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The Backburner Book
Karin Lowachee
article courtesy of Time Warner Trade Publishing
Warchild
Karin Lowachee
Karin Lowachee's family moved from Guyana, South America to near Toronto, Ontario when she was about 2 years old. After university, she tried various jobs unrelated to writing, before being rejected from the graduate writing program at the University of British Columbia. Offered the chance, she went to Rankin Inlet on the west coast of Hudson Bay where she spent 9 months. Her novel, Warchild, won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest.

Karin Lowachee Website
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SF Site Excerpt: Warchild

Nobody was more surprised than the author that Warchild came out the way it did. I was working on a fantasy novel when a character's little voice propelled me to the computer one day and strung out what eventually became the opening paragraph to a 40-page, second-person account of his trauma, which then led to a 400+ page narrative of how he dealt with it.

Maybe I shouldn't have been shocked; the story had been brewing on the backburner for years, with a dozen false starts, half-met plot points, and an entirely different protagonist point-of-view. But I'd known it wasn't ready to "be born" and instead developed a fantasy world that I peopled and plotted for over 100 pages, before it came to a screeching halt. I knew this fantasy world but felt somehow that maybe my skill level as a writer wasn't up yet to dealing with multiple points-of-view, entangled layers of dynasty and deity, and the real possibility of a sprawling trilogy. (Note to self: Will return to this series come hell or high water). My fantasy novel perhaps wasn't meant to be my first. I had never completed one and Andarixa seemed too complicated a child, too demanding, too darn long-term. I needed to finish something stand-alone. Now.

I had workshopped the first three chapters of Andarixa on the then-named Del Rey Online Writing Workshop and received a few helpful reviews, though the story was swamped beneath the weight of others' more professional prose. Not good enough; I wanted the editors' attention. I treated the workshop like a market sample; here was a place of a few thousand spec fic people, a slice of the readership I wished one day to have. If nobody was interested in my book maybe that was telling me something. At the same time and quite independently, the book was stuttering to a halt for all the reasons mentioned above.

I distinctly remember lying in bed one morning when the sentences to my backburner SF story started pouring through my mind, in second person, a point-of-view I never once thought to write in (Big No-No, all the rulebooks said), from a character I'd previously relegated to supporting star status. I had no idea who he really was, but I had an affection for him. I pounded out the first 20 pages or so, slapped a title on it (which was never changed), and subbed it to the workshop. Then I promptly forgot about it. I didn't expect it to gain much attention (in fact I expected What is this crap? to be the gist of the crits), since my fantasy novel hadn't.

Weeks later I popped back to the workshop and discovered it was an Editors' Choice and received a slew of comments, most of them quite positive. More than one person said they wanted to know what happened next.

Well, I thought. Let's see.

Copyright © 2002 by Karin Lowachee

All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author. This article has been provided by Time Warner and printed with their permission.


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