Interview: Martha Wells

Martha WellsMartha Wells writes adult and YA fantasy and Star Wars/Stargate tie-ins. She is best known for her Raksura series.

Wells’ first published novel, “The Element of Fire,” was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award, and a runner-up for the William Crawford Award. Her second novel, “City of Bones,” received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and a black diamond review from Kirkus Reviews, and was on the Locus Recommended Reading List for fantasy. Her third novel, “The Death of the Necromancer,” was nominated for a Nebula Award. Her fantasy short stories include “The Potter’s Daughter” in the anthology Elemental, which was selected to appear in The Year’s Best Fantasy #7.

She has published 2 Stargate Atlantis novels, Reliquary and Entanglement. Her Stargate SG-1 short story, “Archaelogy 101,” was published in Stargate Magazine #8. In 2013, Lucas Books published Wells’ Star Wars novel, Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge.

The first volume of her Raksura novellas was published in September 2014. The second volume will be released in April 2015.

She has also published 2 YA fantasy novels, Emilie and the Hollow World in 2013 and “Emilie and the Sky World” in 2014.

Wells is known for the complex, realistically detailed societies she creates. This is often credited to her academic background in anthropology.

Check out the awesome art and music for the Raksura characters.


CARL SLAUGHTER: The music for your Raksura universe is so dramatic and so haunting. Your website says “fan music,” but the music is so well produced and so appropriate for the story, I have to wonder if it was written and produced by a professional musician. Who is Peter Cline and how did he get involved?

MARTHA WELLS: Peter Cline contacted me through my Live Journal and said he was inspired by reading the novels to do some pieces of music, and would I like to hear it. I loved them and asked him if I could put them on the site for other people to enjoy. That’s really all there was to it.


CARL: The Raksura art is direct and immediate. You don’t have to analyze it to understand the art represents. And it’s all about the characters, rather than landscape or costume or whatever. Did you have a hand in designing the art?

MARTHA: No, I didn’t design or commission any of the art. The professional art for the covers was commissioned by the publisher, and the fan art was done by readers who were inspired by the novels and wanted to do some art. The artists usually email me and say they’ve done fan art and would I like to see it, and I say yes, and link it or host it on the site if the artist is okay with that.


CARL: How much of the art is fan and how much is professional? Which ones are for the cover, which are for the inside of the book, and which are just for the website?

MARTHA: The two cover paintings on the art section of the Raksura site are labeled as covers. One is by Matthew Stewart, the cover of The Cloud Roads (it was the winner of a Chesley Award for best paperback illustration in 2012), and the other is by Steve Argyle, the cover of The Serpent Sea. The cover art of the novels was commissioned by the publisher. There isn’t any art inside the novels. I didn’t commission any art for the web site. (I can’t afford to.)


CARL: I also noticed that there’s more than one artist. Is there a different artist for each book? A different artist for each character?

MARTHA: Matthew Stewart did the cover for The Cloud Roads, and Steve Argyle did the covers for The Serpent Sea and The Siren Depths. There isn’t an artist for each character, as the only official art commissioned by the publisher were the cover paintings for each novel. There is art by three different fan artists on the site, and the link to each piece of art is labeled with the artist’s name. Some people drew the individual characters, the others drew groups. I didn’t tell any of the fan artists what to draw, they drew what they wanted.


CARL: Before you wrote Stargate and Star Wars stories, how much research did you do? Did you watch all the episodes? Did you read other Stargate/Star Wars novels? Did you consult with anyone on the TV/movie production team?

MARTHA: I was/am a long time Star Wars fan, and a Stargate: SG1 and Stargate: Atlantis fan. I saw all the movies, and watched all the episodes when they first came out before I knew I was ever going to write the books, and have them all on DVD. I didn’t consult with anyone in the production departments, just the editors for the publishers who were licensed to do the tie-ins.


CARL: Are there guidelines for writing franchise tie-in stories? Is there an editor assigned to keep everything within a canon? Do you submit outlines and so on? Or do you have creative freedom?

MARTHA: Yes, there are guidelines, and they are different for every franchise. There is an editor (all professionally published novels have editors) who helps with canon questions. I did submit outlines, but submitting an outline doesn’t mean I don’t have creative freedom. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that in this context. I wrote the books I wanted to write.


CARL: Did the franchises contact you or did you query them? Is there an application process for writers who want to break into franchise writing?

MARTHA: I queried for the Stargate: Atlantis novels. The Star Wars publisher contacted my agent and asked me if I’d be interested in doing the book. I don’t think there is any standard application process. I think it’s different for each franchise.


CARL: Did you feel artistically inhibited writing about a universe you didn’t create?

MARTHA: No, but I feel an obligation to get the story and the characterization as close to canon as possible.


CARL: After doing so much adult fantasy, why did you decide to delve into YA sci-fi?

MARTHA: When I was a teenager, I enjoyed a lot of books that would now be classified as YA. I wanted to write the kind of books I wanted to read back then.


CARL: Did you study the YA genre or consult with any YA author/editors?

MARTHA: I read YA books because I enjoy them, I don’t know if that counts as studying the genre.


CARL: The main character in your YA stories is a girl named Emilie. Is she modeled after someone, real or fictional?

MARTHA: She’s fictional, and I made her up. She isn’t modeled after anyone.


CARL: Will there be further adventures with Emilie?

MARTHA: Probably not. The publisher was Strange Chemistry, the YA line of Angry Robot Books, and they shut down earlier this year.


CARL: Got any advice to aspiring speculative fiction writers?

MARTHA: Just research the industry so you know how publishing works, and write the kind stories that you love to read.


The Solitary:


Deceit of the Fell:

The Fell Flight Attacks:


Carl_eagleCarl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.