Laura Anne Gilman is well known for her Retrievers series but she also pens The Vineart War and Paranormal Scene Investigations.
Get to know the author and her books and maybe even order yourself a copy or fill up your wishlist!
Amber - Welcome to Amberkatze's Book Blog! It is great to have you here as a guest! Could you start things off by telling my readers a little about your Retriever and PSI series?
Laura Anne- Retrievers is the series title for the books featuring Wren Valere, who is a thief who uses magic to do her job, and her business partner/lover Sergei Didier. They're very much caper novels, in that Wren is hired for one job, but there's always more going on than she knows, and things tend to get out of control pretty fast, as it will when magic and New Yorkers are involved. There are six books in that series, with each one having an individual plot, but also building on what happened before. Paranormal Scene Investigations came out of the Retrievers books, in that the characters introduced there -- Bonnie Torres and her co-workers, a private firm
Amber - The Retrievers have been around for a while. Is that series done and dusted or will there be more to come?
Laura Anne- The wonderful thing about that series is that it's open-ended: the first story arc, covering Wren and Sergei's involvement in that particular period of Cosa History, is done, but their relationship goes on -- and we will, in fact, see Wren appear periodically in the PSI series, as their storylines cross over. As to there being another specifically Wren and Sergei novel to come -- If I said "absolutely not," the very next day I'd wake up with the perfect story to tell. But for now, I'm telling Bonnie's story.
Amber - I was lucky enough to read Hard Magic and I loved it. Will there be more books in that series?
Laura Anne- Absolutely -- the second book, PACK OF LIES, is already written, and scheduled for early 2011, and there are two more under contract. After that -- well, I'm not done with the Cosa Nostradamus universe, so like Wren, Bonnie could appear anywhere.
Amber - You have two new releases coming up. 'Flesh and Fire' and 'Weight of Stone' come out within weeks of each other. What is this new series about?
Laura Anne- FLESH AND FIRE is actually the mass market reprint of last year's hardcover, while WEIGHT OF STONE is book 2 of three books, overall (the third book will be out in 2012). The overall title of the trilogy is THE VINEART WAR, and it's an epic fantasy based very loosely on a 14th Century where an entirely different religious, political and magical system has formed, where magic is based in wine. The main character, Jerzy, is born into a very traditional world of Vinearts, or vine-mages, but comes of age in a world that's being torn apart by an unknown enemy, and has to adapt to a new world order, to save what he can of the old. In many ways, although it has the feel of "traditional" high fantasy, it's deeply influenced by the much more modern global fears...
FLESH AND FIRE was not only Library Journal's "best books of the year" list, but a Nebula nominee for best SF/F of the year. I was, needless to say, thrilled.
Amber - How did you come up with the idea for your books? Is it usually a long process or does it just come to you?
Laura Anne- The idea is the easy part! No writer ever lacks for ideas -- they drop into your brain at a rather disconcerting rate, born off something you see or hear or wonder about. It's discovering if they're actually viable as more than an idea -- if there's actually enough story there to support a book, if the characters are interesting, if they're going to grow or learn in the course of the story, if something catches fire out of the idea and drives you to a need-to-know-what-happens -- that is the hard part. That's the actual writing part. For me, the writing is both structured and organic: I have to sit down at my desk or my laptop every day, and say "okay, time to work now," but the brain never stops chewing over it, until the story is done. So in that regard, it's a long process -- it takes me anywhere form 6-12 months to get a book into proper shape, depending on how complicated the plot becomes.
Amber - Your books have a lot of danger and action in them. How do you decide what to throw at your characters in each book?
Laura Anne- That totally depends on how the plot grows. Danger is a way of forcing a character to deal with issues quickly, with a lot of drama, so it's very useful in storytelling. The story drives the action, but the character's REaction is what develops the story. That said, I try to match the action to the character; what worked for Wren, a thief, isn't the same sort of thing that, for example, Jerzy (the hero of The Vineart War) would face.
Amber - How do you pick the names for your characters? Do they have any special meanings?
