Friday, December 25, 2009

Laura Resnick Interview

Laura Resnick is a relatively new author to the Fantasy genre though she has published in other genres. She became part of the genre with her first Epic Fantasy book In Legend Born. Daughter of science fiction author Mike Resnick, she has written many books in the romance genre under the pen name Laura Leone. Ms. Resnick has traveled all over the world, including a recent trip to Africa, and this experience she brings to her books. Many of her short stories have appeared in various anthologies. The second book of her Fantasy series will be split into two books: In Fire Forged: The White Dragon, which will be published May 2003, and In Fire Forged: The Destroyer Goddess. She has a new book called Dopplegangster coming out in Jan. 2010.

Debbie Ledesma: I read your biography on the Internet. What inspired you to start a writing career?

Laura Resnick: I was living and working in Sicily, and my salary wouldn’t stretch to pay off a bank loan I had in England. So I was searching for a second source of income, something that would fit into my schedule. A friend suggested I read Kathryn Falk’s How To Write A Romance and Get It Published. At my request, my parents sent me a copy of the book from the U.S. I read the book, and I thought this seemed like something I could do at my own pace and without spending money which I didn’t have. So I sat down and started writing books, and then started sending out queries. The following year, I made my first sale--to Silhouette Books.

At the time (15 years ago), Silhouette still had a publishing program which was growing faster than its stable of reliable writers. So when they found someone whose writing they liked, and who seemed capable of delivering 2-4 books per year to them, they worked on helping that writer develop. I sold them a dozen books in five years. Throughout those years, I got detailed editorial commentary from Silhouette on everything I wrote, including all the material they rejected. So, from my perspective, Silhouette spent five years paying me to learn my craft. That’s a rare opportunity for a young writer and was a huge asset in my development as a novelist.

DL: Did being the daughter of a SF author influence your writing?

LR: As a kid, I often heard my father say things about writing which I now know stuck with me--craft Äprinciples such eschewing self-indulgence and fulfilling your responsibility to engage and absorb the reader. When I was a teenager, my father paid me by-the-page to type the final drafts of his manuscripts. That’s how I learned to type, and also how I learned MS formatting. I probably unconsciously learned about the revision process, since I was typing from his line edits of his own work and thereby seeing the changes he made as he went along, and seeing how many changes a writer might make from initial draft to final version. I also developed an understanding of how polished a writer’s prose and how well-crafted his story should be before shipping a MS. Perhaps because of that, many editors have commented to me how clean and polished my work is upon delivery.

Growing up in my father’s house also influenced my approach to the
profession. For example, I knew from an early age that persistence and
endurance are essential qualities just for breaking into this profession, let
alone surviving or succeeding in it. So, when trying to break into publishing, it never even occurred to me to write just one book; when I sold my first book, I was already working on my fourth.

DL: What authors have inspired or influenced your writing besides your father?

LR: Pretty much everyone I’ve ever read. Whenever I read a book I don’t like, I analyze why it doesn’t work and what would work instead; this practice has formed a private mental university of self-education which has been an enormous influence on my work. I try to engage in a similar analysis of books which I love, figuring out why they work so well. This has been influential, too, though a much tougher exercise: A wel l-crafted novel often appears deceptively effortless and hides the seams of the writer’s painstaking work, making it difficult even for another writer to discover exactly what makes it so good.

DL: After writing many Romance novels under the pen name Laura Leone, why did you choose Fantasy to write your next novel?

LR: After I’d sold eight romance novels, Marty Greenberg and my father invited me to write a short story for an sf/f anthology they were doing. That went well, so they each invited me into more anthologies. (So I blame my entry into sf/f on Marty and Pop.) Then other sf/f pros started inviting me into their anthologies. I was just doing this for fun, as a relaxing change-of-pace from my full-time career as a romance novelist. Eventually, though, I’d sold over twenty sf/f ⁄ short stories, I’d won the John W. Campbell Award (best new sf/f writer), and sf/f types kept asking me, "When are you going to write a novel?" (I’d reply that I’d written thirteen novels for three publishers, but I’d done it under another name in another genre. I think some people thought I was just making a strange joke.)

Eventually, through a series of coincidences too complicated to explain
(though I blame Jennifer Roberson), I wound up with an agent who specialized in sf/f. After a while, it dawned on me that, considering all these combined circumstances, I should probably try writing an sf/f novel. And that was how it wound up happening.

