Recently, I was involved with an anthology of Noblebright epic fantasy books called LUMINOUS. A superb bunch of authors collaborated on that project, and today one of them, L. Jagi Lamplighter, is visiting the site for a chat about the Noblebright genre, her book, and other stuff. Speaking of other stuff, before we dive into the interview with LJ, I need to mention that the LUMINOUS project is running a fantastic giveaway. You can win a Lord of the Rings “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” tote bag, a Harry Potter “I Solemnly Swear I’m Up To No Good” journal (perfect for any of my three rascally sons), and some other author stuff. Be sure to check out the end of this post for those details. Anyway, without further ado, let’s chat about Noblebright and fantasy and other things with LJ.
LJ, thanks for stopping by. We obviously want to talk a lot about Noblebright, as that’s becoming quite the burgeoning genre these days, so, first off, what does that term mean to you?
I am a founding member of the Superversive Literary Movement. If subversive is change by undermining from below, then Superversive is change by inspiring from above. I see Noblebright as a companion idea to Superversive stories. Both movements stress heroes, fair play, nobility, bravery, and moral virtue. They offer a tiny spark of light in the darkness, against the overwhelming dark and violent landscape that is today’s popular entertainment.
You’re right on the prevalence of dark entertainment. Entertainment, culture and society in general! We need an antidote. How do you portray the Noblebright ideals in your work in general and the Luminous selection in particular?
Some years ago, my husband (Author John C. Wright) pointed out that many modern books and TV shows have demons, but almost none of them mention angels and Heaven. (He did not count “angels” who claimed to be on the side of “God” but basically acted like demons.) They explore darkness but contain very little light. I try to write stories that have moments of brightness as well as darker moments, where wonder and awe bring joy as well as sorrow. This is one of the reason that I so enjoy writing the Books of Unexpected Enlightenment. Dark things happen in these stories, but there are also moments of grace and pure joy—moments that lift the reader out of the ordinary, reminding them that there is something greater—something far better—that occasionally reaches down and touches us transforming our lives.
I don’t know if you’ve finished reading the entire Luminous collection, but do you have a favorite book among them?
I have not read all ten yet, but my favourite so far is Wolfskin. I like the spunk of the girl who wants to be a pirate but who settles for being the apprentice of a witch. I like the subtle way in which the magic works, so that the forest seems to live and pulse around her. The story includes a charming romance, but because of the initial age of the girl , the story is not just a romance but also includes a solid mix of adventure and intrigue. I felt the characters were well drawn, and the magic system was very interesting. The girl had a good heart, which is what leads to her triumph. I really enjoyed the book.
You’ve written quite a few books, among them your Prospero’s Children trilogy based on Shakespeare’s Tempest, as well as the Unexpected Enlightenment trilogy. When you’re writing (and reading–though, I suppose there’s quite an overlap between the two perspectives), what’s your favorite sort of character?
I would say that this question depends on whether you mean favourite protagonists or favourite characters in general. For protagonists, I like intelligent and courageous characters who use their wits to solve knotty problems. I love spirited female protagonists, but I am not a fan of fighting women who basically act like pretty men. I want the girl to solve problems the way a real girl could. My heroines tend to have magic and to be able to do things normal people cannot, but it is usually their intelligence, their cleverness, and their willingness to speak to and occasionally trust people others avoid—rather than their power—that saves the day. My main character in the Books of Unexpected Enlightenment, Rachel Griffin, the thirteen-year-old daughter of an English duke, has a perfect memory. This means that she never forgets any clues. This, combined with her courage and fortitude, makes her a character who is a delight to write. I am also a fan of dark, majestic, impressive male characters. Picture Spock, Dr. Doom, Aragorn (book version, not movie), or Snape (movie version, not book.). I love this kind of character—particularly when they are menacing but noble. I try to make sure that the male characters in my stories actually speak and act like men, which is surprisingly rare in YA literature.
In the Luminous collection, you included your novel Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland, the third book in your Unexpected Enlightenment series. Do you have plans for a sequel?
The Fourth Book of Unexpected Enlightenment, which will be called The Awful Truth About Forgetting, should—God willing—be out this October. Many more volumes are expected in this series. While the series is long, it will be divided into arcs. The first arc follows Rachel Griffin’s freshman year at Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts. The book that appears in Luminous, Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland, is the Third Book of Unexpected Enlightenment. It takes place during October and early November of Rachel’s freshman year and includes the eerie and delightful scenes of her and her boyfriend crashing the Dead Men’s Ball on Halloween night. (Since the book takes place in New York’s Hudson Highlands, this ghostly event includes a hair-raising run-in with the Hudson Valley’s most famous spook, the Headless Horseman.) Book Four follows Rachel’s freshman year from November to early February. I am particularly looking forward to its release because it is the first book in the series which gives the reader a glimpse of the dangers of the greater universe and the direction in which the series really go.
