Author Interview with L. Jagi Lamplighter and LUMINOUS Giveaway

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!

Learn more about L. Jagi Lamplighter and her writing at her website. If you haven’t checked out the Luminous collection, you can get a copy at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or ITunes.

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

The Fury Clock free

…because it needs to be read. The Fury Clock was the most enjoyable writing experience I’ve ever had with a book. Probably because I could, for the most part, write whatever I wanted without the constraints of propriety, common sense, or logic. While I wouldn’t want to live that way, such lack makes the writing process much more interesting than it usually is.

Anyway, this link will take you to various free forms of The Fury Clock. Pass it around.

Lie of the Land album

The Lie of the Land is an album I recorded back around 2007 in response to the general plan update battle in Monterey County (that’s my county). Things got heated. I figured music might be a good way to get people thinking. It didn’t work, as far as I could tell. Anyway, feel free to download the music files and pass them around.

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Poor Louie’s Bull

Some friends and I recently played a couple of my songs at the Cowboy Poetry fundraiser last Sunday. The Salinas Rodeo big week always kicks off with this poetry event. Great blues band after us, followed by Chris Pine, an old cowboy poet from Arizona. The spoken word is powerful stuff.

Anyway, here are the two songs we played. I recorded these about ten or eleven years ago.

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Strawberries

 

We grow a lot of things on our farm. Celery, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower. Those are the bigger crops, but we also grow strawberries. The sad thing about strawberries is that most people don’t really know what a real strawberry should taste like. The berries you get in the store are never picked at the proper sugar level (that’s due to transportation issues), so they’re never the real sweet-sunlight taste you get from a berry picked at peak ripeness. We don’t pick our berries for transport, so the ones in this photo are the real thing. They have to be eaten right away, or turned into jam, pie, crisp, or frozen for smoothies. No shelf-life, due to all the sugar in them. I’m not trying to make any profound literary point here. All I’m saying is that, if you can, you should grow your own strawberries. If the deer and the rabbits and the birds will let you.Strawberries

Dark Matter Holds Everything Together

Interesting news story out today about how astrophysicists have discovered a galaxy relatively close to our own that is comprised almost entirely of dark matter. Our Milky Way has about 100 times more stars than the galaxy in question, yet they’re both about the same size. Fascinating.

They (the proverbial they–though, in this case it refers to more of those astrophysicists) calculate that the universe is about 85% dark matter, with the balance being made up of visible matter: us, stars, planets, etc. Dark matter earns its name by not absorbing or reflecting light. Its invisible. You can only detect it by observing its gravitational effects on other things.

Which means if you see someone staggering oddly down the street, they’re either inebriated or under the influence of dark matter.

And dark matter, even more interestingly enough, holds the universe together. Some might say the word holds the universe together. The first spoken word. Rather, the word that came before the first spoken word. Dark matter or first words. They’re bother difficult to see, yet we see their effects everywhere.

I wanted to be an astrophysicist when I was a kid. I never wanted to be a fireman or a policeman or a mutual fund manager. It was always an astrophysicist for the longest time. Funny how we end up in other places. I’ll chalk it down to the unseen influences of dark matter. The gravitational pull of that which cannot be seen.

Friends in Masks

city of masksA friend of mine from the land of Oz, and fellow-fantasy writer, Ashley Capes, has an epic fantasy series called The Bone Mask Trilogy out on Amazon and the various other ebook sites. His books feature a young thief as one of the main characters, just like Jute in my Tormay trilogy. Anyway, the first book in the series, City of Masks, is going to be free on April 4, so check it out if you get a chance.

In other news, I’ve decided to lay claim to Mars as my ancestral home. Just need to find a good lawyer who specializes in that sort of thing. Mars sounds pretty peaceful these days in comparison to all the nonsense going on in these parts!

Aeronaut’s Windlass

By Jim Butcher. Aeronaut’s Windlass. Great book. This is the first new fantasy book I’ve read in a long time that I genuinely enjoyed from page one to the finish. He created an imaginative, accessible world for this story. Solid, interesting characters that don’t feel like a fantasy geek’s typical stereotypes. Thoughtful, fascinating plot. Polished dialogue. I was further intrigued by the overall worldview he used as a foundation for the story: clear right and wrong, but still allowing for internal moral conflicts generated by decent characters operating in bad situations. No whiff of nihilism; refreshing, that, as so much epic fantasy these days is drowning in nihilism.

While I’ve read Butcher’s other books, such as the Dresden Files, I can’t recommend them for various reasons (despite how well they’re written). Aeronaut’s Windlass, however, I recommend.

Under the Cushions

When was the last time you cleaned underneath your couch cushions? I did that today with our living room couch and what I found was pretty surprising. One of the items looked radioactive. I think I also found the missing link (that should make Richard Dawkins happy), as well as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from last year.

Let me know what you find inside your couch. Don’t be shocked if you find things like pirate treasure, a long-lost relative, mice, etc.