Sunday, December 6, 2009

Author Interview with LYNN FLEWELLING

Lynn Flewelling has, since the early 1980s, studied literature, veterinary medicine, and ancient Greek; she has worked as a necropsy technician, a house painter, an office worker, a freelance editor, a freelance journalist, an instructor of workshops, and a writer of fantasy novels that have received worldwide acclaim. She lives in Maine, USA with her husband.

Who is the one person who most encouraged or influenced you to be a writer—and why?

I'm afraid I must name two. Many years ago, back in junior high, Ray Bradbury's writing turned me from a reader to someone who wanted to write. That remained a dream I never thought could be realized for a long time, but I kept at it. The person who did and does most encourage me is my husband, Douglas. He's been there for me from the very start, encouraging, reading my stuff, commenting very honesty and sometimes pointedly. He had faith in my ability as a writer before I did. He's still my first reader, and the main person I bounce ideas around with.

How long have you been writing? You’ve written both fiction and non-fiction; what is your preference—and why?

I started telling myself and my friends stories when I was very young, organizing games of "let's pretend we're—" That was always my favorite form of play and I guess I'm still doing that as a writer. I wrote my first short story in seventh or eighth grade. We had a student teacher who taught a section on creative writing by putting up a list of titles and letting us choose one to create a story around. They were basically writing prompts. My first story was called "Three Days in an Ant Hill" and was science fiction. After that, however, there was very little creative writing taught, so I was on my own through high school. There was one creative writing class offered at the small university I attended, and it was taught by a gentle poet with leather patches on the elbows of his tweed jacket who really didn't get my science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories. At one point he called me into his office and kindly asked me if I was having emotional problems. It was a blow, but I got over it and began submitting stories here and there. I built up quite a pile of rejection letters, including one from Playboy, which every writer should have, or so I'm told. I'm really not a short story writer, though I have managed to sell a few over the years.

I started writing what became my first published fantasy novel, LUCK IN THE SHADOWS, in 1983, while I was interning with a veterinarian in DC (I wanted to be a vet at that point) and got fired for writing on the job. That, and my total lack of math skills indicated that I was probably on the wrong career path. After that, I stumbled into a proofreading job at an ad agency in Alexandria, Virginia, and when I mentioned that I'd done some writing, they made me a copywriter. That was quite exciting. Later we moved back to Maine and I landed a job, on the strength of my copywriting, doing home and garden articles for the statewide newspaper, and worked my way up to the arts and style section, where I interviewed people like Stephen King and Anne Rice. And all this time I was working on my novel. I finally got an agent in late 1994 and she sold LUCK IN THE SHADOWS and its sequel, STALKING DARKNESS, to Bantam Spectra within a few months. And that was the end of the day jobs for me. I've been a full time writer ever since.

To be honest, I like every type of writing I've done, and still do the occasional article on writing, and lots of blog essays. Each form has its own pleasures. But fiction writing is definitely my favorite. The fact that my eighth novel, THE WHITE ROAD, is coming out in May, 2010, attests to that. Writing fiction is like watching a movie in my head, but with all five or six senses engaged. I see the places and people in my mind's eye, hear their voices in my head, imagine what places smell like, what kinds of food they eat, what things feel like. It's like total sensory immersion. Perhaps that's what a drug trip is like for some people; I can't speak from experience on that one. I know I've had an especially good writing day when 1) things have happened in the story that I had no inkling of when I sat down to work and 2) I have trouble coming out of that altered mental state for an hour or so after I finish writing for the day.

Tell us about your cruise in May 2010.

I'm very excited about that! I was doing a book signing last year and a man walked up to me and asked if I'd like to teach a writing workshop on a cruise ship. I didn't really take him very seriously, and I was in the middle of a difficult writing project, so his business card gathered dust on my desk for a year. However, he called me up at few months ago and asked me again. I did some checking, found out he was a legitimate travel agent who sets up these theme tours, and said yes. Since then he'd taken me on a tour of a Royal Caribbean ship similar to the one I'll be on, and it's like a floating palace! I had no idea.

It's a seven-day cruise, with four days spent at different Caribbean ports of call, including St. Maartin's and St. Thomas, and three days at sea, when the workshop sessions will take place. There are three one-hour sessions per day, covering everything from character development to publishing, as well as evening salons for people to share their work. When I teach it's very interactive, with lots of time for Q & A. There will also be a cocktail party, and all sorts of shipboard entertainment that go with the cruise itself. I think it's going to be a really fun time, and a great opportunity for both budding writers and people with books in progress to get some valuable guidance and insight. More information can be found at my website. The price covers the workshop, the cruise, all meals, and many of the shipboard activities.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

Self doubt. Even after all the books I've written, it still crops up.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

My latest, SHADOWS RETURN (Bantam Spectra), came out in July, 2008. It's the fourth book in the Nightrunner Series and it embroils my heroes Seregil and Alec in slavery and alchemy. Both their pasts come back to haunt them in this one. You don't necessarily have to have read the rest of the series to understand the book, but it would certainly enhance the experience. This was my return to the series after a nine year hiatus, during which I wrote my Tamir Triad. It was also me keeping my promise that the series was not a trilogy. Although SHADOWS RETURN is a complete story, the new book coming out in May, THE WHITE ROAD, is sort of a sequel, which builds on that arc with a completely different sort of adventure. If you like your fantasy a little on the dark side, these are the books for you.      

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I'm currently working on Nightrunner book Number Six. That is it's working title, and Number Seven is under contract, as well. I also have a new, unrelated series on the drawing board, but it's too soon to talk about that one.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

The short answer: Just do it. The longer answer: Don't fret and agonize and moan about wanting to write or not knowing if you're good enough. You're not. Not yet. And you'll never be good enough if you don't write and write and write to hone your craft. Because that's how you do it. Writing classes and groups and books on writing can certainly help, but the real work is in the writing. And in that I include editing. You have to be able to look at your work with a clear and dispassionate eye, see the good, let go of what doesn't advance the plot, and learn to tell the difference. That takes time and practice.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Why? Why not?

I am a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) because they are such great advocates for writers in my genre. Their services are too numerous to mention here, but include legal services, scam alerts, and guidance for beginning writers. They have a great website and anyone thinking of being a SF or fantasy writer should check them out.

I belong to a feminist online writer's group called Broad Universe, for much the same reasons. We celebrate and promote women speculative fiction writers, and some feminist men writers, too.

I also belong to The Outer Alliance, an online organization that supports gay speculative fiction, and is made up of both gay and straight writers, readers, and friends. It was recently established in response to some very homophobic comments made by certain writers and editors in the field.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

I'm sort of between book releases at the moment. I'm doing a small reception at the Olive Ave. Market in Redlands, CA on December 5, I'll be a Guest of Honor at ConBust at Smith College March 27-29, and of course there's the cruise. I'll be lining up more signings and appearances for White Road, which will probably include the World Fantasy, World Science Fiction, and Comic Con conventions. All of those will be posted to my website, Live Journal, Face Book, and Twitter.

FUN QUESTION: What do you like better – the mountains or the ocean—and why?

That's a tough one. I've lived with both and love them both deeply. I get the bends if I'm not in sight of one or the other. And I'm a bit spoiled, growing up in Maine where you don't have one without the other. If I absolutely must choose one, then I'll go for the ocean because it is constantly in a state of rapid change, and also because I'm an inveterate beachcomber. I can't walk on any beach without coming home with heavy pockets, full of stones and shells. I even have an aspirin bottle full of sand from Bondi Beach in my office.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

Live Journal:
Face Book:
Twitter Name: LynnFlewelling


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