Interview with Jean Lowe Carlson

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up on a 20-acre farm outside Eugene, Oregon. I was outside a lot. When you grow up on a farm, being indoors really isn't an option. There's always something to do outside; take care of the chickens, feed the rabbits, take hay and grain to the horses, check water spigots in the winter to make sure they aren't frozen, get up in the fruit trees and haul down the apples and pears. Between my sister and I, we had a lot of time to ourselves. We were always in the woods or down in the back pasture at the bottom of the hill when we were kids. We'd play, make up stories and games like kids do. It was all pure fantasy, and we had the perfect spot to do it. We'd be pirate warriors on a boat, having fantastic duels at sea when really we were playing on a dilapidated old flat-wood cart somebody had abandoned over the stream, sans wheels. We'd be frontiers-people on the Oregon Trail, fighting for survival in our fort, when really we'd just piled some old logs and sheets of plywood around a few cedar trees and topped it all with rusty barbed wire (yes, I'm amazed I never got tetanus as a kid!). We'd be birdpeople roosting in the treetops, when really we were sitting five feet from the ground in the branches of our apple trees, eating green apples. It was awesome. And I learned to mix fantasy with observation of the natural world right then, and have been doing it ever since. It's never been far from my door, or from my dreams, or from my heart. So that's it. The heart of a fantastical romantic born!
When did you first start writing?
Three years ago (August 2012). I was a dreamer. I was a romantic. I always have been. And I woke up one morning with the most fantastical dream stuck in my head so deeply, that I just had to tell my husband Matt about it. And he encouraged me to write it down. It was vivid, it was haunting. It became the opening scene to the "Key of Fire" series, Asya riding almost-dead down a long and forbidding white road in the middle of the aurora-lit night, and gazing out over barrenness to see three dark, forbidding pinnacles in the distance. I started to jot it down. Before I knew it, I had ten pages, then twenty, then soon thirty. Then it was fifty as I started to think through Asya and Agni had how they interact, how they would talk to each other, influence each other, resonate heart-to-heart, both determined, driven, and devastated. And my writing career was born. I've never really stopped after that. I would have another juicy dream, write that one down, incorporate it if I could or save it for another project. At this time (April 2015), I have about 20 pages of dreams jotted down ready to work on, fifteen more that have been fleshed out into 20-30 page snippets that I'm waiting for plot/direction inspiration on, and about twelve books currently in the works. And the dreams won't stop. And my writing won't, either!
What's the story behind your latest book?
The series I am publishing now are the "Three Days of Oblenite" trilogy. They were originally going to be novelettas, glimpses into a fantastical Victorian-gothic world where the Dark and Light dance together seamlessly, and religion is in constant conflict with desire, but then I needed to go a bit deeper with them. They're still fairly short as fantasy novels go, and I may publish all three into one set at some point, because they are truly intended to be read together, as the characters from each novel weave in and out of the lives of those in the other two novels. I wanted to explore religion a bit, and spirituality, and what makes people value themselves based on their own inner soul's desire. What happens when that desire of your soul has a dark side and a light side, both? One side a curse, and the other a blessing? All three gifts/curses of the three main protagonists are double-edged, and bite as much as they bless, for different reasons. So what, as human beings, do we do with that? Do we give in to it? Do we deny it? Do we try to get rid of it or overcome it? Do we turn to someone else or to the Church to absolve us of it? Do we harness it, and do what we want with it?

What would you do with it? ;-)
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Progress. I like to be forward-looking with everything that I do, and being an indie author is truly were the progress is at this point in history. Never before has the power of the marketplace and public demand been able to be matched and served as we are able to do it today. The internet is amazing! And I plan to use it. Going to write M/M romance with fantastical and erotic content, that bends genres and upsets the status quo? There's a group for that on Goodreads! There's a community for that on Facebook!

My point is, that my books might have been banned before, because of their graphic and at times unsettling content. They might have been blocked by publishers, or they might have given me "conditions" under which they would publish my work. There have been many who came before me that have faced these challenges and restrictions. I don't like that; I don't respect it. Fuck them. We're entering a phase of honesty in the development of our world, where souls are being liberated to do what they came here to do, unabridged, unfettered, un-forbidden. Yeah, that's creating a lot of global conflict. But yeah, it's also allowing some fascinating liberation to take place, indie- and grassroots-style. And I like to be liberated, as much as I can be in this physical reality right now.

Thank you Anonymous, thank you TED, thank you to free-education and language-learning sites. Thank you to indie organic farmers, thank you to the original Hippies. Thank you to Snowden, and all the whistleblowers and all the people fighting to keep the internet free and open. We need you. Indie-anything promotes true liberation. Rock on!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Creativity. Honesty. I like getting into the minds and hearts and souls and lives of human beings. People who are truly human, in all its raw complexity, even if they are an alien species or from a different world with its own set of rules. What are those rules? How does the individual fight against or respect those rules? What are the morays? The social justices and injustices? How does their soul shine through what they are, what they were conditioned to be? I love exploring this, in any way I can, creatively and honestly. That gives me the most pleasure.
What are you working on next?
Too many books to pick any specific thing to talk about! But here are a few teasers...

A novel (maybe two?) about a hard-luck whore on a planet like the wild west, whose life is uprooted when she meets a bastard of a dark angel who's been cast out of his home and his military prestige. The two team up to pursue their personal vendettas, gunslinger-style. This one is tentatively titled The Book of Truth.

A two-book series about the genocide of a people who were loyal peacekeepers and elite military for their king, and of their now-grown children who survived, trying to unravel the plot that killed their families. This one is the Kingsmen Chronicles.

