1. On a scale of one to ten, rank your current level of insanity–where ten is belongs-in-lunatic-asylum insane–and tell us why.
Lol! That’s actually a very loaded question. At this moment (about 4:30 in the afternoon of October 18) my level of insanity is maybe a 2. That is not historically typical, btw. It’s usually somewhere around 8 or 9, but I’ve been making a point to relax, to do things I want to do instead of only things I’m expected to do, and I’ve had plenty of sleep, also not typical for me. The past few months have introduced many vital changes in my life (including therapy, journaling, and just saying ‘no’). Things are really coming together and I’m much happier and less stressed overall.
2. I’m a cross-stitcher who knows the basics about quilting, but hasn’t actually started one. Any tips? And how did you get started into it?
When our daughter was born, we were very poor and I decided I’d sew some of her clothes to hopefully save some money. Ben Franklin’s Store had lots of cute kiddie fabric for about a dollar a yard, patterns weren’t much more, and I dove in, even though I hadn’t touched a sewing machine since Home Ec in 7th grade. I mean, really, how hard could it be? Ha! Was I in for a surprise! With some practice, and some failures, I got better and better at sewing jumpers and dresses and other simple things which, often, were cuter than store-bought clothes and certainly a LOT cheaper.
Then, one day while channel surfing (the kid was not-quite 2), I saw Strip Quilting with Kaye Wood on PBS. A whole new world opened up for me and I made my first quilt – which we still have even though it’s falling apart – with left over fabric from the kid’s clothes and some cheap muslin. I soon learned that while cheap fabric might work for sundresses, it does not work for quilts. The fabric ravels and falls apart with the narrow (1/4 inch) seams. But I kept sewing her clothes, and I kept watching Kaye Wood (soon adding in Sewing with Nancy, too) and I learned. I made so many quilts and dresses, I wore out two sewing machines in about 10 years.
I don’t sew clothes anymore, teenagers aren’t enthusiastic about homemade clothing, but I still sew a lot of quilts. I also buy much better fabric now, and I’ve become a bit of a collector. My favorite fabrics are imported batiks and I have about 150 different ones. When I did the Black Batik Quilt on my blog, almost all of the ‘colored’ fabrics came from my stash, as did most of the black batiks. A few I bought just for that quilt.
As for tips, I think learning to use a rotary cutter is a priceless skill, so is making accurate seams and pressing. I’m a big fan of pressing, it makes the edges sharp and helps properly match points. Start with a simple pattern – like a 9-Patch or Rail Fence – to get sewing and matching seams down before tackling anything more challenging, especially if you’ve never sewn before. Bias triangles are a lot harder than they look when you’re just starting out because they STRETCH and, for a new quilter, that just makes things a lot more complicated. Also invest in the best tools and fabrics you can afford. It really does make a difference in the quality of the finished product.
3. The Dubric novels are dark and intense. It’s not that they aren’t fun in a dark, twisted sort of way, but do you think you’ll ever write something fun and light, even breezy?
I honestly don’t know if I will or not. I used to say that I didn’t have any fluffy-bunny stories in me, only dark and twisted, violent tales, but, as my inner life changes… I’m just not so sure anymore. I do know that there are still a lot of things I want to say with Dubric and his world, and a lot of dank, dark places I want to explore. Maybe I’ll step my narrative into the light at some point, but I can’t say for sure one way or the other. Currently, my narrative muscle is still pretty dark.
4. Do you think that writing forensic fantasy, as you call it, gives you the best of both worlds in terms of worldbuilding? You get to make things up to fit what you want, and yet for the rest you get to use whatever research that fits.
Oh gosh, yes! I’ve been working on a novel in our real, modern world and it’s a lot trickier to write, having to make sure that every little thing is accurate and up to date. I’m a bit hesitant to write a modern forensic piece because the technology changes so fast, sometimes too fast, and the applications of new technology in a court of law are sometimes questionable. Just my luck I’d get some part of the chain of evidence wrong – like something that was not admissible in court when I wrote the book, now is when it hits the shelf – and that could date my work before it got out the door. I think that all novels that deal with any aspect of technology face that, it’s just part of working in such a fluid medium.
It’s also hard for me because I’m pretty anal retentive about ‘believability’ and the belief that A leads to B leads to C. Things Must Make Sense, even if they’re totally invented, and I’m not going to put something in a book that I know is untrue just to make the work easier for me or my characters. With Dubric’s books, the control of technology, law, cause and effect, everything, is up to me. It’s very freeing in a lot of ways, but it’s also a big responsibility to ensure that Logic Rules and I don’t say one thing in one book, then the exact opposite in another. It is incredibly fun, though, to find non-industrial solutions to problems that sometimes seem modern.
5. You’ve mentioned on your blog that you’ve done proposals for contemporary thrillers, if I’m not wrong. I, for one, can’t wait. Do you think that they’ll be similar to the Dubric novels in terms of feel? As in, dark and intense?
Some, yes, but not all. One I’m considering is comparatively cheerful yet twisted (at least how I see it) and another is straight SF Horror. I never really know how they’ll turn out until I actually write them, because so much changes during the act of creation. My initial idea usually is nowhere close to the reality of their finished product. Overall, though, I hope that all my novels are intense, even if they’re not dripping with darkness.
6. Lars. *drool* Lars. He will have a happy ending, won’t he? Say yes! I’ve never read a book where I wanted a certain character to have a happy ending so much.
Let me just smile. Next question?
Now that you’re done screaming, I have to say that I don’t know. I have a multitude of ideas for Lars, some rather nice and homey, some absolutely not, and I’ll just have to see what happens when it happens. Lars’s life makes some definite changes in Valley, and some extreme ones in the Dubric book I’m writing now (as yet untitled). Where will he end up? I’m not sure, but I expect it’ll be a wild ride getting there. All of the major characters know there are no guarantees in anything – even their survival. It’s all up to fate and the story at hand, almost like real life.
7. On your blog you’ve talked about writing Valley of the Soul. Was it the hardest book for you to write so far?
Yes, very much so. Ghosts in the Snow was just a blast to write, giddy and fun. Threads of Malice was, in many ways, horrific because of the subject matter, but the work itself wasn’t too bad, even though I was often very uncertain about facing the story and worried about my abilities as a writer. Valley… Frankly, it was a personal slog through hell, something I never want to endure again. It fought me every word of the way, became a huge, shambling mess, and I was utterly miserable writing it. But I kept going and, thankfully, I have a brilliant and insightful editor. Now that it’s finished, it’s possibly my favorite of the three books. I think Threads is the best, if nothing else than for the fearless stand it made facing an incredibly terrifying subject, but I think that Valley has the most heart. And the most hope.
Thanks for your time, Tam!