10 April 2010
Interview Time with Lynn Flewelling
A great author and a great cover! BroadUniverse's blog tour continues with Lynn Flewelling. Stay tuned for some great Q&A.
Lynn Flewelling is the author of the internationally acclaimed Nightrunner and Tamir Triad series, published in a dozen languages. Her first novel, Luck in the Shadows, made the Locus list for best first novel, and was a finalist for the Compton Crook award. Several of her other books have been Spectrum award finalists. She is adjunct faculty at the University of Redlands and also works as a freelance editor, writing instructor, and is a tea reviewer for Teaviews.com. Maine natives, she and her husband currently live in Redlands, California.
How long have you been writing? How long have you been published?
I started writing in junior high—terrible stuff, of course—and continued with it through high school and college, but mostly for my own amusement. The first inkling of the first Nightrunner books came to me in the early '80s and I spent the next ten years noodling around, refining my skills, and crafting the books, getting a few short stories rejected in the meantime. I found an agent in 1995 and the first two books were published in 1995 and 1996.
How long did it take you to publish your first book, once you started looking for an agent or publisher?
It took about a year to find an agent, and it took her only a few months to sell the book. It came out a little less than a year later.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I'd like to have two years, since my books tend to be long and detailed, but the market pressure has me cut down to a year or so. Fortunately I'm adjusting.
Do you write one book/story at a time or multiples?
I've always written one book at a time, but at the moment I'm trying to develop a new concept while working on another Nightrunner book. It's hard to channel my energy in more than one direction at a time, so I have to work on them on different days.
What genres do you write?
So far, only fantasy: high and dark, with elements of horror, humor, and social commentary.
Are there any genres you'd like to try but haven't?
I'd really like to write something set in present day, real world, so I don't have to describe, research, and invent everything! Fantasy writing is hard work.
What's your writing process? (i.e. pantser/organic writer or plotter or mix? write on the computer? longhand? mix? how many passes? etc.)
I start with a concept, a general idea of the story I want to tell. Sometimes the ending is clear, sometimes more nebulous, but there is always some major event or theme. From there I start making notes to myself, but not a detailed outline. I keep a notebook of every idea and inspiration and draw from that. But a lot of the best scenes I write happen when my fingers are on the keyboard. I sit down, thinking I'm going to write one scene, and get up two or three hours latter with something completely different. And usually better. The book takes shape like that, so I guess I'm an organic panster.
Once I'm under way, I write a chunk of chapters, then play with them for a while, then write the next chunk, go back and do some rewriting, etc. Once I have a completed draft I go back and really rewrite, hacking out things that didn't go anywhere, adding new stuff. I really enjoy second draft the most; that's where a lot of the magic happens. Then I do a number editing passes.
What are the strangest conditions you've written under? The strangest place and/or time you've written something?
I was still living in Maine when I wrote Traitor's Moon. It had run over deadline and the editor had asked for some pretty significant changes to several sections. Somehow I'd fallen into the pattern of working really late at my office (outside the house) and living on Thai take out. It worked, so I went with it for several months in the dead of winter. I remember the night I finally finished. It was two in the morning and there'd been a huge snowstorm. My car was parked on the street and the snow clearers had had to carefully dig around it. The entire street was clear and empty except for the tidy block of snow encasing my Jeep up to the doorhandles. I just stood there and laughed.
What is the funniest or strangest editor/crit request/comment you've encountered?
My editor told me I had to cut 100 pages from a completed manuscript—because paper prices had jumped to a very high rate. I was not happy, and I don't think I managed to cut that many, but it was a lot. At one point I told my editor that I'd axed a "color" section about some fantasy wildlife and she demanded that I put it back in because she liked it so much. I did so, and issued a "Aurënen Wildlife Federation Endangered Species Alert," announcing that the grey-backed porie, previously thought extinct, had once again been spotted in the forests north of Sarikali.
What is your ideal location to write a book, if you had the money to live there or sequester yourself there?
Sorrento, Maine. I've started and finished many of my books there.
What would you like to own/have that would make your writing faster or smoother?
