The Friday 13 with Joyce Reynolds-Ward

Joyce Reynolds-Ward is a speculative fiction writer who splits her time between Enterprise and Portland, Oregon. Her short stories have appeared in Children of a Different Sky, Steam. And Dragons, Tales from an Alien Campfire, River, How Beer Saved the World 1 and 2, Fantasy Scroll Magazine, and Trust and Treachery among others. Her books include two series: The Netwalk Sequence (Netwalk: Extended Edition, Netwalker Uprising, Netwalk’s Children, and Netwalking Space) and Goddess’s Honor (Beyond Honor, Pledges of Honor, Challenges of Honor, Choices of Honor, and Judgment of Honor) as well as current standalones Alien Savvy and Klone’s Stronghold. Joyce’s new series, The Martiniere Legacy (Inheritance, Ascendant, and Realization) will be released in Fall 2020. A related novella, The Heritage of Michael Martiniere, is due for release in February 2021, and a related short story, A Belated Christmas Honeymoon, will be out in December, 2020.

1.Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?

I’ve always loved telling stories, clear back into elementary school. Those first stories were fanfiction of a sort until I started writing my first books but all the same, they were pretty derivative.

The Martiniere Legacy trilogy actually started as an idea for a quick publisher pitch back in November of 2019. I had been kicking around the idea for a good agricultural technology-based science fiction story for a while in 2019, simply because I had heard about the right-to-repair issues with proprietary John Deere tractor software. I started looking into it and—wow. There is a LOT going on in agtech, and lots of places to go with agripunk, as I’m loosely tagging this series. The intersection between agtech and pharmaceuticals is not as far-fetched as it seems, especially since Bayer now owns Monsanto. Right now the race is to develop devices that can monitor field conditions down to the individual plant level, because satellite tech is insufficiently precise.

Now just think about that for a moment. Satellite tech is insufficiently precise. And while drone technology is taking off, there is a need for even more micromonitoring than that, especially when considering plant resilience and climate change.

In any case, there is a LOT going on. Applications of blockchain tech to track crop shipments. Major problems with middleman collusion that deprives farmers and ranchers of their fair share of income.

I gave myself a couple of months to put things together before writing. The story kind of hit me after I’d gone through a couple of local bazaars selling my books and handmade items. There was time for me to sit and noodle around, and I came up with the idea of an ex-rodeo queen with a Big Idea who needed funding to finance her project. Then, on the way back to Enterprise from Portland, I heard an ad from a central Columbia Gorge radio station for a sort of game show competition to provide promotional funding for small towns. The Dalles had made the finals and it was now up to the locals to vote for their town. BAM! That was the last piece I needed. Add in the son who works for the game show, and the ex-husband who split under…weird circumstances, and we were off with The Ruby Project.

The book might have stayed as a single book, with an idea of pitching it to traditional publishing at the World Fantasy Convention this fall. But then COVID-19 happened. As a result of COVID, the story grew bigger. And bigger. And then the focus shifted to include just why Gabe abandoned Ruby, in the worst way possible, in part because Gabe kept insisting that there was more to his story than just being irresponsible and chasing women. Once I opened that can of worms…wow. But it allowed me to spread to a broader canvas, and extrapolate the rise of indentured servitude in the face of economic uncertainty. Ergo, The Martiniere Legacy: Inheritance, The Martiniere Legacy: Ascendant, and The Martiniere Legacy: Realization.

2.What is it about your genre that speaks to you?

Science fiction and fantasy provides the ability to comment on society by providing examples. While it’s the literature of escape, it can also be the literature of analysis. Plus at times it’s just plain fun.

3.Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?

The ability to advance the plot in a science fiction novel by using horses.

4.If I were stuck in a room with your main character, what would we be doing?

First of all, it would be unlikely that you would be stuck in a room with Ruby. Unless it’s in the lab, which means you’d be testing computer simulations and programming. But you’re just as likely to be in a crawler with her as she runs field checks to confirm the data coming back from the RubyBot. Or riding horses near the beautiful Thunder Mountains of Northeastern Oregon.

Ruby is, at heart, an outdoor person. So you’d be doing outdoor work of some sort, most likely.

5.When you are writing, tell me about the emotions that are running through you and what it takes to work alongside them.

