The Evolution of a Fantasist

Each week PLC will have a theme- this week’s theme is how we got to where we are now.

I have to say I feel a little self-indulgent talking about myself. But writing is personal, and I think readers of this blog ought to know just who the heck writes this stuff anyway.  So here goes.

My name is Amy McLane. Up until last year, it was Amy Beth Forbes, and that is the name I have published under. Going forward, I’ll be publishing as Amy McLane. My career has been sporadic and quiet enough that I don’t think this is going to be a big problem (I guess we’ll see, won’t we?). I write speculative fiction, namely fantasy, although I do dabble in horror and science fiction from time to time. I also love YA and plan on writing some- after I finish my current behemoth of a project, and the one waiting after that- er, YA is in the queue, anyway.

As a kid, I always loved to read. Writing came later. For a long time I thought I could never do something so audacious, so magnificent, as write a book. But as I became an adult, I realized no one was ever going to pay me to sit around and read, and so to remain in the world I loved most, that of the written word, I would have to be audacious.

When I was twenty-one, I had the extreme good fortune of getting in to Clarion. I was enthusiastic but clueless. Thankfully the instructors, as well as my peers, were just as fired up as I was about writing, and I learned things during those seminal six weeks that I have never forgotten.

Out of Clarion, I got the seriously good advice from James Patrick Kelly to shop a minimum of three stories at all times. Out of Clarion, I also got my first publication, via Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, at Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. Other publications and contest placings followed- which you can see here in my bio. I average a sale every other year- the truth of the matter is that I find short stories extremely hard to write, and I tip my hat to those who have greater skill at this than I.

Don’t get me wrong- I love short stories. But what really calls to me is the novel. Novels give me the space I need to explore, to play, to say what I really want to say, to fall in love with the voices in my head. I’ve written two terrible novels- I knew they were terrible at the time, too, but writing junk is an essential part of the learning process. Now I’m working on a not-terrible novel, The Iron Key. Which is actually two not-terrible novels. (Er, what happened with that is that my first draft was too long, yet rushed, so I chopped the MS in half. It’s gonna be four books when I am done. Pity me, for I am a fool.) Currently I’m rewriting the first chapter so as to make it irresistible. Jim suggested reconstructing what I had and making the opening scene in medias res, so I’m beating my head on that this week.

I also struggle with writer’s block. Entire years have gone by without my typing a word. I finally figured out how to fight it- by taking writing classes. I get deadlines, accountability, although I must say not all classes are created equal. I once enrolled in a class at a major university and the instructor marked me down every time something fantastic happened in one of my stories. Fantasy is my nature- you might as well ask a frog not to ribbit. The class I take now is at a local community college, so I would advise other writers not to confuse high tuition with quality. Just find an instructor that works for you, and enroll repeatedly. In my case, that instructor is the aforementioned James Sallis, who is pretty much the definition of a quality writer, and I reckon you will hear more about him later this week from my cohorts.

It’s weird, but a big part of my history as a writer is about not writing. I think writer’s block is a demon in the closet, one inscrutable to non-writers. How can you say writing is what you love and then not do it, right? Especially when for most of us, writing has to be classified as a hobby, seeing as it doesn’t pay our bills. But fishermen don’t get fishing block. Toy train enthusiasts don’t get toy train block. So I want to know, have you suffered from writer’s block? What have you done to end it? Or are you still stuck?