Saturday, September 24, 2016

0 Erin Bow, author of THE SWAN RIDERS, on revising being like carding wool

THE SWAN RIDERS is the second book in the Prisoners of Peace series, and we're delighted to have Erin Bow join us to share more about it.

Erin, what was your inspiration for writing THE SWAN RIDERS?

The Swan Riders is a the second book in a duology. But the odd thing is, I was most of the way through writing the first book before I discovered a second book at all. It happened while I was writing one particular chapter. (If you've read The Scorpion Rules, you'll know the chapter I mean. It's the one that starts: "Talis, I want you to kill me.") I remember sending it to a friend -- RJ Anderson, who was a read-along cheering section/sounding board for Scorpion -- and saying "am I crazy or do I need an entire new book to explore these themes?" She's a hopeless Talis fangirl so she said I could have another book. Let's all thank her.

You can still read The Scorpion Rules as a stand alone if you want, but I am very happy to have writerly enablers who helped me discover The Swan Riders. It is in some ways a better book, and it was a hoot to write. I've never had so much fun.

How long did you work on THE SWAN RIDERS?

About three years? The first year almost doesn't count, though: while I was doing the edits to The Scorpion Rules I would sometimes sneak away and have a little fling with The Swan Riders. I was married to it -- it was my primary project -- for about a year and a half. Call it nine months in drafting and nine months in edits. This is actually fast for me. Compared to my six-year first novel, it's lightning speed.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

This book taught me a lot about revision. Maybe because the process was so compressed, but I felt as if I could observe my own process better, and be a little more left-brained about it.

A friend of mine, Susan Fish, gave me a useful metaphor that helped me think about it. She said it was like carding wool: passing across the same snarl time and time again to get the strands to line up. That helped me realize I could do it one layer at a time: a pass to address this strand, another to address that strand, another devoted to the framing story, etc. Knowing I didn't have to fix everything at once gave me more power to make big changes after a point where I'd have previously thought a book's structure fixed. For instance, the entire subplot about the Pan Polar rebellion, which I'd like to think looks integral to the book, was added in such a pass, and very late -- only a few weeks before copy edits.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

Guys, I have a writer paradise: I write in my garden shed. My hubby and I bought our first house in February 2015. We lucked out: previous owners had liked to garden, and the back yard was full of trees and beds of ferns and hostas. And there was a shed: clinker built like a boat of heavy pine boards and painted moss green. I claimed it at once. It took us six months to get the junk and critters evicted, and then we hired a friend to jack it up and put in a new foundation, to add proper windows and doors and insulation. We dug a trench and hired an electrician to run power from the house. Drywall went up and floors went down, and now it no long feels as if it might or might not be full of spiders: it feels like a tiny perfect room, a hobbit hole of writer happiness.

I keep roughly day-job hours in my shed, going out as soon as I am caffeinated enough to function (this takes a bit), and spending most of the day out there. The kids usually pop in when they are home from school, but they don't linger unless they want to talk, or sit and sketch: my shed has nothing for them to do. The dog sometimes comes in and lays on the rug. But it is my space, and there is nothing for me to do in it but write. I listen to music -- bluegrass for the Swan Riders; this is the theme song -- I burn a beeswax candle to make it smell like a church.

I aim to write 1000 words a day, and when I do I get a sticker.


The Swan Riders
by Erin Bow
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Released 9/20/2016

Greta Stuart has become AI. New transmitters have silvered her fingerprints. New receptors have transformed her vision. And the whole of her memory has become one book in a vast library of instant knowledge. Greta is ready to rule the world.

But the new technology is also killing her.

Greta is only sixteen years old, but her new enhancements are burning through her mortal body at an alarming rate. Of course the leader of the AIs, an ancient and compelling artificial intelligence named Talis, has a plan. Greta can simply do what he’s done when the time comes, and take over the body of one of the Swan Riders, the utterly loyal humans who serve the AIs as part army, part cult.

First though, Greta will have to find a way to stay sane inside her new self. Talis’s plan for that involves a road trip. Escorted by Swan Riders, Greta and Talis set out on a horseback journey across the strange and not-quite-deserted landscape of Saskatchewan. But there are other people interested in Greta, people who want to change the world…and the Swan Riders might not be as loyal as they appear…

Purchase The Swan Riders at Amazon
Purchase The Swan Riders at IndieBound
View The Swan Riders on Goodreads


Erin Bow is the author of The Scorpion Rules, which received three starred reviews and was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year; the acclaimed Russian-flavored fantasy Plain Kate, which received two starred reviews and was a YALSA Best Book of the Year; and the terrifying YA ghost story Sorrow’s Knot, which received five starred reviews and was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year. Visit her at


Have you had a chance to read THE SWAN RIDERS yet? Do you revise in layers? Are you jealous of Erin's writing shed? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Anisaa, Sam, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, and Kristin

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