My Favorite Bit: Fran Wilde talks about UPDRAFT

My Favorite BitFran Wilde is joining us today with her novel Updraft. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In a city of living bone rising high above the clouds, where danger hides in the wind and the ground is lost to legend, a young woman must expose a dangerous secret to save everyone she loves.

Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage.

What’s Fran’s favorite bit?



In authorial lore (Ok, really, for me, writers’ “lore” is a bunch of sticky notes splattered with tea or coffee, taped on the wall beside the desk, but I’m going for setting and tone here. Bear with me.), there are many warnings and touchstones. In particular, there’s this one: the middle of a draft sucks. It sags. It sometimes breaks down. That’s where the draft-goblins come out, and the weasels that whisper you’re no good and this is no good and give up. It’s totally totally true — all of it. Except when it isn’t.

My favorite bit of Updraft is the middle. And part of the reason for that is because I wrote it first.

I’m going to try to do this without committing spoilers, so bear with me.

Below us, a white-robed challenger waited. I couldn’t see them on the downtower balconies, but I knew that they must be close….

“The challenger has demanded answers we cannot give. They have threatened to rouse the towers… Worse.” … “They’ve broken Laws. You will stop them for the city’s sake.” …

Far below, the windbeaters readied their giant wings, their rot gas. The vents opened and the Gyre gust swirled up until it reached me. I leapt into the maelstrom.

Among the early pieces I wrote within the world of Updraft, this scene was the beginning of a short story about a winged knife-fight in a wind tunnel.

The two characters were fierce and determined. They both had secrets they didn’t want to reveal. And they cared, very much, about each other, and about the city. Instant conflict. Plus: fight! Wind tunnel!

I loved writing the action of the scene. The movement and skill required for each of these characters to fight and for one to prevail. The danger of the wind tunnel, the wildness of it, and the details within it that revealed more of the world, like carvings and the expressions of the watching crowd.

But there was one problem.

When the short story was complete, I and my beta readers realized that it raised more questions than it answered:

  • what kind of world was this that had such fighting in it?
  • why were the two characters willing to fight to death?
  • who did the characters love, who did they hate, where did they get weapons?
  • what was beyond the walls of the wind tunnel?
  • what made the wind so challenging in the Gyre?

Those questions were just the beginning. I started describing my characters lives, and what brought them to this fight. I wrote about what they loved, and who. And I drew a lot. I sketched the city. I sketched the wind tunnel. I discovered monsters large and small that I hadn’t seen before.

As they fought to find a stronger gust, I moved in above. Looked for the best place to slash the challenger’s wings… I raised the knife. It glittered from the sun and spun as it split the air.

Updraft emerged from this story that is still at its heart, a winged battle in a wind tunnel, between two characters who grew into people, and two people who grew into a novel.

That’s why the middle of Updraft is my favorite bit.

Thanks for having me, Mary!


Fran Wilde



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Fran Wilde’s short fiction appears in Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Nature, and She interviews authors about food in fiction at Cooking the Books, and blogs for GeekMom and SFSignal. Updraft is her first novel.

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