Saturday, May 1st, 2010

An Interview with Lynn Flewelling

I have been a huge fan of Lynn Flewelling’s since reading Luck in the Shadows. She does me the great honor of answering a few questions below. When you’re done reading, please show Lynn a little love in the comments.

Cover of Lynn Flewelling's Book The White Road

Who is Lynn Flewelling?
Lynn Flewelling is a large mammal native to Maine, but can survive in captivity in a wide range of climates, including southern California. It lives largely on tea and is not by nature nocturnal. It has a variety of calls, but perhaps the most poignant is the frequently heard “The deadline is when?”

Tell us your latest news?

I have several exciting things happening this month. My new book, The White Road, is being released at the end of the month from Random House’s Spectra imprint. It’s the fifth in the Nightrunner Series and there are more to come. I’m also teaching a workshop on a cruise ship May 23-30. We’re sailing in the Caribbean! There is still some space available, too. See my website for details.

I’ll be signing White Road at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego at 2 pm on June 5, and at ComicCon, and am a guest at YaoiCon in October.

When and why did you begin writing?
I always played “let’s pretend” as a kid, but I think I wrote my first short story as a class assignment in sixth or seventh grade. The teacher gave us titles and we had to choose one and write a story to go with it. Mine was “Three Days in an Ant Hill.” It was science fiction. That was fun, but I think what really got me thinking of being a writer was discovering Ray Bradbury at about that some time. His use of language just thrilled me.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It took me a long time to seriously consider being a ‘real’ writer. I dabbled and wrote for my own enjoyment for years but growing up in the wilds of Northern Maine, being an author was not encouraged as a viable occupation. I took a fiction writing course in college and submitted a few stories (unsuccessfully) to magazines. In the early 80s I had the inspiration for a fantasy story and began playing around with it. It slowly developed into a novel and the people I shyly showed it to in progress really liked it, and wanted more. Somewhere in that process I began to think seriously of making a living writing fiction. I was already working as a freelance newspaper journalist—so that kind of being a writer was real— but fiction was a whole different ballgame. By the time I finished what ultimately became my first two books, I was very serious about getting published.

What inspired you to write your first book?
I had been reading a lot of fantasy and my mind was sort of running in that channel. Out of the blue, I had the inspiration for a character who was part spy, part detective, and would be a hero without the usual fantasy tropes. He wasn’t a kid destined to be a wizard or king, or big and brawny; he was small and quick, a master of disguise, and used his wits more than his sword. I usually describe him as a mélange of Sherlock Holmes, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Scaramouch and Odysseus. Just to make it a little harder to sell, I decided to make him gay (although in reality he’s more bisexual). Why? Because most characters I’d seen who were gay were either victims or villains, and the clever, non-brawny characters were relegated to secondary, side kick roles. This was the genesis of Seregil, and the rest of the Nightrunner world grew from that. He needed a place to play.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
It depends on the book. I do a lot with acceptance, diversity, sexuality, and the nature of identity. I don’t believe that reality is broken into good and evil, black and white. My worlds are more grey.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? (Has anyone ever realized it?)
I have used people and events, and even dreams, but in highly synthesized forms. The worst thing you can do is tell someone you based a character on them; they never seem to like what you did, or even recognize themselves.

What books have most influenced your life most?
As a writer, the works of Conan Doyle, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, LeGuin, Bradbury, Jack London, Renault, Eddings, and Stephen King, to name a few. I’ve always loved subterfuge, adventure and horror. I think that all comes together in what I write.
Spiritually and personally? Writing of Buddhist teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, and the Dalai Lama.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Cathie Pelletier. She’ s a mainstream writer from Maine, whose work I really love. I had the chance to take a workshop with her and although my work in progress (the first Nightrunner) was nothing like her work or anyone else’s in the class, she loved it and was tremendously encouraging. She even had me help teach the class, which was tremendously empowering. She tried to help me find a publisher, too. But the best thing she taught me was “Pass it on.” Another writer had helped her, and a writer had helped that person, and so on. I do my best to live up to that by talking with developing writers and teaching.

What book are you reading now? What do you like, or not, about it?
I usually have about five going these days, most of them nonfiction research of one sort of another. But I am reading Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker and loving it. She sketches a world so clearly, without beating you over the head with exposition, and uses the “steam punk” voice very well.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Cherie Priest.

Lynn FlewellingWhat are your current projects?
I’m writing the sixth Nightrunner book, planning the seventh, and also working on developing an entirely separate new series. Both the NR books and my Tamír Triad are set in the same world, though centuries apart. Even so, I’m working within a shared history and culture. I love it, but I’m ready for fresh horizons.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t know that I’d change it, but I am a little worried about reader reaction to one of the major events in White Road. But it’s what had to happen.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Plot! That is the single hardest element for me, which is a bit of a drawback. I adore writing dialog and creating characters. That comes very easily. As far as plot goes, I do start out with a general idea of what I want to have happen, but so much happens on the page as I writer. Some people call it seat of the pants writing. I think of it as more organic. It’s like crystal growing from a seed crystal.

Do you ever have problems with writers block? If so how do you get through it?
I do, periodically, and usually it comes down to plotting problems and fear of failure. I let myself rest a little, but sooner or later I have to force myself to the page and write—just write. Even if it’s only a few hundred words a day and they’re all crap, the best way I know to get through a block is to chip away at it with words.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
I’m a senior tea reviewer for, although I guess that qualifies as writing, but a lot of it is the sheer pleasure of discovering new teas and gorging on research about them and tea culture in general. My stash includes teas from all sorts of exotic places, and my collection of teaware is taking over the dining room. It’s every bit as complex as wine. I love to knit, hike, cook, read Tarot, and take pictures. I love playing games with friends. We have a floating domino game going at the moment. I grew up playing rummy and cribbage, too. I have dogs, who demand a lot of attention and pay it back with love and vet bills. My husband and I love to travel together. He’s going with me on the cruise.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
The White Road is primarily an adventure story, with an underlying theme dealing with identity and family ties. I didn’t have to do much research for that. But the preceding book, Shadows Return, involved lots of yummy research into real alchemy.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
For beginning writers: Write. Write a lot. Learn to self edit and look at your work objectively. Don’t give up. Read widely outside your genre in order to stock up that creative subconscious. Don’t worry about getting published; concentrate on honing your craft. Write what you love, not what you think will sell. It shows. Come take my workshop!

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. – please share your public links.

Live Journal:
Twitter: @LynnFlewelling

Thanks for having me!

10 comments to An Interview with Lynn Flewelling

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kelly harmon. kelly harmon said: Published a blog post: "An Interview with Lynn Flewelling" […]

  • Another fun interview, Lynn! Wish I could go cruising with you! Best of luck with your new release!

  • Great interview! I’ve always wanted to take a cruise workshop. I struggle with plot as well. Did you find it difficult to sustain a series through seven novels?
    Best of luck with The White Road.

  • Cindy

    That line about a major event in White Road will bug me for the next couple of days now…
    I hope I can beg my brother to take me to San Diego on the fifth as an early birthday present…
    Another wonderful interview. Can’t wait for the release of White Road. :]

  • Colette

    Have already pre-ordered White Road and can’t wait to read it, especially now I’m intrigued to find out what the “major event” is!

  • @CateM: The short answer? Sometimes. 😉 The worst thing is worrying about whether the fans of the series like the next book, and the next, since they’re all a bit different. I did take a break and write the Tamir trilogy, largely because I was out of ideas for the moment and didn’t want to crank out a stale rehash. I’m working on NR #6 at the moment and having fun, since it’s nothing like White Road.

    Cindy: Hope to see you there!

    Colette: Thanks!

  • Thank you for this great interview.

    Lynn mentioned there was a lot of research in the first book. I am always curious as to how much research, even with fantasy or fiction books, have been done. It seems like a lot of work is put in to learning about a trade or subject to make it believable to the readers.

    I have to agree I really enjoyed the world Cherie Priest created in Boneshaker as well. 🙂

    Thank you!

  • caedes

    Hah, I love tea, too ^^
    Can’t wait for White Road.

  • @Melissa: There’s a balance between research and making things up, I think. Things like horses, archery, fighting with various weapons have real rules and methods. Get those wrong and you get letters from readers. As far as things like architecture, politics, warfare and the like, you can find a lot of inspiration in research.

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