Laura Anne - Names are chosen within the framework of the world around them: if you have a modern setting, naming someone "Fred" would make sense -- "G'rbzzzt wouldn't, unless they were from a culture where that was a common name. For example, in THE VINEART WAR, each character's name tells you what part of the world they're from: Jerzy (pronounced "yehr-zee") was born in a very different land than his friend Ao, or the princeling Kainam. In the same way, Wren Valere (Retrievers) has a different background than Bonita Torres (PSI). It all has to be internally consistent. But I've never picked a name because it has a specific meaning, no. Usually, by the time I've found their voice, the proper name comes to me.
Amber - What kind of research have you done for your books? Anything interesting or is the research boring?
Laura Anne- There's no such thing as boring research. Which just proves I'm a geek, I suppose. I've done everything from read books on Edison and Tesla (for the electrical-based magic in the Cosa Nostradamus) to spend two weeks in Burgundy to get a real feel for the land there, for The Vineart War. And, of course, when creating a wine-based magical system...well, drinking wine is research!
Amber - How much say do you have in the book publishing process? Eg. Do you get to pick the cover?
Laura Anne- *laughs* The writer controls what is put BETWEEN the covers. The text is ours. That's about it. The cover -- the artwork, the copy -- that's all designed by specially trained people: the copywriter and the art director, who chooses an artist and tells them what kind of 'look' they want. I've gotten a say in what I'd like, but it's just one voice, and not the most important one. Fortunately I've had great people doing really wonderful work at both Luna and Pocket. The covers might not always look what I would have imagined, but they've been striking and 'jump' off the shelves, which is exactly what you want.
Amber - What are the good times and bad times of being an author?
Laura Anne- They're two sides of the same coin: when the writing is going well, you feel amazing. When the writing is going slow/poorly... you feel like hell.
Amber - What is next? Are you working on any other projects you would like to tell us about?
Laura Anne- What's up next for now is more PSI novels, and then a spin-off series featuring Danny, the half-faun PI who appears in earlier books. Poor Danny. I'm about to make his life...Interesting. I'm also working on a new, rather different project called DRAGON VIRUS, which is darker, more SFnal, and should see print in Spring 2011. After that -- well, the one thing about being a writer is that you never know where your next project will lead you. Like I said earlier, the idea is the easy part.
Amber - There are a lot of online sites taking up peoples time lately. Are you on Facebook or any other sites? Do you think the sites are useful or do they just take up too much of your time?
Laura Anne- I think social networking can eat your available hours, if you're not careful -- but so can anything else, including television and sleeping! I'm on Facebook, Livejournal and Twitter, because I find that each one of those services suits a different need, but I limit how much time I spend on them (I use a software program that simply won't let me log on when I'm supposed to be working). I'm also a big fan of getting out of the office and writing longhand. Changing format makes me look at material differently, changing or shaking things up if I'm getting stale or writing into a rut.
Amber - What are you listening and watching lately? Is there any music or other media that influences your writing?
Laura Anne- I watch a lot of non-fiction television(as opposed to 'reality') tv. Mythbusters is an addiction, and so are the various nature and science shows -- I listen while I'm doing something else, and just let the ideas sink into my brain. You never know when or where something will come back and become part of a story! I'm also a huge fan of Leverage, because I love a well-written caper, and Justified (a new show staring Timothy Oliphant as a US Marshal) and Castle, because, well, great actors, and writers who are willing to write outside the cliché -- the relationship between Castle and his daughter is just wonderful, and very real. Other than that, I don't watch much television.
Music... I'm eclectic in my tastes, but I tend to write in silence most of the time; living in NYC you get a lot of ambient city noise that becomes a surprisingly soothing backdrop, like working in a tropical forest. Music, by contrast, is intrusive, and asks me to focus on IT rather than the words. Also, I tend to listen to music that makes me want to dance, and it's tough to boogie and type at the same time...
Amber - If you could be any paranormal creature, what would you be and why?
Laura Anne- a griffin. Something with wings, and yet catlike at the same time... that's about my idea of perfection.
Amber - Thanks for visiting Amberkatze's Book Blog! I hope you will stop by again!
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