Meet the Author: Todd McCaffrey
Hello JordanCon, I’m Todd McCaffrey and I’m very happy to say that I’m going to be a guest with you this year.
S: What have you written?
Todd: Well, everybody probably knows me best for writing in my mothers universe, the Dragonriders of Pern universe, but I’ve actually written a number of stories out of it. I’ve written some in the latest Edgar Rice Burroughs “Worlds of Edgar Rice Borroughs. I’ve written most recently in the Purple Unicorn Anthology with the beginning and ending story in that anthology. And I tend to write all over the place, and going back to my earliest days I’ve actually even written some animation which I try to forget about.
S: Who was your biggest influence in becoming a writer?
Todd: Robert Heinlein. Heinlein Time For The Stars was probably my adolescent book. And then afterwards it would have been Dune, and then of course Roger Zelazny, both with the 9 Princes Of Amber Series and also with Lord of Light which is just so awesome. And then I wondered off into Lord of the Rings as every body did. C.S. Lewis with Narnia, Lloyd Alexander Chronicles of Prydain and so on. I’ve kinda been all over the place.
S: How many books have you written?
Todd: Well, I’ve written 8 in the Dragon Writers of Pern series and I’ve written over four outside of it including some non-fiction stuff.
S: And what’s your personal favorite book that you’ve written?
Todd: The next one, it’s always the next one that’s the favorite. You’re always getting better. The latest next one…well that’s kind of a toss up; I have sort of a science thriller, or maybe an A.I thriller you could call it called City of Angels—which is less science fiction and more mainstream. I’m really very proud of that. Verner Vinge gave me a phenomenal review, and so did David Gerrold and that’s actually a couple of years back now. I just recently finished an alternate history book where my heroine invents a steam walking machine just in time for Bonnie Prince Charlie to see it as he enters Edenborough and all history breaks loose.
S: So, have you ever read the Wheel of Time series before?
Todd: Only the first book.
S: And what was your impression of it?
Todd: I only read the first book of The Wheel of Time Series. All books appeal to us at certain times in our lives. When you’re a kid you’re clearly reading different things than when you’re an adult, so some books are the first book for someone in the field, and so The Wheel of Time met the expectations of a lot of people who found this new fantasy world for the first time. There’s probably a group of people who say that Harry Potter was their first universe. Or there may well be a group of people who say, however deranged, that The Game of Thrones will be their first universe. So it all varies. With me I came to The Wheel of Time at a point that it seemed a little bit too similar to other stuff and so I read the first one and went looking for other stuff. That happens.
S: Our Writer Guest of Honor this year is Saladin Ahmed, who wrote Throne of the Crescent Moon. Have you ever read his works?
Todd: I’m afraid I haven’t met him, and am not familiar with his works, Being a guest of honor is a marvelous thing though, and I’m glad he’s been selected.
S: Our Artist Guest of Honor is Todd Lockwood.
Todd: Todd Lockwood, yes I think I know Todd Lockwood! He’s got a Todd name, so you know. There used to be, at a point in my life where if there was another Todd out there they must be killed but I’ve gotten over that.
S: That’s a very Highlander sense of Todd. There can only be one?
Todd: Well, it’s so rare of a name. It’s become a little bit more common, but it’s still pretty rare. But yeah, I think I’ve met Todd Lockwood, or seen him before. If not I’ll be pleasantly amazed and surprised. But I’m glad to hear he’s the Artist Guest of Honor and that’s cool.
S: So if a newbie writer came up to you and asked you, “What was the best advice you got becoming a writer?” What would you tell them?
Todd: Sheesh, what’s the best advice on becoming a writer? Well we’re here, plug, plug, plug, at the Superstars Writing Seminar and the best advice is probably Don’t Quit. Don’t Ever Give Up. Do not think that just because your first story isn’t perfect that you can’t write, and do not think that your first story will be your only story or even your best story. Usually the rule of thumb is your next story is always your best story. So don’t give up and keep writing. Write for yourself first, rewrite for everybody else, and enjoy.
S: So your mother, Anne McCaffrey, is very popular for her Dragonriders of Pern series. What was it like working with her and writing in her universe?
Todd: Well, Mom and I spoke about collaborating long before we did it, and we talked about how I wanted to come up with an idea where we had two riders and one dragon where an accident had cost the life of one dragon, and the surviving dragon had bonded with the other riders so you now had two riders and one dragon. Mom wanted to do something about hazardous asteroids coming down on Pern and I was busy working on something else and I get a call in the middle of the night cause I’m living in the states and she was still living in Ireland. And She’s crying on the phone going, “I couldn’t kill the dragon!” and I said, “Well dear if you don’t want to kill the dragon, don’t kill the dragon.” And then I went back to sleep. And that’s the first I knew that she was writing the story that we had wanted to collaborate on by herself. Afterwards we came up with the idea, well I realized that writing with her characters—she was a little bit possessive of them, we came up with the idea of writing the third past, and playing in a part of the Pern timeline that nobody had played in before. That worked out very well and we had a lot of fun collaborating together.
S: Sounds Awesome, so what is your favorite book in the Pern series?
Todd: That’s kinda like asking what’s your best book, it’s always going to be the next one. The Pern series spans 25 turns of history, and probably more. I really had fun writing in the Third Pass, I’m not done writing in the Third Pass. But if somebody said I’ve never read the Pern series, what book should I read, I’ve always said to read Dragonflight because that was the very first one. It’s the world of wonder entry point. People come in at many different places. People have started with The White Dragon, they’ve started with Dragonsong, They’ve started with Dragonsdawn, all over the place and they still love the series. But from my point of view if somebody says which should I read first I’d say Dragonflight.
S: And what is your personal favorite book?
The next one I’m writing, usually. There’s so much good stuff out there. When I was a kid Dune was one of my formative books, The Lord of The Rings was another one, The Dragonriders of Pern series was one, or one set. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of Seanen Mcguire stuff, her October Daye series. I love the Patricia Briggs stuff, the Mercedes Thompson books. I read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and it was a marvelously written book. I’m all over the place.
S: Earlier you mentioned a Purple Unicorn Story? What’s that about?
Todd: Ahhhhh! Kevin J. Anderson made a joke at a Writers of the Future Workshop a number of years back saying he could never get anyone to submit a purple unicorn story for one of his anthologies. I knew he was joking, but I was like, ‘Okay, challenge accepted.’ The next day I actually sent him a purple unicorn story called Rhubarb and Beets, and he said, “Well you know I’m only joking.” And I said, “Yes, that’s ok.” And later I managed to actually sell it into the Gene Wolfe Tribute Shadows of the New Sun, and not long after Kevin decided he was actually going to do his Purple Unicorn anthology and he asked me if I could give him that story. I said yes, and then I realized, “Wait a minute, I think it’s still under contract with this anthology.” But I managed to get the nice people who did the anthology to let us reprint it. During the time before I knew I could do that, I wrote Kevin the sequel to that story, Red Roses. So what Kevin did when he found out he could use both was he put Rhunbarb and Beets at the front of this Anthology and Red Roses at the back. One Horn To Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology is a charity anthology all the proceeds of which are going towards providing scholarships to the Superstars Writing Seminar and it’s been successful and it’s a lot of fun.
A message to the JordanCon Attendees:
I’m looking forward to seeing you all, and we’re going to have a lot of fun in Atlanta!