Chat with Janny Wurts, April 2004
Welcome Janny! Let me quickly go over the chat format we will be using this evening.
In order to keep the conversation organized and to make answering your questions
as easy as possible on our guest of honor, we will be using a moderated chat format.
Only the chat moderator and Janny will be able to speak directly. Please ask your
questions directly to Keffy by double-clicking on her name in the chat guest list.
When your question is asked, you will have the opportunity to ask one follow up
question if necessary. This way we hope to give everyone the chance to speak.
Chad: At the end of the official chat, we will open up the room to a
Keffy: Also, you can ask a question directly to me by typing /msg Keffy
"Your question here".
Keffy: Okay, the first question is from Chad: Most of us here are huge
science fiction/fantasy and art fans. What are some of the challenges you face
as being both an artist and a writer?
Janny: It's very hard to finish a novel, then go right into the art - and
on both at once. They are very different thinking processes.
Paul-Lewis: What challenges do you see for artists today, especially
those trying to focus on the science fiction and fantasy genres? Is the market
becoming even more competitive with worldwide access to artists around the globe,
or are the opportunities growing as well?
Janny: The opportunities are growing, but the industry is changing daily.
It's both easier and harder to get work seen - but the internet has drastically
changed how we work. I think there's a massive tendency to tighten budgets going
on - and more second rights and manipulated photos being used - on the other
hand, there are many new companies starting all the time - we get more inquiries
via the internet, but it's much harder to know if the companies have any track
record. There are generally more markets for Fantasy and SF now though many
of them have "work for hire" which drastically changes the dynamic
- whether the artist owns the image and characters, or not.
Keffy: Okay, the next question's from McF: when will we see your excellent
artwork on Epilogue?
Janny: Well as I was sitting here, one of mine flashed across the gallery.
Master of Whitestorm - does that count?
Chad: Janny's new Epilogue gallery - http://www.epilogue.net/cgi/database/art/list.pl?gallery=9919
Keffy: I'm pretty sure it does :)
Janny: Thanks Chad.
Keffy: Next question's from kyrn: Did you have any problems convincing
the art directors to let you do your covers?
Janny: It was difficult at first. I had to basically keep my careers
"separate". I showed as an artist, and got professional - did gaming
work, then book covers in NYC. The stories and novels were submitted separately
until I sold the first novel - then there was the Moment of Truth. I'd sold
on the pro market, cover-wise, so they know I could. But it was a big decision
- there was a lot of trepidation in the publisher's meetings - did they DARE
give a writer that much power?
Which was a laugh, really - so in fact the first novel didn't have my work
on it - and it was a disaster - the image was very boring. When the second book
came round, they said "well, you know if it doesn't sell, there will be
NOBODY to blame but yourself. Are you prepared for that?"
So they blame a "bad" sale on a cover - I felt it was no risk at
all. Who knew better what things looked like than me? I thought - it would connect
the "right' readers with the book. So I took that chance with few qualms.
Keffy: Okay, the next question's from McCracken, and he wants to ask
how you studied art.
Janny: By the seat of my jeans - I did figure drawing classes every
chance I could get, I had about two illustration courses, done separately from
college. I went to museums, went to conventions, watched how the pros did what
they did - asked a ton of questions - the college I attended did not have 'formal'
education as you know it - it taught you to learn - that all the information
you want to do anything is "out there" - in books, in classes, in
people's areas of expertise - basically it taught you to go "find"
the source of that knowledge and assimilate it. So, I drew and painted and hung
it up, and saw how clutzy it looked next to the pros - and went back home and
did it again. Until it looked good enough to hang there - then I made up a portfolio
and started showing it around. Art is a very individual pursuit - you're not
going to find a set Way of doing it - you have to keep trying and messing with
stuff until you find out what works for you.
Keffy: Next question's from Sam: What do you think of epilogue?
Janny: I think I have seen some pretty awesome work here - it's a great
showcase and there's a lot of talent. It's neat that you can all see what others
are doing - a great chance to "see" and explore and stretch your ideas.
To do the same thing, years ago, we had to get in the car and lug the stuff
on the road.
Keffy: Next question's from Rewston: Do you have any advice for a first
time author wanting to publish a book?
Janny: Yes - go buy THIS title, no other: Techniques of the Selling
Writer by Dwight v. Swain, University of Oklahoma Press. Buy it. Read it. Then
get to work. There is NO other writing book worth a dime. This one is incredible.
