Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Gregory Ashe

Odyssey graduate and bestselling author Gregory Ashe will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. Gregory is a longtime Midwesterner. He has lived in Chicago, Bloomington (IN), and Saint Louis, his current home. He primarily writes contemporary mysteries, with forays into romance, fantasy, and horror. Predominantly, his stories feature LGBTQ protagonists. When not reading and writing, he is an educator.

For more information, visit his website: www.gregoryashe.com.


As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

The most important thing writers can do is keep trying. That’s not just general encouragement, although I do believe that persistence and hard work will probably pay greater dividends than waiting for genius, talent, or inspiration. I also mean keep trying new things: new genres, new points of view, new narrative structures, new character types, new lengths. As with so many crafts, failures in writing often teach more than successes, and trying new things will force you to stretch and grow—and it may help you see your own strengths and weaknesses.

You’re a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. What made you decide to attend?

When I decided to apply to Odyssey, I had been writing for seven years. I felt like I’d made a lot of progress and seen a lot of improvement, but I didn’t know how to take my writing to the next level. My goal was to have a career as a writer; I wasn’t sure if that was a realistic goal, and I didn’t know what to do to get better. After researching several writing workshops, I decided Odyssey seemed like the best fit for me.

How do you feel your writing and writing process changed as a result of having attended Odyssey? What insights did you gain into your own work?

Like so many Odyssey graduates, I found the workshop to be transformational. Critiques from Jeanne, guest lecturers, and fellow students helped me see both errors and weaknesses in individual stories as well as systemic problems in my writing. Just a few of the important lessons I learned are the importance of the causal chain, how to use character goals and conflict, the three-act structure, the role of theme and resonance, and effective point of view. I also learned how to read fiction more critically, which has helped me continue learning after Odyssey.

Your latest book, Stray Fears, came out in October 2020 and is a paranormal/horror mystery. What are some of the challenges of writing across genres?

Writing across genres presents a variety of opportunities and challenges. Genre-bending or genre-blending works may appeal to a wider audience, for example, and they allow writers to incorporate a greater variety of plot devices and play on (or with) more conventions. On the other hand, cross-genre stories are always at risk of disappointing audiences—mystery fans, for example, may not enjoy the supernatural elements, or horror fans may want more monsters and fewer clues. In addition, because each story always has a limit to what it can contain, writing across genres also requires authors to make sacrifices—it’s a struggle to fit in all the beats and plot points expected in each genre.

You’ve published six books in your Hazard and Somerset mysteries. Do you tend to outline your books and series ahead of time, or do you tend to figure things out as you go along? When you started the series, did you know how many books you would write and where your characters would end up?

Although I have become more and more of an outliner, there is still an element of excavation and discovery in each book I write. One challenge I’ve faced as a writer is that I tend to write long books—and if I’m not careful, they become massive. Outlining helps me control the size of the story, as well as ensuring that I hit the right beats and turns when and where I want to. The excavatory and exploratory side of storytelling tends to happen, for me, between those major plot points. I have written quite a few books without an outline at all, but that is less and less the case. The same is true for series. The Hazard and Somerset series essentially took shape as two parts: the first four books, and then the last two. I learned from that, and when I wrote ‘season two,’ Hazard and Somerset: A Union of Swords, I had a fairly comprehensive outline for the five-book series. I now tend to write all of my series this way, with an outline to guide the pacing of the series as well as the individual books.

You’re a prolific writer in addition to working as an educator. What does a typical day look like for you? When and how do you set aside time for writing, and how do you remain so productive?

The short answer is that I don’t have much of a life! During the school year, I wake up at 5 and write until it’s time to go to work. When I get home, I spend a couple of hours revising, eat dinner, and read. That’s pretty much it—in the summer, I have more time to relax, but for most of the year I keep to a fairly rigorous schedule. While I have mixed feelings about word goals, I do find them useful, and I aim to write two to three thousand words every day. I don’t always keep all of those words, but I believe there’s value in getting into the right headspace (flow, self-hypnosis, whatever you like to call it) and spending as much time as possible in it.

