I met today’s author, Lela Markham, through Twitter, which has become my favourite social media network over the last few months.
She’s got a very interesting body of work, but I think I’ll let her speak for herself.
Please give Lela a warm welcome.
Thank you for having me, Dianna. I am a lifelong Alaskan who gew up in a house built of books. Back in the days before the Trans Alaska Pipeline was built, we were a pretty isolated community with limited television. Both my parents were great readers, so there were always books around which they encouraged me to read. As an adult, I have embraced the adventure that comes with living in the Last Frontier and followed my somewhat insane husband into the forests dragging our two fearless offspring with us.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your books?
I write in a variety of genres.
Daermad Cycle is an epic fantasy with Celtic and Christian influences. The Willow Branch was published last year and Mirklin Wood should come out this year or early next year. Told in two timelines (past and present), it tells the tale of the destruction of a kingdom and the attempted restoration. There are human factions, vengeful Celtic goddesses, evil mages, less evil mages, heroes who are doing the best that they can and dragons. The Christian influences in the book do not make the book a candidate for inclusion at the local Christian bookstore. This is a series that can be enjoyed by any fantasy fan and there will be other books after Mirklin Wood.
Transformation Project is an apocalyptic series. Although Amazon classes that with science fiction, it’s written in modern times. Life As We Knew It came out in March. It tells the tale of a small Midwest farming town struggling to deal with the aftermath of a large scale terrorist attack. My focus is primarily on the town and its survival. The affects on the country as a whole are merely background. Shane, the main protagonist, is a damaged hero who can take care of himself, but may not always make the best choices for the people around him. He is surrounded by an ensemble cast who will evolve as people over time – kind of like what would happen in a world gone crazy in reality.
2. When did you first know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?
Mom said I told tales from the time I could talk. My friends valued my imagination to make long Alaskan winters stuck in the basement entertaining. I wrote down my first fiction story when I was in the 5th grade and that started something that I just couldn’t stop. I wanted to make my living as some sort of writer since the 10th grade when I was asked to write some articles for the town newspaper. I got my degree in journalism and worked as a reporter for a time, but got frustrated with the politicalization of journalism and the lack of a living wage, so I started working in administration, where my writing has been in demand for grant-writing, newsletters, and other publications. I always wrote fiction no matter what I was doing for a living. I published some short stories in Alaskan anthologies, but found that finding an agent required that I choose between writing Christian fiction and adhering to those rules or writing fantasy without the Christian elements. I felt really constrained by those rules, which stalled me for a time until the self-publishing wave began to swell. I was asked to join Breakwater Harbor Books, which is a small press that acts much like an author’s cooperative, so I went indie with them.
3. Who are some of the authors that inspired you to start writing?
Wow, there are so many! Madeleine L’Engle and Zenna Henderson were early role models, followed by Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Robert Louis Stevenson. I can’t leave out CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien … what fantasy author can, right? Katharine Kerr and Kate Elliott have been favorite role models in adulthood. I like Stephen Lawhead and Morgan Llewellyn. And, I’m sure there are others I’ve forgotten.
4. Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?
It’s sort of unprocessed. I’m an adventure writer. Generally, I read a lot – not just the genres I’m writing in, but a lot of non-fiction too. A character presents itself and decides to tell me their story. At this point, I think I sound a bit mentally ill, but I used to work for a mental health center as an administrator and my co-workers say I’m fine. The character demands I write their story down. If that story coincides with some research or maybe some imagery I’ve run across in the past, I begin to develop the story into a full novel. I’m typically a third of the way through a novel before I have any idea how it’s going to end, at which time I hit pause, draft an outline to get to that ending and sketch out the major scenes to achieve it. Then I go back to the drawing board and do a thorough rewrite. What follows are many re-readings and edits, sending the book to alpha readers and then beta readers, finally asking a BHB author to do a final read/edit and then going back through for more editing.
5. What is the hardest part of the writing process for you? How do you make it easier for yourself?
Figuring out when to end the story is probably the hardest part for me, especially if the characters still have stories to tell me. I make it easier for myself by writing series.
6. How do you balance writing, marketing and life?
I really have no idea. If you have any advice, I’m still working that out. My family is used to me writing … it’s something I’ve always done. I often do it in the livingroom amid chaos so I can be with them. I grew up in my mom’s daycare center, so I actually don’t find that terribly distracting. I do take time off to hike into the woods (I bring a notebook with me, though) and to do other fun things in life. I think it’s really important for writers to have a life outside of our fictional worlds because fiction should imitate life. The marketing end of it keeps wanting to eat my life and I’m finding I have to put limits on myself about that and sometime just be downright rude to people who don’t “get” it. I’m using social media to market my books, not to be social, but I also want to be friendly. It’s a definite juggling act. I recently “hired” an assistant (my teenage son) to do some of the automated features of Twitter so I can have time to do some other things. If people sense that I’ve been replaced by a robot … or a budding engineer … it’s because I have been part of the time.
7. What is your favourite social media network and why?
I prefer Word Press because I can write a blog post and link it across Facebook, Twitter and a couple other platforms, which is an enormous timesaver.
8. If you could give one aspiring writer just one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
Read and live a life. That’s two, I know, so I guess I’d choose read – anything and everything. It’s all research for writing and you never know what your story might demand. A writer’s head needs to be stuffed with “trivia” that can flow out into details in your character development and world building.
9. What are you reading right now?
I’m reading the third book in Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic series – “Cold Steel”, my friend Kristin Gleeson’s “Along the Far Shores”, and I am also re-reading a political science textbook from college as part of research for Transformation Project. And, the Bible almost every day. That’s a pretty skimpy reading list for me, but I’m very busy these days writing.
10. Are you working on anything right now that readers can look forward to?
“Mirklin Wood” will continue the story started in “The Willow Branch”. Readers can find out what happened to Donyl when the dragon grabbed him and what happened to Tamys after the Celtic goddess threw him out of a window. Padraig and Ryanna will continue their separate searches for the True King while the Svards begin their campaign to invade the kingdom. I want to publish “Mirklin Wood” this fall, but I had a major technological setback a couple of months ago, so it may be early 2016. That will be followed by the second book in Transformation Project “Objects in View” sometime later in 2016.
I’m participating in two anthologies in the next several months, but I don’t have publication details yet.
I’ve got some works in progress for different genres, but they’re nowhere near ready for prime time, so readers will have to wait on those.