“Writing a novel is like having a baby,” writes National Book Award finalist Kim Addonizio in Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life. I have never personally given birth, but I am a father of two. With both pregnancies my wife and I refrained for some time before sharing the news with others. There’s that natural caution. What if something happens? What if I announce to the world a child is on the way, and then the child doesn’t arrive and I have to keep being reminded of it through those who had been in the know?
I’m well into the process of writing my science fiction novel (working title: The Unmoving Stars), so I’m now comfortable mentioning it here. But shortly after the still unborn novel’s moment of conception, when I was just beginning to outline it and put down notes, I was brave enough to loop in three fellow writers I respect and admire. All three expressed enthusiasm and encouragement. As thanks, I’d like to profile them below. Meet Jessica McCann, Annie Neugebauer, and Shari Lopatin:
I love history and I love fiction, so what’s not to like about historical fiction author Jessica McCann? She’s written two novels that are absolutely lovely, heart-wrenching and inspiring, Freedom in Fiction Prize Winner All Different Kinds of Free and her latest, Peculiar Savage Beauty. The artistry of her titles gives a hint of her talent, but what is most riveting about her fiction is the remarkably true-to-life characters she introduces us to from unfamiliar eras (the Antebellum South and the Dust Bowl, respectively).
I was fortunate enough to meet Jessica and her family in person a few years ago after a book-signing I had in Phoenix for my travel memoir. We were fans of each other’s writing prior to that, but since that day I’ve considered Jessica a true friend. As it happens, it was while reading Peculiar Savage Beauty that I found myself thinking about how much I enjoy fiction, and how much I miss writing it. I had been on a nonfiction reading tear, and I had only picked up a novel because Jessica was the author. So after my wife, Jessica was the first person I told I was returning to writing. I was encouraged by the enthusiasm and support she offered.
I admire Annie Neugebauer on so many levels, not the least of which is that for years now she has continued to produce quality short stories and poetry while simultaneously maintaining a substance-rich blog. I’ve got a bit of experience attempting that, and it’s not easy. It’s like running a series of sprints over the length of a marathon; by that analogy, Annie runs ultramarathons.
When I realized the novel that was shoving its way out of my subconscious was in the science fiction/fantasy category, I became curious to better identify exactly where the novel fit in that broad sweep of fiction. A Google search quickly led me to a stellar 2014 blog post by Annie titled “What is Speculative Fiction?” I read it all the way through, as it was extremely helpful. Then, to my surprise, I saw I had been the first commenter on the post back when Annie first published it! How fun it is to time travel to one’s forgotten past! The new comment I posted that day was my first “public” acknowledgement that I was returning to creative writing, and in particular fiction. Once again, Annie could not have been more supportive.
Shari, like Jessica, is an Arizonan (the state I grew up in), and also a great fiction writer. Like me, Shari comes to creative writing with a journalism background (it’s a great way to learn to tell stories). She’s now an author of her first published novel, The Apollo Illusion, a dystopian science-fiction novel that’s a real page turner. The world she’s created builds on a lot of interesting questions about today’s increasingly digital society while leaving the reader with even more questions about our possible futures. I’m currently devouring science fiction and fantasy novels as inspiration for my writing, so Shari’s novel was a perfect addition to that reading list, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I let Shari know via social media that I was returning to writing and attempting to swim in her genre pool, she could not have been more welcoming.
There are so many amazing creatives–writers and others–who have inspired me over the years, and continue to do so. I single out Jessica, Annie and Shari because they happened to be three with whom I found myself having the opportunity to bring into my confidence. There’s still a lot of gestation ahead for The Unmoving Stars, but I’ll always remember who cheered me on at the earliest embryonic stages.