or series. I’m not sure I can pinpoint any particular source of inspiration—like many writers, I think I simply have more story ideas than I could possibly write, and NaNoWriMo is a great chance to dive into one of those every year and see where it goes. The one time I didn't have an idea going into NaNoWriMo was the year I wrote The Murder Prophet. So I settled on the idea of using online generators for inspiration. That's where the title came from first—so then I needed to come up with a story to fit it. I really wanted it to be no-holds-barred, so whatever the generators suggested, I worked to fit it in. I don't think I'd like to use that technique all the time, but that year it was fun and exciting and I do love the novel that grew out of it. So I guess inspiration can be found wherever you go looking for it!

Tell us what writing means to you?

To talk about writing, I think I have to talk about reading, as well. While I do read to learn and explore, my primary reason for reading is for entertainment. What I generally want from a book is a gripping story about interesting people. It might also be funny, or suspenseful, or a puzzle to figure out, but I'm looking for an escape from the mundane world—give me something that triggers my sense of wonder. So in turn, those are the things that I want to write. Those are the kinds of ideas that crowd my brain, and the characters who come knocking, wanting me to tell their story. And once an idea really takes root, then I want to write it. I suppose writing might be, first and foremost, a way to entertain myself…or at least to explore those ideas and characters to see if they will also entertain others. Often, they turn out to have something more to say about us and the world, but I don't discover what that is until the writing is well underway.

Could you tell us about some future projects?

The sequel to One's Aspect to the Sun should be out from Tyche Books sometime in 2015, and I hope to be able to share some new novel news soon, as well. Over at Third Person Press, where I wear an editor/publisher hat, we're launching a new anthology in a couple of weeks, and we'll be accepting novel submissions for the first time in February, so I'm looking forward with interest to see what that process turns up. I hope to have the next book in the Magica Incognita series out in the spring. As a "hybrid" author, I juggle both traditionally published and self-publishing projects, and with a stack of NaNoWriMo drafts in various stages of completion, I have no shortage of things to work on!

Sherry Ramsey

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