One of my main goals in life is to give a platform to queer stories, voices, and experiences. This is something near and dear to my heart, so when I meet other writers doing the same, my excitement goes through the roof. Bri Spicer is a champion for queer representation, but beyond that, her new serial novel sounds amazing. In the Light of a Broken Moon is going to enthrall everyone. I mean it has celestial adventures, warrior Librarians, sapphic romance, and so much more. Bri really has her finger on the pulse of what science fantasy (and, well, literature in general) should be evolving towards. She's truly amazing, and I hope you enjoy this interview with her.
First things first, tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m a queer science fiction and fantasy writer, living in a little college town in the American South with two tubby dachshunds and far too many books. The first episode of my science fantasy serial novel, In the Light of a Broken Moon, will release on October 26, 2020. I learned most of what I know about writing from reading constantly and from writing an obscene amount of Sailor Moon fanfic as a teen.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing since I was probably eight or nine, drafting out all kinds of stories in my school notebooks whenever I had a moment. I still do that as an adult, honestly, writing in the nooks and crannies of the day whenever I have a break or time on my commute.
While I wrote original fiction growing up, fanfiction also served as a sort of apprenticeship for me, when I was a teenager. I know that’s a really formal way to describe it, and I know a lot of folks tend to look down their noses at fanfic. But, in all honesty, fanfic was the place where I learned so much about pacing and plot, character and stakes and emotional arcs, worldbuilding and exposition. Getting regular weekly feedback from readers also taught me how to take really sharp, difficult critique and use it to improve my writing.
What authors have influenced you the most?
I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that Phillip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, radically changed the entire course of my life. The way he talked about free will, our sacred responsibility to care for each other, and the revolutionary power of true stories—their ability to help us imagine and create better worlds and more compassionate futures—just completely knocked the breath right out of me. I’d never read anything like that.
Your serial novel, In the Light of the Broken Moon, is coming out on October 26th! Could you pitch us this story?
When a grief-stricken knight & her magic-wielding warrior Librarian receive a message from the man they both loved & believed dead, their polyamorous triad will reunite on a broken moon to face the ghosts of their past and unravel a bloody mystery that holds the secrets to their future.
In the Light of a Broken Moon is a science-fantasy serial novel that delves deep into an exploration of grief and loss, LGBT+ love and the awful, inescapable consequences of the past, all set in a sprawling stellar empire, full of swords and sorcery and starships.
What inspired this story, and who may it appeal to?
I always wanted to be a librarian when I was growing up, so I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I wrote a story about badass warrior Librarians who wield magic and memory in defense of their patrons and against the corruption of any governments and crime syndicates and mega-corporations doing harm in their world.
As a queer writer, I also wanted to tell a story that centered sapphic heroines, that gave them space to be more than snarky sidekicks or conveniently dead plot devices. I wanted to write a story where someone like me could exist as a complicated, beautiful, fully human character, with their own romances and dreams, their own hopes and character arcs.
So, I hope this story will appeal to readers who love daring adventures, sweep-you-off-your-feet romances, touches of gothic horror, LGBT+ characters dealing with past traumas, and bloody mysteries that threaten to unravel everything our heroines know to be true.
Why did you choose to develop it as a serial novel, as opposed to a traditional novel?
I chose to develop In the Light of a Broken Moon as a serial, for a few reasons. Primarily, I wanted to get my writing in front of readers as quickly as possible, and I knew the best way for me to do that was to serialize a novel in four parts. One part each for Act 1, Act 2A, Act2B, and Act 3.
But, I also chose to serialize this novel because, at the time, thinking of it as a Very Large, Ambitious Project was too overwhelming.
See, I hadn’t written a single word in more than seven months when I picked up my pencil and started sketching out ideas for In the Light of a Broken Moon. When I started this project, I didn’t trust myself or my creativity, and I worried that I would lose my nerve if I thought about all the work that lay ahead of me for too long.
So…I sort of tricked myself into seeing each episode as a little novella, each coming in at around 25K-35K words. That word count is totally doable, totally manageable, and totally not at all terrifying, right? Haha! Each week, I just had to focus on the episode in front of me, making sure to tie all the plot and character threads together.
Now that I’ve got almost 120K words under my belt for this novel, my muse is less skittish, so to speak. I’ve learned so much from this project—most importantly, I’ve learned how to trust my own creativity and my own skills—and I’m excited to take on larger projects once I wrap up final edits on this one.
The world of In the Light of the Broken Moon seems so rich and expansive! How did you go about world-building and developing the universe of this story?
The raw ideas for my world-building come from a ton of nonfiction reading. I have a few topics I’m really interested in researching, so I deep dive into those for each project. But to world-build successfully, I have to integrate my research and ideas into stories as I go.
If I try to collect all the information and only start writing once that research is done, I end up feeling overwhelmed, losing the threads of my ideas, and forget how I intended to work my world-building organically into each story.
I’ve written in the story-universe of In the Light of a Broken Moon, for a few years now, reading through my nonfiction stacks and using my short stories, novellas, and longer novels to sketch out the various worlds and politic factions, plotlines and characters I want to explore in more depth. In the Light of a Broken Moon is my first publication, but it’s definitely not the first thing I’ve written in this story-universe.
What have been some challenges with writing a serial novel? What have been some rewards?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far has been learning how to give each episode its own three-act structure and a cliffhanger than makes readers want to leap into the next episode. But on top of that, each episode has to escalate the stakes of the overall story, develop the characters, complicate the plot, and push the story forward.
While that’s been challenging, it’s also been extremely rewarding to learn new ways to tell stories, to grow as a writer, and to add more skills to my repertoire. Also, no lie: celebrating the completion of each episode and taking a moment to look back and learn from all the challenges I’ve overcome has become a huge part of my process and a major motivator.
Do you have any advice for fellow fantasy & sci-fi writers?
I have a few rules I always keep on sticky notes by my computer.
First, I consume other media constantly while I’m working on a project. I read loads of nonfiction and other fiction books in my genre, along with graphic novels, comics, and manga. I binge TV shows and podcasts that serialize stories week to week. Basically, I do this because I can’t learn more about story structure and character arcs and all the possible ways to weave multiple plotlines together if I don’t consume other media and learn from it and find ways to remix those ideas in my own work and make them my own.
Second, I never want to be the smartest person in the room. If I’m not constantly learning from people who are vastly more talented and skilled and knowledgeable than me, I’m never going to stretch and grow as a writer. I always want to read and surround myself with writers who are painfully brilliant and who create amazing, daring, heart-stopping, inventive work.
Third, I always remind myself that creativity is an endless flow. For a long time, I believed that I had only a given number of good story seeds, that the words I had in me were a finite resource, always in danger of running dry. None of that is true. Learning to trust that when I dipped into that sea of ideas and dreams and imaginings, I would always an abundant tide of words waiting for me has been one of the biggest things I’ve learned with this project.
So, nutshell version: Consume, critique, learn from, and remix other media constantly. Always surround yourself with writers and thinkers who force you to grow. Remember and trust that your creativity is an endless, beautiful sea just waiting for you to dive in.
Anything else to add?
In the Light of a Broken Moon: Episode One releases on October 26, 2020, and pre-orders are open now! If folks want to sign up for my newsletter, they’ll get access to the first full chapter of Episode One, along with commissioned character art and exclusive short fiction.
Thank you so much for inviting me to do this interview. It’s been absolute delight.
Follow Bri on Instagram: @brispicerwrites