Author Jaime Lee Moyer recently travelled the lands of reddit to hold an AMA! Her novels are about magic and murder, friendship, betrayal and kissing, and ghosts. Lots of ghosts. She grew up in San Francisco, where her ‘Gabe and Delia’ series is set, but now lives in Texas, where she maintains a “secret identity of Responsible Adult(tm).” Her first novel, the Columbus Literary Award-winning Delia’s Shadow, and its sequel, A Barricade in Hell, are available from Tor Books. The third book in the series, Against a Brightening Sky, will be released in 2015.
Moyer’s first story, written when she was eleven, caused controversy when her best friend’s mother “read it, frowned, and said, ‘This isn’t appropriate subject matter for a girl your age to write about.’ And with that, she walked away with my story in hand. She kept it! I never did get that story back. That was my very first rejection, and the moment I knew I was born to be a writer. I’ve been writing ever since.”
Check out more highlights from Moyer’s AMA below, including the reveal of what made that childhood story so scandalous!
MichaelRUnderwood: How do you think working in the poetry world has impacted your prose writing?
Jaime Lee Moyer: Poetry makes you think about image more, and how to set that image in a reader’s mind. And if you’re me, you think a whole lot about word choice. During revisions I spend a lot of time staring at perfectly serviceable sentences, because the image or the emotion I’m trying to convey isn’t quite there… And believe it or not, poetry made my prose more concise. I learned how to do more with less.
KateElliott: How do you juggle working full time and writing a book a year? Do you have any particular routines, tricks, or methods that you have developed over time to keep yourself on track and focused?
JLM: When I’m not working at the day-job, I write all the time. Days off are spent writing, evenings are spent writing. If I’m working a closing shift, I write before work. I write every spare moment I can steal. The major adaptation I’ve made to dealing with fractured writing time, is to be satisfied with the words I get each day. There are days were the job and real life severely limit word count, and I might max out at 200 words. Days off might get me 1500, or even 2000. I take what I can get and I’m glad for each word. Somehow, it all adds up to a novel by the end.
I also print out a copy of what I’ve written when I get to about the half-way point. That hard copy goes back and forth to work with me to be read and marked up on lunches and breaks. Saves me a lot of time.
Princejvstin: Your fiction is historical fantasy. Why historical fantasy instead of contemporary fantasy (e.g. “urban fantasy”) or secondary world fantasy?
JLM: …the years encompassing WWI have fascinated me since childhood. So much happened in the world at that time, so many social attitudes were altered forever. Empires that had stood for centuries crumbled and vanished. Attitudes toward women and their place in a modern world began to change, fueled by their struggle for the vote and to be seen as equals. Technology changed, including horrible ways of waging war. Those years really were the dawn of the modern age, both the good aspects of what we think of as “modern” and the bad. Spiritualism and belief in ghosts was in full swing as well during the Great War. That played into my decision as well. This was such a rich background to set these stories against, and presented challenges I couldn’t pass up. And it was the story I wanted to tell.
I have written other novels set in secondary worlds, and stories that are more contemporary. I’ve also written SF. I’m not ruling anything out for the future.
MarieBrennan: Okay, I have to ask: what was the inappropriate subject matter of that first story?
JLM: The story was about a young married woman, pregnant with her first child, whose husband was off fighting a war. I can’t remember all the exact details—like where the war was, it might have been on another planet—only that this unnamed woman was alone, and very unhappy. Very shocking stuff for an eleven year old to write. It implied that married adults had S-E-X, and that I knew where babies come from. I’ve often wondered what my friend’s mother would think of what I write now. ::cough::
MarieBrennan: I figured it would either be that—oh noez, the child is writing about something realistic!—or (equally possible) you turned out a story that was GUNS BLAZING GUTS SPILLING EVERYBODY DIES.
JLM: As an adult I find her reaction to the story really funny. As a child, it took me a long time to figure out what bothered her. I saved the EVERYBODY DIES!!! for adulthood.
Marsheilarockwell: What’s one thing you thought would happen once you sold your book(s) that turned out to be completely different from your expectation (good or bad)?
