Serial Box’s Tremontaine has just kicked off Season Three, and I’m happy to have one of its authors, Paul Witcover, joining me today with a quick Q&A! If you aren’t familiar with Tremontaine, here’s a quick run-down:
Tremontaine is the critically acclaimed prequel to Ellen Kushner’s beloved Riverside novels, which developed a cult following beginning with Swordspoint in 1987. The “Fantasy of Manners” focuses on decadent world building and interpersonal intrigue, and has been noted for its progressive expression of gender and sexuality. Team-written by some of today’s most exciting authors, Tremontaine season 3 is brought to you by Ellen Kushner, Joel Derfner, Karen Lord, Delia Sherman, Racheline Maltese, Paul Witcover, Tessa Gratton, and Liz Duffy Adams. The first episode is available for free at Serial Box and can be found here.
Now please welcome Paul Witcover to the blog, to talk a little about the process of writing a serialized story with a team of other authors!
For those who aren’t familiar with the series, Tremontaine is based on Ellen Kushner’s cult classic Swordspoint. I imagine it must be a blast to play in someone else’s sandbox! How is it working under Ellen’s direction to create something new and exciting, while trying to remain loyal to the original material?
It is indeed a lot of fun! Tremontaine is set prior to Swordspoint, so everything we come up with has to be leading toward the world Ellen established in that novel (and its sequels). But that is less of a constraint than you might think, and anyway art thrives in constraints.
Each episode of Tremontaine is written by a different contributor. Can you explain the process of merging twelve different writers—inspirations, styles and ideas—into one cohesive story?
Early in each season, we have a three-day-long meeting at Ellen’s house on Riverside Drive (where else?) during which we set up a big whiteboard, arm ourselves with hundreds of different-colored sticky notes, fortify ourselves with coffee and bagels, and set to work brainstorming the season to come. By the end of the process, we’ve plotted out the main and subsidiary storylines and assigned everyone their episodes. Once the writing begins, we post our work for the whole writing team to review, and of course everything goes through our editor, the wonderful Juliet Ulman, and our copyeditor, both of whom work hard to achieve that cohesiveness, while still respecting our individual styles.
Which episode or season has been your favorite to work on so far, and why?
Probably my episode for Season 1, in which I was tasked with the challenge of making a moment of scientific epiphany in the mind of a genius somehow relatable and dramatic to readers. Doing that made me fall in love with the character Micah, who remains my favorite of the large cast of characters in the series. She plays a part in my episode for Season 3 as well!
I was happy to see so many familiar names among the list of writers for the Tremontaine series. However, I couldn’t help but notice that out of all twelve authors, you and Joel Derfner are the only males! How has that been, being part of such female-centric writing team?
Good lord! Joel – we are the only dudes!! All my experiences in collaborating with other writers have involved strong women I count myself extremely fortunate to have worked with. So being on a team with a lot of super-talented women like Ellen, Tessa, Rachel, Delia, Karen, and others isn’t unusual for me. I try to soak up all the genius by osmosis, to be honest! Everyone on the team is dedicated to writing strong, believable female characters. Equally important, and what I’m especially proud of, is our desire to center LGBTQ perspectives in our storytelling. Ellen’s work has been groundbreaking in both regards, of course, and it’s personally meaningful to all us, I feel confident in saying, to continue that tradition in Tremontaine.
You have published quite a few novels in addition to being on the Tremontaine team. Would you say it’s easier or harder to write a serialized story with other writers?
It’s easier! I only have to write one episode, rather than an entire novel! Plus, I have all these genius writers around to point out where I’ve gone wrong and what’s more how to fix it!
I love that Tremontaine has just started Season Three. Is there an end in sight, or does the eventual length of the series depend on reader interest?
Hmm . . . I’m not sure I’m at liberty to reveal too much here. Suffice it to say that we know where we’re going and how long it will take to get there! As Bette Davis put it, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Thanks so much, Paul! Are you intrigued by the premise of checking out a serialized story? Then head on over to Serial Box right now and you can read the first episode in the series for free. And if you’re already reading this series, Paul’s episode Every Face a Forgery just came out this week:
About the author:
PAUL WITCOVER is the Nebula and World Fantasy nominated author of The Emperor of All Things, most recently, and its sequel, The Watchmen of Eternity. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and takes his chocolate hot and spicy, hold the cream. You can follow him on Twitter @PaulWitcover.