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An Interview With Author Anne Bishop

"Spanning across all of Bishop’s most beloved fantasy worlds."

anne bishop the lady in glass

A magical collection of stories new and old spanning across all of Anne Bishop’s most beloved fantasy worlds.

Here, together for the first time, the shorter works of New York Times bestselling fantasy author Anne Bishop are included in one dazzling volume.

A master of bringing fantasy worlds to life, this collection showcases Bishop’s impressive range, from rarities of her earliest writing to the Realms of the Blood, from darker fairytale retellings to the Landscapes of Ephemera, and from standalone stories of space exploration and fantastical creatures to the contemporary fantasy terrain of the World of the Others.

Includes previously published and unpublished tales, as well as two brand-new stories, written especially for this collection: “Friends and Corpses,” a murder mystery in which the corpse has some decidedly unusual qualities, and “Home for the Howlidays,” a heartwarming return to the Blood Prophet Meg Corbyn and the shapeshifting Simon Wolfgard from The Others.

 

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Anne Bishop is a highly acclaimed author known for her dark fantasy novels. She is often praised for her richly detailed worlds, original and complex characters, identities, sexualities, and motivations. She is best known for the 12-book “Black Jewels” series that begins with Daughter of Blood. She has also written other famous and beloved fantasy series, such as “The Others,” “The World of the Others,” “Ephemera,” and “Tir Alainn.” 

With her newest release, The Lady in Glass and Other Stories, Bishop speaks about her extensive short story catalog, including some of her first works and two new short stories written for the release. 

I had the great fortune of interviewing Bishop about the books she has written over the years, her inspirations, and the concept of “fledgling stories.”

BT: I love that you address fledgling stories and new authors in the Early Stories section of The Lady in Glass. All authors have fledglings. In your career, did you always understand the “apples to oranges” comparison between a fledgling story and one that has been honed over the years and many drafts? Or is that something you developed an understanding of as you progressed in your career?

AB: In her book, If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland suggested that you write six stories to the best of your ability before going back to read the first one because then you’ll see how much you have learned about the craft between the first story and the sixth. (At least, that’s how I remember her advice. I read that book years ago. Ahem.) With our first stories, we’re learning to create a place and people to inhabit it, and we’re learning to tell a story from first sentence to last. We’re learning about backstory and foreshadowing. Our first efforts are usually clumsy and contain clunky settings, cardboard characters, and plots that often die somewhere in the middle because we haven’t learned how to bridge the beginning and the end—and often haven’t figured out what the characters are supposed to do in the middle of the story. It’s sometime after that first professionally (or semiprofessionally) published story that we begin to figure out that those fledgling stories were teaching us our craft, clunky sentences and all.

BT: “Scribere,” which I discovered is Latin for writing, uses both painful, “The fleshy shrouds get peeled away,” and healing symbolism, “surrender to daylight to feed the hungry, to heal myself.” Is this how you visualize the writing process? Is it both the painful and the stripping of oneself and healing and feeding the soul?

AB: That’s how I saw the writing process when I wrote the poem, and it’s still true. I write fantasy because it’s safe ground for exploring emotional truths. But exploring those truths means embracing the whole range of human emotions from the terrible to the sublime. It’s terrifying to channel emotions into characters so that they live and breathe and scream and love, especially when it’s a character that does so much harm, because then you are admitting to being capable of those feelings, even if you choose not to embrace those feelings in your real life. So at the end of that journey in a story, there can be a sense of healing, of acknowledging your own flaws and humanity—and having hope of being a better person because of it.

BT: Your short stories have a strong sense of place. How do you create worlds balanced against character arcs with a limited number of words?

AB: I belonged to a storytelling group for a while, and some advice I received early on was to visualize the setting of the story with as much detail as possible, right down to time of year, the texture of the road, and the color of paint on the house your character is passing—and whether that house is freshly painted or the paint is old and peeling. Then you select the details that are essential to the characters and story. When you do that, you’re still seeing all the other details as you write the story, and that gives the setting texture that isn’t seen on the page but is felt by the readers.

BT: You have included two stories in The Lady in Glass and Other Stories that touch on the story of Snow White but from different angles. Firstly, in The Lady in Glass, your reinterpretation of the Snow White story reverses the idea of Snow White being saved. Instead, she is an ethereal beauty stuck in stasis, and humanity is a twisted wreck that can only stare at beauty and read stories of the past. What attracted you to this idea?

AB: The idea was about making choices, of accepting the loss of one possibility in order to embrace the other. For the people in the story, the question is whether or not to open the glass coffin, but we all have moments in our lives when we have to choose or we get stuck and never move forward.

BT: The Lady in Glass has powerful world-building imagery, almost as if the setting is a character of its own. It mentions “The Great Foolishness” as the catalyst for the current state of things. Did you have a specific idea of “The Great Foolishness,” or is that left up to the reader to interpret?

AB: Catastrophic war, environmental devastation, or something else that can warp biology and environment. Take your pick.

BT: The Fairest One of All sees the story of Snow White to a logical conclusion that I appreciated. Can you expound on your interpretation of the fickleness of beauty in this story? What does the mirror symbolize, what are the half truths it speaks?

