1. Where does your interest in writing come from?

The convenient – and perhaps even true – answer is that I inherited it. My maternal grandfather was a writer and my paternal one a poet. I have a second theory though. I believe that I contracted writeritis because of being exposed to thousands of books at an early age. This disease is a bit like a malarial infection. You have periods of time when you can act like a normal person, but the need to write always returns. And there’s no resisting it. All you can do is take two aspirin and warn the family that you’ll be gone to 17th century Scotland for the next few months.

2. When did you write your first novel?

I don’t recall the exact date but I began writing novellas as gifts for friends when I was in Junior High. I also wrote a school play in the fourth grade – a dreadful one called “Two Witches In A Well” (it was supposed to be nine witches but I had some casting problems!).

The first novel I intended for publication was done when I was thirty. It took an incredible amount of honesty to finish the thing, reread it, and then throw it away. The next two ended up in the trash can as well.

My first book to sell sat on my desk for two years because I was afraid to show my agent. It was very personal and I was feeling shy about allowing anyone to see so much of my true feelings. But, of course, that was exactly what was needed to make a good novel. You must invest emotion and even some pain in your work or it won’t touch people. It’s a hard lesson though. Many writers are very private and this feels like stripping your psyche in public. I still hate it.

3. Did you have problems in finding a publisher for your books? Did it take many tries?

My agent at the time had trouble placing some oddball westerns I had written, but she took one look at IONA and knew that we had a winner. It was a “big word” book but she heard through the grapevine that Chris Keeslar at Dorchester was a “big word” editor. He read it two weeks later. And the rest, as they say, is history.

4. How well do you handle criticism?

I’m great at it (snort)! Actually, it depends on the source. I have an excellent relationship with my editor and trust his judgment. I listen to my agent too. Some insights have come from readers as well. One particular letter from a retired linguist in Michigan gave me a light-bulb moment. He said that he had loved my first book because it was not directed at a female audience. As a man, he could read it and feel at home. But my second book was a hostile place because it was aimed solely at women. And he was right! I hadn’t realized what I had done, but it was true. Since then, all my stories are written with both genders in mind.

If you are speaking of critics and reviewers – well, that also depends. I think a good reviewer is able to take a story apart, analyze it, and sum up why something did or didn’t work. It’s worth listening to what they say. But on the whole, I don’t let critical praises or criticism affect me. It has to be that way, or I would be paralyzed out of fear that I couldn’t please everyone. Truthfully, I don’t read reviews any more unless they are sent to me – usually by my publisher.

5. You have an agent to represent you?

Yes. It keeps business separate from the creative side of writing. My editor and I never have to be adversaries while working on contracts. It lets us remain as a team working toward the goal of putting out the best books.

6. What’s your particular interest in goblins? Why did you create them?

The goblins are my husband’s fault. He dared me to try it… As to what the goblins are, the Lutin empire is a way of discussing our societal fears without actually pointing fingers at any religious, ethnic, or social group. I can tell a difficult story without treading on anyone’s toes. For instance, in COURIER there is a goblin priest as a secondary character. It raises some interesting questions. If there are goblins who are Christians, do human Christians have to accept them? Do they have to accept the humans? If this were discussions in terms of the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, I would lose readers who have already chosen sides. By making it about goblins, we can explore the subject without fear or anger.

7. Do you believe in the supernatural?

I have to believe it enough to write about it.

8. Have you ever experienced any supernatural fact? A haunted castle? A ghost?

Sigh… yes. Or something that feels like it. But do I believe in UFO’s in every corn field, ghost in every closet, vampires in every crypt, a benevolent IRS? No, I like being grounded in the world of the rational and look there first for my answers. Of course goblins are real. I’ve seen them.

9. When you could choose, where would you want to live?

Happily, I live where I want – in the mountains near Yosemite. It may be time for a change though – perhaps the beach, or maybe the wine country where winters are less rough. One of the nice things about what I do is that the career is portable.

10. Can you tell us if you have any favorite writers of your own?

Tons – Shakespeare, Dickens, Wodehouse, Sayers, all the Restoration Era poets. It’s an almost endless list. My most recent discovery is a horror writer – now deceased – Richard Laymon. In contemporary romance, I read Christine Feehan, Lynsay Sands, Susan Squires, Lisa Cach, Trish Jensen, Sandra Hill, Katie MacAllister, Jayne Castle, Elizabeth Lowell, Linda Howard…. Sadly, I just don’t have the time that I used to for leisure reading and I have books by all these authors in my TBR stack. Oh well – someday! Maybe when they finally invent the 25 hour day.

 
Click here for previous interviews

© 2005 Nickie Fleming/Jansan