Next - tell your story. Put all the passion you have into it. NOBODY else can
tell that story but you. If you don't write it, nobody else can - you have a
unique voice, and if you don't develop it, it will NEVER be heard, guaranteed.
The only person who can determine that you are a failure is YOU - so don't give
There is a large "tips" section for writers and artists on my website
Keffy: Next question's from McF: If you had to choose between writing
and painting - which one would it be?
Janny: Everyone asks this - which arm would I tear off, my right, or
I truly do like both and would not think of giving up on either. Even though
they are very different thinking processes - there are simply things you cannot
say in a picture and there are other things you absolutely cannot say in words....the
two things are utterly tied together - and if I could do a soundtrack of music
also, I'd be there also.
Keffy: Okay, this one's from Ted: How important is it for a writer to
attend industry conventions? I've heard that is a great thing for a new artist
to do, but what about writers? And are there any specific conventions really
Janny: Conventions are not a must - but they can be a big help. First
- I'll cover the art. You get to hang your art right up there with the pros
- and it's an acid test to see if you are truly ready. There are art opportunities
that can happen at cons - sometimes people go there to scout - and the chance
to sell your paintings also keeps the bread on the table. I made enough selling
small pieces of art at cons to literally, stay loose as a freelancer.
You can ask the pros questions - many are very willing to talk to you, see
your art - say how they work. You get the opportunity to hear how they think
- and also, can sit in the bar and hear a lot of industry chatter. For art, the
main convention is World Science Fiction Con this year in Boston. Be SURE you
have a professional looking show, that you are well framed and that you have
cards and contact information. I know of at least one anthology editor who shops
WorldCon for her cover art.
For writers - you will get to do the same - meet real writers, hear them on
panels and get to feel out the industry. Some cons have editors in attendance.
NEVER give them a manuscript at a con - but listen to them, and see which ones
might buy what you write - then contact them later. Or ask them, would you mind
if I send you - and have ready a line or so that describes what you are doing
- then you can send and you're not unsolicited.
The cons to look at for writing are WorldCon - very large and hard to connect,
or World Fantasy which is 75 percent pro attended, and many editors are there
- it's worth the trip. This year it's in Arizona and I'll be there with Don.
There are also several websites that writers hang out in and you can learn a
great deal just watching the chatter. One is Julie Czerneda's newsgroup at
sff.net, lots of writers and even editors occasionally chat there.
There's another critique site, I don't recall the exact name of it, but somebody
posted it in the Author's Corner on my chat. There are many advantages to being
a face not a name, and to hearing from the inside how the industry works. Cons
give you the chance. Not to mention we met the Epilogue folks at Dragon*Con!
Keffy: The next question is from mesh: Do you think a balance needs
to be struck between technical refinement and an interesting delivery of a (sometimes
Janny: mesh - are we speaking of artwork here?
Keffy: mesh: yes
Janny: -Ok. It's always the time honored question - follow the herd
or not. There are awesome artists who are incredibly technically refined and
others who are so raw and visceral - you can't tell if they ever learned to draw
I'd spin this question this way: how do you FEEL? If you hate technical, if
you want to just go for the throat and not fuss stuff to the nth degree - how
deep is your conviction, and how boldly can you "stand" your ground
- because you will be cutting your own course, no question. To do this, you
have to believe in yourself So Strongly they will take the hard sell - they
will have to follow your lead, and that means - you will be drawing the line
and demanding - so you'll have to toss your heart over the fence, then jump
Technical refinement - every body can see it, recognize it, admire it. Is it
you? If you enjoy that - if the discipline appeals and your heart is there -
then that is for you. I don't think there is one "better than" approach.
I feel that as an artist (or writer) the important thing is how do YOU feel.
The honest and the bold and the innovative creator goes that way no matter
what the crowd is doing. It's not the easy course - but it is the one that leads
to the most satisfaction.
Keffy: The next one's from Garth: Tell us about your new book, "To
Ride Hell's Chasm", what aspect stands out in your mind as your favorite?
Janny: This book literally took me by storm. The concept was worked
out but the characters just grabbed hold and told that story. I was chasing
them the entire time. I'd set out to write a fairly classical tale - princess
in peril, but with a twist - and TWO heroes at odds. It became a story, very
definitely, about the ethics of the warrior - WHO is responsible, when, and
why - is it the individual, or the law or the ones giving the orders - and what's
at stake if somebody bungles the take?
