Wednesday, March 10, 2010

GIVEAWAY and INTERVIEW with L.J. McDonald


We have here with us today L.J. MCDONALD, author of The Sylphs series. THE BATTLE SYLPH is currently available, while the second in the series THE SHATTERED SYLPH will be out next month (April). And in November 2010, we'll have the third book, QUEEN OF THE SYLPHS. Yay, so much to look forward to!

The Raving Readers (TRR): LJ, thanks so much for gracing us with your presence here at The Raving Readers. Before anything else, we’d like to know about you! What can you tell us about yourself?

L.J. McDonald (LJM): Well, I'm thirty-nine. I'm a clerk in the Canadian military and I've been married to my fantastic husband for fourteen years. We don't have any kids. Instead we have two cats, a bunch of fish, and a snake. I’m currently living just outside Ottawa in Ontario, Canada (and loving it) and I've been writing since I was fifteen years old. I also spend my time knitting, painting, and reading.

TRR: We understand THE BATTLE SYLPH is your first published book and we can attest it's an awesome debut! How did you come up with the idea for this series?

LJM: The idea for the first book had its germination in a couple of concepts I've been playing with for a long time. I like the idea of dealing with characters who aren't quite human. I like how you can exceed human limitations with them and I'd specifically been wanting to write a book with a shape-shifter in it for a while. I'd even made a failed attempt at writing one, where it just didn't work. I shelved that book, which I’ll probably come back to and reinvent since it still has some ideas in it that I like, and started tossing around the idea of shape-shifters again. Around that time, I read something about the legend of the Japanese Tengu, who is a bird-type spirit that can change shape and has really big noses. I obviously didn't go with the big nose, but I did like the concept that the tengu can be controlled if you know their name. That suddenly flipped all around in my head and suddenly I had the empathic, shape-changing battle sylphs. The other sylphs just came from brain storming, as did the world itself, a lot of it while tossing ideas back and forth with my husband Oliver. He's really good for that.

The plot and ideas for THE BATTLE SYLPH came out so strongly that I had the first draft written in a month. I wish it always worked that way.

TRR: Wow, looks like you have a very supportive husband. I'm sure a lot of people would like to know how many books have you got planned for the series? Can you give us a hint about them?

LJM: There are five existing books right now. Dorchester has currently bought three. I have ideas and a few scenes for a sixth book that I'll be writing. So right now there are six. I don't know that there will be more. I didn't intend to write more than one. Then I didn't intend to do more than three, then four. And I certainly never expected to be thinking of six.

As for hints, the first one is obvious, so no need to get into that. What can I give as teasers for the rest?

THE SHATTERED SYLPH – Leon Petrule's oldest daughter Lizzy is kidnapped by slavers and it's up to Leon and his battle sylph Ril to track her down. That one comes out next month.

QUEEN OF THE SYLPHS – Solie discovers she has a problem she isn't sure Heyou can help her with while strange accidents start happening in Sylph Valley, a lot of them targeting the members of the ruling council. Meanwhile, something no one was ever expecting starts examining the gate from the valley into the sylph world, from the other side.

These three are definitely coming out. I won't say that the next two are, because I don't know, but I do know there's interest. But as I was told, until you have a signed contract in your hand...

HUNTER OF THE SYLPHS – In Shattered, Leon and Ril had to go to a foreign land. Now Devon, who is phobic about battlers, returns there in their stead, just in time to find out exactly why battle sylphs need to be so horrendously dangerous. He's also just in time to meet the love of his life, as well as the battle sylph who's decided he wants to claim her for his own.

WAR OF THE SYLPHS – There have been tensions between the king of Eferem and Sylph Valley for years (he did try to have Solie sacrificed, after all). When the Eferem king finds he has a secret weapon, those tensions turn into full bloodshed.

LOSS OF THE SYLPHS - this one isn't even written yet. Massively subject to change or my getting distracted by other shiny things to write. Can't say much about it other than that humans are going to see the sylph world up close. VERY up close.

