Today we are joined by the very talented Rachel Aaron, author of The Legend of Eli Monpress novels, an adventure fantasy series from Orbit Books starring an irrepressibly charming wizard thief and the poor saps trying to catch him. “The Legend of Eli Monpress,” an omnibus of her first three books, is available at bookstores everywhere. Her fourth book, The Spirit War, comes out June 2012. Yesterday Rachel shared her secrets to increasing her writing productivity from 2,000 to 10,000 words a day, now we are going to learn more about Rachel and her latest release.
Welcome back to the mermaid pond Rachel. Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m the author of The Legend of Eli Monpress, a fast, fun adventure fantasy about a charming thief and the band of colorful characters who make his life more interesting. The first three books are out now in The Legend of Eli Monpress Omnibus , meaning you can get all 3 for $10 on Amazon right now, which is a crazy awesome deal considering they were $7.99 each when they first came out! Of course, you can get samples of my writing and more info on all my books at my site, www.rachelaaron.net.
On the personal side of things, the most important fact about me is that I’m a huge nerd! I read tons and tons of genre books including Fantasy, UF, SciFi, Paranormal Romance, and Historical Fantasy. I also read manga, watch anime, read webcomics, and I play tabletop RPGs as well as PC games (I’m a big RTS fan). I used to play World of Warcraft, but I quit a year ago because I was unable to play that game responsibly (and because they nerfed Shamans). In my non-leisure time, I spend about 8-10 hours a day working on writing, but since I write swordfights for a living, it’s not really work. I’ll be 30 this year, I have a 2 year old son and a fat sausage of a dog, and I live in Athens, GA in a house in the woods with my loving husband.
How long have you been writing and do you recall what originally sparked your interest in writing? I’ve been making up stories since I could talk, though I used to lie to my parents and tell them they were stories I “heard” because that way if they thought they were stupid, it wouldn’t reflect on me. Of course, this meant I also couldn’t take credit if the stories were good, so I got over it quickly. Still, I didn’t initially want to write. Mostly I wanted to draw comics, but my lack of artistic talent and visual thinking sort of nixed that. In the end, I moved on to writing, and I’m really, really happy I did. I’ve been writing seriously since I graduated college in 2004, but it took me 2 books before I got my contract with Orbit in 2008.
What author or books have most influenced you? My influences are all over the map. I would say the books that have stuck with me the most are Elizabeth Moon’s Deed of Paksenarrion, Peter S Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, and CS Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, mixed in with a generous helping of Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, and Robert Jordan. I drew a lot of my dramatic inspiration and pacing from anime and movies. This means my books move very quickly, but if the popularity of Urban Fantasy has taught us anything, it’s that many readers appreciate a more action movie pace to their adventure reading. Probably because we’ve been trained by Hollywood to like that sort of quick clip, but that’s a whole other can of worms.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing? See question 1! Actually, that’s kind of a trick question. I’m always writing. Even if I’m not actively at the computer, I’m always thinking about my stories, especially when I’m reading other people’s stories (you can learn so much by watching how other authors solve problems). When I can tear myself away, though, I enjoy playing games of all sorts. Mostly, though, I fight to keep entropy from reclaiming our house. Keeping things clean against a toddler is a Sisyphean task. I did not know so much laundry could exist.
If you could have a superpower what would it be? The ability to wish for more wishes :D.
Do you have a favorite author or book? If so, what is it that attracts you to the work? Ack, don’t make me choose! This answer changes every week, I swear. Well, right now I’m still in the thrall of Ender’s Game, which is unceasingly amazing. On the pure escapism front, I’m hugely addicted to Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. In terms of wonderful, underrated books, Sarah Monette’s Melusine books are dark and beautiful.
I would say what draws me into a book is a combination of a writer’s style, characters I want to read more about, and an interesting world. Any one of these can be enough to keep me reading, but all three together send me into bookgasms. A good example of this would be Linda Barry’s Cruddy, which has all three of these in spades and a terrifying and amazing plot. Cruddy isn’t genre, but it is well worth a read. Really amazing book, but be ready to cry.
