Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Reading the text: Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Posted by Randolph Carter on September 16, 2009

duplicate effortAuthor’s website:

Your Retrieval Artist series has been described as part CSI, part Bladerunner and part hard-boiled gumshoe. How would you describe this series to someone who knew nothing about it?

I’d describe them as hard-boiled mystery novels set in space. I really focus on the mystery here, but I remember the rule about sf: If you can remove the sf elements and still have a story, then you don’t have an sf story. So I’m balancing mystery with real science fiction, which is always a bit of a trick.

Having published extensively both novels and short stories, would you say you’re more at home writing one or the other?

I love them both. I read them both and I write both, as you noted. If I’m writing novels, I miss writing short stories. If I’m writing short stories exclusively, I miss writing novels. So I’m at equally at home with both.

Going back a bit, would you mind describing what the process was like for you in getting your first novel published?

It took forever! Seriously. I wrote the book in 1983 – 1984, after I got my first computer. I couldn’t face writing a novel on a typewriter. Then I started marketing the book. I got great rejections, although I didn’t know it at the time. I was mightily discouraged. But I kept plugging, and writing more books and stories. The great Brian Thomsen had a line at Warner Books for newer writers. He wanted my novel for that. He kept taking the book to committee to get the book bought, and they kept turning it down. He did that for more than a year. Then I sold a bunch of short stories, got nominated for some awards, and got an agent, who sent the book to John Silbersack at NAL. John bought it. But he had the awards, which helped. Then I got nominated for a Campbell. Then I won the Campbell. John kept slipping the book back, moving it up the list, until it became a lead title, published with tons of fanfare and a Tom Canty cover—which was hot then. It took 2 years for the book to get published. By the time it came out, I had sold eight other novels. I was beginning to think the process was write a novel, get paid, write another novel, get paid—but never see the books in print.

Are you or have you ever been a gamer? What has your gaming experience been like (board games, pen & paper RPGs, console & computer games, etc.)?

Played games my whole life. Board games as a kid (too damn old for RPGs; they didn’t exist when I was little). Did RPGs in high school, college, and after. I was the DM for a Dungeons and Dragons game that also had Kevin J. Anderson in it. We met every Sunday night and had a blast. Now I ban games from my computer or I’d never write. I do play on occasion, but never at home.

Have you ever ventured into online worlds? If so, please explain what that experience has been like.

Nope. Sorry. Won’t simply because of the timesink element. I know I’m missing great stuff.

Would you mind sharing an interesting and/or amusing story from your gaming past?

In my D&D game, the players always celebrated the end of a good run in a tavern. They’d drink, then toss their glasses in the fireplace. So one of the villains developed a potion that, when put in fire, exploded. He dosed their cups. (I set this up with my character, an evil magic user, and using some long lost D&D rules) I had this thing for months, but the players stopped tossing their glasses in the fire. Then one day, after a particularly grueling session, they did. The tavern exploded, everyone died, and Kevin never forgave me. In fact, he still gets mad about it if you mention it. (Mention it. Mention it.) My character survived because he knew what was coming. Became the most powerful character in the game for a while. <evil grin>

Would you say your gaming experience has had any effect on you as a writer?

Oh, yeah. It taught me to plot, to think ahead, to realize that different characters have different skills, and yet at some level they’re all you. Both Kevin and I based our first novels on our D&D game. So it had quite an influence.

Speaking of short stories and gaming, would you take a minute and explain what your story “Game Testing” in the new anthology Gamer Fantastic is about?

gamer fantasticI game tested back in the early 80s. I lived in Wisconsin, and TSR used to do a lot of game testing at conventions. So somehow, the story became about Lake Geneva, a real-life game test, and the history of RPGs. You’ll have to read it. It’s a lot more fun than I’m making it sound here.

Would you say there is grind involved in the writing process?

Not really. If you don’t love this work, you shouldn’t do it.

By contrast, what would you say is one of the most rewarding things about being a writer?


When do you find time to write?

Writing is my day job, my night job, my job. If I don’t do it, I don’t eat or funny things like that. So I write every day, most of the time, just like most people go to their day jobs. The difference is that I don’t take much time off.

How do you tend to escape these days?

Oh, jeez. Exercise, believe it or not. Reading in genres I’m not writing in at the moment. Being with friends. TV, movies. Surfing the web. Travel when I can find the time.

Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?

Trust yourself. Finish what you write. Have fun. That’s the real key. If you’re not having fun, there’s really no point.

You wake up to a world where your Retrieval Artist series has been made into a role playing game. Please describe the type of character you would roll up and why?

I’d probably roll up Flint or DeRicci—someone in charge of something (because that’s my nature), who fights crime creatively, and tries to make a difference.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with this gamer/reader audience?

I think you covered it all.

2 Responses to “Reading the text: Kristine Kathryn Rusch”

  1. […] Kristine Kathryn Rusch discusses her latest book, Duplicate […]

  2. […] Kristine Kathryn Rusch […]

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