The Scribbler is pleased to do a series of guest appearances in conjunction with Creative Edge Publicity.
This week you will meet Edward Willett, an award-winning author of science fiction, fantasy, YA novels and non-fiction. With over 60 title published, he has something for all ages.
He also features fantasy and sci-fi authors on his podcast – The Worldshapers.
If that doesn’t keep him busy enough, he also offers the following on his website:
Looking for an editor or mentor? I offer developmental and copyediting services as well as writing mentorships.
The Scribbler is fortunate to have Edward participate in a 4Q Interview and he is sharing an excerpt from The Moonlit World.
Edward Willett is the award-winning author of more than sixty books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for readers of all ages. His latest is The Moonlit World, Book 3 in his Worldshapers portal-fantasy series for DAW Books. He also hosts the Aurora award-winning podcast The Worldshapers, featuring conversations with science fiction and fantasy authors about their creative process, and recently Kickstarted an anthology, Shapers of Worlds, featuring authors who were guests on the podcast during the first year, many of them bestselling and award-winning. The anthology releases in ebook September 22 and in print in mid-November from Shadowpaw Press, Willett’s own publishing company. Willett began his career as a journalist, and his nonfiction includes science and history books and biographies, many of them for young readers. He lives in Regina, Saskatchewan.
4Q: From visiting your website, I notice that the Anthology – Shapers of Worlds – is your newest release. What can you tell us about this collection?
EW: Shapers of Worlds grew out of my podcast, The Worldshapers, where I interview other science fiction and fantasy authors—many of them international bestsellers and major award-winners—about their creative process. A couple of years ago I started my own publishing company, Shadowpaw Press, and as a result, became a member of SaskBooks, the professional association of Saskatchewan publishers. At our annual meeting last year, someone from Winnipeg gave a presentation on her successful Kickstarting of an anthology, and I thought, “Hey, I know some authors.” I reached out to (to limit the numbers) my first-year guests to see who would be interested in either writing an original story or providing a reprint, if the project funded. I had a wonderfully positive response—even those who couldn’t commit were very positive about the concept—so I went ahead. The Kickstarter ran in March—just as the pandemic was taking hold! —and funded to the tune of $15,700 CDN from 366 backers. The final book, which features original stories from Tanya Huff, Seanan McGuire, David Weber, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., John C. Wright, D.J. Butler, Christopher Ruocchio, Shelley Adina, and Edward Willett, plus fiction by John Scalzi, David Brin, Julie Czerneda, Joe Haldeman, Gareth L. Powell, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Fonda Lee, Derek Künsken, and Thoraiya Dyer, is now out in ebook, with a commercial print release coming in mid-November.
I’ve already reached out to my second-year podcast guests for a Shapers of Worlds Volume II, and am getting great response again, so look for another Kickstarter campaign around about February!
4Q: Please tell us about your podcast – The Worldshapers.
EW: I’ve thought for years about starting a podcast, because I’ve hosted my own local radio and TV programs and, as a journalist, have conducted a lot of interviews during my career. When my book series, Worldshapers, began, I decided it was the perfect time to finally try my hand at podcasting, and put my interview skills—and the connections I now have in the field of science fiction and fantasy—to work. So, in August 2018 I launched with interviews with Robert J. Sawyer, John Scalzi, Tanya Huff, and Julie Czerneda, and the podcast has been going ever since.
Each episode is roughly an hour long (some have gone longer—Orson Scott Card’s ended up being a two-parter!), and follows the same general format: I ask how the author became interested in science fiction and fantasy as both a reader and a writer, how they got started writing, and how they broke in to professional writing, and then, focusing on a particular title of their choice, discuss their creative process, from idea generation through planning and outlining through writing the first draft, revision, and editing. At the end, I ask the “big philosophical questions”: “Why do you write? Why do you think any of us write? And why write science fiction and fantasy in particular?”
It’s been great fun and I’ve been gratified by the willingness of so many amazing authors to chat with me. I was honored to receive the 2019 Aurora Award—Canada’s fan-nominated-and-voted-on science fiction and fantasy award, the Canadian version of the Hugo Award—for Best Fan Related Work for the podcast, and honored that it was shortlisted for the same award again this year.
4Q: Can you share a childhood memory and/or anecdote?
EW: I have a clear memory, at the age of about five, while we were living in a little house on the corner of a farm outside of Lubbock, Texas, of learning what a “light year” was—that it was a measure of distance, not time, and an immense distance, at that—and being excited to tell my mother what I’d learned. Clearly, my future interest in science fiction was being foreshadowed.