JLM: Wow. So many things are different once you’re on the other side of the published/unpublished author line. I’d hoped, dreamed even, that people would like these books and that they’d find an audience. And I knew, as all writers know, that there were readers for whom these novels just won’t work. That’s a given with every book. What I wasn’t prepared for was how deep the feelings about these books would run, in both directions, and that people would tell me so. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground. That was kind of a surprise.
Franwilde: What are you working on now?
JLM: I’m working on a novel titled A Parliament of Queens, about three women who were never supposed to rule, and suddenly find themselves wearing a crown. Then there is the twisted, stand it on its head fairytale titled, Awaken, another as yet untitled novel set in the world of the option novel, and a YA book called Between Joy and Alabama. All of these are fantasy.
shadowraven13: What authors are the biggest influences on you as a writer? What did you grow up reading?
JLM: I grew up reading Science Fiction and Fantasy, with small doses of thrillers and mainstream fiction. The library was my best friend as a kid and a young adult. I read all the Ray Bradbury I could find before junior high, some of them twice. One summer I read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, another I read Joy In The Morning, and all the Tarzan books. I read Asimov, Vonda McIntyre, Octavia Butler, Andre Norton, Jo Clayton, Mary Norton, Joanna Russ, Mercedes Lackey, Edgar Rice Burroughs; anything I could find. As an adult I’d have to say that Ursula K. LeGuin, Melanie Rawn, Neil Gaiman, and my friend Elizabeth Bear have all had a big influence on me.
Elquesogrande: How well do you treat your protagonists? Are you rougher on one versus the other? Why? Is there any ’major craft and fabric chain’ speculative fiction out there? If not, how would you approach this new genre? Would you be willing to write a quick example?
JLM: I’m really really REALLY mean to my characters. Gabe and Delia don’t get a pass on physical jeopardy or emotional pain just because they’re the protagonists. I don’t think I’m rougher on one than the other. I just…torture them in different ways.
Writing ’major craft and fabric chain’ speculative fiction would be breaking new genre ground. A few of my co-workers are utterly convinced the store is haunted, so I’d have a leg up on that. A quick, raw, and very drafty example for you: “A large box jumped off the top shelf in the stock room, breaking open as it hit the cement floor. Hundreds of spools of brightly colored thread clattered out, all of them rolling toward the two wide-eyed clerks in a determined way that Talia couldn’t believe was pure chance. A few spools altered course to keep pace with the others. She tugged Bri into motion, hoping they could reach the door in time.”
TFrohock: Do you have a definite endpoint in mind for your series with Delia? Or will you keep writing her story for a while longer?
JLM: I have outlines/proposal type thingies (a technical term) for two more books in this world. One is a standalone novel about Dora, set in the time period she lived in Atlanta. The other is a Gabe and Delia book set not long after the end of Against a Brightening Sky, which is the book coming out next year. Whether either one will ever be written is still up in the air at this point. All depends on sales and the powers that be.
When I wrote Delia’s Shadow, I thought that was it. In my mind the book was a standalone and I was done. Then the lone novel became a trilogy. Then I came up with ideas for two more. Now I try not to think about more Delia books too much. Lack of ideas has never been my problem. So, no, I don’t have an endpoint in mind, and I could probably keep writing these for a while. Assuming, of course, that I’m asked to write more.
SeamusWalsh: What’s your all time favourite line from a book, and why?
JLM: There are many sets of all time favorite lines, actually. I’ll be kind and only quote two. :)
One is from a historical fantasy novel titled The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming. I don’t have the book at hand, but I’ve always remembered the very last lines. “I take a breath and think of your face. Then I step through, and start again.”
The second set is from the last page of John M. Ford’s novel, The Last Hot Time: “Then he knew. If he ever demanded more power over her than she held from him in return, she would be gone. And as Lucius said, he would fade to dust.”
There are reasons these are among my all time favorite lines, but you might have to read the books to understand completely. One reason is the way they sum up and echo the emotional character arc in these novels. They sum up the journey the protagonists make, and in Flaming’s novel, the courage to step into the unknown and start over, hoping to get it right this time.
These lines resonated deep inside when I read them. I can’t ask more from the end of a novel than that. And it’s what I strive to do with my books.
And a part of me is a total, hopeless romantic. I used to try and deny that, but it’s true.