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Ask Me a Question Day

It's ask me a question day! You can ask about any of my books, about writing in general, about my fannish opinions about Stargate, or whatever!

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( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
heatherlayne_n
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
What is it like working at home? How do you make that successful? Do you give yourself certain hours, just like if you left the house for a job or just write when you can? Do you have a space all to yourself, or are you in the middle of the family all day? How, basically, do you do it?
jo_graham
Mar. 18th, 2012 04:09 pm (UTC)
I have an office at home, a former screen porch that's been walled in but still has no heat or AC but has a view of my yard and the woods beyond. In the summer it's utterly sweltering, but I love it anyway!

I write every weekday. I put my daughter on the school bus at 6:15 and at 6:20 I'm at my desk. I usually work through until early afternoon when ideas are getting tired and I need to get ready for her to come home. So that's why I'm usually posting here very early in the morning! Sometimes I work on weekends too, when it works for my family. Yesterday between playing outside and working in the garden and going to the farmer's market and going to Target I did a big chunk of the galleys for Lost Things.

But yes, basically I work every day. Sometimes I don't have an idea flowing, and there's no use forcing it. But there's plenty to do on the business end when that happens, promotion and finances and publicity and dealing with essentially having a small business. I never make myself write when it's not natural because what I produce is terrible. And I let myself follow an idea or do research or chase a new narrative voice when one shows up, because that's where the books eventually come from.

I think I make working at home work because I spent so long in small nonprofits and small political campaigns where you have to be your own boss and have to be a self-starter. I have made every deadline, and I usually make them early. I rarely turn in a manuscript or a revision as late as the deadline because I start early and work steadily. Also I write very quickly when it's working. I average about 35,000 words per month between various projects, or three books a year plus.
kaviiq
Mar. 18th, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
I know you get a lot of Wraith-centric questions, but I really like how you and Melissa and Amy are fleshing them out, so it's hard not to.

How are family units arranged on a hive? Does a Queen raise her children exclusively, or is a child raised by the whole community? (Or are girls raised by Queens, and boys are given over to the men once they're able to walk?) Are full blood relatives typically considered one's family, or are agemates and friends just as important?

While it's only tangentially related, do adolescent Wraith have the same sort of teenaged antics that we humans do? Engaging in risky behavior, showing off, starting and following clothing/hairstyle trends that baffle adults, etc.? Or are they more focused on behaving like adults and fitting in?
jo_graham
Mar. 18th, 2012 09:25 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you like it! Here are my thoughts, and these are just my thoughts, not all approved by MGM or according to some secret source or something.

Because the Wraith have such long lives, there are very few children at any time. If you had children at the same rate as humans, there would be so many Wraith you couldn't swing a cat! But if a Wraith queen lives for a thousand years and produces one child every century you'd have ten kids! Even so, figuring that children also grow somewhat more slowly (though not all that slowly, given Ellia), you would have brothers and sisters centuries apart in age, and possibly your sister's great grandchildren would be the same age as you!

Also, queens rarely share hives. Sometimes it happens between close kin if they don't have enough resources for two hives -- sisters who have one small hive between them and can't afford to split their crew -- or mothers and daughters who are still young and haven't gotten their own ship yet. But generally there is one queen to a hive, or one queen and her adolescent or younger daughter. Alliances are usually groups of related queens, your "overlady" is your mom and the assorted other queens of the alliance are your aunt, your first cousin, your mom's aunt, and your older sister.

So on a single hive there are usually only the children of one or two queens, so it's odd to have more than two to four children on the hive at a time, and often only one, if a queen has only one child who is too young to be adult. Consequently, children spend most of their time with adults rather than with same-age playmates.

Even over centuries, it's not very socially acceptable for a queen to have more than two children by one male. With the genetic chokepoints of few queens the only way to assure any genetic diversity is to make sure that her children have different fathers. The greatest honor is to be the father of a queen, to be judged worthy of having one's own genetic material passed on for a thousand years or more to all of her children.

Blades and clevermen fight overtly and covertly for the honor of fathering any child, and for the queen's attention. Sometimes it's actual fights, to blood or even to the death. On a more well-run hive the queen channels that aggression into contests, hunts, or subtle attempts to outdo each other. One of our inspirations was the court of Queen Elizabeth I, with all the gorgeously attired soldiers and poets and explorers and pirates and scientists competing for her attention, bringing her chests of treasure and writing her sonnets!

