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LF) Just moved from Bangor, Maine to East Aurora, NY, just outside Buffalo.
DM) Why the move?
LF) My husband just landed an assistant professorship at a university here, tenure track. His field, geographic information systems, is highly specialized, so we tend to live where he can work. My work is more portable. I do keep pushing him to apply to the University of Fiji, but so far there haven't been any good openings there.
DM) Are you in the process of writing your next book?
DM) And what is this next book about?
LF) It's the life of Tam?r the Great, one of the Skalan warrior queens mentioned as an historical figure in the Nightrunner books. She's one of those figures who effects a great deal of change in her society, like Charlemagne, or Katherine the Great. It won't be dry, I promise! There'll be ghosts and intrigue and lots of gooshy dark magic mixed in with the politics. The underlying theme is a quest for personal identity.
DM) How did you start in your work?
LF) I was always a "let's pretend" kind of kid. The move to creating stories was a natural progression for me, but the most pivotal time was probably in 6th grade: That year a friend introduced me to the stories of Ray Bradbury, and a student teacher introduced me to creative writing. I think it was then that I consciously moved from reader to writer. I was hesitant about it, though. I come from a very small city in a rather remote part of America, where writers simply weren't part of the daily fabric. You became a nurse or a teacher, or something like that--something that would "put food on the table." Writing was looked upon as an eccentric hobby. I studied literature in college, thinking I was going to be a teacher, and hating the idea--then I went on to do all sorts of work, but writing furtively as I went. It didn't help that the professor of the one writing course I took in college (the only one offered) found my work disturbing and asked if I had emotional problems. So I suppose I must really, really have wanted to be a writer somewhere underneath all that doubt, because despite my total inbred conviction that I was never going to get anywhere with it, I now have three books in print which are doing quite nicely!
DM) Is one of these three books more of a favorite of yours than the others?
LF) I love all of my books. They were labors of love; I was striving to create something well done, and I do feel I succeeded. I'll be reading them aloud to my kids or at a book signing, and hit a section that makes me think, "Hey, that's good!" Of course, there are always the sections that make you go, "Argh! What was I thinking!". The curse of the closet perfectionist.
But favorite? That's actually a toss-up between a eulogy I did for my grandmother and the first ad copy I wrote, years ago when I had a real job at a Virginia advertising firm. It was for a company that provided strikebreakers to factories, and bodyguards for rich Arab oil sheiks. The brochure featured pictures of assault weapons and men in riot gear. My copy dripped machismo, very Van Damme-esque. I went totally over the top and the client loved it. I claim it as the first piece of fiction I was ever paid for.
DM) So what made you pull out of the ad copy work?
LF) When my first son was born, back in 1985, I decided I'd take six months or so off, do some freelance, then go back. I loved the job I had. But the best laid plans, as they say--I loved being home with my baby, loved freelancing, and really took off on the book idea. Fourteen years, two kids and three books later, I'm still on maternity leave. It's been really important to me to pursue both motherhood and career as fully as possible. It wasn't an easy path, especially when the kids were little and the books were still in the "Can I really do this?" stage, but it's been well worth it.
DM) Do you think it is possible for somebody to live exclusively on freelance?
LF) If you're lucky enough to freelance for high-paying glossy magazines, maybe. But the sort of work most of us pick up--newspapers, reviews, local stuff--probably not. Mine was an auxiliary income.
DM) Who would you consider as your influences?
LF) I have a lot. I'll read just about anything. As I kid, I loved adventure fiction-- London, Dumas, Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad, and things like National Geographic magazine, and also Thor Heyerdahl's books. From there I moved on to horror and science fiction. Bradbury, Asimov, Clarke, Le Guin, Eddings, and Tolkien were all important writers for me. Then came Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Peter Straub, H.P. Lovecraft. If I were to name books that were direct influences on the Nightrunner series, however, I'd say: THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, and Larry McMurtry's LONESOME DOVE.
My stories draw most heavily from a fascination with history and anthropology, though, plus the work I've done with dreams and shamanism.
DM) Where do you see your career going from here?
LF) At the moment I've got a new fantasy trilogy, another Nightrunner book, an historical novel set in turn-of-the-century America, and a bunch of short stories simmering. At the moment, I'm working on the first of the trilogy, THE BONE DOLL'S TWIN, which is under contract. I also teach writing workshops and find I really enjoy that, too.
DM) Where do you teach workshops?
LF) Anywhere they'll have me! Back in Maine, I taught a lot through the statewide professional organization, Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. I've also taught at conventions and in local schools. I love working with developing writers. It's the sort of directed guidance I never had access to. I also love working with kids, showing them that writers are just regular folks and encouraging them to follow their dreams, wherever they may lead. I'm a great believer in following your bliss. Too many people crush their natural talents because they think they can only do things that make money, and the more the better. It breaks my heart to see how many people come up to me and say, "You're so lucky. I used to write/paint/dance, etc., but I haven't for years, and I really miss it." Or they'll say, "I've always wanted to write/paint/dance, etc." My answer is always, "Then you SHOULD be doing it! Never mind whether you make money at it. This is a part of your soul that you need to honor and exercise."
It's more than just a matter of turning off the TV, too. It's fear. In our culture, too many people think that unless you can 1) do it like a professional first time out of the barn, and/or 2) make a living at it, then there's no point in even trying. They don't realize what a process it all is. Anne LaMott's wonderful book, BIRD BY BIRD, talks of the need to create "sh--ty first drafts"--and it's true. Perhaps our early work, mine included, shouldn't ever see the light of day, but it's necessary to DO it. How else will we learn? I believe everyone has some creative spark, and that we are better, happier people if we find an outlet for it.
DM) Is there any part of the three books you've written that you wish you could re-write?
LF) STALKING DARKNESS could have been better edited. A few continuity errors and some rocky sentences slipped through to print. But plot-wise? No, I'm quite pleased.