What was the process of getting the stories collected together with the new novella?
It was all Bill Snodgrass’s idea! (Ed. note: Bill is the founder and editor of The Sword Review.) I ended up writing five stories in an arc for The Sword Review. The second story was even better received than the first, and the next three let me build on some ideas about redemption and sacrifice that I had wanted to explore. Bill suggested that we issue them as a chapbook, which seemed like a pretty good idea, but in the months between I kept writing Servant stories, two of which are included in the book. I tweaked the shorts a little, and put one of the new stories and the novella “The Tears of Ishtar” in the middle, and added an epilogue which turned the book from a collection into an episodic novel.
At what point did you start thinking and writing with the entire arc in mind? How much revision needed to happen to make them flow?
Right after the second story, when I realized that I had a lot more to say. I realized that the Servant herself would not be able to say some of the things I wanted, and that it might be interesting to see her from another perspective. By adding the adopted daughter, it let me do a number of things, including add a glimmer of hope to the story, and work the contrast between the nine year old girl and the 600+ year old murderess. The arc pretty much created itself after that, once I decided exactly where the story needed to go. I had the foresight to leave substantial time slots for other stories, so later, when I added the novella and the new story that takes place just before the meeting of the Servant and her daughter, it was easy to plug them in. It helps that I did actually think out the time-line ahead of time. The main revisions for the book involved small continuity details and trimming some repetition in the stories that was needed as stand-alone shorts but redundant in an episodic novel.
How much collaboration did you have with your editors and illustrator?
Bill Snodgrass, the editor, has been great. I have already mentioned how this project was his idea. He also made some excellent suggestions for the novella, which he rightly saw as a chance to do what he calls “God pointing”—illustrating and conveying elements of our Christian faith without beating the reader over the head too brutally. The Servant lives and travels in Old Testament times, and is able to re-tell some of those stories in an oddly charming idiosyncratic manner.
A couple of months ago I had the most amazing experience. I first envisioned the Servant over 10 years ago, with that scene of her sitting on a rock, weeping and bleeding. When Rachel Marks, who did both the cover and the interior illustrations, sent me the first drawing, I was expecting something nice, but what I got was overwhelming. There on my computer was the scene, exactly as I had pictured it years ago. I was nearly in tears.
Rachel has done a fantastic job, both with her visions of the characters and situations, and in making sure I was comfortable with what she has done. She is a careful reader, so there wasn’t much that needed to change, other than a few small historical details. She was an absolute joy to work with, and I cannot imagine more exciting illustrations than she has provided. The readers of this book are really getting something special.
And so that's it. Many thanks to Michael for participating. Now everyone needs to go out and buy The Servant of the Manthycore next week, and I know you're out there because I've never had more hits on this blog than during this interview.