All of the books have romance in them, since it's fun to write, and I hope that they all hit the shelves and people like them. I'll write them regardless. I'm still recovering from the shock that people want to read them. :)

TRR: So exciting! We definitely want to read about Devon. Looks like a great triangle there. Or would that be a square (including Airi)? Anyway, back to THE BATTLE SYLPH, the pivotal/main characters, Heyou and Solie, are portrayed as young and untried. Did you deliberately create them this way? Why? Will we see them grow over the series?

LJM: I did. I didn't see any reason not to. The only way I saw for Solie to not have already been married off to someone in a medieval society was for her to be young. Having Heyou young as well just worked well. They will definitely grow over the course of the series, especially Solie. Heyou will as well, but sylphs live much longer, so mature more slowly than humans. He'll definitely have matured by the end of the series, but then anyone should change over time.

TRR: We certainly didn't think of that. It proves that a writer's mind works differently from that of a reader. So what makes Heyou perfect for Solie and vice-versa?

LJM: That’s tough.... I think Heyou is perfect for Solie because he believes in her, and supports her no matter what. He has no doubt whatsoever that she can do whatever she wants to. For Heyou, Solie is perfect because she lets him be himself without abusing him. Given how he absolutely must obey her without question, the fact that she doesn't take advantage shows how strong a person she is. They balance each other. He's her sense of fun, she's his sense of reason. Plus they each think the other's kind of hot.

TRR: We know how hot! *wink* What about the other characters in the story, such as Mace, Ril, Leon, Devon and Galway? Will we see them take center stage in your next books?

LJM: Yes, to just about all of them. Especially Leon and Ril, who are unabashedly my favourite characters in the entire series, and Devon, who gets his very own story in book four. Mace and Galway are around, but they're more background characters, though Mace will be starring in a novella coming out next Christmas.

TRR: That's great! With so many characters in your books, did you ever find yourself arguing with any of them, like when they decided the story has to go in the opposite direction for what you've planned? How do you handle such an event?

LJM: Usually, I lose.... When I first wrote THE BATTLE SYLPH, Leon was supposed to be a villain, plain and simple, and he and Ril were both supposed to die. Leon flat out refused to have anything to do with any of that and turned himself and Ril into what I think are the most interesting characters in the series. They even got themselves a stay of execution, though I do love to be evil to them, and I am.

If characters want to write themselves, I'm not going to argue with them. The best stories are those that write themselves. THE BATTLE SYLPH was like that nearly all the way through. The only thing I did manage to keep control of was Heyou's complaints that he really should have had sex sooner....

TRR: LOL. We're inferring that you like fantasy since you’re writing in this genre. What books/persons have inspired you to write in this genre?

LJM: I think the first true fantasy novel I read was ELFSTONES OF SHANNARA by Terry Brooks. I got it for Christmas. I hadn't even known the genre existed and it was so much more exciting and terrifying than my horse books. I don't know that any specific author has inspired me to write fantasy, since my favourite authors are Stephen King and Charles de Lint, neither of whom do much fantasy. It's just the genre as a whole that pulled me into it. I love the opportunity to world-build and fantasy offers you the best chance to do that. Certainly it does me, since I’m not all that good at science.

TRR: Well, you seem to be good at fantays. *wink* What has your experience for the whole process been like—from writing the stories to publication?

LJM: The writing has always been there, since I've always done it. The publishing part was a total surprise. I never expected to be published. I never expected to try. It was my husband nagging me to enter my work in a contest Shomi was offering that finally got me out there. I certainly didn't expect to win, and I didn't, since they were looking for something very different, but I did sell the trilogy. I’m still reeling. People want to read my work? Why?

It's been fun, but it's also been a huge amount of work. Writing the books is the easy part. It really is.

TRR: To answer your question, well, we here at TRR are always searching for good books to read, books that would take us out of our humdrum lives into exciting worlds like yours. So, would you encourage budding writers to take the same path that you did? Or if you could do something differently, what would it be?

