There is an infinite number of ways not to have a successful writing career, but not that many ways to have one. You can write your own original novels and if you’re in the luckiest one percent, you’ll find editors who understand and love what you’re doing, and who work with publicists who know how to promote your work with opinion-leaders who’ll also love your work. Your publisher will work with distributors who’ll get your books into the bookstores where staff hand-sell your work. If you’re less lucky, you’ll end up like 98 percent of writers, whose books get a sliver of shelf-space for three months and die in the discount bin or get pulped.
But there’s another lucky one percent. And when I say lucky, I don’t mean they’re not hard-working, because as you’re about to hear from today’s guest, hard-working in this case could mean writing six books in one year, and one book in eleven days. And by lucky, I also don’t mean devoid of skill and artistry, because today’s guest has won numerous awards proving he has the respect of fans and his peers.
No, by lucky, I mean getting asked to enter the world of writing other people’s characters from movies, comics, or video games in new novels, or existing comics, video games, or table top games. Insiders call it licensed writing; some refer to IPs or intellectual property. For decades fans simply called these works tie-ins. And today’s guest is a master of them.
I met Alex Irvine at San Diego Comic Con 2004 when Del Rey was launching my first novel, The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad, and his new book One King, One Soldier had just come out. We hit it off right away. Irvine has worked as a reporter at the Portland Phoenix and as an English professor at the Universities of Denver and Maine.
But he’s written far, far more than I have. If you include trade-paperback collected editions and all his original and tie-in books, he’s released more than thirty. He’s written novels based on Batman, Transformers, Pacific Rim, Supernatural, Tin Tin, Dungeons and Dragons, and Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, and has written comics for Marvel featuring Iron Man, Damien Hellstrom, and Daredevil. He’s written Alternate Reality Games including The Beast and I Love Bees, and the Facebook game Marvel: Avengers Alliance. His original novels include One King, One Soldier, The Narrows, and the Locus and Crawford-winning A Scattering of Jades.
Alex Irvine spoke with me by web video on May 25, 2018 from his home in Maine. We discussed:
Thomas Wharton. If he decided to wear a ballcap that says “Winning” he’d have every right to do so. His first novel was Icefields, and straight out of the gate, it won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book in the Canada/Caribbean division, and the first Banff Mountain Book grand prize. Then his second novel, Salamander, was short-listed for the Governor-General’s Literary Award and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Then he up and gets his short story collection The Logogryph shortlisted for the IMPAC-Dublin Prize.
He also published The Perilous Realm, a YA fantasy trilogy. And his work’s been published in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and many other countries. He teaches creative writing at the University of Alberta where he and I studied creative writing together way back in the early 1990s, and we had the chance to work together when I was the Writer in Residence at the U of A in 2014-2015. Tom’s also a down-to-earth cat who values rich language, numerous genres, and quality teaching.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Wharton discusses:
We spoke in my then-office at the University of Alberta on January 5, 2015, and Tom begins by introducing himself.
Called “Violent, poetic and compulsively readable” by Maclean’s, science fiction author Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling writer born in the Caribbean. He grew up in Grenada and spent time in the British and US Virgin Islands, and the islands he lived on influence much of his work.
His Xenowealth series begins with Crystal Rain. Along with other stand-alone novels and his over 50 stories, his works have been translated into 18 different languages. He has been nominated for awards like the Hugo, Nebula, Prometheus, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author. His latest novel is Hurricane Fever, a follow up to the successful Arctic Rising that NPR says will ‘give you the shivers.’
He currently lives in Bluffton, Ohio with his wife, twin daughters, and a pair of dogs. He can be found online at
Buckwell spoke with me about:
London-born Jenn Brissett is one of those classic overnight success stories who was decades in the making. Her first novel, Elysium: Or, The World After, was the runner-up for the 2015 Philip K. Dick Award and a finalist for the 2015 Locus Best First Novel Award. She’s currently completing the sequel called Eleusis and has had stories published in The Best of Halfway Down the Stairs.
She has a Master degree in Creative Writing specialising in Speculative Fiction, and also an Electrical Engineering degree with a concentration in Visual Art. Prior to winning literary accolades, she owned and ran Indigo Café & Books in Brooklyn.
In today’s MF GALAXY, we discuss:
And along the way, Brissett cites fantasy author David Anthony Durham.
She and I spoke on July 22, 2016 by Skype, and we began by discussing which teacher had such a huge impact on her, and why.
A Lee Martinez has authored of ten acclaimed novels including Divine Misfortune, Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest,and Chasing the Moon. For his debut novel Gil’s All Fright Diner, he won the Alex Award, which is given to adult fiction that possesses special appeal to younger readers.
Martinez’s work mixes dynamic world-building with whimsical, hilarious, and touching storytelling. Martinez’s The Automatic Detectiveis one of my favourite books. It’s a noir crime thriller about a robot designed to destroy humanity, but he just doesn’t feel like it, so he drives a cab. But the work succeeds because it’s far more than just wacky—it’s got heart, and characters we can love.
In this episode of MF GALAXY, Martinez discusses:
We began by discussing the craft of plotting and the dangers of hewing too closely to an outline.
To download the special PATRONS-ONLY edition of this episode with A Lee Martinez, visit MF GALAXY.org and click the Patreon link on the right. Sponsor the show for a dollar or more per episode and access all extended edition podcasts and bonus videos. In this extended episode, Martinez discusses his business advice for writers, and the real reason to attend book signings.
Nnedi Okorafor is the celebrated author of ten books, including The Shadow Speaker, Who Fears Death, and the forthcoming The Book of Phoenix. Zahrah the Windseeker, Okorafor’s debut novel about a highly technological world based on Nigerian myths and culture, wasnominated for the Locus Best First Novel Award, shortlisted for the Parallax and Kindred Awards, a finalist for the Golden Duck and Garden State Teen Choice awards, and it won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature.
