Friday, September 22, 2017

Author Spotlight: Abby Goldsmith- City of Slaves

As part of my recent effort to support and bring greater illumination to the rapidly expanding demographic of Indie/small press writers, today's post is the third in a planned series of spotlights on less-publicized authors whose books I've read and enjoyed.

The mind reading Torth must be defeated inn City of Slaves
Read a full-length cut of City of Slaves
on Wattpad
In this post the spotlight is on Abby Goldsmith. Her incredible debut novel is City of Slaves, a science fiction tale about an orphan boy named Thomas with mind-reading powers. Early in the novel, Thomas and his companions are kidnapped to a world where a race of mind-reading humanoids called the Torth have enslaved and brutally oppressed a bevy of non-mindreading alien species.

Abby's well-crafted novel yanked me through its pages. The story is packed with well-faceted characters and oozes with macro and microtensions that drive the plot through to a cliff-hanger conclusion.

I supplied Abby with a list of questions to which she was kind enough to provide answers.

Tell me a little about yourself. What is your background? What made you want to become a writer?

I've always been a storyteller. I began stringing words and drawings together into stories at age 3, and by the age of 12, I'd written two novels on a typewriter, plus some home-made theater productions, plus a series of comics. I received a harsh rejection from someone at Random House when I was 13 years old, and that caused me to switch gears away from writing to other forms of storytelling. I graduated from CalArts (the California Institute of the Arts) as a Character Animation major, hoping to become the next Tim Burton or Brad Bird, directing blockbuster films. My student films were screened at the Annecy International Film Festival and the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. But after college, my career path took me into handheld video-games instead of feature films, and my heart found its way back to writing novels.

Have you had any other works published? Where?

My most recent publication is a story in Futuristica vol 2. I also have short fiction in Escape Pod, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, and in a few anthologies. I keep track of my publications at

City of Slaves was reminiscent for me of one of my favorite sci-fi writers, Iain M. Banks, who had great ideas about a post-scarcity intergalactic society of humanoids known as “the Culture” that would surely have butted heads with the Torth. Who would you say are your primary literary influences?

Thank you. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't yet read anything by Iain M. Banks.  I do read a lot of SFF, and he's been recommended to me by a lot of people with good taste, so he's in my queue of authors to read.

My biggest influences are Stephen King, Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, and Scott Sigler. I love big, epic scope stories with larger-than-life characters, dynamic character interaction, and really high stakes. If the story is insanely complex and the characters are utterly ludicrous, yet the author still gets me fully invested in their lives and believing every new twist, then I'm in awe.  That's the kind of author I want to be.

Tell me about the moment of inspiration for City of Slaves? How did the tale come to be?

This story was brewing in my head for many years before it bubbled over into a coherent narrative.  I grew up at the dawn of the Internet Age and social media era. I was an avid user of Q-Link bulletin boards, and later an avid user of Facebook and iPhone apps (heck, I worked on a few). I think the internet is changing the way human society communicates, and I don't see this phenomenon explored in fiction nearly as thoroughly as I think it should be. What happens when the majority of people make the laws, instead of lawyers and politicians? What is the end result when winning popularity is more important than proving your merit? What is the impact of valuing emotionless logic over passionate beliefs?

I wanted to explore those questions through the focused lens of SFF. And, of course, I grew up watching Star Trek, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and all those fun 1980s movies. I wanted my epic story to have loads of entertainment value.

The first book of my series, City of Slaves--which I am probably going to re-title as Galactic Minds--gave me a lot of trouble, in terms of introducing the universe and characters. My writing skills weren't up to the task at the time I wrote the first draft.  It's required a few rewrites.

I found your idea of the “macrocosm” immensely intriguing. The near-constant scrutiny Thomas faced when he "ascended" reminded me somewhat of modern social media. Interestingly, you had the Torth mention the humans’ invention of a “primitive macrocosm” in the internet. Can you talk for a moment about the way sci-fi—and all forms of speculative fiction—provide us with useful avenues to approach modern problems faced here on Earth despite being set in a time and/or place quite different?

One reason why I love SFF is because it gives us the ability to laser-focus on one or two particular aspects of our real-life world, and analyze and explore those aspects in new and challenging ways. Let's say a reader prides herself on having a sharp distinction between reality and fiction. She slaughters characters in video-games, but she would never dream of harming a real person. Then she reads the Otherland series by Tad Williams, and she's immersed in a fictionalized virtual universe where the line between fictional character and real character is blurred and possibly irrelevant. That might challenge her to think about the distinction in new ways.

