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?
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
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).