I really enjoyed the mystery element at the beginning, moving through the perils
in the magic, then running the chasm itself min a skin peeling, that was supposed
to be a chase scene. This book has hard action and also deep thinking - it wads
really fun to write.
Keffy: The next one's from me, actually: What's your favorite writing
Janny: Did you mean, what room do I work in, or what sort of scene is
Keffy: What room?
Janny: It's actually a made over garage - not dismal at all - it has
neat windows - and of course, paintings of all the characters on the walls,
and maps, and scenes from the worlds I write in. Lots of places for cats to
sleep, and certain reference books, and an INCREDIBLE sound system - that's
a must! The art studio is another room that I share with Don
Keffy: This one's from Paul: Tell us the truth, do you and Don critique
each other's paintings, and has this ever caused "issues"?
Janny: Paul - we share the line "go be a genius on your side of
the studio - seriously - we do look at what we are working on. We freely say
what we think. His way of painting and mind are polar opposites. He likes to
have all his ducks in a row - get reference, do tons of sketches - I like to
"just wing it" - draw straight out of my head. So we can't work in
each other's heads - we approach the work too differently. When we see stuff
- it's great to have another set of eyes on the work - that's spared us lots
of gaffes and improved on ideas - if we don't agree, we just let it go. Each
of us have our individual ideas and we try to respect that.
Don's strengths in drawing are phenomenal - he's amazing to watch as he paints
all over his work at the same time. I still don't know how he "does"
it and I see it happen each day. I think he'd say the same thing - certain things
that I do easily just aren't the same vocabulary for him. I think what keeps
things harmonious is that we respect each other as individuals. I've seen him
pull stuff off I could never have anticipated - and it's humbling - when you
see something YOU could never make work turn out awesome - it's magic, I suppose.
That takes space to allow to happen. We work well in the same room, but it's
probably good that I write and am not only involved in art - gives breathing
room as it were.
Keffy: This one's from Evan: "To Ride Hell's Chasm" featured
the fictional martial art barqui'ino. What sort of research did you do as a
basis for it?
Janny: This had absolutely NO basis in any martial arts system existent
on Earth. I am a stickler for research - I do know martial artists, and war
vets. I had them check over the scenes to make utterly sure there were no obvious
gaffes - from the fight scene standpoints - but there is no correlation to real
martial arts, which is a spiritually based discipline in its highest art form
- there is a disclaimer in the appendix of Hell's Chasm so nobody makes the
assumption I was trying to depict an accurate system of any one discipline.
Keffy: This next one's from Paul: Do you think the success movies such
as The Lord of the Rings and other sci-fi/fantasy blockbusters are helping to
create new opportunities for artists of this genre?
Janny: I don't know - time will tell. Certainly it's made cocktail party
(for all I go to them!!) conversation easier. Lord of the Rings made fantasy
much more acceptable - since many people saw the obvious seriousness to Peter
Jackson's approach - the depth and level of the art and visuals, and the fact
it was not a "kids" move - yes, I think that has helped.
The usual line we get is, "oh you write for kids" - and although
I have run into kids who read my work, it is not for kids - there are depths
way beyond that - so this movie really did move the boundary a ways out - from
the wonderfully charming, but stuck idea, that fantasy is only for children.
Keffy: Last question from Chad: Which aspect do you find more challenging
and which the most fun?... the art or writing?
Janny: They are both different - both challenging for different reasons.
With art - the effect is instant - anyone can participate at a glance. The effect
can last only that long - or it fades with time. With a written work, that requires
a reciprocal commitment of time from a reader - what happens next can be profound.
I have written books that, literally, people never forget - and that can have
an enormous impact. Letters that have brought me to tears, sometimes - when
somebody I never met had a profound moment. The book reached them - at the right
moment in time. Art has instant impact - but whether it can carry that much
punch over the long haul - how good an artist am I - guess that begs the question.
Both are different media - and the challenges are quite different.
Chad: Janny, thank you so much for talking with us this evening and
sharing with us your experience and insight!
Everyone be sure to get your signed copy of Janny's new book, "To Ride
Hell's Chasm" right through Epilogue:
Also, you can see more of Janny's artwork at her official website: http://www.paravia.com/JannyWurts/
NOW we are going to open up the chat to a free-form method and chill for a
Janny: Thanks everybody for attending - I'll be here for a bit. Thanks to everybody who attended and participated.
A huge thanks to Janny Wurts for sharing her evening with us!