LJM: Follow my example? Not likely. Not given my answer to number nine. I guess the only thing I'd do differently would be to have really worked on getting published sooner, such as twenty years ago? I should have had more faith in myself. That's my suggestion for budding authors. Have faith in yourself. And write lots. At least I got that part right. I've got something of a backlog to send to my agent, once the Sylph books are all sorted out.

TRR: Backlogs are good. We readers also get our books sooner. *grin* We've come to the end of our questions. L.J., do you have any last words for us?

LJM: My website is at http://www.ljmcdonald.ca/. I have a blog there, but it’s not updated that often, due to sheer incompetence on my part. And I never know what to say in a blog. I don’t know how you guys manage to do it.

TRR: Well, there are three of us. Thank you so much! Doing this interview with you is a real pleasure!

LJM: Hey, I enjoyed it. Thanks for the opportunity.

~ o ~

Want to win a copy of THE BATTLE SYLPH?

Here's how: 

Answer today's question: Because of Heyou's youth, Galway became his mentor and influenced him, to a certain degree. In your life, who influenced you the most? How?

Extra chances to win:
+ 3 if you're a follower of this blog
+ 2 if you follow us on Facebook or Twitter
+ 2 if you take our poster (located on the right sidebar) about this contest and post it
          on your blog/website with a link back to us
+ 1 for every time you spread the word about this contest via Facebook, MySpace, 
          Twitter, your blog, website or other form of social media. For example, you 
          tweeted about this contest twice and also announced it on your Facebook. You also
          wrote a blog post. That's 4 additional chances! However, for these to qualify, be 
          sure to come back here and post the links. Like, if you tweeted twice, give me 
          both links.

If you do all of the above, at a minimum, that's 9 chances to win!

Contest ends on March 12 (Friday), 1159pm EST.

Winner will be picked via Randomizer.org and announced on March 13 (Saturday).

Good luck!

15 comments:

ErotRomReader (Janna) said...

Great interview!! I loved to learn about how the idea's for a series turned into a story.
I haven't had a mentor like that in my life, but what did influence me was something one of my college professors once said, that with our education we should create our own work/jobs. That's what I did in the end and how I ended up having a job that I like a lot :)

Btw I have a blog award for you over at my place. I hope you like it :)
http://erotromreader.blogspot.com/2010/03/i-was-given-sexy-blogger-award-some-man.html

Silver @ The Raving Readers said...

Awesome! Thanks for the award, hon! Now I owe you two. :) It'll be fun for us to pass the award on...hmm...wonder who we can pass it on to...

I like what your prof said. Now that's really being self-sufficient. Hmmm...you know, at times, I'd remember something someone has told me and knew it impacted my life, but now, I can't even answer my own question!

Mistress Spice said...

Wow, five more books! *jumps up and down*

Great interview, guys! LJ, looks like lots of fantasy lovers have to thank your husband. Without him, we'd never see the world of your sylphs!

LJ, if you don't mind, I do have a question. See, I've been trying my hand at writing and...When would you say it's time for my story to see the light of day? Would you suggest I search for a contest to enter it like yours or do I search for an agent or submit directly to a publisher?

Thanks!

~ Mich aka Mistress Spice

ErotRomReader (Janna) said...

Yep two :D
You better don't post about them at the same time ;)
You'll find some interesting bloggers to pass the awards on to :)
It was very helpful what that prof told me.
*snort* You can't answer your own question!? Now you see how hard you make us work? lol!

Victoria Dixon said...

Great interview and the books sound fascinating. I know L.J. won't necessarily respond, but I'm curious to know if she'll ever return to the idea of the Tengu? I'm in love with Asian fantasy and/or Asian settings.

CallMeKayla said...

My mother has greatly influenced me. I have learned from her mistakes, taken her advice, and learn right along with her.

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L.J. McDonald said...

Hi, everyone. Thanks for commenting.

Mistress Spice, I'm certainly not the expert on getting published, since I did it in a very odd sort of way. The only suggestion I can really give you is to try all three.