What’s next on the writing-related horizon? Are you starting any new projects?

Let’s see: the third book in my The Lamb and the Lion series (The Same End) comes out at the end of January. Then I have a four-book series that follows up on my Borealis Investigations books—this series is called Borealis: Without a Compass. Then I have more Hazard and Somerset, and I’m hoping to squeeze in a follow-up horror/mystery before October. Maybe a new project will surprise me along the way—it’s been known to happen!

Interview: Guest Lecturer David Farland

David Farland will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. David is an international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print.

He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for Best SF novel of the year, the Whitney Award for Book of the Year, and the International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the year, among others. He is best known, however, for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

He is the lead judge for one of the world’s largest writing competitions and has helped dozens of writers launch their careers, including such well-known names as Brandon Sanderson, James Dashner, Brandon Mull, and Stephenie Meyer.

You can learn about his workshops and sign up for his free advice column at www.mystorydoctor.com.


As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

There isn’t one piece of advice that everyone needs. Putting together a writing career is like putting together a puzzle. So I try to talk to a writer and figure out what the one piece of advice that author needs is.

For example, with Brandon Sanderson, he really just needed to believe that he could make writing a career, so we worked on that. For Stephenie Meyer, we analyzed her intended market and how to break into it. For James Dashner, he needed to transition from a low-paying market writing sports tie-ins to writing science fiction for a wider audience, and so on.

Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer David Farland”

Interview: Graduate Adria Laycraft

Adria_Author Photo 2Freelance editor, fiction author, and wood artisan Adria Laycraft earned honours in Journalism in 1992 and has always worked with words and visual art. She co-edited the Urban Green Man anthology in 2013, which was nominated for an Aurora Award, and launched her debut novel Jumpship Hope in 2019. Look for her short stories in various magazines and anthologies, both online and in print. Adria is a grateful member of Calgary’s Imaginative Fiction Writers Association (IFWA) and a proud survivor of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Learn more at adrialaycraft.com, or follow her YouTube channels Carving the Cottonwood and Girl Gone Ground.


You attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2006. What made you decide to attend?

A big-name author told me I was ready, that it would do me good if I was up for the commitment. I had only ever heard of Clarion at that point. I wanted to prove to myself that I had what it took. I actually did my own personal Odyssey the winter before, following the syllabus I found online, just to test myself and my discipline. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Adria Laycraft”

Interview: Graduate Alec Hutson

AlecHutsonAlec Hutson is a 2003 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. He lives in Shanghai and is the author of the epic fantasy trilogy The Raveling. The first novel in the trilogy, The Crimson Queen, was named one of Booknest’s Top 100 Fantasy Books of Our Century.


You attended Odyssey in 2003. Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep?

I had none! I had just graduated college, and although I’d dreamed of being a writer, I hadn’t written more than a few short stories. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Alec Hutson”

Interview: Graduate Corry L. Lee

Corry L Lee glasses pensive 5-2019 squareCorry L. Lee is a 2009 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. She is a science fiction and fantasy author, Ph.D. physicist, award-winning science teacher, data geek, and mom. Her debut novel, Weave the Lightning (Solaris, April 2020), “infuses magical resistance with a Russian flair” (Lightspeed Magazine). In Ph.D. research at Harvard, Corry shed light on the universe fractions of a second after the Big Bang. At a major tech company, she connected science to technology, improving the customer experience through online experimentation. A transplant to Seattle, Washington from sunny Colorado, she is learning to embrace rainy days. Learn more at corrylee.com or on Twitter @CorryLLee.  

Weave the Lightning is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie-Bound, and Powell’s. You can read an excerpt here.


You attended Odyssey in 2009. Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep?