A romance novel set in the "Three Days of Oblenite" world, but far to the south, where a woman raised by her father as a man finds herself suddenly thrown into the conflict of having to wed. She enters into a plot with a duke's son to forestall marriage, but ends up falling in love as she tries to save the duke's son from the horrors of his own life. Currently just called "Adia and Delio". No official title yet.

The Key of Fire series, a dark dystopian fantasy epic trilogy about an entire planet that has been dying for centuries, and the seven souls brought together by fate to try and save it.

And my personal favorite, a novel I'm simply calling Calamity for now. About a hard-ass addict of a mechanic who lives in an underground city, traumatized by the climactic decimation of their planet ten years before. She loves and hates a brilliant shut-in of an engineer who has designed a machine to restore the surface to habitation, and rallies protection around him as a plot to assassinate him develops.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Ooh... that's a toss-up. I recall a few. Over Sea, Under Stone was one. So was Watership Down. And A Swiftly-Tilting Planet. And Little Women. And The Stand. And The Gunslinger. Not the first stories I read, but I think those made the most impact. They all featured complex characters, vivid scenarios, crushing hardship, and an element of the fantastic. They struck a chord with me. And they still do. I think I can see my writing's origin in each and every one of those novels.
Who are your favorite authors?
Jacqueline Carey, Robin Hobb, Steven King, JRR Tolkien, Patrick Rothfuss, Laurell K. Hamilton, Madeline l'Engle are some of my faves... Totally epic, with human characters that sometimes fall, and sometimes shine, and sometimes do good works, and sometimes do horrible ones.
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. My greatest wish is to share with you. Share my worldview, share my experiences, share my honesty and clarity and human condition. Hear from you, hear your wishes and dreams and ideals and viewpoints. Create a complex, fascinating dance. Without readers, my work would exist in a vacuum. And while that's interesting, that's not the point. The point is to share with each other, to trigger and experience each other and watch and witness and help each other grow. To find our original souls, to get back to that point where we are infinite. We cannot do that in a vacuum. We have to interrelate to know ourselves and each other. If I can touch just one life with what I do, give someone a deeply opening experience... then what I do is complete. That's the point of me existing, and writing. And that is what my readers mean to me. Everything. They help me do that, and I help them do the same. Namaste.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
If I'm not writing, I'm charting! ;-)

No, but seriously, I love to get outside. Hiking trails, walk-hiking, run-hiking. I love to spend time with my husband. He's oodles of fun and so very witty (imagine bad dad jokes x100!), and sweet and thoughtful and kind. I love eating out at restaurants. I sit a lot in cafes, watching people and listening to Hozier Pandora station. At least right now. A month ago it was Florence + the Machine. Before that it was the Black Keys... well... it's always the Black Keys... I sing opera and rock music when I do the dishes. I miao-sing AC/DC like a kitteh.

Imgur is a fantastic time-waster... (yes, I'm a lurker.)
I still haven't figured out what the fuck twitter is for...

You know. Basic human stuff.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Music. Writing. Nature. People. People are very interesting! Breakfast. Especially a bacon, egg, and Beecher's cheddar at Homegrown cafe.... coffee...
What is your writing process?
Write for a number of weeks on one story... get stuck... ask my husband to help me work through plot problems...process... switch to another story I have inspiration on for a little while... get an idea...write some more on the original project... get interrupted by life... resume.

That's basically it!
Published 2015-04-03.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Darkling's Cove - A Story of Betrayal
Price: Free! Words: 21,180. Language: English. Published: August 22, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Dark, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
When a retired veteran acquires three mysterious antique dolls combing the beaches of the Oregon coast, a dark curse is revealed that will change his life - and force him to become the hero he never knew he was. A contemporary dark fantasy set on the Oregon coast, Darkling's Cove hearkens back to the classic feel of Stephen King short stories.
Bloodmark (The Kingsmen Chronicles #2)
Series: The Kingsmen Chronicles. Price: $5.49 USD. Words: 255,770. Language: English. Published: June 25, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
The nation reels, usurped by a shadowy cabal. As war rises, two twins must race against time to find aid before a slaughter begins. This dark and gritty sword and sorcery series from award-winning author Jean Lowe Carlson explores a complex world of treachery, passion, sex, and magic - similar to A Game of Thrones, the Stormlight Archive, the Kingkiller Chronicles, or the Wheel of Time series.
Blackmark (The Kingsmen Chronicles #1)
Series: The Kingsmen Chronicles. Price: Free! Words: 189,080. Language: English. Published: June 25, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
A nation's elite warriors vanished overnight. War devouring the survivors, fanned by a shadowy cabal. This dark and gritty sword and sorcery series from award-winning author Jean Lowe Carlson explores a complex world of treachery, passion, sex, and magic. Readers who enjoy Game of Thrones, the Stormlight Archive, the Kingkiller Chronicles, or the Wheel of Time will love this fantastic adventure.
The Grasses of Hazma-Din: A Short Sci-Fi Romance
Price: Free! Words: 5,810. Language: English. Published: December 7, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Sci-fi, Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias
Juliette walks out from the Citadel of the Eighth Rise on the evening of Black Sun, to be Renewal Sacrifice for the Grasses. For her Citadel depends on the Grasses of the endless plains of Hazma-Din for survival, just as the Grasses depend upon their yearly human sacrifice. A thrilling sci-fi romance about the interdependence of all living things, by award-winning author Jean Lowe Carlson.
The Man in White: A Dark Tale of Sacrifice
Price: Free! Words: 5,110. Language: English. Published: November 21, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Dark, Fiction » Romance » Fantasy
Dying of starvation, Litha abandons her family to save them. And in the frozen wilds she encounters a mysterious man in white, the only one who can save her. This short dark fantasy romance from new award winning epic fantasy and dark fantasy writer Jean Lowe Carlson explores sacrifice and love, in the style of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel Series. Longlisted for the 2016 OWT Short Fiction Prize.