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#130 Mary Robinette Kowal

130 Kowal Headshot.jpg

What if you didn't have to be a scientist to write science fiction?

Guess what people, Mary Robinette Kowal is about to blow your mind. She has the most incredible background I have heard on the show so far: Jim Henson Puppeteer, Voiceover actor, and Hugo-award-winning Science Fiction author. YES. There is nothing I love more than writers who are multi-passionate and unafraid to pursue everything they love.

So when Mary Robinette wrote a short story that started to stray into the history of space exploration, she wasn't afraid to follow its lead. Instead, she asked for help. She worked with consultants to make the story believable and accurate while not giving up on the book she wanted to write. Have a story that feels over your head in terms of knowledge and technical information? Look no further than this episode. It can be written, promise.

Topics Discussed:

  • Writing about a topic that you’re not an expert in

  • Women’s impact on history

  • Why you should own the fact that you love reading science fiction

  • The importance of female writers

Discussed in Episode 130 with Mary Robinette Kowal

  • You don’t necessarily need to be an expert in every topic that your book is about.

  • “It’s always about that audience relationship.”
    On how all of Mary Robinette’s income streams are related.

  • “The first novel that I published was definitely not the first novel I wrote.”
    On Mary Robinette’s journey to getting her book on shelves.

  • How an “alternate” version of history would have effected the world as we know it.

  • How Mary Robinette landed in the 50s and a meteor for The Lady Astronaut series, she wanted to focus on the role that women were playing during this time as well as what could have happened if we continued to dump as much money into space exploration now as we did in the past.

  • The legacy of women computers in the United States in comparison to other countries.

  • How there is a book to answer every science fiction “what if”.

  • Reading after college after your age and tastes have changed.

  • “Don’t be shy of things you enjoy.”
    On not being ashamed that you read science fiction.

  • “I find that when I stop apologizing, I wind up having a completely different conversation with people.”
    On why it's best to be honest about who you are and what you read.

  • How bookstores have the power of suggesting books that they think you’d enjoy versus what you’d actually enjoy.

  • All of the things that make up wether you enjoy a book or not, it’s not just about the story.

  • How to research for your novel when you may not know much about your topic.

  • How to find consultants for your book who are experts in your book’s topics whether you have a big audience or not.

  • “Everything that is right in the book is her, everything that is wrong is me.”
    On her science consultant.

  • Be brave. Write, especially when you’re writing something about an the unknown, an alternate universe, whatever it may be. 

  • “Don’t ignore your own lived experience.”
    On writing what you know.

  • Extrapolate when writing on things outside of your own experience.

  • “That’s what writing is, it’s a big collage of thoughts and experiences that we string together into a narrative.”
    On what writing fiction really is.

  • Work with the smaller pieces.

  • The difference between literary fiction and science fiction and fantasy, what does and doesn’t push the story.

  • “People have been reading emotionally compelling books all along, you just weren’t reading books written by women.”
    On the importance of female writers.

This episode sponsored by listeners like you via the Secret Library Podcast Patreon