Today’s interview was one of the hardest for me to prepare. Not because the subject of the interview wasn’t interesting, no it’s the complete opposite, Corrina Lawson has a VAST amount of talents and interest. It was hard to figure out exactly what to focus on. Of course we discussed the craft of writing and her two, (yes I said two) , new releases Freya’s Gift from www.Samhainpublishing.com and Dinah of Seneca from www.thewildrosepress.com . We also touched on her successful blog, and life long love of comic books. I want to thank Mrs. Lawson for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions. (I also think its cool we both have a set of boy/girl twins; mine are 16 )
1.When Did You First Begin Writing?
I’ve been making up stories in my head all my life. My first vivid memory of a story that I’d written is from seventh grade. It was about an escaped slave from a town ruled by an evil overlord who was rescued from pursuit by an Elf prince.
Basically, I unconsciously combined John Christopher’s Tripod series and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Even back then, I was mixing genres. I’m sure if the internet had existed when I was a teenager, I would have been churning out stories for the fanfic sites.
(Lexi’s note: Fan fiction or fanfic are stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator)
But then I went to college for journalism and started work as a reporter and didn’t write fiction for years. But in my early 30s, two things happened about the same time. I became pregnant with twins and I got my first computer and first taste of the internet. I found a great website for my favorite TV show, they were doing a fanfic event, and I thought “Cool!”
And I fell in love with fiction writing again. The twins were born in 1999. I haven’t really stopped writing fiction since.
2.Who are Your Inspirations?
First, my mom, who always thought I should be a writer if that’s what I loved. Not a word from her about how hard it would be to find a job writing. My writing inspirations are all over from the place. From my childhood and teen years, there’s Walter Farley, Tolkien, Mary Stewart, Katherine Kurtz and Anne McCaffrey. I read a ton of short stories from Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. I even submitted a time or two as a teenager but was, alas, rejected.
I also collected superhero comics. I’m sure that’s where my love of pacing and action comes from, as well as my need to end chapters in cliffhangers.
Though I haven’t read her more recent books, Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series was a big inspiration because it was originally such a wonderful blend of genres and had such a cool world and a great voice.
Jennifer Crusie has been both an influence and a wonderful writing mentor to me. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series showed me how well a writer could combine science fiction and great characterization. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of Linnea Sinclair, who is a lot like Heinlein in her pacing but without Heinlein’s unfortunate emphasis on Mary Sues.
3. What are your writing habits?
I wish I could say I have a formal routine but I don’t. It’s not that I don’t plan and try to schedule my writing time but I have four kids, and one of them is special needs and that makes my life unpredictable from day to day.
Left to myself, I’ll get the kids to school, have a nice mug of brewed tea, sit down and check email and my favorite websites with breakfast, and then turn off the internet and write for at least two hours. Then I check emails, do laundry, dishes, run errands, have lunch, and go back to writing before the kids all come home.
But that’s an ideal day. And now we’re in the middle of summer so, basically, I look at each day and try to figure out when writing will work because I push to write every single day, even if it’s only for ten minutes. It’s never as much as I want but I try to think about the scenes during the day, so it’s all fast typing when I get to the keyboard.
4. Are You a Pantser or a Plotter?
I’m a little bit of both. I always have an ending in sight when I sit down to write the first chapter and I know my main character enough to get started. But I don’t usually do formal outlines or character charts or anything like that.
I’ve learned to write whatever scenes want to jump out of my head. If they’re out of order, that’s okay, though I prefer them to be in order. And while most writers seem to start too early, I always start too late. In the case of one manuscript, the original first chapter now starts on page 100.
5.Who are your favorite authors and what are you reading now?
Well, I mentioned some of them in the other question: Crusie, Bujold, and Sinclair are the three authors I always pick up right now. I am also incredibly hooked on Nora Roberts’ J.D. Robb mystery series. In the past, I devoured Robert B. Parker’s Spenser book and series books from Mercedes Lackey and Marion Zimmer Bradley. I love Julian May’s Galactic Milieu series.
I am also hooked on a couple of writers who work in superhero comics: Gail Simone and Ed Brubaker. Gail writes my favorite current comic series, Birds of Prey, and she’s had a great run of Wonder Woman, and…well, she’s one of those authors who seem to write on my wavelength.
Brubaker writes for Marvel at the moment but used to work on Batman for DC. He wrote this wonderful, dark, noir gritty series for DC’s Wildstorm years ago called Sleeper, about an undercover super agent.
6. If You had one wish for your writing career, what would it be?
Money would be nice. Heh. But, at the end of the day, what I wish is that my stories find their way into the hands of people that love them just as much as I love my favorite stories.
7. What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
First, WRITE. You can’t get better if you don’t practice. I know so many people who were frozen by worrying what they write will suck. And then they never write. Don’t do that.
You want to be a writer, write. Don’t give up. Keep going. Search out other writers on the internet. Analyze books you love to figure out what they’re doing correctly and analyze books you hate to figure out what they did wrong. Keep practicing.
