Our March Guest Author, Lynda Sappington, is here today. In addition to a Q&A interview, she’s available for questions. Just comment or ask a question (Click Comments at the end of today’s post), if you’d like. At the end of today’s post, you’ll find instructions on how to send an email to her for a chance to enter the drawing, just for Straight From Hel readers, to win her book. She’s going to be giving away two copies.
Lynda, former editor-in-chief and publisher of the online magazine “ArtVoices,” is a professional sculptor and a writer. She’s the author of “Sculpting 101: A Primer for the Self-Taught Artist,” soon to be available in its second edition. Her first fantasy novel, “Star Sons – Dawn of the Two,” is the beginning of a series and is available on Amazon.com. You can read a sample chapter on the Whimsy Hill site.
HELEN: “Star Sons – Dawn of the Two” is your first book of fiction. Can you tell us about what inspired you to write it and your writing process?
LYNDA: "Star Sons" isn’t my first novel, but it is the first one I felt was strong enough to be publishable.
You asked what inspired me to write it. First, I had Ethan Payne pop into my head nearly fully-formed as a character who needed a story formed around him. His brother, Jake appeared soon thereafter. I thought it would be interesting to play with a two-hero story, with each brother having a chance to be the leader or the more powerful one from time to time, so writing to meet that challenge was the original inspiration for the story. One advantage of writing a two-hero story is that there's always someone for the hero to talk to. It's also fun to see the hero (whichever one's the hero at the moment) through the eyes of someone who knows him so well.
As is true of many fantasies, my story involves the boys learning how to use and control their powers as well as having to face a vicious enemy before they're fully prepared to do so. The readers will see the boys’ journey toward mastery of the awesome power within them, and their coming-of-age. They aren't perfect, they make mistakes, they squabble and act like real brothers. They also love each other, look out for each other, and they face their destiny with courage despite their fear and incomplete training.
I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer. I start out knowing my characters pretty well, as well as knowing the beginning and end of the story. Once my characters are well-formed in my mind, I set them on the rather vague road I've planned for them and just "listen" to them, "watch" them in my mind, writing down what happens as they go on their way. Sort of, anyway! LOL!
My process is a lot of fun for me. I'm not the kind of person who can work from outlines (I've tried and failed spectacularly - couldn't write a thing because the outline stifled me!). I'm much better off creating characters and a situation and watching things evolve (with input from me from time to time when they go too far astray, LOL!).
I write every day, for as many hours a day as there is inspiration. Then I go sculpt and/or ride my horse, getting my mind off the writing as much as possible. When I'm in the "creative zone" sculpting, or concentrating on getting the best performance out of my horse, the novel is still rumbling along in the back of my mind. During those times, I will often get insights into a scene, or a new character will emerge who enriches the scene I'm working on. Some scenes or storylines will appear in my dreams. I get up and note them down as quickly as I can (and lose a lot of sleep in the process during the first-draft phase!). My subconscious seems to be a pretty good writer - those scenes I come up with during the night are usually quite good!
HELEN: Now that the book has been published, you’re in the promotion phase. You still have a life – you’re a professional sculptor; you maintain the website for your bronzes, the website for Whimsy Hill (your publishing company), and your writing blog; you post on the blog for authors of Whimsy Hill; plus you’re well-known for your fan fiction. How will you fit in marketing Star Sons?
LYNDA: I’ve found it to be true that if you want something done, ask a busy person. Somehow, we “busy people” can always find ways to make time for whatever we need to do. So I sculpt a few hours, I work on promotion stuff a few hours, I ride my horse and walk on the treadmill, I connect with the other writers involved with Whimsy Hill and see how their projects are going, fix my websites, etc., all within a loose framework of writing, answering email, answering reviews of my fanfics, etc. I actually have three websites (www.TheSculptedHorse.com for my art, www.WhimsyHill.com for publishing, and www.LyndaSappington.com with links to both of the other sites), and have recently hired someone to help me with them because it’s becoming overwhelming to deal with them when I’m so NOT technically proficient! My art business hours are flexible, and I can write any time I want to.
I do art shows where I have a booth as part of a trade fair in various places in the country. I think since I’m used to showing that way, perhaps being a vendor at sf/f cons will be a good way for me to market my books. I’m looking at a list of shows now, trying to decide which ones I can fit into my schedule. I have one art show a month from April through July, then two more in October and November. I can probably insert a trip to a con in one or more of those free months. Other than that, I think a blog tour sounds like a good use of my time, and I will probably do some book signings in a few places. I have to see how everything fits together with my schedule. And of course I’ll offer my books at the venues where I’m showing my art.
Perhaps I should explain about my publishing company. Back in 2001, I wrote a book on sculpting for beginning sculptors (“Sculpting 101: A Primer for the Self-taught Artist”). I got one of Dan Poynter’s books on how to self-publish and followed the instructions there to do everything properly. I didn’t realize how “properly” I’d done everything until I started working on the second edition of the sculpting book and realized I was actually a real, live publisher, with all the proper stuff in place. I researched publishing quite a bit and pondered the situation while trying to find an agent for “Star Sons.” After six months with no luck at finding an agent, I decided that, at age 58, I don’t have the time to wait for however many months or years to find an agent, then more months or years to find a publisher, and more months or years to see the first published book as a reality. And “Star Sons” is the first of either a trilogy or a series. I was afraid if it took that long to get the first book out, I’d either lose interest in the project or lose track of the characters and storyline.
