For all of you who are interested in reading the Question & Answer-Session with Lynn Flewelling in the english original, please take a look under the cut with pushing “weiterlesen”.
Lynn Flewelling Interview
You have a strong fan-base in Germany, I can tell you. So, let’s start with this: Do you plan to visit Germany for maybe promoting your novels – or just for fun?
I’d love to. I was there in briefly in 1980. Bavaria is beautiful! As far as promoting the novels there, that’s really up to the publisher, and whether they want to bring me over for a convention–another way of saying “I need someone else to pay my way”. But I do love to travel and I’d certainly go.
By the way, the publisher Otherworld Verlag has just acquired the rights to the Tamir series, so you’ll soon have all three in German.
At the moment you’re working on a further Nightrunner novel. I can imagine that you cannot give too much away, but maybe you could tell us why you decided to revisit this familiar setting again? And how does it feel to write another Alec & Seregil-novel?
I always planned to go back to that series, but waited until I had a really good story to tell. I love those characters and their world, and don’t want to hurry too much and produce bad books. I must admit, though, that after taking time out for the Tamir Trilogy, I did have to “write my way back in to that world”. Once I got started, however, it all came back. Writing Shadows Return was a wonderful experience, like hanging out with old friends again.
My editor just sent me the cover art. It’s amazing! Your readers can view it at my Live Journal: http://otterdance.livejournal.com. It’s due out in the US on June 24, 2008. I’m working on the sequel now. No title yet.
Let’s stay a little bit on Nightrunners. While writing Luck in the Shadows: Did you know from the beginning that it would become a series of books?
Not at all. I thought I was writing a stand alone book. The initial manuscript, which took 10 years to write, turned out to be Luck and Stalking Darkness. Then my editor said, “we want more.” And so a series was born.
I know you said there won’t be another Tamír-novel. However in one of the Seregil-novels we are told that Tamír got lost on sea during a war, and it took time till she came back and re-claimed her crown. This sounds like a pretty amazing plot. Any chance – maybe during a Nightrunners book – that you tell us more about that?
Probably not in the Nightrunner books, unless I find some way to make that germane to the plot. Since I make things up as I go, it’s possible. Three books about the same characters seems to be a pattern for me. Once I get the two new Nightrunner books done, I might consider another Tamir book, if a good idea shows up. As I said, I want to write really good stories, and I wait for them to come to me.
What do you think are the main differences between your Nightrunner-Novels and the Tamír-Triad. Was it a different writing experience?
Yes, it was very different. I think we writers put a lot of ourselves into our writing, in one form or another, and that came out in very different ways between the two series.
The Nightrunner books are more light hearted, even though there are some very dark things happening. But they are more adventure-oriented. For the Tamir books, I had to dig down much deeper in my own psyche and past. When I was young, for instance, my dad, who had no son, taught me “boy” things, like hunting, fishing, model trains and the like. It was my nature to enjoy such things, so I was very male oriented. Because of that, I was a bit different from many girls. As I grew up, fell in love, and had a family, I embraced my female side whole heartedly, but I still have both very active male and female minds. It’s very useful to me, both as a writer and as a human being.
So the idea of gender identity has always fascinated me. I wanted to explore that in a fantasy setting, and Tamir was the perfect character for that. Many readers consider her a transgendered character, and that’s fine, too.
Other elements–the ghosts, suicide, troubled relationships, bullies– those are all from my own life, too. Ki himself is modeled on a childhood friend. I haven’t seen him since I was 12, but he was probably my first love.
Tamír is mentioned in the Luck in the Shadows already. When did it occur to you that you wanted to tell her story?
When I finished Traitor’s Moon I was really exhausted and needed a change. I’d invented Tamir as nothing more than a bit of history for Seregil to go on about, but her story lurked in the back of my mind for years. Once I was done with the Nightrunner boys, she jumped to the front of my brain, demanding attention. I’m glad I listened. I’m very proud of those books.
What else is planned from the author Lynn Flewelling? Any short stories or something like that?
Right now I have a fifth Nightrunner to write. After that? Who knows?
I saw that in the foreword of one of your novels you mention Anne Bishop. And she does mention you in one of hers. So, do you both know each other?
Yes, she’s a good friend! Years back, her editor sent me the first Black Jewels book to blurb. I liked it and gave it a good comment. Anne wrote to thank me and we kept in touch. She’s a great correspondent. A few years later I moved to the Buffalo, New York area, where she lives, and we got to spend time together as friends. Now I’m out in California, but we still email back and forth often, and meet at conventions.
Could you imagine a collaboration with her (or somebody else) or is that not your cup of tea?
LOL! As much as I love her, and respect her as a writer, Anne and I are both very independent control freaks when it comes to our writing. I think a collaboration would probably end in bloodshed. That being said, I have a secret fantasy of finding someone who’s really good at plot. They could lay out the framework of the story and I’d concentrate on character development, dialog, and world building. Those are my favorite aspects of story telling.
