18.05: An Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

In this episode Howard Tayler conducts our interview with Mary Robinette Kowal, leading with a wide-open question: “Where did you even?” Mary Robinette talks to us about how she came to the world of writing, and some of the amazing things she picked up along the way.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson


Think about the skills your non-writing life has given you. What are those lenses, what is the toolset, and how might it apply to your writing.

The Monsters We Defy, by Leslye Penelope

6 thoughts on “18.05: An Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal”

  1. As for tools to use with tension vs conflict elements, I use a variation of the TRD tracker that Jane Cleland illustrates in her book, Mastering Plot Twists. I basically track the tension and conflict items in separate columns by scene. I note when I use various tension elements such as relationship stressers, foreshadowing, time pressures, etc. so I can track those and make sure I’m not relying on one particular type of tension element and have a variety of them in my writing. Same idea as twists, cliffhangers, reversals, and heightened danger elements but just with those tension elements. Hope that helps.

    1. Hum… TRD? I didn’t recognize the acronym, so I did a google search and found out “plot twists, reversals, and moments of heightened danger (TRD’S)” Of course, I also think I may have to buy a new book, but… Thanks!

  2. Mary, it is so encouraging to hear that you also have ADHD. I was diagnosed last year, and while I’ve mostly come to terms with it, it really lights a fire in my heart knowing that someone I respect so much also has it.

    You rock.

  3. This week, Howard, DongWon, Erin, and Dan talked with Mary Robinette Kowal about where she came from and where she’s going. Art, theater, puppets, writing… and toolboxes galore! So, take a look at the transcript available now in the archives.

  4. Just a suggestion. I tend to think of tension as anticipation or perception of stress. And causes of stress? Hey, lots of lists out there – here’s one that might help https://www.dartmouth.edu/eap/library/lifechangestresstest.pdf Now toss in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to help put it in order https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maslow%27s_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg and you’ve got ways to raise the tension (add another cause of stress, or change one of the current stress factors). While I was poking at it, I also stumbled across a suggestion that there are four element — fears and uncertainty, attitudes and perceptions, unrealistic expectations, and change — that shape how we handle stress. https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/causes-of-stress Anyway, while conflict and the anticipation of conflict clearly is one cause of tension and stress, there’s quite a few other hints here. Hope this helps with your search for the tension wrench. (Now, is that metric or not?)

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