This episode’s conversation with Okorafor comes from way down deep in the archives of The Terrordome: The Africa All-World News Service. I spoke with Okorafor by telephone back on January 18, 2009, but back then aired only a portion of what you’ll hear now. Okorafor talked about many issues, including:
We also discuss the powerful effect on self-conception that the American continent-wide rape gulag had on the West Africans who became the African-Americans, which were profoundly different from the effects that mass enslavement had on the so-called “indentured servants”—that is to say, European slaves, not to mention the rest of humanity since slavery existed across the planet.
Celebrated novelist NK Jemisin is the author of The Inheritance Trilogy, The Broken Earth Trilogy, and The Dreamblood Duology. Her writing has won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and three Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Awards. Jemisin’s work has also received nominations for the Crawford, Gemmell Morningstar, and James Tipree, Jr. Awards, two nominations for the World Fantasy Award, three nominations for the Hugo Award, and four nominations for the Nebula Award.
Along with Nalo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor, NK Jemisin is one of the N3, a nucleus of highly influential contemporary writers of science fiction and fantasy. Jemisin is also well-known as a blogger on politics, feminism, and racism; in what writers would call a “day job” and what others would call a full-time career, she’s a counselling psychologist.
In today’s episode, Jemisin speaks on her craft, specifically:
Jemisin spoke with me by Skype from her home in New York City on January 24, 2015.
The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science calls acclaimed novelist Nalo Hopkinson a luminary in the science fiction community. She is widely identified with Afrofuturism, an Africentric aesthetic movement in music, fashion, film-making, comic books, and novels that draws upon global African aesthetics and histories to imagine new Africentric futures.
As you’re about to hear, Nalo Hopkinson has lived in many regions and communities of the Western hemisphere, making her an insider to many and an alien to many more. She’s the author of ten celebrated books including Skin Folk, Sister Mine, The New Moon’s Arms, and her explosive debut Brown Girl in the Ring, a dystopian science fiction adventure set in near-future Toronto featuring an African-Canadian heroine and the orisha gods of Nigeria and Benin who are central to the New World African cultures and religions of the Caribbean and South America.
In many ways Hopkinson and fellow author Tananarive Due novel helped re-launch Afrofuturist literature, and broke ground for novelists such as Nnedi Okorafor, N K Jemisin, Andrea Hairston, and Daniel Jose Older, and the Kenyan science fiction filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu. She’s now a professor of Creative Writing at the University of California Riverside in the only dedicated SF writing programme anywhere in the English-speaking world.
In this episode, Hopkinson discusses the craft of writing, addressing:
I began our discussion by asking Hopkinson about her work at the University of California Riverside. Note that at one point we’re discussing the Terry McMillan novel Waiting to Exhale and the movie adaptation directed by Forrest Whitaker, and unfortunately neither of us can remember the title, and later Nalo graciously cites my own novel The Coyote Kings but without naming it.
Hopkinson spoke with me from her home in Riverside, California by Skype on November 30, 2014.
Wab Kinew is the 2015 host of CBC’s national book competition Canada Reads. He’s an award-winning hip hop artist and journalist, a correspondent for Aljazeera America, and perhaps best known to Canadians as the advocate for Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda, the winning book for Canada Reads 2014.
Last year on CBC’s Canada Reads, Wab Kinew electrified listeners with his opening book defense that name-checked each rival book in the competition while building to the climax of his own choice, Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda. And he did it all in just under his allotted 60 seconds, memorised, and in verse. He began the competition by demolishing his competitors, some of whom, like runner Donovan Bailey, failed to use even half his accorded time, perhaps forgetting that you couldn’t win this contest by finishing early.
Despite numerous achievements and awards, merit alone wasn’t enough to get Wab Kinew his new gig as moderator of Canada Reads 2015—timing played the decisive factor. Last September, the former Canada Reads host, Jian Ghomeshi, began a public and highly dramatic self-destruction over as-yet unproven allegations of beating women before or during sex. He’s currently living with his mother while awaiting trial.
In that context, Wab Kinew discusses:
How he got selected to be a Canada Reads 2014 panelist
What he brings to the role of Canada Reads 2015 moderator, and what he thinks the radio series should do for the country, and
His take on the spectre of Jian Ghomeshi over this year’s competition.
In part 2 of the show, you'll hear the brilliant writer of the Leo Desroches mysteries Fall From Grace and A Killing Winter, Wayne Arthurson. Arthurson is a Metis writer from Edmonton who’s been a small town newspaper reporter, advertising copy writer, ghost writer, editor, punk rock drummer, a contestant on the BOOK TV series The 3 Day Novel Contest, and the popular historian who crafted In the Shadow of Our Ancestors for Lone Pine Press.
Arthurson was one of the featured speakers at Authorpalooza, a series of writers-on-writing live talk shows I run in my current work as Writer in Residence at the University of Alberta’s Department of English and Film Studies.
To check out more of Arthurson’s work, including his appearance on The 3 Day Novel Contest, visit mfgalaxy.org.
TO SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE ON iTUNES, visit:
TO SUPPORT MF GALAXY ON PATREON, visit:
Eden Robinson is a forty-something West Coast writer of the Heisla and Heilstuk nations from Kitimat, BC. Traplines was as a New York Times Editor’s Choice and Notable Book of the Year; it also won the Winifred Holtby Prize for the best first work of fiction in the Commonwealth. Robinson’s first novel, Monkey Beach, was nominated for the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award of 2000.