For going to publishers, some do accept unsolicited manuscripts. I know that Avon is accepting them right now since an agent gave a presentation the Ottawa chapter of the Romance Writer's association. That would be another good idea. Join professional associations for writers if you can. They'll have lists of the publishers and agent ans also have contests you can enter. Enter any contest your book may fit into. The big thing is getting it out there. If it's good and the right person sees it, they'll buy it, so you want them to get every chance to see it that they can.

As for sending it to agents, sure, give it a try. It's the same as with the publishers, though, as in make sure they accept unsolicited queries. A lot of places will toss your work immediately if you just send it in. So for places like that, contests are your best bet.

Also, make sure your work is as polished and perfect as it can be. If it isn't, no one will finish reading it.

Does that help?

L.J. McDonald said...

Hi, Victoria. I'd like to return to the Tengu. I barely touched on them for ideas, so there's a lot more to play with. There's a lot with other creatures in Japanese folklore that I loke too, such as the kitsune or the kappu. I don't know so much about Chinese folklore, though I'd love to do something with some of the concepts of the Monkey King.

As for Asian settings appearing in my writing, not necessarily as I write strictly fantasy worlds, but I can see some influences fromt hat part of the world happening.

Mistress Spice said...

Hi LJ, yes, thanks for your comments. They helped a lot. Looks like I have to do more revisions and research before I dare submit to anyone. Thanks again and looking forward to reading The Shattered Sylph.

Carol said...

Hi LJ, wonderful book. I've certainly never read about sylphs before. Heck, I don't even know what a sylph is so I went to look it up. I found out that sylphs refer to air elementals, while earth, fire and water elementals all have other names. I guess my question is, to someone who knows what sylphs are, wouldn't they be confused as to why the earth elementals, etc are also called sylphs? Why didn't you make up another name for your sylphs, like the other fantasy writers? Thanks.

L.J. McDonald said...

Hi, Carol. I just used the term and made it my own. I liked the sound of the word Sylph, though I know it does mean only air elementals in our world. The sylph world is their own though and I found it was actually less confusing to have an overall term for all of them. I like having a bit of a touch of our folklore in there though. It's just a touch though, like a bit of spice on a dish. The sylphs here are original though. You certainly won't find any battle sylphs listed anywhere, as they're drawn from many different sources and made wholly unique.

L.J. McDonald said...

I hope you like it, Mistress Sylph. And remember, even a published author has to go through the editing process again and again and again, even after the book has been bought.

Silver @ The Raving Readers said...

Janna,

Ok, for the sake of your sanity, I won't. LOL The Sugar Doll award will definitely be posted first. :)

Yup, I'm sure I will. Too many, in fact, and now I just have to pick 7. :(

Actually, now I'm curious...What do you do? (You can send the answer to this to my email.)

Yeah, I know. Okay, the default answer to the question would be my mom. For so long, I've chafed when I was under her thumb. Haha... But the moment I flew out from under her wings, her advice have served me in good stead. I've been in situations where I don't know what to do and it was like, I'd hear her voice telling me to do this or that. I hadn't realized before then just how much of what she'd said had sunk into my brain until I needed them. It was a very enlightening moment.

Silver @ The Raving Readers said...

LJ, thanks for dropping by and answering all our questions.

Mistress Spice, good luck! Do let us know how you do or when you're published. (Note that I said "when", not "if". *grin*)

Kayla, looks like we're both influenced by our moms! I hope that when I become one ("when", not "if" again. LOL I live in hope.) I'll be as good, if not better than, my mom as a mother.

Victoria, it was from LJ that I first learned about the Tengu. But I've always been fascinated by the kitsune and there's this nine-tailed fox (if I remember right) in Chinese folklore. Hmmm...might be fun to read up on that again.

Carol, thanks for dropping by and for your question. I'm sure there are readers out there who got the same Q as you. :)

Scorpio M. said...

My grandmother was the biggest influence in my life. She was just a great person, plain & simple, patient, loving, honorable & classy.

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