Before Odyssey, I snuck writing into the cracks of my life. I was working on my Ph.D., and so tended to write in odd hours and weekends…whenever I could escape problem sets and research. It wasn’t so much a schedule as the thing I did to decompress. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Corry L. Lee”

Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer E.C. Ambrose

Elaine IsaacAuthor and Odyssey graduate E.C. Ambrose will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She writes knowledge-inspired adventure fiction including The Dark Apostle series about medieval surgery, The Singer’s Legacy fantasy series (as Elaine Isaak), and the Bone Guard international thrillers (as E. Chris Ambrose). Her latest releases are Bone Guard Two: The Nazi Skull, and The King of Next Week (Guardbridge). In the process of researching her books, Elaine learned how to hunt with a falcon, clear a building of possible assailants, and pull traction on a broken limb. Her short stories have appeared in Fireside, Warrior Women, and Fantasy for the Throne, among many others, and she has edited several volumes of New Hampshire Pulp Fiction. A graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, Elaine has returned there to teach, as well as at conventions and writer’s groups across the country. She has judged writing competitions from New Hampshire Literary Idol to the World Fantasy Award.

Elaine dropped out of art school to found her own business. A former professional costumer and soft sculpture creator, Elaine now works as a part-time adventure guide. In addition to writing, Elaine creates wearable art employing weaving, dyeing, and felting into her unique garments. To learn about all of her writing, check out RocinanteBooks.com.


As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

The most important thing about your first works are to FINISH THEM. We tend to obsess about where to start, how to start, how to handle this or that thing, or (heaven forbid!) which publisher or agent to send this book to when it turns out to be brilliant, because of course it will be. Or we fret that it just won’t ever be good enough and polish the same three chapters over and over every time we feel we have leveled up as a writer. But here’s the deal. You can’t level up until/unless you finish things. The only way to really learn how to write a story arc is to complete one. Then another. Then another, then get feedback on them and write another one. Then study some of your favorite stories with your newly jaundiced writer’s eyes, then write another. Finish things. The first ones won’t be great things, most likely, but they will teach you how to middle and how to end. Learning how to middle and how to end will help you understand where and how to begin. Focus less on polishing and revising and more on delivering words of story on the page. Bonus: when you finish a thing, it feels really good! Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer E.C. Ambrose”

Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Scott H. Andrews

WFC2012-ScottA
Photo credit: Al Bogdan

Odyssey graduate Scott H. Andrews will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. Scott lives in Virginia with his wife, two cats, thirteen guitars, a dozen overflowing bookcases, and hundreds of beer bottles from all over the world. He writes, teaches college chemistry, and is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the seven-time Hugo Award finalist online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Scott’s literary short fiction has won a $1,000 prize from the Briar Cliff Review, and his genre short fiction has appeared in Space & Time, Crossed Genres, and Ann VanderMeer’s Weird Tales.

He has lectured on short fiction, secondary-world fantasy, editing, magazine publishing, audio podcasting, beer, and heavy metal on dozens of convention panels at multiple Worldcons, World Fantasy Conventions, and regional conventions in the Northeast and Midwest, and he has taught fiction writing for Clarion West, The Cat Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, Houston Writefest, and at Odyssey. He is a seven-time World Fantasy Award finalist and 2019 winner for his work at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and he celebrates International Stout Day at least once a year.


You’re the editor-in-chief and publisher of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a magazine for literary adventure fantasy. What do you look for in the stories you buy?

The major thing I love to see in all stories is “the human heart in conflict with itself,” which is a quote from Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. I want to see a character who is dealing with some sort of conflict, whether an external struggle like plot obstacles or an internal one like trying to overcome flaws or to grow in relationships, or ideally both external and internal. But the story also needs to make me FEEL something about that character who is in conflict. I get many stories, by writers who’ve been to workshops, that have a character in an interesting situation, but the writer isn’t executing the story such that the writing makes me feel what it means to be who that character is. For me it’s not enough just to see the character or focus on them; the story has to resonate off the page and make me feel for the character. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Scott H. Andrews”

Interview: Guest Lecturer Sheila Williams

Sheila WilliamsSheila Williams will be a guest lecturer via Skype at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop. Sheila is the multiple Hugo Award-winning editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. She is also the winner of the 2017 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community.

