A Writer's Life

Meet Storyteller Fran Wilde

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Photo by Bryan Derballa

I discovered Fran Wilde’s imagination through Updraft. the first of the three books in the Bone Universe novels. Those books flew me up to a fantastical world where humans live above the clouds in towers of living bone. But even in such mind-bending surroundings, what really hooked me were her characters.

The next story I read was A Catalog of Storms, and once more I believed in a strange, dangerous world because her characters knew it was quite real, and I fully embraced them. Fran has the ability to pull us into the hearts and souls of those who populate her stories. I’m very excited that we’ll be getting another book from her later this year.  More about that shortly!

While we wait for The Ship of Stolen Words to be released, let’s get to know Fran a little better. Come over here, sit down next to me. Hug a pillow if you like, and there’s cookies in the jar but you didn’t hear that from me. Now, wish as hard as you can for Fran to join the party so we can ask her lots of questions.

Oh my goodness, it worked. Hi Fran! Join us, won’t you? Help yourself to a cookie, and I’ll try not to make you talk with your mouth full. Ready? Here we go.

Lori: You’re walking down the street and bump into twelve-year-old you. What’s the first thing you’d tell yourself?
Fran: Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Lori: What’s your favorite obscure book? The one none of us have heard of?
Fran: I think I’ve talked enough about the Codex Seraphinianus that it doesn’t qualify any more. My favorite book of all time that people don’t suspect is John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World, which is a geological history of the United States, as a car adventure, told in road cuts.

Lori: One moment, I need to add Annals of the Former World to my to-read list. There, all set. Onward!

Lori:  How do you think being a writer has helped you as a person?
Fran: Figuring out what I mean to say, and how to say it, and sorting that from what others want to hear me say? That absolutely is a general good. I’m not sure one helps the other, necessarily, all the time — as putting your heart and soul on the page sometimes requires abandoning the physical world more than is good for a person!

Lori: Tell me about an early experience where you learned that language had power.
Fran: Listening to my cousins and relatives tell stories. And how the stories would change based on the words they chose.

Lori: What’s under your bed?
Fran: Author Copies!

Fran’s next book, The Ship of Stolen Words will become available on June 1, 2021. The pre-order price is much lower than it will be after its release, so you may wish to click the book cover below and reserve your copy. After we finish visiting with Fran, of course. Let’s not be impolite.

But before we continue peppering Fran with questions, I think we should find out what The Ship of Stolen Words is all about. Here’s a peek at its marvelous cover, along with Fran’s description of the story.

The Ship of Stolen Words Cover ArtA group of goblins steal a boy’s ability to apologize in this lively middle-grade fantasy from Nebula Award-winning author Fran Wilde

No matter how much trouble Sam gets in, he knows that he can always rely on his magic word, “sorry,” to get him out of a pinch. Teasing his little sister too much? Sorry! Hurt someone’s feelings in class? Sorry! Forgot to do his chores? So sorry! But when goblins come and steal his “sorry,” he can’t apologize for anything anymore. To get his “sorry” back and stop the goblins from stealing anyone else’s words, Sam will have to enter the goblins’ world and try and find the depository of stolen words.

There, he meets Tolver, a young goblin who’s always dreamed of adventure. Tolver longs to use the goblin technology—which can turn words into fuel to power ships—to set off and explore, but his grandma warns him that the goblin prospectors will only bring trouble.

Together, Tolver and Sam will have to outsmart the cruel prospectors and save the day before Sam’s parents ground him forever!

Lori: I’m so excited to meet Sam and Tolver! Now, let’s get back to our questions.

Lori: The book features a boy named Sam who teams up with a goblin named Tolver. Tell me about how those characters came to you. And… why a goblin?
That’s just how the story emerged! Also the flying pigs… suddenly there they were and I was writing about them!

Lori: What is a significant way your book changed after the first draft?
Fran: My wonderful editor, Maggie Lehrman, suggested I try adding a second point of view. It was a marvelous, very hard thing and I think it transformed the book.

Lori: What perspectives and beliefs does this book challenge?
Fran: Hmmm — I think for starters, that there’s only one right way to use a word. For starters. Also that words, and meaning what you say, isn’t important — it is, very much so.

Lori: I think, for starters, that I very much want to read this book. For starters. And I can’t resist asking Fran a little more about herself.

Lori: Do you ever hide inside jokes or cultural references in your books that only a few people will find?
Fran: All the time! Nope, I’m not telling you where!

Lori: I know you went ‘flying’ as research for Updraft. What other sorts of research field trips have you taken?
Fran: Mostly travel and walking around looking and listening. But I love doing deep dives in library archives and strange old museums.

Lori: What’s your favorite font to write in?
Fran: Times New Roman. I’m pretty old-school that way. I like serifs.

Lori: How many works in progress do you have going right now? 
Fran: I just finished a novella, and I’m teaching — those are both works in progress, all the time (especially grading!)

Lori: Thank you for visiting with us, Fran. I know we all just can’t wait to see what you’ll write next! Here, have a few cookies for the road. It couldn’t hurt.

About Fran Wilde

Two-time Nebula Award-winner Fran Wilde has (so far) published seven books and over 50 short stories for adults, teens, and kids. Her stories have been finalists for six Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, three Hugo Awards, three Locus Awards, and a Lodestar. They include her Nebula- and Compton Crook-winning debut novel Updraft, and her Nebula-winning, Best of NPR 2019, debut Middle Grade novel Riverland. Her short stories appear in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, Nature, Uncanny Magazine, and Jonathan Strahan’s 2020 Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy.

Fran directs the Genre Fiction MFA concentration at Western Colorado University and also writes nonfiction for publications including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Tor.com. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and at franwilde.net.

Fran has twice received the Nebula/Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult and Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy, NPR Best of 2019, the Compton Crook award, the Eugie Foster award, and has been a finalist for Hugo, World Fantasy, and Locus awards.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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