Genre Chick Interview: David B. Coe

One of the original items on my to-do list that launched May 2011’s Month of Writers here on the site was a series of interviews I planned with the contributors of How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion.

Are you familiar with the Magical Words site? If you’re a writer, you should be! The contributing bloggers there are some very experienced folks who have exceptional insights about all things wise and wonderful in the world of publishing.

So this week in the Month of Writers is special — It’s Magical Words Week! Every day I’ll be hosting an interview from a contributor from the Magical Words website. Today, my guest star is the charming David B. Coe!


FB or Twitter?
Twitter, definitely.  I mean, 420 characters for a post on Facebook really is overkill, you know?  If you can’t express yourself in 140 characters, you have no business communicating with anyone in the first place.

In all seriousness, I have yet to figure out the point of Twitter.  At least with Facebook I can catch up with people I didn’t care about enough to keep up with in the first place.  If you know what I mean….

Most recent publication?
That’s a more complicated question than it may seem.  At least I intend to make it as complicated as possible.

The last book I published on my own was ROBIN HOOD, the novelization of the movie directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe.  But that wasn’t really my own book, since it was based on someone else’s script.

So really, my most recent book was THE DARK-EYES’ WAR, the final book in my Blood of the Southlands trilogy (published by Tor).  It came out in hardcover last year and will be out in paperback at the end of this year.

But that’s not really right, either, since as part of the Magical Words group, I recently published HOW TO WRITE MAGICAL WORDS:  A WRITER’S COMPANION.

And actually, since that came out, I have published a short story under the name D.B. Jackson in the anthology AFTER HOURS:  TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, and published by DAW.

So yeah, those are my most recent publications.

Associations or affiliations?
SFWA, Speculative Literature Foundation, Rocky Mountain Outdoor Writers and Photographers, Sierra Club, Wilderness Society,, True Majority.

Short Stories or Novels or both?
I’ve written and published about twice as many novels as I have short stories, which is not to say that I don’t enjoy writing short fiction.  But, well, why say in 8,000 words what you can also say in 100,000, right?

Truthfully, I have tremendous respect for short fiction writers, and I was every bit as proud of my first short story sale as I was of my first novel sale.  Sure, the money wasn’t as good, but I honestly believe that writing a successful short story is the hardest thing I try to do as a writer, and I took that first short fiction sale as an indication that I was beginning to master the craft of writing.  That said, I love writing novels.  I love to weave together multiple plot threads and character viewpoints, and I enjoy the greater dynamic range one can explore when working in the longer format.

Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?
I do a bit of both.  My plot outlines tend to be incredibly sketchy and vague — maybe a single sentence for each chapter.  But I find that without just a bit of a roadmap, my books tend to wander too much.  On the other hand, when I outline in too much detail, I find that the prep work interferes with my writing.  It keeps me from doing the sort of in-the-moment creating that keeps my writing fresh and immediate.  There is a fairly fine balance there that I need to rediscover with each new project, and actually, with my current work in progress, I seem to have outlined in too much detail, and I’m having some trouble right now making the story come alive as I write.

What’s your average words per hour output?
Average words per hour?  I have no idea.  I try to write 2000 to 2500 words each day.  On a particularly slow day I’ll settle for 1500, although I try to avoid this.  But words per hour?  I’ve never even thought about it.  If I did, I think I’d drive myself batty.  “Oh, crap!  Fifteen minutes gone and I’m already 73 words behind.”  Yeah, like I need that kind of stress.

What’s your favorite part of writing?
Do I have to choose just one?  I love worldbuilding.  I love creating new characters.  I love writing those key scenes in a book that I’ve been envisioning and anticipating since I originally conceived the story.  I love those productive days in the middle of a book when I know that making my 2000 word goal won’t be a problem and I can’t wait to get to work each morning.  I love reading through a finished manuscript and seeing all my ideas come together as the narrative progresses.  I love holding a newly published book in my hands for the first time.  I really love my job.

What’s your least favorite part?
Copy editing, proofing the galleys, having to read through the same manuscript for the fifth and sixth and seventh times to make sure that I’ve caught every typo, every niggling error.  And I really, really hate the business end of it — everything having to do with sales and royalties and contracts.  I wish I could simply write and forget about that stuff, but of course part of being a professional is coping with the business end.

What motivates you to mentor other writers?
A couple of things.  That joy I mentioned before is a big part of it.  I enjoy what I do so much, and I see people with that same passion for writing, and I want to help them get the most out of it.  Also, early on I had several established writers give me advice that proved invaluable later on, and that made it easier for me to enjoy the work.  I’d like to pass that on; pay it forward as the saying goes.  And finally, I have a selfish motive as well:  I find that talking about process, breaking down what I do to its component parts so that I can offer helpful advice, also forces me to look at my craft in new, and instructive ways.  In other words, by teaching others, I am also teaching myself and examining the craft from new and helpful perspectives.

Is it difficult to come up with a fun and interesting essay topic every week on top of your current workload?
Very.  Some weeks I stare at the screen for hours trying to think of something — ANYTHING — to write about that I haven’t covered a hundred times before.  But Magical Words is gaining new readers all the time, and quite often reading about something again, in a slightly different context or with an altered approach, can be invaluable.  So in the end I don’t worry too much about repeating advice I’ve given in years past.

Describe how words are magical to you.
Well, they’re like a form of alchemy.  They turn weird ideas about magic and wizards into royalty checks….

My brother is a professional artist.  He paints landscapes and can take a flat surface and give it depth, temperature, motion — he can bring it to life.  That’s magical.  What we writers do isn’t all that different.  Using words printed on paper, we create worlds that people can see and smell and hear and taste, people them with living, breathing, compelling characters, and place those characters in situations that can be so thrilling and frightening, that readers are unable to stop reading until they know the ending.  That truly is alchemy — spinning threads of letters into golden experiences.

Edmund has an essay discussing useful and distracting similes and metaphors. Please put yourself in a simile. Example: “Edmund Schubert is like a dead penguin wedding cake.”
David B. Coe is like a funhouse mirror in a homicide division interrogation room.  [I have no idea what it means, but I like the sound of it.]

A.J. quotes Steven Spielberg i one of his essays, about how the core of a film should be able to be summed up in 26 words or fewer. Please sum yourselfs up in 26 words or fewer.
“An earringed, liberal, Jewish transplant from New York, living in the deep South with his wife and daughters, writing fantasy novels for a living.”


How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion is a compilation of essays originally published on, a popular writing blog with thousands of regular followers. Distilling three years worth of helpful advice into a single, portable volume, it contains nearly 100 essays covering a wide range of topics. Many of these essays are accompanied by comments and questions from the blog’s readers, along with the author’s response, making this volume unique among how-to books on any subject. The core members of Magical Words—David B. Coe, A.J. Hartley, Faith Hunter, Stuart Jaffe, Misty Massey, C.E. Murphy, and Edmund R. Schubert—have experience writing and editing fantasy, mysteries, thrillers, romance, science fiction, non-fiction, and more. This group is uniquely qualified to cover the full spectrum of writing-related issues. How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion is a book that belongs in the library of anyone interested in the craft of writing, the business of writing, and the writing life.