A child is the child of the whole community, in the sense that each is a treasure of the hive. However, if a queen has several sons by different fathers aboard at once, as she may, there may be rivalry. Or not. Brothers may be close instead. Often, again to prevent interbreeding, young men may leave the hive of their mother or sister and join another hive where the queens are not so closely related. Sometimes a group of three or four young men who are friends will go together, forming the core of the crew of a ship for a young queen, who presumably over the coming centuries will choose one as Consort and father of her daughter, while the others will father her sons. On a stable hive that's the zenana, the close inner circle of blades and clevermen the queen has brought along from her youth, all of whom can rely on each other. Queen Death's zenana is a group of competitive strangers, which is not the ideal! (In Melissa's upcoming novel, Ourobouros, we'll see an AU version of Guide, in which Snow's hive was never destroyed and he is in the context of his original queen and his original friends, his original family.)

When a Wraith says family, that's what he means. He means the others who have lived in this hive with him for centuries, his queen and her children, whether or not he's related to the children.
kaviiq
Mar. 19th, 2012 12:32 am (UTC)
Wow, thank you for taking the time to answer. You (and Amy and Melissa) must put a lot of time into setting up these social hierarchies and the cultural nuances that an outsider might never pick up on. It's fascinating stuff!
jo_graham
Mar. 19th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! The Wraith are so much fun!
kassrachel
Mar. 19th, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
I really like that y'all have thought this through so deeply, and I also really like the way y'all characterize the Wraith and the way you've made sense of what we're given onscreen.
jo_graham
Mar. 19th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's a really fun challenge.
tricksterquinn
Mar. 19th, 2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
Which raises an interesting question - a queen chooses to have a daughter? That's an intentional process, then?
mescott
Mar. 19th, 2012 10:23 pm (UTC)
I think it has to be, at least in a social sense. To have a daughter is to create another hive - it changes things far more than bringing another cleverman or blade into an existing society. And certainly the Wraith are good enough at genetic manipulation - it's the basis of their science - that it's easy to imagine a queen being able to choose the sex of her children.
lc59
Mar. 18th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
What was the defining moment that convinced you that you could make a go of writing to be published?

And how do you create characters that you actually care about?
I got distracted from my original work because the SG characters are so much more interesting than anything I've ever been able to create...so how do you build characters that keep YOU as the writer engaged until the end of the book?
jo_graham
Mar. 18th, 2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
I have absolutely no idea what the defining moment was! I suppose I've always thought I would be, though I didn't know with which book or when. I completed my first book at fifteen, and then it took twenty three years to sell one, so I don't suppose I ever considered that I might not be published! Also, I had my first fanfic accepted by a paper zine before I was fourteen, telling them that I was eighteen, and I attempted my first book at ten. I seriously do not remember a time before I wrote for publication.

The hard thing wasn't beginning. The hard thing was the twenty three years between finishing my first novel and selling my fifth!

Characters -- I write about what engages me. For example, what is it about the SG characters that works for me? What is it that I love about them, and love to write? One thing, for me, is that I love the team. I love the closeness, the interplay between characters, the different skills and viewpoints that play off each other. I also love the mixture of action and mysterious cool space stuff. I also love that the characters are dedicated. They're working toward a goal. They're trying to be the good guys, and no matter how challenged they are, they work hard to remain their best selves, no matter what. Yes, they have failings and sorrows, but they try to be good.

Ok, so now that I know what the elements are that make the characters interesting to me, how do I translate those elements into a different kind of story? Let's look at Lost Things.

Lost Things is about a team, Alma, Mitch, Lewis and Jerry. (The Countess joins in the second book.) The Lodge is the context in which they're a team. So what does the team do? They solve occult problems using aviation, archaeology and magic. Consequently different members of the team have different specialties, different strengths and weaknesses. Also they have history. There are complicated interpersonal things going on here. And they're the good guys. They're the guardians, the ones who are trying to do the right thing regardless of the cost.