What do you think is the reason that so much fantasy writers love telling their stories as a trilogy?
I blame JRR Tolkien.
These days really big fantasy series with multiple volumes and large casts of characters seem to be very “in”, as for example “A Song of Ice and Fire”. Would writing such a giant-sized series an option for you?
I’m sort of doing that with the Nightrunner books. But it’s different, too, being an open ended series without an overall arc, as George’s series does, or something like Jordan’s Wheel of Time books. I prefer to focus on smaller scale events and a few important characters. I also try to avoid quests and “save the world” scenarios, although I suppose I did some of that in Stalking Darkness. I like to keep the focus on the people and how they grow and change. They have important things to do, of course, but it doesn’t have to be a huge quest. I also find wars exhausting to write.
One of my strongest influences is Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes canon. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read those stories. The mystery element is long since worn out; what I go back for time and again are the world and the characters. I get that same reaction from my readers. At books signings people often bring me copies of my books that are curled and wrinkled, with the spine buckled. I love to see that; it’s the sign of a book often read and loved.
Sometimes it happens that people tend to love one novel of an author (or a character) above all other novels (or characters). And people do let you know, I guess. Is that something which is hard to handle sometimes?
Yes, sometimes, especially when a book first comes out. It’s your brand new baby and you want everyone to love it. Luckily, none of my books has been universally disliked. Traitor’s Moon has gotten the most mixed response. People either really love it, or really dislike it. I think that’s because some readers wanted the same kind of story over and over, and I wanted to explore a different scenario.
Any plans to write a novel which does not play in the Nightrunner universe – or even in another genre?
So why Fantasy? What is your personal opinion – what makes this genre so attractive to some readers (and writers as well)?
Fantasy tends to be character centered, and because you’ve got made up worlds and magic, almost anything can happen. I enjoy writing it, in part, because I get to do lots and lots of research on historical topics, ranging from table manners for nobles to how medieval sewers were constructed. Herbal medicine, archery, sword making, costume, cultural and physical geography– the possibilities are endless. I’m a bit of a history and anthropology geek.
I also weave in a lot of my life experiences, albeit in a synthesized form. Motherhood and childbirth, love and sex, nightmares, knitting, hunting, all the different kinds of snow and how the air smells, things you can find to eat in the woods–not to mention my experiences working in the necropsy (animal autopsy) lab in college. I draw on that a lot for the really icky stuff.
Do you think an author has responsibilities for his/her work? Can novels change something within the reader?
Yes, and yes, at least in my experience. I’ve received all kinds of good feedback, in which a reader has found something that enlightened or just resonated with them. With the Nightrunner books, of course I get a lot of mail about the sexuality. I hear from gay and lesbian people who are glad to find positive portrayals, and others who’ve used my books to come out to their families. But at the other end of the spectrum, I hear from straight readers who came to a better understanding of gay people as people. And that was something I hoped for when I created those characters.
With the Tamir books, I’ve gotten a lot of mail from female readers who say “Thank you! I thought I was the only girl who grew up feeling different from other girls.”
Does your publisher ask or even demand that you make rapid changes on your books? Have you ever had to make dramatic changes?What was his/her reaction when you came up with that reveal that some characters are gay?
Once I complete a draft of the novel, it goes off to my editor for a first round of edits. She reads it, and comments on parts that need more work. She and I work very well together. So far, none of her requests have been unreasonable, and she has never asked for major changes to the plot.
By the time I finish a book, I’m mentally exhausted. It’s great to have it out of my hands for a few weeks. By the time it comes back, with all her helpful, objective advice, I’m rested and ready to look at it with fresh eyes. First draft is the hardest part for me. The rewrite and editing stage is a lot of fun, and I often add lots of nice new bits.
Thanks to “The Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” now a lot of successful books are being made into movies or are optioned for TV. Any chance for one of your novels hitting the big screen some time soon? Would you like that idea or rather not?
Not yet. I’d seriously consider it if an offer came in, but to be honest, I’d also worry about how Hollywood would change them. Books almost never make it to the screen with all the original elements intact. All the same, if Peter Jackson showed up at my door, with Johnny Depp, Russell Crowe, Peter O’Toole, and Vanessa Redgrave in tow? Well, I certainly wouldn’t send them away!
Can you remember what your first story (or novel) was about? And how did you realise you have a talent for writing?
When I was in eighth grade, a student teacher taught a section on creative writing. That was still quite new back then. She would write a number of titles on the chalk board and we could chose one and write a story to go with it. My first one was “Ten Days in an Anthill” and was a science fiction story about a man being shrunk (somehow) to the size of an ant and living with them. I’d had an ant farm (do you have those in Germany, I wonder?) and knew lots of things about ants. I got an A. The second one was “Conversation in a Dog Pound”, in which I modeled each dog into one of my teachers. It never occurred to me that any of them would ever see it, but I soon learned that it had been passed around in the teacher’s lounge. Nobody got mad at me, though. From there, I went on to write really bad stories in the style of Edgar Allen Poe, HP Lovecraft, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, Jack London, Stephen King.