8. Are you working with an agent?
No, not as yet. I’ve had some close calls. I’m hoping to find one very soon. But it’s a tough market out there and with the publishing industry in flux, it’s not getting easier. But I keep trying.
9. Does your experience as a newspaper journalist lend realism to your prose?
Hah. My journalism experience is a double-edged sword. On the good side, it taught me discipline. I finish what I start. When I first started writing fiction as an adult, the idea of *not* finishing what I start was just foreign to me. And I gave myself deadlines, too, as I’d had as a journalist.
My journalism experience also gave me an instinct for what might cause the “oh, cool!” reaction.
On the bad side, journalism taught me to zero in and go straight to the point, in a few words as possible. This is a problem in fiction. If people wanted something short and to the point, they’d read non-fiction. What people want from fiction is immersion–they want to feel like they’re in the story.
To do that, a writer needs to includes details. And not just details about what’s around the main character. A good friend, writer R.L. LaFevers, once said to me that setting is character.
What she meant was it’s not the details around the person that matter so much as how the person *reacts* to those details. In Freya’s Gift, the main character realizes a fertility ritual is needed to save her tribe. Her faith in her gods and her husband get her through this. In Dinah of Seneca, a completely different character is faced with a similar choice and reacts, well, far differently. That’s because her background isn’t the same, her beliefs aren’t the same, and the Viking villagers are strange to her.
Setting is character. I’ve tried to pound that into my head. It’s what I most needed to learn as a writing and my journalism training actually hampered me on that one.
10. 2010 has been an exciting year for you with two novels released within months of each other: Freya’s Gift and then Dinah of Seneca. This must be an exciting experience. How did you feel when your books were accepted for publication?
It was absolutely awesome. Dinah is a book that many people told me would, never ever sell because the setting and concept were very out of the box. But I kept plugging away at submissions because I loved the story. I met an editor from The Wild Rose Press at an RWA conference and chatted with her, and she said send it.
I heard from her a few months later on day when my husband was away, the kids were being unusually difficult, and I was horribly sick with strep throat. The editor’s email said the book wasn’t right for the historical division but could she send it over to the fantasy editor?
I blinked and read the email again–I kinda expected it to be yet another rejection. I thought “I really should check it again for typos or…” And then I threw up my hands at the idea of actually finding time to do that and simply replied, “sure, send it over.”
I was SHOCKED when the fantasy editor sent me a revision letter about a month later. And then we had a snag about the way a key chapter was written but I was able to make some changes that preserved what I wanted and kept the tone the editor wanted.
So I sent off the revisions with fingers crossed. About a week later, I got an email offering a contract.
The twins were asleep, the older two were out with their dad, so I really had none one to squee! too. I was more stunned than anything else. Didn’t seem real. My eldest son picked me up off the floor and twirled me around when he came home. That made me cry. 🙂
Freya’s Gift was a whole different story. I sent it directly to a Samhain editor who’s the friend of a friend. She didn’t want to buy it but passed it on to another editor. And then, the other editor offered a contract.
This all happened within two weeks. Lightning speed. The whirlwind continued because Samhain wanted the publication date in March and I’d just signed the contract at the end of November and we had edits.
And, then, BOOM. They came out within two months of each other. Surreal. But really, really rewarding.
11. Please tell us about your books Freya’s Gift and Dinah of Seneca…
The first thing you should know about Freya’s Gift is that it’s erotica. I had this little piece of back story from writing Dinah and I wanted to expand on it and see if I could write erotica at all. I started from the place that sex absolutely had to at the heart of the story.
Freya’s Gift is the story of the Viking leaders in the New World, Sif & Ragnor, who have to find a way to keep their tribe from self-destructing after a sickness that wiped out most of the women.
Eventually, this involves a three-way fertility ritual because of the gender imbalance that now exists in the tribe. To me, it’s a story about grief, and loss, and how people turn to their faith to supply healing. It’s not Christian faith, of course, but it is strong faith in each other and the world.
Dinah of Seneca is, at the core, the story of a woman who wants to find a home. She’s been tossed aside by her first family, trained to be a spy and assassin by her slave master, and now she’s at a place where want she wants to be somewhere quiet and safe. Unfortunately, she gets caught in the middle of a three-way war.
Both stories take place in an alternate history where the Roman Empire survived to colonize North America. The Vikings are also there, though in much smaller numbers, and the Native Americans banded together in Dinah of Seneca with the goal of driving both of the outsiders away.
Because of her skills as a spy, Dinah’s the key to the Romans and Vikings winning the battle. She’s also unexpectedly the key to the alliance between the Romans and the Vikings because Gerhard, the Viking leader, is certain that his goddess has marked Dinah for him—and this is where I was able to weave in the cougars that show up in Freya’s Gift into Dinah of Seneca.