It really does depend on the book. There were moments in all three books of The Martiniere Legacy where I sorrowed right along with the characters. Or felt jubilant, or betrayed. Sometimes those emotions could be overwhelming. The Martiniere Legacy felt like it was the most emotional set of books I’ve ever written. I don’t know how much of it was due to COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests but I do know they affected the writing. So perhaps I brought the whole zeitgeist of this horrible, revealing time into my work. I don’t know that The Martiniere Legacy would be what it is without those influences, because writing it ripped out a lot of things that had been at the back of my brain for quite some time.

6.Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds them back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?

A tough question. For me, it’s self-doubt. Those little niggles that make me wonder if I really should sign up once again for the slog of writing a book, especially when there is other stuff going on in the world. The best thing to do in the face of self-doubt is to keep on going. I let it rule too much of my writing when I was younger, and shut down too many times. No longer!

7.You’re going to go back and visit yourself when you first started writing, at whatever age it was, and you can give yourself one piece of advice. What would it be?

I started submitting work when I was in my teens, back in the 70s (Yes, that dates me. So what?). However, I did not want to identify myself as a teenage writer, and, as a result, collected a lot of rejection slips without much positive feedback. I’d go back to me then and say “Go for it! Let them know who you are and that you’re a teen. Doors may open if you do that.”

Or not. After all, it was the 70s and I was a girl. But all the same, it might have gotten me a much-needed writing mentor.

8.Describe your workplace.

I have three main workplaces. First is my office. It’s the smallest of our bedrooms, and when we moved a queen-sized mattress in here while preparing to move in, the mattress ate the room! I have my nonfiction books in here along with a desktop and a laptop, a horizontal two-drawer filing cabinet, a side desk, and various horse show ribbons, convention badges, artwork, certificates, and old horse bits on the wall.

Second is my front porch. I can write out there on summer mornings and late afternoon while having a view of the Wallowa Mountains (and hiding behind bushes that screen me from the street).

Third is the front passenger seat of our Toyota Tundra pickup. Because we have a wood stove, we take advantage of the National Forest permit system to cut our own firewood. While my husband is cutting down dead trees/cutting up trees, I’m often in that front seat working. It’s comfortable and keeps me safe and out of the way of any falling trees. And since we prefer to cut in the spring when it might be cold, windy, and rainy, it’s also a shelter from the weather. Later on I’ll find a seat outside. Note: significant portions of The Martiniere Legacy Book Three: Realization, were written in that front seat.

9.If you are casting your protagonist in a movie, what actor would you choose and why?

Definitely Cate Blanchett for Ruby. They’re a match for features, and she was the person I visualized when writing Ruby. Gabe—A. Martinez (Jacob Nighthorse in Longmire). Brandon—the younger Antonio Banderas of Evita.

10.Do you have any regrets about the story you told? Would you make any changes to its telling or did you capture exactly what you were looking for?

No regrets at all about the choices I made throughout the three books of The Martiniere Legacy. There were times when I questioned small choices and changed them, but the path I chose—sometimes quite different from what I had outlined or planned—ended up working better than what I had planned.

Did I capture exactly what I was looking for? Not quite. There are things I wanted to do that I had to concede that I just quite didn’t have the skill or the vision to carry out. That’s always the case. I often have a grander vision of the story than I can write. But that’s okay. It just means I need to keep working on developing my skill—a process I will be doing until I stop writing.

11.What are the things you’re most proud of in this book or series?

I really liked the way that I was able to integrate rodeo, horses, and agricultural technology into a science fiction story.

12.What element of this story can we expect in your future work? 

I’m not finished writing about agricultural technology. I keep seeing new and exciting things coming up. I still want to write about climate change and agtech, which was my original intent when I started writing. Didn’t make it in this book. But there are a LOT of possibilities out there. I’m still learning!

13.Do you share any vices or habits with any characters in your book? If so, what are they? 

Sadly, I can’t drink like Ruby and Gabe any more. I’m a lightweight but oh well, I guess that’s better for me. The horse habit, on the other hand…oh yes, that’s a significant part of my life. I’ve owned a nicely bred Quarter Horse mare for almost fifteen years now, and we’re aging together. She likes to run fast, and if COVID ever lifts anytime soon, we might just do a few barrel races ourselves.

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