That's the first example that popped into my head, but I could use almost any work of SFF as an example.

Since the internet is so pervasive in everyone's life, and so prevalent, and changing so many factors about our real world, I marvel that so few SFF authors are exploring its myriad possibilities and ramifications. In my opinion, this should be one of the hottest trending topics for SFF to explore. Instead, it seems to be a backwater topic that gets mostly ignored.

In my experience, one of the hardest things about writing a novel is the editing process. It takes far longer than the actual writing. In my opinion your novel read more cleanly and professionally than some independent novels I’ve encountered. What can you reveal about your editing methodology? Did you use so-called “beta-readers”? Did you work with a professional editor?

Abby Goldsmith
You can link up with Abby on her website,
FacebookYoutube, and Twitter
Ugh. I edited it to death. I think I suffer from obsessive-compulsive perfectionism, and I'm actively working towards a healthier methodology. But yes, I use beta readers. This particular novel had over 100 beta readers, spread over multiple drafts and many years. About 60% of them only read variations of the beginning. George R.R. Martin read an early version of the first chapter, and gave an extensive and valuable verbal critique, much of it positive. That was one of my happiest moments at the Odyssey Writing Workshop.

For more than a few years, I was caught in an endless revising loop, where every rejection from a literary agent would send me back to square one. I don't believe that every writer is in danger of doing that. Some novels are easy to sell. Some writers don't invest everything they have into one huge series; they move to new projects before they invest too much time into the first one or two. But if you're like me, prone to endless edits and revisions ... my sympathies.

Anyway, I've found an approach that seems to be working for me. I no longer allow myself to focus solely on a project that needs edits. I have an internal mandate to *always* be working on a first draft of something new, no matter what. That takes priority. I limit my editing time to two evenings per week. Edits get done slowly, but they no longer consume all of my free time or creative energy. They no longer stall my writing career. As a result, my edits are now a lot more productive. I'm not floundering or second-guessing my own decisions nearly as much.

So far it looks like you have done most of your publishing on wattpad. Have you settled on a publishing method for this novel and its sequels? Do you plan to query agents and go the traditional route or stick with self-publishing?

I still fantasize about seeing my novels published by Tor Books, or DAW, or Orbit, or any of the major publishers. Reader feedback for this series is very encouraging, but the style and the potential audience don't seem to be what the Big Five want. I've had to take a few steps back and reassess everything I believed about publishing. At this point, I suspect that the traditional industry isn't taking gambles or risks. A lot of the innovation I see in SFF fiction is coming from the indie author crowd, or authors who were indie before they signed a contract. So that's where I'm headed. I wish I'd had the courage to take that leap before the gold rush got started.

Now I'm learning everything I can about marketing self-published work. There's a lot to learn. The path isn't any easier than traditional publishing, but it allows for more flexibility. I think it suits me and my series.

You left me hanging! When do I get to read the sequel? Some authors find it challenging to make sequels fresh, original and still as engaging as the first novel. Conversely, I find many readers complain about them too. What has your experience been?


I conceived of this series as a single epic story, so I never struggled with how the sequels would play out.  It's all the same story, with each book having its own nested story arc. I set up a story question in each book, and answer it by the end.  In the first book, the story question is "Will they escape the city of slaves?" You find out by the end.  In the second book, the story question is "Will they be able to go home to Earth and/or live in freedom?" You find out by the end. And so forth.

The whole series has its own massive story question: "Will they defeat the Torth Empire and free all the slaves in the galaxy?" You can probably guess the answer, but if you've read any of it, you're gonna wonder "How?" That's the question that will get answered by the end of the whole series.

The sequel will be ready by Spring 2018, maybe sooner. That's my current big editing project. I hope you can beta read it.

Not to overwhelm you, but I also have Books 3, 4, and 5 completed, and I'm currently writing Book 6. The later books only need light edits! I was more skilled when I wrote them, and they've been exhilarating to write, since they're the culmination of so much story and character build-up. Beta reader feedback has been beyond positive. This series will pack a punch, once it's published.

Where can readers and other writers connect with you? Can you send me links to your facebook, twitter, google+, personal website, etc, etc etc?

Here's the link to City of Slaves on Wattpad. The official release won't be until next year sometime.

Thank you for your time and best of luck in all future endeavors!


-Fergal F. Nally: Aes Sidhe
-Cindy Tomamichel: Druid's Portal

This is the third in a series of spotlights on indie/small press writers who deserve your attention. If you enjoyed it, consider signing up for my mailing list. I also blog about all sorts of crazy, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph in a novel to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading.

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