So it's a lot of the same elements in play, even if it's not the same story! And hopefully it will appeal to readers who like that kind of team adventure the same way that Stargate does to them and to me. Does that all follow?
kinetikat
Mar. 20th, 2012 11:53 pm (UTC)
How Did I Miss Question Day?!
Er, that's not the question I wanted to ask, though!
Sorry - been very distracted over the last few days so haven't popped in here.
What I really want to know is: when you named the close inner circle of blades/courtiers the 'zenana', were you aware of the connotations of the word? And did you expect many readers to pick up on those connotations?
I think it's a lovely role reversal of the harem/seraglio concept - that you have the Queen, and she has all these men vying for her favour, competing to catch her eye... nice, with a healthy tang of irony!
jo_graham
Mar. 21st, 2012 10:28 am (UTC)
Re: How Did I Miss Question Day?!
Oh absolutely we did it on purpose! :) We very carefully considered a number of terms, and then we had to defend our choice to MGM. Our take is that due to the sex imbalance, so many more males than females, that Wraith society is essentially polyandrous. Of course we're not going to show that "on screen" as we have to remain at a PG rating, but that's the context. And that's the context for things like male Wraith dress, all that long hair and elaborate costume. You've got to be pretty to have status!
kinetikat
Mar. 21st, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
Re: How Did I Miss Question Day?!
Fantastic! You guys crack me up.
In the best possible way.
jo_graham
Mar. 22nd, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
Re: How Did I Miss Question Day?!
We aim to please! :)
Shawn Edwards
Mar. 23rd, 2012 05:10 am (UTC)
Wraith and the Iratus bug
I hope you will still answer a question:) What would you imagine is the current relationship between the Iratus bug and the Wraith? Do the Wraith experiment on the Iratus bug like Michael did? It almost seems like Michael was the only one willing to experiment on them since he invented the hybrids who were superior to the Wraith (without the need to feed). So we could assume...
jo_graham
Mar. 23rd, 2012 01:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Wraith and the Iratus bug
Oh my! You are skating awfully close to a lot of very spoilery things! :)

Let's see what I can say without giving too much away. There are reasons that those experiments are taboo. Michael was breaking a huge rule in Wraith society, one for which the Wraith were willing to hunt him down as well. Also, if you remember back in season one The Gift, the Wraith who did the experiments that created the Gift was also shut down by his own people. And if you recall in Phantoms, the experimental Wraith facility on the planet was shut down by the Wraith themselves. There are reasons why these experiments are taboo.

As for superior -- well, Michael says so! But they don't regenerate as well as Wraith, they don't seem terribly bright, and we don't know that they have the longevity. He's got the telepathy, but how extensive is that? The only hybrid we see able to interface with the cruiser is Kanaan -- but presumably he already could! He's an Athosian with the Gift. Presumably like Teyla he could already have done that.

No, Michael is after something more. Which is why he wants Torren.
Shawn Edwards
Mar. 24th, 2012 01:32 am (UTC)
Re: Wraith and the Iratus bug
Oh boy! I should be careful about the questions I ask if I'm not prepared for the answers! Like, that's stopped me from asking questions... You raise some interesting points. I sure hope you and your fellow partners in crime are planning to address these very interesting speculations!

Thanks for all the stories you have given us. They are so fun:)
jo_graham
Mar. 24th, 2012 12:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Wraith and the Iratus bug
I'm glad you're having fun!

That is one of the real questions raised by The Prodigal -- if Michael has all these hybrids and they're so super, why does he want Torren? Why did he want Torren enough to go through all that kidnapping and so forth in Kindred? And, in the alternate future of The Last Man, why did he kill Teyla as soon as Torren was born?

I think the latter question has already been answered in Legacy, or is about to be in The Lost. Teyla has the full telepathic powers of a Wraith queen. Not some of them, not a little bit, but the whole package. She hasn't learned to use it from childhood, as a Wraith queen would have, but we see in The Queen that Todd can bring her up to speed very quickly -- enough that she can completely convince other Wraith that she is a queen. If Michael had left Teyla alive, eventually she would have taken the ship from him. Eventually she could have commanded the obedience of the hybrids. He couldn't keep her prisoner once she figured out what she could do. She could simply command the ship and the others to free her.
splv
Apr. 9th, 2012 01:04 am (UTC)
Sorry I realize this question is very late-but I was on a hiatus from SGA for a while and just got back into reading the books.
I finished reading book 3 yesterday and I did enjoy it very much, especially the focus on Ronon and Sateda. I was wondering though, if we will get to see more of Jeannie. We hardly got to see much of her in this book.
Also thanks for having them as a kindle book -it was super quick to download and read it on my ipad.
jo_graham
Apr. 9th, 2012 02:38 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked Allegiance! I thought Melissa and Amy did a great job with it. It was really Ronon's book, as The Lost was John's. The upcoming The Avengers is Teyla's and then Secrets is Rodney's. There is more of Jeannie in The Avengers, though I wouldn't say it's a ton of her. Some. Several scenes. And she has several scenes in Secrets.
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