Interview: Edmund R. Schubert
by Andrew Brooks
Review by Andrew Brooks
Date: 01 January 2008
Links: Review: Dreaming Creek /
Edmund R. Schubert: I had the idea for the novel before I wrote any of those short stories; it was an idea that just crawled inside my brain and wouldn't go away. However, when I first started writing the novel, I very quickly realized I had no idea how to properly craft a novel. So I immediately set the novel aside and started reading books on writing, joined online forums, and began attending SF conventions (so I could take workshops and listen to panel discussions). I also started writing short stories again –- something I hadn't done for about ten years -- and once I got myself to a certain level, I went back to the novel. At that point I bounced back and forth between the novel and a lot of different short stories, working on both as the muses moved me. Inspiration was not hard to come by in that first year; I was just excited to be writing.
SFRevu: Or did Dreaming Creek begin life as a short story and morph into something larger?
Ed: I knew right from the beginning that the idea behind Dreaming Creek was too big to be anything but a novel. However, two of the early chapters were originally stand-alone short stories, not written with Dreaming Creek in mind. But as I was working on the novel I saw how they could become a good fit if they were rewritten in the right way.
SFRevu: Had you ever attempted to write a novel previously to Dreaming Creek?
Ed: Once, right after graduating from college. Let's just say it was a short-lived attempt, and leave it at that.
SFRevu: In the book Danny and Sara switch bodies, they get to really see what it's like to walk in each other's shoes. Danny sees what it is like to be a woman and Sara a man. Would you ever wish to switch bodies with someone else, man or woman, if you happened upon a creek that granted wishes?
Ed: Maybe it's a factor of having read too many deal-with-the-devil type stories, but the idea of making a wish and having it come true just plain makes me nervous. I've read too many stories (including my own, now) where things go too horribly awry for me to trust any wish-making scenario. I would always be afraid it would turn out like "The Monkey's Paw."
SFRevu: How did the idea behind Dreaming Creek come about?
Ed: I wish I had a more exciting answer, but really it was nothing more than a simple little what-if thought-experiment that ran wild.
SFRevu: Both characters learn what it's like to be the other person, sure, and also what it's like to be of the opposite sex, but was there something else you were trying to point out on a larger scale here? Something on a broader societal level?
Ed: Rarely will I intentionally go for a large theme or message. I think writers who do that often end up with a heavy-handed brick of a story and no one enjoys sermons. I think if you tackle an individual character or situation (within the context of a story), then the things you truly and deeply believe in will come through, and that's a much more natural way to convey them.
SFRevu: There's also Danny experiment, which backfires horribly, that derives from Shirley Johnson's, er, Jackson's story "The Lottery". In what way did that story influence Dreaming Creek, if at all?
Ed: You do realize that no one will get your, er, joke, until after they've read the novel, right? Quick, everybody go read the novel so you can be 'in' on the joke.
All kidding aside, the story ("The Lottery") didn't really influence Dreaming Creek, but the actions of the characters in that chapter ultimately did. When I first wrote the chapter you're referring to, my sole thought was to show Danny Wakeman's (my protagonist) character, i.e. what kind of person he was. But as I was progressing with the larger story, I grew increasingly dissatisfied with the fact that the chapter only served that one purpose. So I looked for a way to make it serve double-duty, and it eventually occurred to me that the events in Danny's classroom (he's a high school teacher) could also serve as the perfect springboard for other events as well, which made the whole chapter take on a much greater significance in the larger story. It was fun watching the story evolve in that way.
SFRevu: Anything in the story that's autobiographical that you'd care to share? It's always interesting to know which bits a writer puts in that comes from personal experience.
Ed: Being a first novel, it should come as no surprise that there are numerous things in the book that are autobiographical. First of all, I ran a nursery and garden center for twelve years, so all of the references in that area (including 90% of chapter seven) come from personal experience.
