Fran Wilde is the host of popular podcast “Cooking the Books” and author of award-winning novel, “Updraft” and upcoming sequel “Cloudbound”
JMW: Hello. This is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag.com. With me today is author, podcaster, and debut novelist, Fran Wilde. Welcome, Fran.
Fran Wilde: Hello.
JMW: We’re so glad to have you. Your podcast, “Cooking the Books“, has been exploring the connection between fiction and food for four years now. So, dish. What’s the connection between food and the city of living bone described in your first novel, Updraft?
Fran Wilde: Sure, really good question, and it’s funny because as a food blogger I didn’t expect to be writing a book about a scarcity society, but that’s exactly what I did. They don’t have as much food. They don’t know it. So when I wrote Updraft, I had to be very careful to only use the food that was available to them, which is mainly birds. But also the grains and small fruits, and things that they could grow at high altitude in very limited soil, and often in pots. Their gardens are part of what feeds them, but they also have some farming tiers, and they have towers that produce honey. Lots of things like that. What’s really exciting though, and this just happened, is a food blogger at Fiction-Food just made apple cakes with blackberry sauce on top, which was so cool. And that was for the book. To have another food blogger make food out of my book, as a debut, was amazing.
JMW: Yeah, I can see where that would be really, really cool. But how do you grow apples and blackberries in container pots?
On “Cooking the Books” Fran Wilde has Authors dish about their books and share extraordinary food recipes that tie in.
Fran Wilde: Well, what we’re used to as apples are these big, beautiful things, and traditionally apples were very small. They were about fist size, and high altitude apples are that way already, and they’re used to growing in rocky environments with very little soil. The people who live in the bone tower cities farm using a lot of recycling, there’s a lot of guano going on in various forms, so everything’s done very carefully and the apples that grow there are slightly different than what we’re used to.
JMW: I understand Updraft started life as a short story. What about this particular story, among all the ones you’ve written and published, insisted on being a novel?
Fran Wilde: I guess it was right time, right place. I had just finished this short story, which was an armed wing fight in a wind tunnel, and I showed it to my beta readers, and said, “Wow, I’m really glad to be writing short stories again. I’m glad this is not a novel,” because I had just finished writing a novel. And they read it, and there was a long, quiet pause, and then they said, “Well actually Fran, we’ve got news for you. We’ve got some questions, and we think it’s going to be a bigger story.” And when I started thinking about it, I realized that I had questions too, so I really wanted to explore those. And as I started exploring them, the arc of the novel came out.
Named one of the Very Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2015 by iO9.com, Updraft introduces a new world made of bones where the survival of humanity relies on constructed wings and homes in the clouds.
JMW: So you wrote the novel to answer your own questions?
Fran Wilde: I did. I dug that hole all by myself.
JMW: The things we writers do to ourselves. We talk about torturing our characters. We torture ourselves. As somebody who has a mild case of acrophobia, the airborne world of Updraft just blew me away. Where did that whole thing come from? Airborne flights in wind tunnels? Where did you come up with this stuff?
Fran Wilde: I love being up high on a very windy day, when I was growing up I spent a lot of time on the eastern shore of Maryland up on the bluffs there which are 30 feet or so above the water, and we’d wait for storms, and just let the wind sort of pick us up almost. I love that feeling. I have a lot of friends who are hang gliders and parasailers and do all sorts of things with foils and flying. I’m not a flier. I get vertigo. I’m actually scared of big heights. I feel very wobbly. So I wanted to explore that fear, and I also am a sailor, so I knew how wind and foils worked on a boat. I wanted to explore how it works in the air. It’s a different angle. It’s a different kind of foil. So I did a lot of research to explore those things in order to build the world. One of the things I did was I went indoor skydiving.
JMW: Oh, that’s wild. I didn’t know you could skydive indoors.
Fran Wilde: You can. There is a facility. There are several around the country, but I went to a facility called Skyventure New Hampshire. And they have a very fast fan, and a very big long tube that you can climb into, and it lifts you up off your feet, and you can practice skydiving moves in there. That particular facility is one of the places that the Army West Point skydiving team train. We got to watch them in action as well.
JMW: Cool. Very cool. But Updraft is just one arrow in your quiver. You’ve got a lot of interesting projects in the work. Can you tell our viewers a little bit about the Tor novella you’ve got coming out in the spring? I understand it’s not going to be just on the website, either.