Noblebright is still a rather young genre in terms of it’s name, even though the philosophy behind it has been around for a long time (Lord of the Rings is a perfect example of Noblebright). That said, how would you describe Noblebright to someone who has never heard the term before?
Have you heard of Grimdark? Imagine the opposite. Noble heroes and heroines. Stories of courage and hope.
Being a writer myself, I’m always interested in how other writers operate. How do you like to write?
I write on a computer sitting at a desk. Once, long ago, that desk was in an office—but when we adopted our daughter, we gave her my office for her bedroom. Now, my desk is in the living room, so sometime it is hard to concentrate. Often, my best writing happens after midnight.
Most midnights, I’m sound asleep. Unless there’s a full moon. So, do you have a perfect writing day?
The kids and my husband are busy and don’t really need me. I go rollerblading—to give me some time to think about what I want to say. Then I sit down for hours and write with very little interruptions. Sadly, this has not happened in…a long time. I thought it would get easier now that the kids are teens, but the last couple of years, it has gotten harder. Currently, I am teaching a writing class three days a week for three teens (two of mine and a friend) so I have very little writing time. But…it’s wonderful, and we’re all learning a great deal. I hope once this year is over, I’ll have more days such as I described above again.
I think if a time machine ever gets invented, it’ll be invented by a frustrated writer who simply wants more time to write. I know that’d be my goal if I was a time machine inventor. Though, if I invented one, I think I’d go back in time and have a stern talk with Robert Jordan. “Robert, please, only seven books in the series. Eight, if you must.” Speaking of long books, are you a speed writer, or a turtle writer?
Both. I write quickly once all my mental cylinders are engaged. Sadly, however, this can take time. So I write quickly if I have uninterrupted periods of time… And if not, then not.
Do you find that music or silence or crickets chirping help you write?
I play music while I write, to help keep the other noises in the house at bay, but it can’t be in English, or I get distracted by the lyrics. So I look around for interesting and pleasant songs in other languages. I currently have in my collection that I play while I write a Japanese song, a Chinese version of an English song, an Islantic song, and a French one. What I need now is a Gregorian chant.
I think the whole world could use a Gregorian chant right about now. What is your favorite book to re-read on a rainy afternoon?
When I was a kid, if I stayed home sick from school, I always reread Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three. He still is one of my favourite authors. Other books I love include: War and Peace, Gone With the Wind, Nine Princes In Amber, Voyage of the Dawntreader, Harry Potter, and The Fellowship of the Ring. But really, if I actually had reading time on a rainy day—which almost never happens—I’d probably pick a romance by Mary Balogh, my favourite romance writer.
Lloyd Alexander is, in my humble opinion, one of the most under-appreciated fantasy writers of all time. I’m shocked at the number of fantasy readers that’ve never read his Prydain Chronicles. Those are wonderful books. Okay, I guess it’s about time to wind this up. One last question, for the drinkers among us: tea or coffee?
I used to be addicted to coffee. I thought about it all the time. I am sure that it didn’t help that the local Starbucks opened the day after I found out I was pregnant with my second son, and I had to walk by it every day for nine months without having any. Or that Barnes & Nobles has a coffee shop. My friend and I used to spend all our free time at the bookstore, and, as we were poor, a drink was about all we could afford. (I still remember the day I added up our weekly coffee bill and figured out what I was spending on coffee a year. I felt faint for nearly an hour!) However, one day, I was praying about something entirely different and I realized I had stopped thinking about coffee. I just didn’t want it any more. I took that as a sign from on High and stopped drinking it all together. I am now a huge fan of tea. I love drinking teas of all kinds: herbal, black, green, exotic. Mind is my favourite! Unlike with coffee, however, I seldom think about tea when I am not drinking then, which is a true blessing. Oddly, and rather eerie actually, about the same day I stopped being obsessed with coffee, my husband became obsessed with coffee.
My wife is a coffee and tea fanatic. She drinks enough for both of us, but I drink neither. Oh well, I suppose I’m missing out. Anyway, thank you for stopping by, LJ! Best of luck with your books!
Now, about that giveaway I mentioned! We have an awesome Lord of the Rings tote bag and a Harry Potter themed journal, both yours for the taking. Just click in through to Rafflecopter and toss your name into the ring. You can do it! a Rafflecopter giveaway