Sheila started at Asimov’s in June 1982 as the editorial assistant. Over the years, she was promoted to a number of different editorial positions at the magazine, and she also served as the executive editor of Analog from 1998 until 2004. With Rick Wilber, she is the co-founder of The Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy. This annual award has been bestowed on the best short story by an undergraduate student at the International Conference on the Fantastic since 1994. She has served as an instructor at Clarion, Clarion West, Odyssey, and other writing workshops. In addition, she coordinates the Asimov’s website (www.asimovs.com).

In addition, Sheila is the editor or co-editor of twenty-six anthologies. Her newest anthology, Entanglements: Tomorrow’s Lovers, Families, and Friends, is the 2020 volume of MIT’s Twelve Tomorrow’s anthology series.

Sheila received her bachelor’s degree from Elmira College in Elmira, New York, and her MA in philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. During her junior year she studied at the London School of Economics. Sheila is the mother of two daughters. She lives in New York City with her husband, David Bruce.


You talked about appealing story openings during your lecture in 2013 at Odyssey. What makes for a satisfying ending to a story?

It’s a huge relief when an unfamiliar author lands the ending. In a great ending, the multiple layers of a story come together in a satisfying way. A well-thought-out ending shows me that I’m in the hands of a professional or budding professional. Generally, a good ending is not one that the author tacked on to their story. Sometimes I realize that the ending was foretold in the opening paragraphs, but that doesn’t mean that it was predictable, just that the groundwork was laid. Although an ending can develop organically from the tale being told, many authors begin their story with an understanding of exactly where and how the story will conclude. Sometimes they even write it first. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Sheila Williams”

Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Carrie Vaughn

Carrie Vaughn-5 - croppedBestselling author Carrie Vaughn will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop. Her latest novels include the post-apocalyptic murder mystery, Bannerless, winner of the Philip K. Dick Award, and its sequel, The Wild Dead. She wrote the New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, along with several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, and upwards of 80 short stories, two of which have been finalists for the Hugo Award. She’s a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin, and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado. Visit her at www.carrievaughn.com.


You’re one of several authors who provide in-depth critiques for the Odyssey Critique Service. What are some of the common weaknesses you see in submissions?

Characters and plot that don’t hold together. How this plays out: What the story says about the characters is different from how they’re actually portrayed. Or they’re passive characters who don’t drive the action, who are merely observers or are acted upon. Plots where actions and scenes don’t follow logically and don’t build on one another—they don’t have that domino effect we’re looking for. In all these cases, the motivation and drive for the story are fuzzy, there’s no tension, and the reader isn’t engaged. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Carrie Vaughn”

Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Barbara Ashford

barbara ashfordBarbara Ashford will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop. Barbara has been praised by reviewers and readers alike for her compelling characters and her “emotional, heartfelt” storytelling. Her background as a professional actress, lyricist, and librettist has helped her delve deeply into character and explore the complexities of human nature on the stage as well as on the page. Her musical adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd has been optioned for Broadway.

Barbara’s first published series was the dark fantasy trilogy Trickster’s Game (written as Barbara Campbell). Published by DAW Books, Trickster’s Game was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Society’s 2010 Fantasy Award for adult literature.

She drew on her musical theatre roots for her second novel series, the award-winning Spellcast and its sequel Spellcrossed, set in a magical summer stock theatre. DAW Books released the two novels in an omnibus edition: Spells at the Crossroads.

A 2000 graduate of the Odyssey workshop, Barbara has taught eight online courses for Odyssey and has served on the staff of the Odyssey Critique Service for more than a decade. You can visit her dual selves at barbara-campbell.com and barbara-ashford.com.


You’re one of several authors who provide in-depth critiques for the Odyssey Critique Service. What are some of the common weaknesses you see in submissions?

Often, writers do not think about how the various “big picture” elements—plot, character, theme, world—relate to each other. To me, it’s critical to understand the heart of the story you’re telling. Whether you call that the story’s promise or its theme, without a clear understanding of the “message” you want readers to take away, the story can devolve into a series of plot incidents instead of evolving into a unified whole where all the “big picture” elements work together to create a story that is more cohesive and compelling. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Barbara Ashford”