Fran Wilde: No, this is really cool. Tor.com has a new imprint called tor.com Publishing, and they have selected novellas to excerpt on the website and then turn into books with covers, and audio, and all sorts of amazing things going forward. My novella, The Jewel and Her Lapidary, which is set in the Gem Universe that I also write in, will be out in the spring or summer.
JMW: The Gem Universe is one of your short story universes.
Fran Wilde: Correct. There was a short story called The Topaz Marquise that came out in BCS a couple years ago.
JMW: Oh! So if folks want to find that story in preparation they can.
Fran Wilde: They can, and hopefully there will be a couple more coming soon.
JMW: Oh, great. And getting back to food, then there’s The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Cookbook. How did that come about, and isn’t it for charity?
Fran Wilde: It is for charity. The SFWA 50th Anniversary Cookbook is called Ad Astra, and it is amazing. I got involved because Steven Gould, who is the former president of SFWA, suggested me to Cat Rambo the current president of SFWA as a potential co-editor. Because I’d interviewed him, he knew that I was involved with food through Cooking the Books. He also knew that I had easy access to a good number of SFWA authors who have already given me recipes. Because part of the deal with Cooking the Books is you come on, I ask you interesting questions, and you give me a recipe. So if you go to my website you can find a lot of these, and when we were starting to ask people about recipes for the cookbook, I sent a letter to all my Cooking the Books authors who were also SFWA authors and said, “Hey, we’re doing this cookbook, and congratulations you’re already in it.” They had to agree, of course, and give permission, but we got fantastic recipes for this. There are Octavia Butler’s pineapple fried rice is in there, which is delicious. My very own falling cloud cake that my editor…
JMW: I wonder where that came from?
Fran Wilde: There’s croquet-en-bouche. There are several stew recipes. A lot of it is for parties and brunches this time. We decided to keep it with that theme, and then there are some spoof recipes. Jim Heinz gave us his elf barbecue recipe. We have schadenfreude pie, which is of course is John Scalzi. And Spider Robinson gave us an engineering perfect example of how to make an omelette. It goes on for about four pages, so it’s wonderful, and this is all for the good of charity. It’s celebrating SFWA’s 50th anniversary, but it also benefits the SFWA legal fund, which is a great opportunity to help fellow writers.
JMW: We’re coming up on the end of the interview, and there’s two questions I always ask. One of them is, “What’s the shiny?” What are you working on now?
Fran Wilde: Gosh. I have a couple different projects in the works. One is a secret project I can’t talk about yet.
Another adventure in the Updraft universe, protagonists Nat Densira, along with Kirit Skyshouter discover even more secrets about their world that will change their views forever.
Fran Wilde: I know other people say that, but this is something I’m really excited about, so I’m looking forward to sharing it with people. I am working on the third book in Updraft‘s world. The second one is done. It’s in the editing process now, and should be out next fall, 2016. That one’s called Cloudbound, and if you read Updraft the title will give you an idea of where we’re going. If you haven’t read Updraft, why not? The third book doesn’t have a title yet, but it will eventually have a title. I’m really excited about it. I’m having a great time writing it. The short stories I’m working on are all over the map. There’s some sci-fi. There’s some fantasy. There’s a little bit of literary. I’m really having a good time, and one of the short stories is actually a Gem World short story that I’m hoping to send out pretty soon.
JMW: Okay. Cool. We’re at that final question. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Fran Wilde: I am looking forward to meeting people. Come out and see me. I’ve got events coming up in the Northeast, and then I’ll definitely be at World Fantasy at Boscone in the winter, and then at Vericon at Harvard in March. I’m really excited that just happened.
JMW: Great, okay. Well, thank you so much for being with us. And thank you, viewers. For BuzzyMag.com.
Fran Wilde: Thank you. Bye!
Interviewed by Jean Marie Ward
Here are plenty of ways to keep up with Fran’s podcast, latests SciFi & Fantasy Podcasts, tours, and novel releases!
Fran Wilde is known for her Podcast, “Cooking the Books”, her collection of Sci & Fantasy short stories, and latest award-winning novel Updraft. She has the sequel coming in September, 2016.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.