Monday, June 13, 2016

Interview with C.N. Lesley, author of Serpent of the Shangrove

Today the Speculative Fiction Showcase has great pleasure in interviewing Fantasy author C.N. Lesley, the pen-name of Elizabeth Hull.

How did you become a writer?

I think I got bitten by the bug at age eleven when I won a class prize for an essay. I got to choose a book from a selection the school had on offer and I chose Alice in Wonderland by Louis Carroll. Later on I took English Literature in college as one of my subjects but never really pursued my love of writing until my children arrived. Faced with the horror of sitting through their very favorite tv show with them, (fortunately, there was not endless tv way back when), my mind wandered and a plot slipped in to fill the void. 

I finished that first book, a truly dreadful tome wherein I managed to commit every sin known to writers and then invented a whole bunch of my own. I proudly sent the painstakingly typewritten pages off to a major publisher, blissfully unaware I needed an agent and in due course they very politely sent the whole thing back, despite the fact that I had not known to supply the return postage. They sent a nice and non-generic letter of rejection, bursting my bubble in a very gentle and encouraging way. I still have the letter and the book, although the latter is in my basement somewhere, never to be allowed out into the light of day again. They say every writer’s first book is a trial run and I guess that was mine.

It was then that I found a newly-formed group on the web just for writers. It was the Online Writers Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, started up by Del Rey to provide a slush pile for itself and its new e-book endeavor, which didn’t last much longer than a couple of years, although the website managed to survive its cut of funding and all of us members paid a yearly fee, which was very reasonable. I have made lifelong friends of writers from all over the world from that site.

What made you choose to write Fantasy and do you like other genres?

I think a person will always go for the genre they like to read the most. In my case, this was fantasy and also science fiction with some horror thrown in. Added to this, a love of history, legends, mythology and a firm grounding in the sciences and there are the seeds. Some of my books are pure fantasy, some are science fantasy, one is science fiction and then there are a couple of paranormal/urban fantasies. I tend to write cross-genre mostly, so fantasy will most likely have dark romance and science fantasy will have a touch of horror.

Yes, I like other genres and read widely of mysteries, thrillers, detective stories, romances, etc. The only genre I don’t really find I enjoy is chick lit. 

What was the inspiration behind your series?
I have two series published at this time by Kristell Ink, an imprint of Grimbold books. First came the Darkspire series starting with Darkspire Reaches and now the second book came out in March and is entitled Serpent of the Shangrove. Like all my books, this started as the tale-end of a dream and began life as a short story. I am not an outliner, I am a pantser, so I have no idea how a story is going to evolve as the words flow. This one got away from me to morph into something entirely different that I had never seen before in a story. Yes, it is fantasy and paranormal romance, but also has a touch of horror. Becoming fascinated by where it was going, I let it run its course and then worked it into shape. The second book was much easier as the world and characters were already established.

The Shadow series is about as different as can be from the Darkspire one. This works on the precept of what happens when the legendary King Arthur returns to honor his pledge to protect mankind at their time of greatest need, so is set in a post-apocalyptic far future world filled with creatures that should not exist but do for a very good scientific reason. Man is not the head of the food-chain any longer, but is a source for another. Along with the reborn Arthur are other characters from Arthurian legend, along with various artifacts of power, but this series is not a retelling of the original legend, it is pure extrapolation of what comes next in a science fiction setting overlaid with the fantasy elements. Shadow Over Avalon is the first book in the series, followed by Sword of Shadows and I am just now working on the edits for Chalice of Shadows that is to be released sometime in fall I am told. Once again, the start of this series came to me as the tale-end of a dream. 

Dragons and similar mythical beasts continue to fascinate us - why do you think this is?
A look back in historical literature shows the need of man for the fantastical in their lives. Maybe this is a racial memory of dinosaurs, although man would have been something other than man at the time, I believe. Going right back there always seem to have been dragons. There is the saga of Beowulf with the dreaded Grendel, which seems very dragonish and then the Chinese dragons, the Welsh dragon, St George and the Dragon, to name a few. I think it is the pure magic of the beast making for the fascination. It is usually some sort of flying reptile of immense proportions and a varying number of legs as well as wings. It mostly breaths gouts of fire on people, but there again, this could be ice or something else. The creature can be benevolent and wise, or it can be mean and nasty, it doesn’t matter, the fascination is there despite no bones of such a creature ever being found on any archaeological site.


