Ed here: Kristine Kathryn Rusch has distinguished herself as a writer of mysteries and science fiction and as important editor during her tenure with The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her Kris Nelscott mystery novles continue to grow in acclaim and popularity. And I almost forgot to mention that in addition to the two genres already mentioned, she's also an excellent writer of contemporary fantasy.
Tell us about your current novel?
My most recent novel is a science-fiction mystery called PALOMA. This is part of the RETRIEVAL ARTIST series, which are actually mystery novels written in a science-fiction universe. My most recent novel under my pen name Kris Nelscott is DAYS OF RAGE, and it just got listed by Kirkus as one of the ten best mysteries of 2006. I’m quite pleased by that.
What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
There are a lot of pleasures. I work for myself. I can take a day off when I want, and I can work harder than everyone else if I want. But the greatest pleasure is the stories themselves. Essentially, I get paid for making things up. What kid (or kid at heart) wouldn’t think that’s the best deal of all?
The greatest DIS-pleasure?
The industry itself. I just read an interview with romantic suspense writer Anne Stuart, and she mentioned that what causes a writer to burn out isn’t writing a lot, it’s the business. The business can be crazy-making. You can’t get wrapped up in it. When I started, I thought this was a sensible business, and I reacted to it the way an employee would. Now that I’ve been doing this freelance for more than 20 years, I have outlasted almost every editor, most publishers, and everyone on every sales force I came into touch with. My agent has been in the business as long as I have—as an agent the entire time—and he’s a rarity. I’ve learned to take everything in the business side of publishing with a big grain of salt. Because everything is different all the time—and, here’s the kicker, everything is exactly like it was 20 years ago. If you can’t hold two contradictory thoughts in your mind at the same time, then stay out of this business.
If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?
Get out of the blockbuster mentality. You have to nurture writers of smaller books so that they can grow into blockbusters. (Of course, this advice will be out of date 5 years from now when the business pendulum swings back to nurturing small books and not paying enough for big ones.)
Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.
I was at work. I worked as a secretary for a forensic psychologist. THAT was a great writer’s job, let me tell you. I checked in patients (all of whom were interesting to say the least), and I typed up reports about cases that were going to go to court. Otherwise, I could read or write on the job. But I had to sit at my desk. My agent called, and told me. Fortunately the outer office was empty, so I could jump up and down and yell for a moment before anyone saw me. Then I had to be the sedate secretary again. I did call my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and he sent me a dozen roses—the first time I’d ever gotten roses, let alone a dozen. I stared at them through my entire shift, trying to let the idea that I had sold a novel sink into my brain. The rest of the day is lost, although I know we celebrated. I was just too dazed. It took 2+ years for the publisher to publish the book, because they wanted to give it a huge push and they kept moving the publication date back. So by the time it came out, I had sold 8 novels. I used to think that you’d sell a novel, cash the check, write another novel, sell it, cash the check, and they’d never ever get published. Or at least, it seemed that way to me at the time. I’ve since learned differently.