Dinah is a big, epic romance. There are battles and sword fights and explosions and some intense sex. I had a lot of fun writing it but upon re-reading the publisher version, I have to say it is at times a dark tale. But it’s a romance, so there is a happily ever after. There’s even a “cavalry comes to the rescue” moment that I just loved writing.
12. Have You Ever Won Any Awards for Your Writing?
Yes! Dinah of Seneca actually won a contest sponsored by a regional Romance Writers of America chapter.
But my biggest contest recognition was 2004, the year I finaled in the Golden Heart contest sponsored by the national RWA. It’s the highest non-published award given by the RWA, it’s extremely competitive, and I’m still amazed that five strangers thought my work was the best in my category amidst literally hundreds of manuscripts.
When I’m feeling down about my writing skill, I look at that certificate hanging on my wall and feel much better.
13. Where Can Someone Purchase Your Books?
Probably the quickest way is to go to the links on my website:
There are links there to my publisher’s website, and to Amazon for both print and Kindle editions.
14. You are wife, mother, and blogger for multiple sites? How do you do it all?
It helps when the kids are in school. But I’m often called to do stuff for the special needs kid during school hours, so that doesn’t always work out.
So I set priorities and deadlines. I make a list of what needs to be done for the week and keep to it. I don’t watch a lot of television, I don’t play video games, and when I’m not at the computer, I’m usually planning what to write when I get to the computer. I’m not sure I could juggle all this if I had a day job. As a stay-at-home mom, I can set my own schedule, well, at least sometimes.
15. Speaking of Blogging, your Geek Dad blog gets over a million hits a month. I’m sure every blogger out there wants to know your secret…including me.
It’s not exactly *my* blog. :) It’s a professional part of Wired.com, which is a well-known magazine. My editor also has a NYT bestselling book called Geek Dad—a great book for parents—so that adds to the high profile.
Geek Dad has multiple posters. I’m one of the Core Contributors, which means I post at least once a week and I get paid for my work. Which is really cool. It’s nice to be a professional journalist again.
So the secret, I would say, is be part of a big media corporation with regular & interesting content.
Bloggers out there on their own, without sponsorship or a big corporation behind them are going to find upping the page views really, really hard.
If you’re a regular reader of a popular blog, I would say keep a watch to see if they ever ask for guest-contributors. That’s how I ended up getting the job at Geek Dad.
16. While researching Corrina Lawson for this interview I discovered she has a passion for comics. Corrina, can you tell us what appeals to you most about comics, and which are your favorite?
I love the combination of visuals and story. Neil Gaiman once said in an interview that he finds prose work harder than writing a comic script because if he wants to convey a mood in a comic, all it takes is an excellent artist in one panel. With prose, it takes a whole lot of words. Visuals are powerful things.
Superhero comics are my favorite because I think they’re uniquely suited. In sequential art, superheroes look real and cool–and I don’t think they always do in live action.
I grew up reading lots of Batman, Justice League of America, Captain America, Iron Man, the Avengers, Aquaman…and, X-Men and Teen Titans. Right now, my favorites are the new Birds of Prey comic and Marvel’s Captain America series. I only have one issue of the new Batman but I like her a great deal too. Part of my work on Geek Dad is a weekly Comics Spotlight.
17. What are you working on now?
I’m just about done with a sequel to Dinah of Seneca. Approximately fifteen years have passed since the end of the first book, and the Roman Empire has decided to call its breakaway colony back into the fold. In short, I’m writing about my version of the American Revolution.
The heroine this time is a young Lenape woman destined to rule her tribe. The hero is the Roman Engineer, Ceti, He’s busy developing a flying machine until the Imperial ships arrive off the island of Manhattan.
I just loved the idea of a Roman engineer developing a flying machine–and the research was such fun.
Ceti crash lands right at the heroine’s feet, thus bringing them together. I’m not sure this one is so much alternate history as ancient steampunk.
Lexi’s note: Steampunk is a sub genre of sci-fi, fantasy and speculative fiction. It gained prominence in the 80’s and 90’s (per wikipedia) denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used — usually the 19th century, and often in the Victorian era but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions.
18. Your work has been described as alternate history romance. How do would you describe your work?
I know when people think of romance, they think of overly romantic work, like Twilight. And there’s nothing wrong with that but my writing is far more like the movie version of Last of the Mohicans—lots of action and adventure around a strong romance. I think it would fit as easily on the fantasy/science fiction shelves as it would on the romance shelves.
As for alternate history, I can’t argue with that. I gave the Romans another 500 years of existence via keeping Emperor Claudius alive long enough to pass the leadership to someone competent. Thus, no need for Nero and fiddling while Rome burned.
This also meant a much longer life for the Empire, though it’s crumbling as the events in my story take place. They’re on the frontier, much like Britain was in the fifth century, when Rome fell.
Lexi’s note: Alternate history of "the path not taken". Alternate history fiction consist of stories that are set in worlds in which history differs from the actual history of the world.
For more information regarding Mrs. Lawson and her work visit www.corrinalawson.wordpress.com.