Apple or PC? Or pen and paper?
Originally it was pen and paper and an old fashioned manual typewriter. Now it is a PC. While I love the way ink flows over a page as a story unfolds it is now virtually impossible to get a decent fountain pen and the ink needed for it. Aside from that, working on a screen is far faster than writing by hand and I get to cut and paste the words to get a better flow if needed. Reading through is also much easier. No longer is it necessary to wade through reams of pages to check a certain thing when one can simple press the control f function.

Do you use Scrivener or Word? Or another word-processing program?
Scrivener every time. I have used this for years, ever since it came out and I heard its praises being sung by a friend. Right now I have three works in progress loaded on the program as I like to jump from one to the other as the mood strikes me.

Would you rather see your stories on the big screen or the little screen?

Oh the big screen without a shadow of a doubt. They have the big budget money the little screen generally doesn’t and I am aware my stories will need special effects.

What is your favorite Science Fiction (or Fantasy) film?
Oh. Now that is a difficult question. The movies I would watch again and again because I adore them and of which I will never grow tied? Lord of the Rings, of course and Frank Herbert’s Dune. Then there is Avatar along with Star Trek and the early Star Wars, (but not the recent one as it was too repetitive).

Are you a Luddite? Or do you prefer to be on the bleeding edge of technology?
Laughs. I am on the bleeding edge of technology, sitting here with two monitors hooked together, the very latest Microsoft professional word, Scrivener, etc. My dear husband is a physicist working at a university so we tend to get the cutting edge of everything. I actually enjoy the technology and the upgrades as I can do more and faster.

Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?

Not really in the accepted sense. I do like the occasional fragmented object game or FROGS as they are known. I find it helps my mind drift as I am searching for a way forward on a certain story. I couldn’t sit and play every day, or even every week. That would not retain my attention.

Do you cook? What is your best/favorite/most popular recipe?
I do cook and like to experiment. It is nice build things from scratch to avoid all the nasty additives. And yes, I have a bread machine I use. It isn’t much use my putting a recipe as I tend to eyeball what I put in rather than weigh stuff and also I couldn’t give an oven temperature other people would find useful. We are living in Central Alberta, which is approximately three thousand feet above sea level on the right hand side of the Rocky Mountains. This altitude tends to change the temperature needed to cook things so what works for me wouldn’t work for others unless they lived in a similar elevation.

Do you have a garden? Have you ever grown your own food?

Yes, I love my garden. I did grown vegetables when we first moved to this current house but since then the trees I planted have grown tall and I now have a shade garden at the back. I have a container with fresh herbs I grow on my kitchen windowsill and also a pot with cat grass. Yes, the latter is needed as our winters are seven months long, being as we are in a zone 3.

Would you prefer an independent bookshop, or a big chain?

Grins. A big chain as then it guarantees the books would also be stocked by an indy shop.

Do you have your own office, study or writing space, or can you write in a cafe or the library?

I have my own office in my home. My desktop is located here, along with my bookshelves of research materials and most importantly, I have a door. My little cat gets very jealous when I am trying to work and likes to drape himself across my arms as I type. This isn’t very efficacious for work, so I need him shut out. I can live with the wails of abandonment and utter desolation coming from the other side as I know he is very spoiled and is not dying from his grief. 

Who do you consider are your major influences in writing?
Oh, once again I am all over the board. Tolkien and Herbert for a start and then Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Michael Moorcock, John Wyndham, Ann Rice, Agatha Christy and H.G Wells to name a few.

What writer, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
I would really like to meet Shakespeare to settle who wrote those plays once and for all, at least in my mind.

If you could have any director to shoot the film of your books, who would you choose?
Either George Lucas or Steven Spielberg.

How would you define Speculative Fiction?

It is taking a selection of ideas with no, or little bearing on reality to elevate the minds of the readers into another existence for a brief period of time in order to impart enjoyment.

Thanks for having me. 

About C.N. Lesley:

Elizabeth Hull, writing under the by line of C.N.Lesley, lives in Alberta with her husband and cats. Her three daughters live close by. When she isn't writing, Elizabeth likes to read and to paint watercolors. She is also a keen gardener, despite the very short summers and now has a mature shade garden. Once a worker in the communications sector, mostly concentrating on local news and events, she now writes full time.

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