I like the Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney example: “We have talent, we have a barn, let’s put on a show!” I had a publishing company, I had a finished, polished, professionally edited novel and I was getting older by the second! I also have over 10,000 readers subscribed to the various fanfiction sites where I post my Harry Potter stories. They love my writing, and it would only take a fraction of them actually buying the book to make it sell well! So I published “Star Sons” myself and my HP readers are eagerly buying it! No sales figures yet, but I’m getting a lot of e’s from people who say they’ve ordered the book.
Whimsy Hill Publishing is a member of a large professional organization for independent publishers. Through them, I can have my books in all the big book expos around the world if I want to. The marketing opportunities offered by the group are excellent, and I’m looking forward to pursuing them with both my own books and those of other authors I’m going to publish.
HELEN: Do you see a correlation between how you create a sculpture and how you went about creating a story and characters?
LYNDA: Many of my sculptures are commissioned portraits, so the only correlation with how I come up with my story and characters is that I work hard to capture the horse’s personality in the sculpture, just as I try to capture unique personalities in my characters. For those sculptures where I let my whimsy take flight – such as the one I'm doing right now of Feather, a winged horse who appears later in the Star Sons series – the process is a bit similar to my writing process. I start out thinking about a horse type (a breed – Andalusian, in the case of “Feather”) as the first step in the sculpting process. For characters, I think about the “type” as well. With sculpture, I look for reference photos to help me visualize the pose I’m considering. With characters, I’ll often “cast” the parts with actors whose work I’m familiar with. Once I’ve “cast” the characters, I can see that person move through the story because I’m familiar with that actor’s body language and personality, both of which help me get the character started. Those actors fade away in my mind as I begin writing the character, and the character takes on a life of his own – his own personal quirks and mannerisms, his own personality, etc. -- until only I would recognize any hint of the original actor in that character. With sculpture, I’ll use a lot of photos, often of different horses, to see how the muscles are positioned on every side of the horse during a certain movement or in a certain pose. Eventually, the horse I have in mind emerges and you’d never know what reference photos I used to get him started.
As for the story – most of my sculptures have a story of some kind behind them. Some are real, some I’ve made up, but in every case, they relate closely to the sculpture in some way. The stories in my novels evolve from my initial idea of characters in a certain situation, and the ending I’ve envisioned. Then I follow my characters as they move through their world and watch how their story unfolds.
HELEN: Normally, authors don’t have much say in their cover art. Being an artist yourself, did you have much input on yours?
LYNDA: Yes, I talked to my friend, painter Elin Pendleton (www.elinart.com) about what I wanted, and then turned her loose. Once she had it done in what we could call “first draft” form, she showed it to me and I told her where I wanted things tweaked. For instance, in its early form, the painting showed the older brother as having a very craggy face, much like Clint Eastwood, and the younger brother with a very soft, round face. They looked like father and son rather than brothers who were three years apart in age. So she aged the younger brother by hollowing his cheeks a bit, and softened the cragginess on the older brother’s face, so now they look like brothers, not father and son. I’ve known Elin for several years and we’re good friends. I knew she could do what I wanted for the cover, and she did a spectacular job.
HELEN: What kind of research, if any, did you do for “Star Sons?”
LYNDA: I’ve read fantasy novels all my life. I’m currently on a Mercedes Lackey kick and have read everything I can find by JRR Tolkein, JK Rowling, Orson Scott Card, Lois McMasters Bujold and many other authors. I also enjoy reading “reference” books about magical creatures, the worlds of Faerie, magical plants, spells and lore. I have quite a library of such books of my own, and I also do some research online. Some of my research showed me that mages were a higher order of magical person than wizards, witches or sorcerers, so I made my boys mages and made mages rare, not numerous in the magical population like wizards and witches. I’m fascinated with the idea that someone can have magical power in his or her body and control it without a wand or staff to focus it, so my boys do wandless magic, which I’ve made common to mages in my magical world. I have my boys interact with fairies and elves toward the end of the book, and quite a lot in the second book, as well as with other magical beings. The bird on the cover is a phoenix. I did quite a lot of research on phoenixes to see what powers and abilities are attributed to them so I’d have solid ground under me when I started writing about this particular phoenix.
HELEN: To what extent did you invent your own world?
LYNDA: “Star Sons” takes place mostly in the real, contemporary world. It’s set in London, England, western South Dakota, parts of Colorado, then in the magical world and back to the real world via the Glastonbury Tor in England. All of the “real” locations mentioned are places I’ve been to in person, so I’ve represented them as accurately as possible. I think it’s fun to anchor fantasies in the in the real world, so I keep everything as real as possible.
The magical world in “Star Sons” is entirely my own creation, and it was a lot of fun to create. But I also incorporate some “established” magical worlds in my story, such as Faerie and the world of the Woodland Elves, both of which feature prominently in the second Star Sons book.
HELEN: What’s next for you?
LYNDA: The next book I’m publishing is the second edition of my sculpting book, the first edition of which is nearly sold out. Then by next winter or spring, I hope to have the second Star Sons book published. I’m working with a group of authors who are contributing to an anthology that Whimsy Hill will publish, hopefully sometime this year. Some of those authors also have novels that Whimsy Hill may publish. So I have a lot of reading ahead of me, as well as writing.
HELEN: Thank you Lynda!
You can find out more about Lynda Sappington on her blog, Lynda (AKA Abraxan) On Writing And Art, and on her website.
If you like fantasy, you’ll for sure want to sign up for one of the two books she’s giving away to Straight From Hel readers. Send an email to: Lynda@whimsyhill.com and put “book drawing” in the subject line. Deadline to sign up is March 27th.
Again, thank you Lynda for stopping by Straight From Hel today!
2 months ago