Excerpts from the interview:
“I was born in Taiwan and spent most of my childhood there and in West Africa. I think that has a lot to do with why I became a genre writer. (My dad has said, 'What did we do wrong?') I went to nine schools in 12 years. It was an interesting way to grow up. One thing people who haven't traveled don't appreciate is how different other places are, right down to how the air tastes, the color of the dirt, or the shape of a street. In Ulan Bator they number the buildings in the order they're built and they divide the city into little districts, so your address might be Building 13 Microdistrict 7 -- and the streets have no names. The only way you can find anything is by having been there before -- imagine describing that kind of world in a story!
“I made a decision in December of 2000. After I went to my first Orycon I got hooked up with Wordos, the writers' group in Eugene -- which, for the record, is 100 miles away from my house. It meets weekly, and I decided (for no good reason that I can now remember) that I was going to take a story into the workshop every week. So I got on this kick of writing a story every week, and I've done that ever since. Once I started working on novels, I had to amend that and say a chapter counted, but essentially that's been my underlying discipline.
“The point wasn't to prove that I was Superman; it was to set myself an achievable goal by which I could measure myself. Not selling, not even submitting, just writing. I know so many people who start things and don't finish, my goal was to finish things. When I started doing that, my productivity obviously shot up. I got more practice writing, which meant I got better.”
“I like the fact we've grown this really interesting stew of literary adventurism inside our field. Is it science fiction? I know people who will argue passionately that it isn't. But one of the nice things about science fiction is it's got room for everything. We're the field that's everything nobody else is. There are people working in this field because there's nowhere else for them to work. We are the last refuge of the weird! And to me that's part of the beauty of this stuff.”
“I'm in marketing, and in information theory there's the concept of the 'long tail,' where you have a bunch of things that sit up front -- in music, it might be Madonna albums. Half the industry comes from the top-100-selling titles, half the rest from the next hundred titles, then way back there's 40,000 titles that together account for 3% of the money in the industry. That's what you have in publishing now.
“The long tail used to be filled by fanzines and little tiny limited-edition stuff; today it's filled by oddball websites and the small press. But because of the Internet, you can actually find that stuff. You don't have to go to the one or two conventions that particular publisher goes to, or get their little mimeographed catalog by mail. So what you have is both the ability to create the long tail and the ability to access it. That has a real flattening effect on who can get involved.”
“My struggle in the 'Where are you going from here?' question is that I enjoy short fiction a lot more than I enjoy novels. It's not like I ever plan to pay the rent off writing. I have a perfectly good day job that I like and I've got a kid to raise, house payments to make, all those kinds of things. I don't have the stomach for the roller coaster of being completely contract-freelance.
“Sneaking up on being a big writer seems to me much safer than jumping off the cliff and hoping you'll fly. I'd rather build my wings one feather at a time. Now maybe I'll get there and maybe I won't, but the problem with being a new writer and coming out big is, if you don't fly right away there aren't a lot of second chances.”