DL: How is writing Fantasy fiction different than Romance fiction?

LR: Wow! There are so many ways, I can’t even begin to address them here--but here’s a basic summary:

Bottom line, for me, fantasy is about the struggle between good-and-evil,
with the epic external struggle leading us to the internal, personal struggle
whi Óch exists in each one of us. Whereas the romance genre is about two people pair-bonding. I’m always amazed at how often people from each genre seem to wholly misunderstand the other genre and define it by its window-dressing: "Fantasy is about magic and world-building," or "Romance is about sex." Understanding the heart of each genre shapes the whole approach to developing a novel there.

Also, for whatever reason, my story ideas and my personal sensibility tend to be much more marketable in fantasy than they are in romance. That makes a big difference in my artistic experiences (and commercial potential) in each genre. As a writer, I personally find the romance genre artistically restrictive, which in turn affects the quality of my work there. By contrast, I’ve found the fantasy genre artistically UNrestrictive, so I’ve grown by leaps and bounds as a writer during my sojourn here, and I also experience better career growth in fantasy.

DL: Where did you get your idea for In Legend Born?

I used to live in Sicily, and the original idea for In Legend Born arose out of Sicilian history. Anyone familiar with a famous 20th-century Sicilian peasant-turned-outlaw-turned-Separatist, Salvatore Giuliano (active 1943-1950), will recognize numerous similarities between his history and the story which occurs in this fantasy novel.

DL: Your Fantasy books are getting longer, how many books do you think it will be?

LR: My second fantasy novel is almost double the length of my first (which was a huge book), and so I’ve had to split into two volumes for publication: The White Dragon: In Fire Forged, Part One (May 2003) and The Destroyer Goddess: In Fire Forged, Part Two (December 2003). However, far from my "fantasy books getting longer," my next two--Arena and The Palace of Heaven, both
stand-alone novels--will be no longer than the first one was, and perhaps
even shorter.

DL: Do you have a favorite character in your books? Which one and why?

LR: It changes from year to year, as new characters torment me and old characters slide off my radar. My personal favorites today are a couple of characters in my upcoming two-part fantasy novel (The White Dragon: In Fire Forged, Part One and The Destroyer Goddess: In Fire Forged, Part Two). Baran is an amoral, witty, and emotionally unstable sorcerer whose company makes everyone else jittery and bad-tempered. Ronall is a drunken, whoring, cowardly aristocrat who’s horribly out of Ò place and trying to find his place in a world of towering heroes and villains.

What draws me to these characters is their iconoclastic charm, the fresh
perspective they bring to the story by being so out of place in it, and the
mass of contradictions in their behavior which ensures that other characters (and, I hope, readers) are torn between affection and loathing, between empathy and revulsion when encountering them. I’m fascinated by the struggle of inconsistencies, contradictions, and extremes in people, and therefore I like to explore this in characters. Additionally, I love irreverence and have a huge fondness for characters who say what no one else will say.

DL: I’ve read some of your short stories, which form do you prefer, novels or short stories?

LR: I enjoy both. A 1,000-page manuscript (or, indeed, a 300-page manuscript) involves a lot more commitment, sustained effort, and passion than does a 16-page manuscript, so I am much more involved in my novels, they require far more of my focus and effort, and I care about them much more. However, although short fiction is not my primary passion as a writer, it’s been extremely important in my development because it’s afforded me so many opportunities to experiment with things which are uncommercial, odd, or which I’ve yet to learn to sustain over the course of 500 pages, in terms of structure, style, tone, format, voice, point-of-view, pace, etc.

DL: Do you draw from mythology for your themes and ideas?

I would say I draw from life for my themes and ideas. Although mythology is one of the many subjects that I include in my background reading for my work, it’s not a starting place for me, nor is it more important for me than other aspects of my research.

DL: Did your experience of the African trip find its way into your stories?

LR: Yes. I wrote a non-fiction book about the trip, A Blonde In Africa, as well as some articles. My experiences in Africa have worked their way into my fiction in any number of ways, most noticeably a romance novel called Fever Dreams (w/a Laura Leone), as well as several short stories, including, "Amandla!" I’ve written proposals for novels set in Africa but, unfortunately, no one’s wanted them so far. Above all, I’d say that my experiences in Africa changed my writing because they changed me as a person, in the way that all major life experiences change us and our work.

DL: Have current events such as 9/11 and the talk of war with Iraq found their way into your writing or influenced it?

