My 5th book is out next week - yet I'm getting to use the #debut headline all over Twitter. Why? Because my first four books were science fiction, whereas Waters and the Wild is my first (but not my last) fantasy. Which means I get to have all the fun!
There are challenges to writing both genres. Not all fans of my military-esque Space Opera books will want to read my fairy-fuelled roadtrip through the Antrim Glens of Northern Ireland. To counter that, however, a lot of people who might have wanted to try out my writing find science fiction, as a genre, less appealing than fantasy and are looking forwards to reading one of my books for once!
I thought I'd explore what I love about writing the two genres, where I struggle and where I intend to go with this weird assortment of books.
What I love about writing fantasy.
Firstly, no physics. I am not a scientist. I manage okay with plants and the biology side of thing (I have a gcse in there somewhere, and an A level). But physics, chemistry and I parted company very happily at age 14. Which means sf research hurts my brain but fantasy is easier - not least because I worked in a 12th century castle for a few years. As soon as I decide to use a castle as a setting that will be very useful, I'm sure....
Playing with mythology. A lot of what I write is based in Ireland - particularly the frozen North of the island. Now, Irish mythology is wide and interesting, and not averse to being played with. I really love that. In Waters and the Wild I play with changeling mythology, bring in the legend of Ossian and Tir-na-nog, and adapt all that to the modern world. I use landscapes that haven't changed in years, that carry the feel and knowledge of the land, and rip through them with my contemporary story. And I can do that because mythology is just that - stories that have been passed down. Like the recipe for Irish stew there is no right and wrong, just one way or another.
Being really, really spooky. Fantasy is great for creeping fear. It's fabulous for slow build and dark shadowed corners. And I love that sort of writing. So, for general creepiness and the delight of knowing a reader might want to leave the light on for a while, fantasy is huge fun to write.
Which isn't to say my sf isn't scary and dark. The metal walls of Inish Carraig, that mould around to imprison people, are pretty memorable. But it's a different sort of darkness: my fantasy has things that can barely be seen in the corner of your eye; my sf your worst fears made real.
So, why, then, if I like fantasy so much have I written lots of sf (and intend to write more)?
Sf is huge fun. It is escapist. It is visual. It has no limits (if you ignore the physics). It is bold and loud with blasters and space ships. For sheer shove-the-story-down-and-have-a-blast there is nothing better.
Which brings me back to my first musing. Will readers who have liked my sf enjoy my fantasy?
That's the worry and challenge.
Mostly, I think they should. There are certain things standard across both genres for me:
Expect characters who feel real, and expect to be held close to them. Not just the lead characters, but the secondary ones too. Expect them to have their dysfunctional moments, and for the narrators to not always be honest.
Expect to walk on the darker side of life. I don't do fluffy bunnies and sparkly unicorns. Waters might be the darkest book I've written to date (hard to tell!) in feel and tone, if not horrific events. Whilst not full-on grimdark, it should cause the odd shudder in the reader.
Expect to have questions. As in Inish Carraig my characters don't entirely know what is going on around them and I don't step back to tell the reader the wider world. If that wrong foots people, I'm not sure it's a bad thing. For sure, it's the thing that I do.
Above all else - Waters and the Wild is as much a Jo Zebedee book as any of my sf is. The feel, the pace, the cadence - they all complement my earlier work. If you pick up a copy, I hope you come away with that sense that, otherworldly as opposed to spaceworldly though Waters might be, it's still my world, in my words, and in my style. I do hope readers enjoy it.
Jo Zebedee writes sf and fantasy, sometimes in her space opera world of Abendau, sometimes on the streets of her native Northern Ireland. She blogs at http://jozebwrites.blogspot.co.uk and has a busy life with work, kids, pets and, somewhere in the chaos, a long suffering husband.
Waters and the Wild can be found at: http://authl.it/7lt?d