I would like a big house by the sea with a butler, housekeeper, dietician, chef, personal secretary, personal trainer, and accountant, and plenty of room for friends to come and stay for weeks on end. Really now, is that so much to ask? Barring that, I'd like to be Bertie Wooster, with a Jeeves of my very own.
Introvert or extrovert?
What's the strangest/worst job (outside of publishing) you've held?
Strangest. That's an easy one. I was a necropsy technician at Oregon State University, during my brief stint in pre-veterinary medicine. I assisted in large animal autopsies, killed baby chicks and electrocuted sick chickens for testing, hauled carcasses, sawed open horse heads, extracted brains for rabies testing, and cleaned up (and fell down in) hundres of gallons of cold, half-congealed blood. All grist for the mill for my kind of writing.
If you could choose your dream job, besides writing, what would it be?
Photojournalist. I'd like to tell stories without having to use so many words.
What's your dream car? Your favorite car you've ever owned?
I jokingly say I want a Porsche, but in reality I think I'd be so afraid of scratching it or denting a bumper that I'd be nervous driving it. Then again, if I could afford a Porsche, I could afford to get it fixed, I suppose. But what I really love are Jeep Cheerokees, and they don't make them any more! Years back we had a second-hand one we drove the hell out of in the woods and everywhere else. Rust got it in the end. That was one great vehicle.
The best bumper stickers you've ever seen? The best you've ever personally had on your vehicle?
I like the "Coexist" sticker made of symbols from different religions. We have one on our car now that says "Made in Maine. Living in Exile." (We're in California now.) I also enjoy the various permutations of the "Jesus Fish." The latest ones I've seen said "Sushi" and "Gefilte" inside.
The #1 holiday or birthday gift to purchase for an author is...
Quality fountain pens!! I write on a computer, but I brainstorm in a notebook and love doing it with my various fountain pens, mostly in purple ink.
Your favorite leisure activity or vacation spot?
I love to travel to places I've never been before. There's such excitement and delight in seeing what's around the next bend or over a new horizon.
Have you ever included a real experience of your own in a book? Did anyone who knows you notice it?
I have included nightmares I've had, various childhood experiences, an altered version of a family suicide. Some are too personal for anyone else to know about, but family members have recognized some things. My grandmother was a worrier, and every time we'd head home from her place at night she'd say "Now you be careful! That road is just a ribbon of black!" I used that quote, but in a medieval setting.
Where do you get your character names?
A few are real names, like Alec or Micum, but most others I create and try to "tune" to sound like they are from a particular culture or region. It involves a lot staring into space and muttering.
What is the best reader or reviewer comment you've ever received?
"Your book kept me from committing suicide." Seriously.
One word to that one...Da-ahm.
What does your family think about your writing? How, if they do, do they support you in your writing endeavors?
My family is great. My relatives brag me up to everyone who will listen, face my books in stores, give them as gifts. My husband has always been my first (and harshest) reader and greatest support. He's my go-to guy when I get stuck. Now my sons are carrying on the marketing tradition.
When and where do you do the bulk of your writing?
I'm, shall we say, fluid. Generally, I do my best work between 2 and 6 pm but the closer I get to the end of the project, the longer hours I work. In the final stages I've been known to put in twelve hour days. As for the where, I have a lap top, which allows me to move around as the mood takes me. Sometimes I work on the couch by the fire or on the back deck, depending on the weather. Sometimes I go to a coffee shop. Sometimes I even work in my office! At the moment I'm at Panera.
Do you have animal companions while you write? How do they help or hinder the process?
I have two dogs, Emma (chihuahua/beagle, age 3) and Jackson (Akita/mastiff, age 17 months). They keep me company in my solitude, and interrupt me enough to keep me from fossilizing in my chair. Three o'clock is "peanut butter time." Emma is in charge of that. She comes over, claws at my leg, and makes a special weird noise in her throat. I have to drop whatever I'm doing and fill up a couple of Kongs with peanut butter for their afternoon snack.
What's your favorite part of being a writer?
Writing! I love it when the story all falls into place and everything makes sense, with all the good thrills and deceptions.
What's the thing you wish you could hire someone else to do or wish you didn't have to do as a writer?
It would be nice not to be alone so much. My fantasy is to share office space with several other writers. We'd leave each other alone, but take coffee breaks and lunches together, and be available for help and mutual support.
