fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsToday we’re pleased to welcome Rachel Hartman, currently on a blog tour for her newest work Shadow Scale, the sequel to her very well-received Seraphina (I loved Seraphina and chose it for one of our favorite books of 2012). Today she’s writing about a problem many writers encounter at some point in their careers — writer’s block. More precisely, how she overcame hers and managed to finish Shadow Scale. As someone who has been greatly looking forward to this sequel ever since I fell in love with Seraphina, I for one am happy she found a solution (and those who’ve read Seraphina won’t be surprised at what that solution was). Shadow Scale goes on sale March 10. Thanks to our friends at Random House, we’ve got print copies of both Seraphina and Shadow Scale for one lucky commenter with a U.S. or Canadian address. (Also, please notice that Seraphina is currently on sale for $1.99 on Kindle).

“Weathering a Dearth of Ideas” by Rachel Hartman

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Currently $1.99! Click for info.

I used to compare ideas to cockroaches. It seemed like for every one I saw, there were a hundred I hadn’t glimpsed yet, waiting to jump out at me. I’ve always had more ideas than I could possibly use.

While writing my second novel, Shadow Scale, however, my ideas suddenly stopped coming. It was terrifying.

A drought can happen to anyone, but I had foolishly considered myself immune and had no strategies for dealing with it, no irrigation networks, no wells dug, no saving up for a non-rainy day. I was more than half convinced my brain was broken, which led me down a hole of depression and anxiety. I did have a strategy for dealing with depression and anxiety: I usually wrote myself out of it. But what do you do when your usual therapy becomes the source of stress?

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsI won’t narrate the months of agonized trial-and-error. It’s much pleasanter to skip to the solution: I took up singing. I joined a community choir and a madrigal choir, and I taught myself overtone singing. I sang while cooking, riding my bike, and walking the dog. Music was a completely ego-free art for me, unburdened by expectations. No one cared if I was any good at it, and I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t care either.

That’s what writing had felt like, once upon a time. That was why I had started to write in the first place, because I loved doing it and didn’t want to stop. Singing reminded me of that original joy, and it enabled me to go back to writing and fall in love with it all over again. Only when I was finally enjoying the process again were my ideas willing to poke their little feelers out of the cracks and then scuttle out into the open.

I highly recommend finding some kind of auxiliary artform, but of course that’s not the only possible answer. Have you ever been desperately stuck for ideas before? How did you solve it?

About Shadow ScaleSeraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons. The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways. As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.