I’m most intrigued by your World Shapers series. Your website states: From an Aurora Award-winning author comes a new portal fantasy series in which one woman’s powers open the way to a labyrinth of new dimensions. What can you tell us about it?
EW: The Worldshapers series is set in an interdimensional Labyrinth of Shaped worlds: worlds that exist only because a Shaper, trained in our world by the mysterious Ygrair (who has her own Shaped world at the center of the Labyrinth) has entered the Labyrinth and created the world from the raw material available there. In other words, it’s a bit like authors getting to live inside their books!
In the first book, Worldshaper, my main character, Shawna Keys, is living a nice, ordinary life in a small Montana city. She’s just opened her new pottery studio. She has a good friend, Aesha. As far as she knows, her world is the only world there is. But then, there’s what seems to be a terrorist attack. Aesha is killed. The leader of the “terrorists” touches Shawna’s forehead, and then is about to kill her. But she rejects that this can be happening—and just like that, it isn’t. It hasn’t. Time slipped back three hours. But Aesha is still gone—worse than dead, because no one else even remembers she existed!
Enter Karl Yatsar, who tells Shawna she’s the Shaper of that world, even though she doesn’t remember being a Shaper—a thing he’s never encountered before and can’t explain. He tells her her world is lost, that the Adversary—the leader of the “terrorist” group—has stolen her knowledge of the Shaping of her world and will now begin to turn it against her. Her only hope is to escape her world into the next world in the Labyrinth. As well, he thinks, from the power she showed in setting time back three hours, that she has the power to do what he has been sent into the Labyrinth to accomplish: gather the knowledge of the Shaping of as many worlds in the Labyrinth as possible and convey that knowledge to Ygrair, before the Adversary can make his way to Ygrair and kill her, destroying the Labyrinth utterly in the process.
The first book is basically a chase across Shawna’s world as she flees the Adversary and she and Karl try to get to where he can open a Portal into the next world. Her world is a lot like ours, with a few differences (which I had fun with—in her world, for example, The Da Vinci Code was made into a not-very-successful Broadway musical starring Hugh Jackman.) She escapes into the next world, where Book 2, Master of the World, is set. For much of the book she’s on her own, having left Karl behind, and has to navigate a world inspired by the works of Jules Verne—so, it’s full of submarines and strange airships and weapons and mysterious islands.
The Moonlit World, Book 3, takes Shawna and Karl into a world Shaped by someone who really likes vampires and werewolves, so the title in my head for it for a long time was actually, “Werewolves and vampires and peasants, oh my!” I had a lot of fun playing with (and subverting) some of the vampire/werewolf tropes, and (as I do in all three books) indulging my penchant for making geek-culture jokes.
4Q: Favorite authors? Novels?
J.R.R. Tolkien, of course. I’m a fan of Harry Potter, too. Robert A. Heinlein was a huge influence on me, growing up, as was Andre Norton. C.S. Lewis. Isaac Asimov.
Non-genre, and maybe overall, my favorite author as a kid was Arthur Ransome, who wrote a series of sailing-focused books for children called Swallows and Amazons. In Worldshaper, there’s a yacht named Amazon for that very reason!
Modern authors: I never miss a David Weber book (and he’s been on the show!) or one of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files adventures. V.E. Schwab (also a guest) is someone I enjoy a lot, and I devoured Peter V. Brett and Kevin Hearne’s series (and they’ve both been on the show, too—this is why I love doing the podcast!). After that, there are all kinds of authors whose work I appreciate. Most of my reading currently is me delving into the books by the authors who are going to be guests on The Worldshapers!
4Q: What attracts you to sci-fi and fantasy writing?
EW: It’s the ultimate playground of the imagination. There is no idea you can come up with that you can’t find a way to tell in science fiction and fantasy. In science fiction, all of time and space is your mental playground. In fantasy, you’re not even limited by our reality. I can’t imagine limiting myself by not writing science fiction and fantasy.
4Q: You are the recipient of many awards for your writing. Which one(s) thrills you the most?
EW: The Aurora Award I won for Marseguro, my second book for DAW Books, was a huge thrill. My publishers, Betsy Wollheim and Sheila Gilbert, were both at the awards dinner (held in conjunction with the World Science Fiction convention in Montreal in 2009). And I got kissed on the cheek by Robert J. Sawyer. How many authors can say that?
