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By Kseniya Shabanova for SFFWorld.com
March 5, 2004
Carol Berg is the acclaimed author of the Rai-kirah trilogy, composed of the books Transformation, Revelation, and Restoration. She also authored a stand-alone novel entitled The Song of the Beast. Her newest release, Son of Avonar, heralds the beginning of a new trilogy. Carol was kind enough to give us of her time to talk about her career, her views on writing in the fantasy genre, her works up to date, and the new series, called The Bridge of D'Arnath.
SFFWorld: Since Transformation was released in August of 2000, you have released four novels - one each year. That is quite remarkable, considering that many authors keep their fans waiting for years between releases. With Son of Avonar coming out just this February, you already have the Bridge of D'Arnath trilogy complete and waiting for the publishers to catch up. How do you manage it?
Carol Berg: First off, every author has to have a book complete a year before it comes out. That's not so unusual. What gave me a "year of grace," allowing me to get this series done, is that "Song of the Beast" was actually written the year before "Transformation". My editor bought them at the same time, but wanted the rai-kirah books published first. So once I had finished "Restoration" (fall of 2001), I could start serious work on the new series while "Restoration" and "Song of the Beast" went through their publishing cycles. Also, Seri's story had been hanging around in my head and in copious notes for a while, so I wasn't starting from complete scratch.
SFFW: Not only do you write quickly, but the level of creativity, the elegance of the prose and the intricacy of the plots have grown richer with each new book. With all other commitments required of you as a writer, such as conventions, how do you work in order to create so much and so well?
CB: I try to continually improve my writing, though I've discovered that it is almost impossible to judge that for myself. I must offer thanks to my editors, my agent, and my critique circle for continuing to challenge me to do better. I learn new things with every project.
As to how I work my schedule, I love this job. I have left my engineering day job behind. I would rather write than just about anything, so some other aspects of my life are being sorely neglected. I did travel quite a bit in 2003, and found I was not as productive as I would like. So I am cutting down on the convention travel this year, though I do love meeting readers.
SFFW: For many years, you worked as a software engineer - a field as far from writing as can be imagined. How did you get started in the writing business? Were the stories and the characters born first, or the serious intent to become a professional writer? How did you make it all happen?
CB: Truly, writing software is not so far from writing fantasy as one might think. (And not because good software is a fantasy!) In software, as in fantasy fiction, anything is possible as long as you start from a basic premise and connect the pieces with logic and language. I use my engineering skills every day.
Though I have always been an avid reader, I never considered being a writer when I was in school or for many years after. I disliked writing school papersľone of the reasons I majored in math in collegeľand math and engineering appealed to other aspects of my nature. But a friend got me hooked on writing fiction when she challenged me to write a series of email letters in character. We each chose a character and made up the story (fantasy, of course) as we went along. It was great fun. Though the writing was dreadful, the characters and story were actually pretty good. After we completed the story, I couldn't stop, and I've been writing ever since. So I suppose you could say, it was the characters and their stories that drew me in. Once I came up with the idea for a character, I couldn't wait to find out what happened to him.
I didn't seriously believe I could aspire to professional status until I wrote "Song of the Beast." I knew it was better than anything I had written before, and my writing friend agreed. Together we went to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, and learned, among other things, about editors, agents, and manuscript submission, and how challenging it is to break in. But the very next year, in 1999, I went back to Pikes Peak as the winner of their unpublished novel contest ("Song of the Beast") and I read the opening of "Transformation" for an editor from Roc. The rest, as they say, is history.
SFFW: That is indeed a great story. Is there any chance of seeing that first email creation in print? It would be fascinating to meet the characters that had started it all!
CB: You might meet some of the characters, and perhaps even a bit of the original story, but the writing (other than a phrase or two, perhaps) will never see the light of day. I hope.