Steampunk Issue #4: How Ann and I Work Together

I was in a hurry, so I kinda mentioned Steampunk Magazine 4 was out, but didn’t go into further detail. I’ve now taken a closer look, and it’s pretty darn interesting. Definitely unique. You should buy it!

As for the interview with me and Ann, the interviewer asked a question we hadn’t ever been asked before, and I’m reproducing it here because of that fact.

Jeff

SPM: On a personal level, I’m curious about the working relationship and marriage between two people involved in the fiction world. The theme of this issue is “our lives as fantastic as any fiction”, about how we can learn to create our lives to be what we want them to be. And I thought that the two of you might have some insight into that?

Ann: Let me just say that I love my life. Every single day, new stuff comes up. I’m never bored, and I’m often surprised with things that happen. I’ve had the opportunity, from being married to Jeff, to travel all over the world, to meet all kinds of different people, to make friends everywhere, and to try different things. Yeah, it’s a lot of work, some of the projects we work on, sometimes we scream and yell at each other and all of that, but overall I feel truly blessed by the life that I have, and the things that we’re able to do.

Jeff: I think that first of all we complement each other very well. It was different when we had two separate publishing companies; we had all these separate projects, because we wanted to keep a wall there. We didn’t really combine our talents in the way that we are now, so it’s been kind of revelatory over the past couple of years.

We complement each other editorially because Ann is a great general editor; she’ll read a story and say “this is what doesn’t work here, here, and here,” and I can do a good job using specific comments to give a general idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are as a writer. That line is kind of blurred now, because we’ve been working more closely together. For example, when we taught at [fiction workshop] Clarion, the past summer, we found out very interesting things about ourselves. Ann was offering these very specific, very incisive comments about the manuscript, and I was offering more general comments. We were able to mix and match our talents. But I think that one thing that holds true is that Ann is always a very clear and grounded person, and that helps me a lot… I get very passionate about things in a way that can be good but can also get me off track in directions that aren’t productive, and Ann helps keep me grounded. We both push each other to do the best possible job we can on the project.

It’s been good to work more closely together because it means we can get more done. I remember when I was doing the fake disease guide; Ann was helping with that but she had her own editorial projects. It was a great project, but I can remember working 16-hour days for 6 months to get that thing done. Now, even though we have more projects, we’re working on everything pretty much equally, so there’s more of an ability to not only do more but to keep the level of quality at the same high place that we want it to be.

I think that it’s interesting that your issue is devoted to imagining your own lives, getting to that place to where you can have the realization of what you want to do or be. That’s something that we’ve kind of been moving towards in the last few years. In February I went fulltime doing the writing and editing, and that was kind of the culmination of what you’re talking about, having the belief, I don’t know, not really the courage, but to throw yourself off a cliff and see what happens. Because for years I’d always been under the impression that with my personality type I needed to have a day job as an anchor and that I needed to be around people in the workplace. But what I found is that I could have done this much earlier and I would have been a much happier person.

I do have to say this though: I think that it’s really good that I’m not married to another writer. One area in which I’m very competitive is that aspect, and I think that if I was doing poorly and my wife was doing very well it would be very difficult for me, and vice versa. It strikes me that people who are married and they are both writers have to be extraordinary people. While I try to do very well with the writing, I know my limitations when it comes to personal things like that. I think that is part of the equation of a successful partnership like this. Even if you don’t always get it right, at least knowing what your limitations are, knowing what the things are that you do that aren’t productive, helps you keep that under control. Like she said, we do argue from time to time, but most of the time we don’t. If you think about it, being under the pressure cooker of all these deadlines all the time, it’s kind of amazing that we don’t yell at each other more often. By accident of timing we have 8 anthologies coming out next [this!] year, which is absolutely ridiculous, but somehow we’ve survived so far.

Ann: I think that the bottom line is that we really respect each other, and we respect each other’s talents and skills. Regardless of the love and the friendship, we have that respect as well, which carries us through anything, I think. As long as we’ve been together–Jeff and I have been together for almost 20 years–, every morning I wake up and he does something new that surprises me. It’s wonderful, because it’s always new and fresh to me. I love being around his playfulness, his creativity. And I’m sure he loves my computer skills, because if something goes wrong, “Ann, come here…”–because that’s my day job. And I think what Jeff said about me not being a writer is very true, I think we complement each other because our skills are very different.

Jeff: We also have basically the same sense of humor, which is very useful. We both have kind of an absurdist point of view. As a reader on the outside, reading the anthologies, you don’t see the scar tissue that builds up. Because although there are great people in genre–there are great people everywhere–there are also all these roadblocks and obstacles and gatekeepers and people that you have to deal with who aren’t so great. So each book has all of this scar tissue behind it, of frustrations and irritations and things that didn’t go right or could have gone better…

Ann: But we do it so well that you never see that…

Jeff: And we have that shared history of that, of all of those battles over the years. And they really are battles; sometimes it’s a real battle to get a book out, and not just get a book out, but to get it out the way that you want it to be. And it’s good to have a partner in that.

Ann: The two of us are in the same foxhole.

Comments

  1. James says

    Good interview, especially the part you excerpted. Kind of inspirational, actually. More importantly, the woman to whom I am married in the eyes of all but the state liked it, too. I imagine reading it has saved us thousands in couple’s therapy fees.

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