Friday, October 17, 2014

Interview: Paula Goodlett

We have all tried our hand at fan fiction now and again, but few have seen it get published outside of the Internet. Paula Goodlett took her interest in Eric Flint's Assiti Shards universe and become an important part of the collaborative timeline, with numerous short stories and co-authored novels under her belt. We chatted a little where she talked about herself and was able to answer some questions about the 1632 fan community. Check it out:

Who is Paula Goodlett?

Paula Goodlett is a retired air force MSgt who somehow got involved with Eric Flint's 1632 Universe back in 2003

What got you interested in alternate history?

There were a couple of books that got me started. Mostly it was due to the novel 1632 by Eric Flint. There's an ad in any number of Baen books that directs people to Baen's Bar, where they can discuss Baen novels, sometimes with the author.

But I'd had a bit of an interest in it because of reading Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove's novel, Household Gods.

How would you describe the Grantville Gazettes to someone unfamiliar with the 1632 universe?

The Grantville Gazette first started as an experiment by Eric Flint and publisher Jim Baen. Fans just kept writing fanfic set in the 1632 universe, and posting it to Baen's Bar. Unlike many authors, Eric has no real problem with fanfic. Some of it was so good that he asked Jim Baen if an anthology of fanfic could be published. Jim agreed and the first Ring of Fire anthology was published, with both fanfic and invited author's stories. After that, fans were more inspired and kept writing. Then Grantville Gazette I was published in paperback. Which eventually led to Grantville Gazette II, III, etc. We're currently working on Volume 56, which will be published online in November 2014.

When did you become the editor of the Grantville Gazettes and what are some of your duties?

Eric asked me to take the position of assistant editor in July of 2004. I became the editor in 2006. I read the slush, select the stories, copy edit them, and put them in the online magazine once they're as good as we can get them. The first five Gazettes were published in paper by Baen, exactly as the original ebooks were published. By the time we got to Volume VI, there were too many online Gazettes to continue that, so we started publishing a "Best of" volume in paper with Volume VI.

Note, the online Gazettes are numbered with Arabic numbers. But the paper Gazettes are published with Roman numerals in the title.

What do you believe sets 1632 fans apart from other collaborative efforts in the genre?

Primarily, I think, is support from the owner of the universe, Eric Flint.

Also, however, is that there quite a few people who actually like studying history. Many folks wrote their first Gazette story after reading 1632 and wondering how they would react if suddenly transported back in time.

If you could travel back in time, where and when would you go?

I have no desire to go back in time. :)  I wanna go forward. I want the Enterprise to beam me up. I want rejuve! Not getting any younger here!

As far as I'm concerned, these are the days to be female, because prior eras weren't woman-friendly in general. So I wouldn't want to go back prior to the 1980s, to tell the truth.

What are the "Minicons"?

Miniature conventions attended by 1632 fans, originally. The first five were held in Mannington, WV, the town upon which Grantville is based. We've been all over that town, seen the high school, talked to a coal miner, all sorts of stuff. After a while, though, people would mention that they'd really like to get together with Eric, but they couldn't make it to Mannington. So, eventually, Eric decided that he'd see if he could arrange with other conventions to run a 1632 track along with their usual tracks.  Once a year, we all trek off to wherever the minicon is, and run a program about what's going on in the 1632 universe. We did do one European minicon, back in 2007. Some 15 or so went to Germany, met some German fans, and wandered around Magdeburg, Jena, Erfurt, etc. Saw lots of interesting things there.

1634: The Ram Rebellion is one of my favorite books in the series. Can you tell me more about how that book came about?

Now, there's a story! I'd just become the assistant editor, and we (me, the editorial board, and Eric) were getting Grantville Gazette III ready for publication. That volume was intended to include most of the stories that wound up in 1634: The Ram Rebellion. Eric read the volume and decided -- out of the blue -- that many of those stories would fit into an anthology that covered land ownership laws in 17th century Germany, with a few additions from him and Virginia DeMarce. So we rushed around selecting stories to fill the holes he left in volume III, he wrote his story, and it all wound up being published as 1634: The Ram Rebellion.

As Eric said at the time, "Here's a nice pile of shiny new monkey wrenches, and let's see what we can do with it."

1636: The Kremlin Games was the first novel in the series you co-authored, correct? How was that experience?

Well, mostly it was both a lot of research and a lot of fun. Gorg Huff and I didn't really know beans about 17th century Russia when we started. Lots of books to read.

Part of the idea of the whole 1632 universe is to think about "what if?" So we wondered "what if the first Romanov czar was able to get out from under the constraints he lived with?"

When it comes to writing a 1632 story, what percentage of your time is spent researching vs. writing?

Depends on where it's set and what we're doing in that particular story. Setting a story in Grantville, not so bad. We only have to research what we don't know about whatever tech we're doing. Say 25 percent research. 1636: The Kremlin Games took a caboodle of research, though, as did 1636: The Viennese Waltz. More like 55 to 60 percent.

Speaking of 1636: The Viennese Waltz, that is the next book to be published that you co-authored. What can you tell our readers about this one?

Hapsburg Austria was a very important part of 17th century Europe. It stood as the first defense against the Ottoman Empire for many, many years. Unfortunately, its economy was truly, ah, nonexistent. The United States of Europe certainly doesn't want Austria to go broke, so they allow some help to arrive. The help, however, is a surprise.

There is a lot of speculation on certain forums about the geopolitical situation of the 1632 universe 100 or more years in the future. What do you think is going to happen in 1732?

Oh, there's just no telling. Plans for the series change with every book. Every story, for that matter. There's quite likely to be a long Ottoman war in the near future. There will be a French Revolution, albeit rather earlier than in this time line. In 1636: The Seas of Fortune, Japanese Christians settle California. Truth is, we probably won't know until we get there.

Are there any other projects you are working on?

Gorg Huff and I recently sent Eric the sequel to 1636: The Kremlin Games, which takes us back to Russia. The next book, unless the title gets changed again, will be called 1637: The Volga Rules. It continues the story of Bernie and Natasha, Vladimir and Brandy, as well as Czar Mikhail and his wife Evdokia, and how they carve . . .

Well, don't want to tell too much.

What are you reading now?

John Ringo's Strands of Sorrow, and a book about what happened after Alexander the Great died and how his empire was carved up. It's called Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great the the Bloody Fight for his Empire and was written by James Romm. Yes, there's a reason for that selection, and no, I'm not able to discuss it just yet.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Keep writing. Write a lot. Study grammar and punctuation. (That's the copy editor in me talking.) Mostly, just write and keep at it. It's not a picnic, true. But if you can keep at it and get better and better, you've got a chance. If you read early stories by authors published in the Gazette, and then later stories, you can see how they've improved. Including me. It's a heck of a training ground.

In fact, if you prefer science fiction or fantasy rather than alternate history, check out the Baen's Universe forums on Baen's Bar. It's a good training ground as well.

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