4Q: Please share a bit about your editing and mentor services.
EW: I’ve worked as a writer-in-residence for both the Regina and Saskatoon Public Libraries, taught off-campus university writing classes, run many workshops, taught teen writers, edited books and literary magazine...in other words, I’ve spent a long time trying to help other writers. I’m happy to help authors with book editing at all levels, and as a mentor, to work with authors on a longer work they might be working through, offering my suggestions regarding story, characterization, and, of course, language. I had very little access to any kind of mentoring or editing services when I started writing, and I’m thrilled to be able to help other writers now.
4Q: What’s next for Edward Willett, the author?
EW: My next big project is a sprawling space-opera book called The Tangled Stars, which DAW will publish in 2022. I’ve also got a young-adult novel called Star Song coming out soon from my own Shadowpaw Press. This is a book that almost sold in the early 1990s to a major publisher, but the fellow who ran the company died, his son took over, and the son promptly decreed, just as the editor (as she later told me) was about to make on offer on my book, that the company would no longer publish science fiction. It never found a home. I’ve rewritten it completely, start to finish, and look forward to finally bringing it out.
Shadowpaw Press will be bringing out other of my backlist and never-before-published titles as well. It’s also possible, if Worldshapers Book 4 isn’t picked up by DAW, that I’ll continue the series under my own imprint. Book 4 is planned: it’s set in a film noir world.
4Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
EW: I’d really encourage everyone to check out The Worldshapers podcast. If you love science fiction and fantasy, and you’re interested in writing, you’ll find an amazing wealth of information there about how the books that have enthralled you come into existence.
An Excerpt from The Moonlit World
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)
Snarls and howls and bloodcurdling shrieks pursued us up the steep, rock-strewn slope, which I guess was better than being pursued by the things making the snarls and howls and bloodcurdling shrieks...although I was pretty sure they would be pursuing in short order.
My breath came in short gasps as I struggled uphill in Karl’s wake. The trees were sparse and the flat black rocks—shale, I guess—shifted beneath us, sliding downhill with an almighty racket that ensured the creatures below knew we were above them.
The sounds of battle dwindled to nothing. Silence reigned behind us. It wasn’t as comforting as you might think.
At least there’s moonlight, I thought, glancing up. Here, there’s always moonlight. The stars around the moon looked normal, the constellations the ones I knew from my world, presumably the same as those in the First World...though from what Karl had said, these stars weren’t really stars at all, just a very-large-scale stage backdrop to give this pocket universe, this cosmological cul-de-sac, the illusion of infinity.
My thoughts returned abruptly to Earth…this version of it, anyway…as a rather large boulder dislodged by Karl came bounding toward me. “My apologies,” he said over his shoulder.
“No worries,” I said, with a soupçon…perhaps even a dash…of sarcasm. The rock leaped and crashed down the slope behind us for a good fifteen seconds.
And then, suddenly, the slope eased. Ahead of me, Karl straightened, walked a few paces, and stopped. I scrambled up onto the level ground where he stood. Together, we looked at what lay beyond the ridge.
“Wow,” I said at last.
We stood just a few feet from a sharp drop-off. Spread out before us was more of the valley—a lot more of the valley. It stretched as far as I could see, which was pretty far in the omnipresent moonlight. Fields, forest, rivers, ponds, and hills tumbled away into the indistinct distance.
Directly below us lay a lake, smooth as glass, reflecting the brightest stars and the moon back at us as though it were a mirror. Fields surrounded it and, unlike most of those we’d passed through, appeared cultivated. We could only see half of the lake from our vantage point—we’d have to get closer to the edge to see the rest.
Karl reached for my hand, which surprised me; and I took it, which surprised me even more. “For safety,” he said.
“I’m all for safety.”
Together, we edged forward until we stood at the lip of a cliff that might not have been perfectly sheer but was within spitting distance of it: said spit would fall a long, gut-clenching distance before it hit anything. Directly below us, on the near shore of the lake, stood a village, a cluster of buildings surrounded by a wall of pale stone that shone in the moonlight. A few yellow lights burned here and there.
Other than the castle, it was the first inhabited place we’d seen since entering this world, and considering what had come out of the castle, I thought it reasonable to worry about what might live in the village.