LR: In terms of my plot choices, not yet. Thematically--yes, in the sense that
everything that affects me affects my work. I felt a kind of terrible innocence on 9/11. I watched those planes flying deliberately into the Twin Towers to murder thousands of civilians, and I realized that I have to start all over as a fantasy writer, because I don’t really know anything about evil yet.

DL: What do you think is the important function of Fantasy?

LR: What a loaded question! I was just saying to another writer the other day, "NEVER attempt to define your genre in interviews, because as soon as it’s published or aired, other writers in your genre will jump all over you to tell you you’re not just WRONG, you’re also insulting, simplifying, or
overlooking -their- work."

So let’s be clear about this: I only speak for MY work. With that understood: I think fantasy’s function is to explore individual and societal moral struggles in a complex, dangerous, and ambivalent world; to explore the challenges of sacrifice in a naturally selfish world; and to do so in a format which respects and evinces the classic traditions of good storytelling--high adventure, high romance, fascinating characters, and
compelling plots.

DL: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

LR: The same advice I always give:

Persistence is the most important quality you’ll need, and probably the one
which you currently underestimate the most.

I’m always amazed at how many aspiring writers who complete one book don’t start writing another. As if (a) their first-ever attempt at a novel will
necessarily be publishable and (b) they have no idea that a writing career
entails writing book after book after book after book. I’m also always amazed at how many aspiring writers, after receiving a rejection or two, simply give up. The first dozen agents I ever queried all told me not only that they didn’t want to represent me, but also that (a) I had no talent and couldn’t write, and/or (b) I was writing the wrong thing and should stop. That was eighteen book sales ago.

DL: What books are you planning to write after this series?

LR: I never talk about any work in public except that which is already sold! This is not "someone will steal my idea" paranoia. This is "if I talk about it before selling it, I will be unable to sell it, and everyone I meet for the next five years will keep asking me about it."

DL: Thank you very much for your time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Animal Fantasy

Many humans believe that animals have feelings and some intelligence like humans. We anthropomorphize them almost daily in TV commercials, movies, cartoons, etc. Fantasy authors contribute stories in the category of Animal Fantasy. These are stories of animals that can talk, possess human intelligence and are told from the animals’ point of view. Whether cats, rabbits, horses or many others, there are many entertaining books in this area.

One of the most detailed books is Watership Down by Richard Adams. This is the story of a group of rabbits seeking a new home to live in after their old one is destroyed. They survive through several trials that a rabbit might experience. Mr. Adams provides readers with a vivid story of rabbit lives along with their myths and beliefs. He shines a bright light on the rabbit world. The book is a classic of Fantasy and literature.

Cats are popular animals, appearing in many Fantasy books. Author Gabriel King contributes two Animal Fantasies about cats to the genre: The Wild Road and The Golden Cat. These books tell epic stories about cats, their lives, interactions with other animals and the secret wild roads they use. Some of these cats possess magic. Another book about cats is Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams that is very entertaining.

Rudyard Kipling created some very imaginative Animal Fantasies in his Jungle Books. The books contain short stories of talking animals and jungle life in India. Most of the stories revolve around Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves. With help from animal teachers, he learns the way of the jungle, but is constantly torn between the jungle and the world of man. There are other stories too. “Rikki Tikki Tavi” is the story of a mongoose and his fight against nasty cobras. “The White Seal” tells the story of a seal who leads his people to a safe haven from man. All of the stories are vivid and enjoyable.

Another popular animal is the horse. They appear in many books. A well done Fantasy about horses is The Heavenly Horse from the Outermost West by Mary Stanton. In this story, the last Appaloosa mare must go on a quest to save her breed. She undergoes several trials to attain her place in the horse heaven. The sequel, Piper at the Gate, tells the story of the mares’s son.

Recently a new animal Fantasy book has expanded into a large series. Redwall by Brian Jacques takes place in the fantastical place of Redwall Abbey. There are several different animals that live in and around its environs. In this first book, a young mouse dreams of being a warrior. The evil rat warlord is the villain of the book. The mouse must accomplish a quest in order to face the rat. Mr. Jacques combines epic Fantasy elements, an imaginative setting and wonderful characters in all of his books. Readers of any age would enjoy his works.

Animal Fantasy is a vital subgenre of Fantasy. The works in this category allow us to see the world through the eyes of animals. It provides a different perspective to our human lives. Whatever kind of animal is depicted, readers will find entertaining works to enjoy.