Second, my wife and I vacationed in the Canadian Rockies on our tenth anniversary, and many of the events in Part Three were things we did and places we visited. Not (of course) the body-swapping part, but a lot of the rest.
And last, I do speak about as much German as Danny does (well, actually he speaks as much German as I do), which is just enough to get in trouble. I was in Germany a few years ago, mainly in the Rhine River Valley, and was able to muddle my way through most situations, though there was no doubt in any one's mind that I was, at best, winging it.
SFRevu: Can you talk some about your experience on writing Dreaming Creek? How long you worked on it? Any snags you had, or problems you had to work through?
Ed: Writing this book was a stop and go process, and very much of a learning process. In 2001, I closed down the garden center I had been running, and decided the time was right to start this novel I had been thinking about for a long time. In early 2002, I wrote the first half of the book, along with about eight or ten short stories. But by the middle of '02 my wife got laid off and we suddenly had no income at all. At that point I found myself doing a lot of odd jobs to make ends meet -- but not much writing.
In January of 2003 we moved to Greensboro, NC, where my wife had gotten a new job. Since it was only two hours away from where we had lived previously, I did most of the moving myself with a small truck. It took a lot of time and a lot of trips, and as you can imagine there was not a lot of writing being done then, either. Eventually we settled, and when I joined a local writer's group. I ended up writing the second half of Dreaming Creek in a furious burst to meet some deadlines from that writers' group. I would guess I wrote the last 250 pages in about three months.
After setting the book aside for a while, I went to Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp in the summer of 2004 (that's where I first got to know him, although we had met once before). I came out of Boot Camp with a much better understanding of Point of View and did a lot of editing/rewriting that year.
I spent 2005 trying to find a publisher, and landed one in early 2006 who was supposed to publish it in 2007. But they went under before they could publish my book. Fortunately a new publisher came along a few months later. The good news was they were acquiring all of the old publisher's contracts; the bad news was that it would be another year before they could execute them. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise though, because when I came back to the book this past summer, I saw a lot of things that I didn't/couldn't see while I was so deeply immersed in its original creation. I went though another furious burst of creativity and wrote 10,000 new words (scenes and details that were sprinkled and scattered throughout the book), and I know the story is much better for it.
SFRevu: You're also the fiction editor of Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show as well as now being a novelist. Any other projects you're working on?
Ed: The main thing I'm working on right now is a collection of some of my short stories called The Trouble With Eating Clouds: A Collection Of Mysteries, Magic, and Madness. That collection is scheduled to come out in the spring of 2009. It's mostly stories that were published between 2003 and 2006, but there will also be a few new ones.
And I've got my fingers crossed that sales of the IGMS anthology from Tor go well enough that there will be a volume 2. We've published some amazing stories in IGMS (the magazine) since the first anthology was conceived and I'd love to do another.
But at the same time I've got to be careful about taking on too many outside projects, because as much fun as they are, they can also become traps that distract me from my own writing. I enjoy editing a great deal, but my long-term goals have more to do with writing.
And on top of that I'm also managing editor of a specialty women's business magazine. But that's a separate interview unto itself.
SFRevu: So you've got the first novel under your belt, what's next for Ed Schubert? Did you take some time off afterwards, or dive right into the next project?
Ed: I've already started on the second novel; it's working title is Waxing and Waning Human. It's going to be very different from Dreaming Creek, and I'm hoping to have it done by June of 2009. I've got to tie up some loose ends on my two magazine editing jobs and put the final touches on The Trouble With Eating Clouds, then I'm off to the races with the next novel. I'm really looking forward to it.
SFRevu: Which do you prefer writing, short stories or novels? I know they're different animals, but which do you find yourself more drawn to?
Ed: The immediate gratification that comes with writing short stories will always have a certain allure, but right now I would have to say that novels are where most of my attention goes. I'm not sure I should admit this in public, but with as many short stories as I read for IGMS, there are times when I feel like if I never wrote another short story of my own it would be all right. I love short stories, but there are days…