AB: I just tell the story. I don’t try to interpret them. Besides, this is a story that came out of nowhere one evening, and the mirror said all that needs to be said.

BT: Are there substantial differences in how you approach crafting a short story versus a novel? And if so, what are some of them?

AB: A short story usually has a single idea and a limited number of characters. Since I’m not known for coloring inside the lines when it comes to storytelling, I probably break those rules at least half of the time. So I start with an idea and a place and the people who live there, and I tell their story. Sometimes the story stays within the boundaries of being “short” and sometimes it doesn’t. I lean toward writing long, so short(er) stories are more like happy accidents.

BT: In an article you wrote for ATW Interview, you mentioned the best writing advice you ever got was, “Once you turn in a story, start the next one. It will distract you while you wait for the editor’s reply.” From a scheduling perspective, do you know what story you are going to start the day a draft or final is turned in? Do you have every day scheduled out during the year? Or is it what you are inspired to write that day?

AB: It depends. When you’re first starting out, you don’t have deadlines you’re already committed to keeping, so after you send out a story for consideration, if you don’t have a story waiting in the wings that excites you, you look through your story ideas folder (or notebook or whatever you use to keep all those bits and pieces that captured your attention) and see what resonates. That’s also pretty much what you do when you do have a contract and set deadlines, but the next story might have to wait until you turn in the contracted novel, which means you could be gathering thoughts and bits of information and ideas for several months before you start another story. Is every day scheduled? Every writing day is, yes—or has been for the past twenty-some years. This year I’ve slowed the pace a bit because I’m developing a new place and a new cast of characters and that requires a lot of thinking time.

BT: How do you decide which ideas are best suited for a short story format and which would work better in a longer format?

AB: I don’t choose the stories; the stories choose me. That said, some story ideas feel tight and sharp and focused on that one idea (like the story “Tunnel”). Other stories need space for the place and the people. I just start at the beginning and write until the last sentence. If I pass 40,000 words, I’m technically writing a novel. That’s pretty much when I know if it’s a short(er) story or a novel.

BT: You are a Rod Serling, Andre Norton, and Jane Austin fan. I know that both Serling and Norton have collections of short stories. Aside from those three authors, are there any short story or novella authors writing now that you enjoy reading, and why?

I love Martha Wells’s Murderbot stories. Since I read based on what the Muse wants to dip into in terms of genre and mood, I’m currently reading stories by Julie E. Czerneda, (Imaginings) and Julia Armfield (Salt Slow). Even though she isn’t writing now, Shirley Jackson’s Dark Tales is also there, as well as some of Charles de Lint’s short stories. Why do I enjoy them? They’re about people (regardless of how we define the word) and the journeys those people take.

BT: As a huge fan of The World of The Others, and someone who has read a lot of paranormal stories, I found your take on vampyres, shifters, and others refreshing and fascinating. You treated them as the otherworldy creatures that they are and not human adjacent. What was the impetus for this world?

AB: I thought it would be fun to write about shifters and vampires, but I wanted them in a world that would be recognizable as urban fantasy and yet be other. Everything clicked into place when I considered that the supernatural beings weren’t humans that had been changed but were species from a different branch of the evolutionary tree and were the world’s dominant predators. That meant humans weren’t at the top of the food chain, and that altered the rules of that world. When I included the Elementals, the ponies, and the blood prophets, and set them on a collision course with humans, I had a story that I loved writing because the Others looked at the world—and humans’ place in that world—through eyes that had never been human. And yet, we can recognize them because they feel—and so do we.

BT: Home for the Howlidays was such a sweet story without being saccarine. It was great seeing the holiday spirit in The Courtyard and how that plays out when The Others are involved. Their interpretation of Santa Claus is hilarious. What made you choose this specific scenario of saving the police officers as a holiday story?

AB: My internal shorthand for this story was “The Waltons meets the Others.” Someone was going to be at risk and might not make it home, and someone was going to go out and save them. When you’re a Wolf who can ask Winter for a favor, it’s pretty much a no-brainer who gets to do the saving. Also, I was drafting the story during a blizzard that was as savage as the one in the story, so it wasn’t hard to see how the police would be at risk.

BT: How has your life and experiences influenced your writing?

AB: As I said, I don’t choose the stories; the stories choose me. The fact that so many of those stories are dark is probably the answer to your question.

BT: You have included a story The Day Will Come that as a fellow American, and one who was old enough at the time to understand the implications of what was happening as I was college age, it made me tear up. We all dealt with 9/11 in different way, was writing The Day Will Come cathartic for you?

AB: No, it wasn’t because I wrote it a few days after 9/11 when we were all emotionally raw. But the storyteller in me recognized that holding on to the human experiences and feelings was important, and those things are held within stories. So we tell stories to remember the courage and bravery of those who went in to help—and to remember those who died.

BT: After the release of The Lady in Glass and Other Stories, what is next on the horizon?

AB: The Muse and I are currently visiting uncharted countries. In another words, a new place and a new cast of characters who intrigue me enough to spend months with them as the story and the place take shape. When that story will be ready to share is something I won’t know until I finish the first draft and send it to my editor.

Anne Bishop

Anne Bishop

Anne Bishop

Anne Bishop

Anne Bishop

Anne Bishop

Anne Bishop

Anne Bishop

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