Do you use any special software to write? Voice to text? Audio edits? etc.
I write it all in one long Word document. Anything else frightens and confuses me.
What advice would you give a new writer?
Do the work. Don't think about publishing, just focus on learning the craft. As I often say, don't worry whether you're good enough or not. You're not. Keep at it until you are. It's hard, but it's worth it.
What are your writing goals? Where do you want to be in a year? Five years?
Still writing. It would be nice to get rich, win awards, or make a bestseller list, but that's nothing I'm really in control of. What I can control is me doing the work and trying to make each project as fresh, well-crafted, and engaging as I possibly can. That's the bottom line. Everything else will take care of itself.
What online lists or forums are your favorites?
Broad Universe, Outer Alliance, and SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America).
What book, if you have written several books, is your favorite and why?
I'll have published eight books as of May, and they're all my favorites for different reasons. :-) I love the Bone Doll's Twin because it's dark, showing the dark sides of childhood and magic. It has madness and ghosts and loyalty and gender issues. The two books that complete that trilogy carry on those to full fruition. But I love the Nightrunner books for their characters. I've lived with those people for over 20 years. They're family.
If you could have one magical power, what would it be and why?
To fly. What do you mean, why? It's—flying!
Do you teach writing?
Yes, every chance I get. In May I will be teaching a three-day workshop aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean during a seven-day cruise. We still have space for more students, too. It's going to be fun, with lots of time for writing and exploring new places, and evening salons to share our creations. For more information:
If you were the overlord of the world, what would your first decree be?
"OK everyone, use your words and play nice!"
Give us your backlist... with all publishers...Bold things that are currently available. Note the publishers they are with!
The Nightrunner Series: (Bantam Spectra)
Luck in the Shadows
The White Road (May 25, 2010)
The Tamír Triad: (Bantam Spectra)
The Bone Doll's Twin
The Oracle's Queen
"Letter to Alexi" Prisoner's of the Night Magazine 1995
"Raven's Cut" Assassin Fantastic Anthology, DAW
"Perfection" Elemental: The Tsunami Relief Anthology, TOR
Tell us about releases you expect within the next year... Remember to say which publishers they are with!
The White Road (fifth book of the Nightrunner Series) May 25, 2010, from Bantam Spectra.
Tell us about your current release... blurb... link to purchase is a plus!
The White Road is the sequel to Shadows Return. The Nightrunner Series is a collection of related adventures, rather than one long epic. I based it a bit on the way Conan Doyle wrote his Sherlock Holmes stories.
Blurb: "Dissolute nobles, master spies, and the unlikeliest of heroes, Alec and Seregil have survived exile, treachery, and black magic. But the road that lies ahead is the most hazardous they’ve ever traveled. For with enemies on all sides, they must walk a narrow path between good and evil where one misstep might be their last.
Having escaped death and slavery in Plenimar, Alec and Seregil want nothing more than to go back to their nightrunning life in Rhíminee. Instead they find themselves saddled with Sebrahn, a strange, alchemically created creature—the prophesied “child of no woman.” Its moon-white skin and frightening powers make Sebrahn a danger to all whom Alec and Seregil come into contact with, leaving them no choice but to learn more about Sebrahn’s true nature.
With the help of trusted friends and Seregil’s clan, the duo set out to discover the truth about this living homunculus—a journey that can lead only to danger or death. For Seregil’s old nemesis Ulan í Sathil of Virèsse and Alec’s own long-lost kin are after them, intent on possessing both Alec and Sebrahn. On the run and hunted, Alec and his comrades must fight against time to accomplish their most personal mission ever.
Give us your URLs (web site, MySpace, Facebook, blog, etc.)
Live Journal: http://otterdance.livejournal.com/
Facebook: Personal page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=532719346
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lynn-Flewelling/145593970532?ref=ts
Yahoo Groups: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Flewelling
The LJ is my main hangout these days, but I repost to the FB fan page, Yahoo, and Twitter, too.
Do you have any goodies for my readers today?
I sure do! I will send signed White Road bookmarks to the first ten people who comment, and lucky eleven will get a signed copy of the White Road as soon as it comes out! Keep count and email me your addresses, folks.