SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?
*Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?
SGB: Thank you for having me on your blog. A lifetime ago, the first step of my writing process would have been a painstaking and meticulous outline. In the last two years the process has changed significantly. I like to experiment, challenge myself, and push my boundaries. Often I’m surprised by the results and the changes they bring about. Just like they changed my process—I have stopped outlining as thoroughly as I used to. I still do a broad outline, but now I go easy on the in-between stuff.
I don’t put on a cape or chant, although I might try those out now that I’ve heard about them. There’s one odd thing I do–I design a book cover right after I have the basic frame of a story. That gets my creative juices flowing real good. These covers often don’t make it to publication, but they serve well as part muse, part artistic anchor for the project.
SJ: Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?
* bonus question – If your muse had a physical manifestation, what would he or she look like and how would she or he act? Is it a sexy superhero version of Callisto? A sharp-tongued rogue? A reptilian alien? Do they have a catch phrase?
SGB: The muse is everything. I plan and plot, of course, but if the muse doesn’t cooperate, said plans go nowhere. The ideas stream in from everywhere, while I’m watching TV, or reading a book or simply taking a casual stroll. And yes, they even show up in dreams. A project I have just started actually crystallized around a dream I couldn’t forget. The story involves time travel and I’m super excited about it, especially since I’ve never written anything like it before.
My muse? That would be the sharp-tongued rogue. Think Han Solo.
SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?
SGB: “The Lightbound Saga,” my YA science fiction fantasy, is closest to my heart. It is a work-in-progress pentalogy, with the first two books—“Maia and the Xifarian Conspiracy” and “Maia and the Secrets of Zagran”—already published. The third book will be released in February of 2016.
“The Lightbound Saga” is my first venture as an author and every character, especially Maia, the thirteen-year-old protagonist, is very dear to me.
I try not to play favorites, although I always wish I could. That is the problem with being a career writer. If writing was just a hobby, I would indulge in one story or one character for as long as I could. But, to make writing a career, that too as an indie author, I can’t be stuck to one story for longer than is necessary. That in turn means, I can’t be partial to one story.
SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?
SGB: Hands down it’s Science Fiction. I’m a dreamer—fantastical places and weird characters always crowd my head. I need to set these ideas free on the pages of a book or they would badger me nonstop. What better genre than Science Fiction for my band of misfits?
SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?
SGB: Writing is a very lonely profession. A writer has to be alone, that’s a necessity to be able to bring their characters to life. Then again, too much time alone can exhaust and cause burnout. I have found that writer’s block sets in faster when I’m at my desk for very long stretches. Tempering my schedule with a good amount of social activities, exercise etc helps tremendously.
Cliché? None, actually. I’m very accepting as a reader. I think even the most-used clichés when used correctly in an awesome story, can do good.
SJ: If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?
SGB: “The Lightbound Saga” for sure. I would like to be a part of Team Maia, if they were recruiting. There is danger in that world, the whole star system is under threat of extinction, but still, there’s so much fun to be had. Tansi, broken as it is, it the most intriguing place in the galaxy, with the coolest powers to possess, the funnest gadgets to tinker with, and wildest adventures to have, strangest people to meet—what’s not to love?
A loved one should be sent to “The Lightbound Saga” as well. They would also do fine in “Elementals” until all hell breaks loose. As for an enemy, they have to be in my “Seeder Chapters,” where Earth is almost dead and the human population is teetering at the brink of a mass extinction event. It is a tough, tough place and I’m sure my enemy could be taught a lesson or two there.
SJ: Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer?
Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?
SGB: In my opinion, there cannot be a sure-fire recipe/formula for success in any field. Writers and a writing career is no exception. Hard work, dedication, perseverance, attention to quality and details—all of those go a long way to push one toward success though. Also, writers should be willing to take risks; be it trying out new POVs, changing up narrative styles, trying out a new genre or story structure. All those help improve a writer, her craft and her chance of standing out among the many other excellent writers out there.
Sure, why wouldn’t I want a sure-fire recipe for success? I totally would. However, I also like figuring things out for myself. In the two years since my first publication, I have learned so much and grown so much—I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything else. The journey so far has been amazing, and I think it’ll feel even more amazing once I reach my destination.
SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that.
With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?
SGB: There’s no wisdom I can give them. I can tell them how difficult a writer’s journey is, but that’s not the same as them walking in my shoes. And until they walk my walk, it is only human to think of the grass as greener on my side.
The media, which likes to make fairy tales out of the successes, often omitting the amount of time and hardship that went into making those success stories happen, shapes people’s opinions a lot. Even the outliers, who are a handful among millions of writers, have had to put in countless hours to get where they are now. The odds are immense, yet we never hear about it. So, it is only natural for people to think that anyone writing a book today will be the tomorrow’s J. K. Rowling.
SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.
SGB: Been there, heard that. I write science fiction, and I’ve been told that I should write real stories that make a statement about the human condition.
I will say this—science fiction, or any speculative fiction for that matter, isn’t—in most cases—a story about the fictional science. It’s a story about humans affected by said science. So, a good scifi story will tell plenty about the human condition, in addition to the fiction and fantasy aspect. I agree that reading science fiction for the first time can be difficult, but if people open their minds and embrace it, their imagination can take them anywhere.
SJ: What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?
SGB: I want to be thought of as an “one stop shop for all your science fiction reading needs.”
I hope, within the next two years, anyone who stops by my shop, can find a piece of science fiction they like. I’m slowly building variety in my offerings—fast-paced thrills and slow, intricate world-building, tales for young adults as well as those with mature-themes, short stories to epics and everything in between.
SJ: Please tell us about your latest/favorite work or a little bit about what you’re working on right now. It’s plug time, so go for it!
SGB: Apart from working with my editor on the third book of “The Lightbound Saga” series, I’m in the middle of two new and extremely interesting projects.
First is “The Eternity Prophecy,” a science fiction thriller with an ambiguous theocracy at its core. Never having created religion or faith in any of my stories until this one, I’m excited as well as terrified working on it. It’s shaping up well though. You can find details of the book here – http://booklaunch.io/sgbasu/eternityprophecy
The other is a fun superhero book, tentatively named “Jumpers.” It is about a group of people who get the power to travel back in time—not back into the age of dinosaurs and not even back a year, but only a day at most. They decide to use this power to save victims of recent crimes. I have wanted to write a time travel story for a very long time and I’m thoroughly enjoying writing this.
I love the insightful answers! We also have an excerpt from Elementals, so let’s check it out!
Nothing during the course of the grouchy summer day indicated that, by the time it was over, seventeen-year-old Anavyx Elon would be accused of the grisliest murder in recent Löthian history.
Dual complete moons blazed across the purple skies of Löthia that evening, and there shouldn’t have been any interruptions to Anavyx’s routine, yet there was.
She heard the faint noise of her bedroom door opening when she was halfway through her shower. Her body, warm from the water cascading down from the canopy over her head, stiffened immediately.
“Moma?” Anavyx called, voice trembling a little as her throat dried up with fear. No one replied.
It couldn’t be Moma.
Alana, her mother, was a top geneticist in the Peaks. Her evening consultation hours ended precisely at 2030 hours, not a moment before or after. There was no reason for her to leave her patients and come into the private section of the house looking for Anavyx.
Maybe it was Dadi.
Anavyx banished that idea with a shake of her head. It was impossible. Her father did not set foot in the house before midnight. Nothing except a calamity would bring him home this early. And even if he came home, he would never venture into her room. So who could it be?
There was no other noise after the door opened. That was the oddest thing—the silence. It made her insides curl up in a tight ball.
Anavyx reached for her robe and having wrapped its flowing expanse around herself, tiptoed forward to investigate. She barely took a step into her room, heart pounding uncontrollably fast and unbearably loud, when she saw him.
S.G. Basu is an aspiring potentate of a galaxy or two. She plots and plans with wondrous machines, cybernetic robots, time travelers and telekinetic adventurers, some of whom escape into the pages of her books.
Once upon a previous life on planet Earth, S.G. Basu trained to be an engineer, and her interest in science and her love of engineering shows up time and again in her books.
She shares her home with a large collection of Legos, a patient husband, and resident inspiration and entertainer, her daughter.