Boskone Mini Interviews: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

It is such a pleasure to bring two longtime Boskone favorites to you in this set of Mini Interviews. Whether or not you have had the opportunity to meet Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, authors of the much loved Liaden Universe®, they are two people you will enjoy knowing. So, without further ado, here are their Mini Interviews, which we hope you enjoy.

Also, be sure to pick up your Boskone 53 membership  before the price increase in January and book your hotel room before the block sells out.

Sharon Lee

SharonSmiling

Sharon Lee is one-half of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, best known for their collaborative work in the Liaden Universe®, a space opera geography of their own devising. Their latest novel — their 22nd collaboration; and the18th set in the Liaden Universe® — was Dragon in Exile (June 2015, Baen); upcoming is Alliance of Equals (July 2016, Baen). Sharon has also written a contemporary fantasy trilogy, set on the coast of Maine — Carousel Tides, Carousel Sun, Carousel Seas — published by Baen. Sharon lives in Maine with her husband, Steve Miller, and four Feline Companions — Maine Coon cats Belle, Sprite, and Trooper; and Scrabble, the office manager. Visit Sharon Lee online at her website, follow her on Twitter, friend her on Facebook, and check out her Live Journal.

What is it that you enjoy most about Boskone?

Well, I’ve always been fond of the Blizzard Betting Pool, but you can’t really say that it’s of, or about, Boskone.  The thing I enjoy most at Boskone is The Big Living Room.  I love the comfy chairs and the groups of people knitting, or reading, or talking, or all of the above, just like an extended family which has come together to celebrate a major holiday, and catch themselves up.

What event or experience stands out as one of those ‘defining moments’ that shaped who you are today?

Well, let’s see.  I was in my early 20s, I guess, working full-time as a secretary at a university.  One of the benefits I received from my job was that I could attend classes at the university for free. I had determined to be a writer, and had written what I fondly believed was a Novel. A fantasy novel.

Now, I had a speech impediment; I stammered — not so much, by then, but occasionally, mostly when I was tired or nervous. In addition, unless I concentrated very closely, I got the words in my spoken sentences all in the wrong order, and it was sometimes quite a job of work to untangle everything into sense.  As a result, I didn’t talk very much, and when I did, I spoke briefly.  In fact, I had determined to be a writer exactly because, when you write the words down, they stay where you put them.

Since I got those free courses as a benefit of my employment, I was taking a creative writing course at the university.  Some months in, I screwed up my courage to ask my instructor if he would read my novel.  He said that he would, but the next time I saw him he told me that, because he was Iranian, he felt that he couldn’t do justice to the fantasy elements, which he felt might carry cultural cues with which he was unfamiliar.  He had therefore passed my work on to one of his colleagues, who taught long-form writing, and who was an American.  I should make an appointment to speak with her, he said.

Well, I did that.  I was very nervous, and the long-form professor was not, I felt, particularly welcoming.  She had me sit down in the chair next to her desk and proceeded to quiz me on what I had been trying to achieve with the novel, my perception of the character’s journey, what the magic symbolized in the story. . .  The easy questions, you perceive.

Long story short, I stammered, and got every single word in every single sentence in as compromising a position as possible, until the professor said, “I thought so,” reached into her drawer, hauled out my manuscript and slammed it onto the desk.

“I think you’d better leave,” she said, coldly. “I don’t know what you’re trying to prove, but I do know that no one who speaks like you do could possibly have written this!”

Yeah, I grabbed the novel and ran.  My victory was that I didn’t cry, then, though I did, later.  I thought about how I was going to have to give up on being a writer, and, boy, didn’t that make me cry some more. . .

And then it occurred me, that speaking and writing are two different processes. That I wanted to be a writer precisely because I could build, on the page, those perfectly ordered and modulated sentences, which would convey exactly what I meant to say.

That I spoke so differently than I wrote?  That wasn’t a bug; it wasn’t even a feature.

It was *proof* that I was, and could be, a writer.

And so. . .here I am, forty years, 28 novels, and a bunch of short stories later — a writer.

Sometimes, y’know?  I think that I ought to try to find that professor — and thank her.

How would you describe your work to people who might be unfamiliar with you?

I do a couple of different things.  With Steve Miller — my husband and my co-author — I’ve written 23 novels, 22 of them are science fiction, and 19 of *those* are set in the Liaden Universe(R), which is space opera geography of our own devising.  We take the whole “opera” thing very seriously, in a let’s-have-fun sort of way.  The stories may be adventure, romance, intrigue — any or all.  They may be very large stories, involving the Fate of the Universe(tm); or they may be very small stories, involving the relationship between two people from very different, and possibly incompatible, cultures.

Our publisher, Baen, has made two complete Liaden novels available as free downloads, from their site (baen.com), and from Amazon:  The very first novel Steve and I wrote together in the Liaden Universe®, Agent of Change; and Fledgling, which is the beginning of a story arc within the Universe, and introduces a new character with troubles of her own.

Under my own byline, I’ve written a contemporary fantasy trilogy based in a Maine seaside resort town (Carousel Tides, Carousel Sun, Carousel Seas).  Those are a little less over-the-top sci-fi fun (though they’re still fun, of course).  They want to talk about the small magics, and the value of change, and the responsibility we hold for the land.  And? There’s a haunted carousel.

Steve Miller

SteveMillerAdopted Mainer Steve Miller is a lapsed journalist, publisher, con-running fan, poet, and librarian who writes SF professionally, mostly in the Liaden Universe® shared with Sharon Lee. Originally a Baltimore area convention and fanzine fan, writer, special collections librarian, art agent, and genre book store owner, he survived Clarion West and has participated in hundreds of SF conventions across North America including more than a dozen as a Guest of Honor. Recipient of Boskone’s 2012 Skylark Award as well as the Hal Clement Award for Best YA Novel, Steve was also an ebook publishing pioneer with his BPLAN Virtuals imprint in the late 1980s and early 1990s while his SRM Publisher imprint ran for 17 years and included chapbooks, mass market, trade paper, and hardcover originals. Locus Bestseller Dragon in Exile is the most recent of 25 novels, Liaden Universe Constellation No.3 the most recent short story collection, and the next of five contracted Liaden novels, Alliance of Equals, is due to hit the stands in July 2016. Visit him online on his website, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and check him out at Patreon.

What is it that you enjoy most about Boskone?

Split decision here, fan-side and pro-side, but overwhelming is the sense of community, of coming home to friends.

I’ve been coming to Boskone whenever I could since the mid-1970s and so one part of me likes the fannish side with a great art show and dealer’s room, the generally low-key parties, and the chance to catch up with lot of old friends and meet new ones at those parties. The con’s at a good hotel so I’m pleased not be a commuter, and the feeling of community is a real plus, especially coming after the cabin-fever generated by Maine winters.

The Other side of me is the pro side and I appreciate the challenging programming and the chance to work with newcomers I’ve not met before. The constants — readings and signings and kaffeeklatsches  — are always well done and now that they’ve been merged into the living room environment alongside the art show and dealer’s room the feeling of community is reinforced.

What event or experience stands out as one of those ‘defining moments’ that shaped who you are today?

Not a single moment, but a moment two months long. In July and August of 1973 I took leave from my stereo & carpeting sales position and traveled by Greyhound bus from Baltimore to Seattle, attended Clarion West (SF writing workshop) and returned to my home north of Baltimore, totally changed. The workshop itself was six weeks long, and I had my 23rd birthday there. I met and worked with Joanna Russ, Peter Beagle, James Salis, Ursula LeGuin, Harlan Ellison, Terry Carr, and Vonda McIntyre as well as my 20-some fellow workshoppers; I went from thinking I might want to be a full-time writer to knowing it. The intensity of writing six and seven days a week and getting high level reaction from some of the top writers in the field — wow!

I returned to my sales job for a few weeks, but clearly my heart was no longer in it and I began freelancing for a dozen small newspapers, quit selling stereos — and then got an offer to take over the new SF collection at UMBC as Curator.

What is your favorite Star Wars memory, scene, or line? What is it that that memory, scene or line that continues to stick with you today?

The first seven and a half minutes of the first film still sticks with me. The wonderful planet and moons scene giving way to a space ship grabbed me, and then there was the “that’s not a space ship, this is a spaceship!” moment of the Imperial cruiser closing in. From there to the escape of a droids — clearly science fiction flicks and expectations had entered a whole new era.

~

Register for Boskone today. Join us February 19-21, 2016

B53-Registration

Registration Rates:

  • Adult rate: $50
  • College student rate: $35
  • K-12 student rate: $25
  • Friday: $25; Saturday: $45; Sunday: $25

 

 

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One Response to Boskone Mini Interviews: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

  1. Pingback: Amazing Stories | AMAZING NEWS: 12/20/15 - Amazing Stories

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