Trust and Treachery Interview:
Presenting Trust & Treachery Author Jonathan Shipley
June 18, 2012
By Day Al-Mohamed
One of the things we want to do here at Trust & Treachery is give you a chance to get to meet our authors. Over the next few weeks, you will see bios and Q&As for our amazing contributors. Although we continue to run behind in our posting schedule, today is Jonathan Shipley. Stay tuned as additional authors are added every Monday.
Editors, Trust & Treachery
Fort Worth writer Jonathan Shipley has never bought into “newer is better.” Old houses, old furniture, and old portraits are his way of life, and like many collectors, he cohabits with more antiques than strictly fit into his house. He has had fantasy, horror, and science fiction stories published in magazines and a dozen plus recent anthologies, including the last two volumes of Sword & Sorceress. However, he is actually a novel writer at heart and spends most of his writing time on a vast story arc that ranges from Nazi occultism to vampires to futuristic space opera. The Cadre of Excellenzi, of which the protagonist of “Perfect Memory” is a member, has a major presence at the space opera end of the spectrum, and various Excellenzi have appeared in other short stories. A half dozen novel manuscripts also track these preternaturally long-lived characters.
While some writers follow the “million-word rule” for mastering the craft, Shipley defines it as writing ten novels and a hundred short stories. At the moment, he’s close with nine and ninety-four. For more information on Shipley or the Excellenzi, go to Wikipedia, Facebook or www.shipleyscifi.com.
Do you have any recent events to announce (of publications or anything else exciting)?
With several other SFWA writers, I participated in an experimental Kindle anthology entitled Past Future Present 2011. The goal is to provide live links to the authors’ works and web pages for the reader to follow if they like that author’s writing. We are thinking that this approach will make it easier for readers to track down writers they want to read. Especially if you are a short story writer with stories scattered over dozens of anthologies in various formats, it’s hard to be found.
What inspired you to write this story?
This is one of four short stories I’ve sold that follow the adventures of the Imperial Excellenzi, the futuristic knights-errant who serve as diplomats, assassins, reformers, or whatever is required for the completion of a mission. “Perfect Memory” was something of a command performance. I had previously written a sequel story called “Last of the Best,” which raised questions about what had happened earlier to the protagonist Anton for him to arrive at such a grim fate. “Perfect Memory” fills in that missing segment of information. In truth, I don’t need much of an excuse to write about Anton, who supplies interesting thoughts and actions to any storyline.
What books and/or authors have most influenced you?
Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series was formative on my writing, as was Frank Herbert’s Dune, as well as a wealth of High Fantasy sources. The result has been fantasy and space opera coming together into a melded genre in much of my writing.
What are you reading now?
Nothing, I’m sorry to say. When I’m in writing mode, I can’t relax into reading mode, and I’ve been in writing mode for the better part of a year. It’s been creatively productive, but I haven’t sat back with a good book in a while.
What are your current projects?
In addition to on-going short stories, I’m trying to finish Novel Number 9, which has been stalled half-finished for years now. In fact, I stopped and wrote Novel Number 10 while still in the midst of Number 9. Sometimes an idea grabs you and you have to write it, despite all other plans.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Persistence. Those who keep writing — despite all obstacles — eventually arrive somewhere. Also all of us are in the middle of trying to figure out the pBook/ eBook transition, so on that front I would advise trying a little of everything while publishing is so fluid.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
It’s all about life, specifically your life. No matter how far-fetched or exotic, a well-crafted science fiction or fantasy story should always resonate with your own experiences.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
“Heal the wound and cure the illness, but let the dying spirit go”‘ This is from the Wizard of Earthsea trilogy by Ursula LeGuin, and sums up for me the essence of decision-making, especially regarding painful decisions.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
I seek to create a legacy that endures beyond me. This encompasses my writing, my efforts in historical preservation, and my personal interactions with younger generations. This goal is by no means complete, but there is progress in all three of those areas. Maybe this isn’t really pride of accomplishment, more an accounting of where I’m investing my energy, but it’s what comes to mind with this question.
What inspires you to write and why?
Everything inspires me to write, or at least generate scenes in my head. It’s like a non-stop movie and I write to flush out existing scenes to make room for new ones. I have so many novels pending that I could write a book a year for decades.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
In the days when I was still struggling to get something, anything, published, I had a student — an excellent student whom I enjoyed teaching — ask me in all sincerity, “Why do you keep writing stories that no one wants to read?” He didn’t have a clue what a cruel question that was. Decades later with dozens of publications, it still echoes with me.
What has been the best compliment?
Sometimes a reader of one of my novel manuscripts reports back that he stayed up until the wee hours because he “couldn’t put the book down.” I consider that to be the definitive statement that a story works.
Tell us something unusual (or fun) about you.
I have a weakness for antique chairs — and not just any antiques chairs, but really good, upscale specimens of the 18th century styles. What does this mean? That I have a house full of more chairs than I know what to do with. Does this stop me from acquiring more? Not at all.