Tell us 10 random things about yourself. I’m addicted to Diet Coke, red wine makes me the happiest drunk in the world, when no one’s around I tell my plots to my dog, I can’t have any music when I write, I’m still shy to tell people I’m a writer even though I make a living from it, I assign songs to all my characters (even though I don’t write to music), I get more articulate as I get angrier, I can’t read print books anymore now that I’m used to my Kindle, I chat only with Bestselling UF author Kalayna Price most days, I don’t ever let anyone read my unfinished work.
Is anything in your books based on real life experience or is it all purely imagination? The important stuff (human interaction, emotional responses, ambitions, friendships, basic physics) and the small stuff (the way rain feels, the taste of common things, the irritation of waiting) come from real life. Most everything else is made up. Not to spoil anyone’s opinion, but I’ve never actually killed a man with a magical sword. 😀
How do new stories evolve for you? Do you come up with your characters or setting first? New stories always start with a flash of inspiration. I see something or hear a cool phrase or think of a neat scenario and I just know there’s a novel in there. These inspirations usually spend a few years mulling around in my head, breeding with new inspirations until I’ve got enough for a book. After that, I follow my plotting steps, found here; http://bit.ly/ngHrqv
This flash of inspiration is very, very important. I never throw an idea away. Just because something isn’t strong enough to carry a book on its own doesn’t mean it can’t be a cool part of some other story. I actually keep a big old document full of these little scraps called The Idea Bucket, and I try to read over it frequently to keep myself inspired.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment? Bad reviews mostly roll off me. Usually, if someone has criticisms of my books, I either already know about the problem in question (no book is perfect, and the Spirit Thief was my first published novel, of course I made mistakes) or the reviewer wanted something from the book that I didn’t (like a darker, more serious plot). Of course, good reviews make me happy all day long. The toughest stuff comes from my agent and editor, because I actually have to fix those problems. The best complements I’ve gotten are from the people who write me to tell me how much they love the book. The fact that someone took the time out of their day to write me a gushing letter never fails to make me feel like a million bucks. I LOVE fan mail!
What advice would you give an aspiring writer? Write what you love. Don’t listen when people say this is hot or that will never sell. Just write the story that makes you excited, the story that begs to be told. Also, never be afraid to abandon a story that clearly isn’t working, but never give up on writing itself. If you’re a writer, then you have many, many stories in you. Just because one didn’t work out doesn’t mean that’s all you get. Learn to love the process of story telling itself and everything else will come on its own.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans? Eli loves you all, each and every one! Seriously, I could not do what I do without readers, and thank you never feels like enough to the people who make it possible for me to live my dream. All I can do to show my gratitude is do my absolute best to write the most amazing books I’m capable of. I write with my readers in mind at all times. These books are for you!
What was the inspiration behind your most recent story? My latest work is actually the Miranda Novella set in the Eli Monpress world that’s out right now from Orbit Short Fiction. My editor asked for a short story to promo The Omnibus, and I’d just come off this huge Regency Romance reading binge. So I got this idea, what if I took my incredibly magical, powerful, dutiful wizard and stuck her in a comedy of manners? The result was actually pretty awesome, especially when you consider the hero is a 15 foot long magical dog. Just goes to show how everything can be inspiration if you keep your mind open.
What was your favorite chapter (or scene) to write and why? That would actually be a spoiler for the Eli series. Suffice it to say, Eli actually meets his match in guile and charm in Spirit’s End (the fifth and final Eli book). Probably the single funniest moment in the whole series. I still laugh every time I read it.
Thanks again Rachel for sharing your productivity secrets yesterday and dipping your toes in the mermaid waters again today. Check out Rachel Aaron at www.rachelaaron.net and if you are new to her then here is a link to sample the first chapters of Rachel’s first novel The Spirit Thief. http://www.rachelaaron.net/thespiritthief-sample.php
You can purchase more works by Rachel Aaron at the links below.