But a howl sounded behind us, and was answered by one of those weird, blood-chilling screams. The werewolves and maybe-vampires were still abroad, and they had to know we’d climbed the ridge. The village had a wall around it. Behind a wall sounded exactly like where I wanted to be. So...
“There is a path,” Karl said. I glanced at him. He wasn’t looking at the village, and following his gaze, I saw what he had seen: two wooden posts, with a gap between them and, sure enough, what looked like the beginning of a trail.
He released my hand and walked carefully over to the posts. I followed. He held on to one post, and I held on to the other, and together, we peered over the edge.
The path descended a couple of hundred feet, switched back, descended another hundred or so, and continued in that fashion on down the rock face. Trees rose between the switchbacks. It looked steep, but not too terrifying...
At least, no more terrifying than whatever was coming up the slope behind us.
“I think we should take our chances with the village below,” Karl said. “Do you agree?”
We started down.
You might think, if you have never been pursued through the mountains by monsters, that going down a hill is easier than going up one. You would be almost right. It’s less wear and tear on the heart and lungs and more wear and tear on the legs, which start to ache in short order, and keep on aching. It turns out holding your body back to keep from tumbling headlong is hard work. But that’s what we had to do, because the slope of the path we followed definitely did not adhere to building-code requirements for a wheelchair ramp.
After ten minutes, I would have welcomed a mountainside to climb. After fifteen, I would have welcomed a sharp blow to the head to put me out of my misery. But the path went on and on...and on. Every once in a while a howl or a shriek rent the air, but far enough in the distance they were only mildly alarming, as opposed to breathtakingly terrifying.
Not long after we began the descent, I realized it wasn’t as dark as it had been, that the sky had begun to lighten and the stars to dim. On the one hand, that was a relief, because as day began, based on the previous night’s experience, the maybe-vampires would disappear. If the howling things were werewolves, presumably they’d run off as well.
Of course, if they weren’t werewolves, but just regular (if somewhat oversized and glowing-eyed) wolves, they might actually prefer the light, in which case, we were about to be exposed to everyone...or everything...in the valley.
Including whomever was in the walled village. Smoke now rose from buildings inside the walls, one of which had the unmistakable cruciform shape...not to mention tall bell-tower...of a church. Which was interesting. Did this world have Christian churches?
I hope so, I thought. In the last world, Robur, the Shaper, had set up a religion that worshiped the Shaper...which was all kinds of ick, for my taste.
However, Robur as not only merely dead but really most sincerely dead, so it wasn’t like pretending to be a god had translated into actual godhood. In my world, I’d copied over all the religions of the First World. I myself had grown up going to Sunday School. If this world had some version of Christianity, I’d feel right at home.
Also, a village with a church seemed unlikely to be friendly to either undead bloodsuckers or flesh-eating lycanthropes, so there was that.
We paused to rest our aching...or at least, my aching...legs. I looked back the way I’d come. Nothing. I looked down at the village. “They’re stirring down there,” I said. Traditionally, people seen from a height are said to look like ants, but we weren’t quite that high, so I thought they looked more like cockroaches as they moved the streets and the village square. There was no sign they had seen us.
Karl looked up at the brightening sky. “Between the devil and the deep blue sea,” he said, almost to himself.
“Rock and a hard place,” I put in. “Out of the frying pan, into the fire. Torn between two lovers...”
Karl gave me a look I was becoming accustomed to, equal parts annoyance and...well, annoyance. A touch of amusement would have been a nice change, but I suppose the last of my examples, though it pre-dated my birth, had post-dated him by decades. “Since we’re pretty sure the things chasing us are on the side of the devil,” I hurried on, “I suggest we opt for the deep blue sea. Or at least the smooth black lake.” I pointed down.
A bloodcurdling shriek came from behind us...and above us. I twisted my head around.
Two of the winged things burst into sight, black cutouts of giant bats against the pale sky. “Run!” Karl shouted, leaping to his feet.
Below us, I heard faint shouts: the cockroaches...villagers...had obviously spotted the vampires, too, if that’s what they were. Karl and I charged down the trail, or charged as fast as we could without tumbling head over heels and either breaking our necks or plunging to our deaths...which, unfortunately, wasn’t very fast at all. Certainly not fast enough.
Another shriek, almost on top of us. Karl glanced up. His eyes widened. Then he twisted, grabbed me...and pushed me off the ledge.
Thank you, Edward, for being our guest this week. Wishing you continued success with your stories.
For all you wonderful readers that want to know more about Edward and his writing, please follow these links: