Interview with Jenn Lyons

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it involved twins who are taken from another dimension and placed in this one, and it was sort of a cross between Star Wars and Dragonlance, if that makes any sense. I remember there was a period of time where I was a kid where dimensional crossover books where someone from Earth ends up in a fantasy dimension were very popular, and that probably fed into it.
What is your writing process?
I start out by making wish lists. Here's all the characters I want to feature. Here are the themes I want to highlight. Wouldn't it be great if there was a scene that happened here? It's all blue sky at first, and I spend a few days (or even a few weeks) just thinking about possibilities. I usually do most of my world-building around the same time, because if I think of some important snippet afterwards, it could blow everything I've done out of the water. Once I have that, I begin outlining the book. I don't want to be too granular, because then writing isn't fun for me. I block out the main milestones I want to hit, and then sit down to write, with the goal for each block being just to hit the main milestones. I really do write a book one chapter at a time, It's much easier when its broken into manageable chunks.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Snow White. Now this wasn't the generic Disney version of Snow White, but the very dark tale illustrated by Nancy Burkert where the Queen dies at the end by being forced to dance in red-hot shoes. I was about four years old, and I'm ashamed to say I unwittingly committed a theft, because we moved from where we were living so quickly that book was never returned to the library. Anyway, that book haunted me. I loved it, and I'm not sure my mother ever realized how dark it was, because the idea that heroes too have the capacity for cruelty was a lesson I never really forgot.
How do you approach cover design?
I'm very lucky in that I've worked professionally as a graphic artist and illustrator for years before I decided to begin writing novels, which means I can create my own book covers, but honestly, I think making the book cover is harder than writing the book! Now that may be because I'm too close to my own work, which would be a fair accusation, but it's definitely an unappreciated skill. My main goals are probably not so different from anyone's: the name of the book and my own name must be legible in large sizes or small, and the art should reflect the feel of the material.
What do you read for pleasure?
The same stuff I write. I love fantasy and science fiction, with the occasional helping of urban fantasy, noir detective and horror. I will occasionally branch out from these fields, but only rarely.
What are you working on next?
I've set a very ambitious schedule for myself, but I'm confident I can tackle it. I'm going to finish up two more books before the year closes. Blood Sin is the sequel to my urban fantasy book Blood Chimera, which will be published by World Weaver Press in 2014. I'm also going to be working on an epic fantasy called the Culling Fields, which has been near and dear to my heart for many years. I'm really excited to finally put the book in front of readers.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Working. Well, that's not quite true, but it's close. I do work full time as a video-game producer, so writing has to be an at home and weekends sort of thing. Finding the time to do that really involved cutting out a lot of other stuff from my life -- I don't watch a lot of TV, for example, nor do I play MMOs the way I used to.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
I'm one of those people who plan out names to the most minute detail, and there's very nearly always some sort of hidden meaning to someone's name. I try not to be too obvious about it. So for example, there's a character in my book Blood Chimera who is named Darius, which is a reference to the Persian king, Darius the Great, because I was hinting at the fact my Darius is a man who wants to build an empire. Mallory, from Marduk's Rebellion, is both an homage to Sir Thomas Malory and Raymond Chandler (the first iteration of Chandler's famous detective Philip Marlowe was named Mallory in some of his earliest stories.)
Where do you get your inspiration?
From my appendix and my tonsils. No, really, it's true, those are the two organs which control creativity, which is why children are so much more creative than adults. Since I still have my appendix and tonsils, I'm good.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I'll talk about Marduk's Rebellion since that's the one people can buy now, although I'll shorten the story, because boy is it a long one. I started writing Marduk's over fifteen years ago (maybe more like twenty years, if I'm being brutally honest with myself), and by started I mean 'started, finished, shuffled it around agents and publishing houses, and then stuck in a drawer.' A few years ago I decided I'd finish the book, which quickly became 'rewrite the book from scratch' as I realized why no had wanted it originally (hint: it wasn't very good.) While it was sitting in that drawer, it became much more topical as well, because the idea of the chaos that results from occupational forces withdrawing from an abandoned war is certainly something that resonates far more today than it did prior to 9/11.
Published 2013-10-27.
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