Bad as they were, it’s a good way to learn, sort of the way painters used to learn by copying the great masters.
Aside from the first creative writing lessons, I didn’t get a tremendous amount of support for my writing until much later. I had one good teacher in high school, my senior year. At university, I took one creative writing course and nobody knew what to make of my stories, which weren’t the usual sensitive memories of childhood or scathing stories of abuse. I was writing adventure, science fiction, fantasy and horror. I did get some good feedback, though. Once I started writing on my own after college, I got amazing support from my husband. You can thank him that I completed that first book, and all the rest.
What do you think is your main strenght as an author?
I think, and based on the feedback I get, that my greatest strength is creating memorable characters that readers can really connect with. It’s certainly the part I enjoy the most.
If you could meet a fictional character (from your own work or another) who should it be and why?
Wow! So many. I’d like to meet any of my characters, but especially Seregil, Alec, Ki and Tamir. As for other peoples’ characters? Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Mina Harker. Mary Renault’s Alexander the Great and Bagoas. Anne Rice’s Lestat and Louis, Bradbury’s Electric Grandmother, Don Marquis’ verse libre poet cockroach , Archy . . . I could go on and on, but that gives you an idea.
I do not know if you find time yourself for reading, but what kind of books do you like? Which authors can you recommend? And how do you choose a book in the bookstore? Just from looking at the cover?
I don’t read as much as I used to, which is too bad. However, between projects I tend to go on reading binges. I love historical novels, horror stories, and books with well done gay characters. I also read a lot of Buddhist writings, especially Thich Naht Hanh. While I’m working on a book of my own, however, much of my time is taken up with research. At the end of the day the last thing I want to look at is more words on a page. I take walks and watch TV to relax.
Writers I recommend? Where to start? Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Dostoyevsky, Umberto Ecco, Rimbaud, T. S. Eliot, Ursula LeGuin, Anne Bishop, Patricia Briggs, Laura Anne Gilman, William Faulkner, Mary Renault, James Allen Gardner, Thich Naht Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, Pat Barker, Homer, Aristophanes, Ovid, Plutarch, Plato . . . Well, you get the idea.
As far as buying books, I generally hear about one that sounds interesting from a friend or the media, and go to a bookstore or Amazon.com to find it. I find bookstores overwhelming. If I go in without a book in mind, I usually come out empty handed.
If a cover catches my eye, I read the back cover and the first few pages. If those don’t grab me, then I put it back on the shelf. I’m more likely to be influenced by the author’s name than the cover art, though. And some covers put me off; if I wouldn’t want to be seen reading it in public, I don’t buy it.
You’ve really close contact to your fans through to your website, your livejournal and your yahoo-group. So I guess you really like that experience. But did you have some unpleasent experiences therefore as well?
I love being in touch with my readers! I’m a social person, and having contact with so many people around the world is great. Often we chat about things completely apart >from my work, and that’s nice, too. They also send me lots of fan art, which is really fun. I have an art gallery on my website.
The only bad experience I’ve had so far was in one newsgroup devoted to my work. That was about the time that the first fan fictions based on my work came out. At that time it was quite unusual for books to be used. My agent and editor had not been faced with that before, and weren’t quite sure what to make of it.
I had never heard of fan fiction at that point, much less slash or yaoi, and wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it, either. But then several other authors advised me to not allow it and then my publisher told me that Bantam’s lawyers believed that if I gave permission for fan fiction, I could lose my copyright to my own characters and world! Since that is my livelihood and my passion, it was a very scary thought! So at that point I was very anti-fan fiction, and that’s the reason why.
But it was also very weird seeing my characters doing and saying things under someone else’s direction. A lot of it was slash (although the thought of “slashing” Alec and Seregil is pretty funny, not to mention redundant), and a lot of it was poorly written. My biggest fear was that someone–especially younger people, or librarians thinking of buying my books–would go searching for my work and find that instead.
Anyway, this particular newsgroup was full of fan fiction writers, and we got into a bit of an argument, in which they basically said that not only could they could do anything they wanted with my people and there wasn’t much I could do about it, but that I also was a bad, selfish person for not letting them. Needless to say, I went away from there with a bad taste in my mouth.
At this point, I just tell people that it’s a legal problem for me and leave it at that. What I don’t see is not my problem.
Is there a question you always wanted to get asked in an interview, but it never occurred? Now is your chance. What question would it be and please give us an answer as well.
You’ve already done that, and very well, too!
Thank you so much for your time and for being so kind to answer these questions!
Maybe we can do this again at some point in the future.
All the best for your upcoming novels and both for your working and your private life!
Again, thank you!
Lynn Flewellings Website: