Howdy all! Today is our last guest feature for a bit, so be sure to give R Lee Smith a grand welcome!
Before we get started, tell us a bit about yourself. Anything about your non-writing life.
I’m a thirty-something recently ripped from my native soil in the Great Pacific Northwest and reluctantly transplanted at the crossways of the Bible Belt and Tornado Alley, where our Brave Pioneer Ancestors settled just long enough to realize this is a horrible, horrible place and move on to the west coast.
Summer is just about to conclude here in the Western Hemisphere, so what is the craziest thing you’ve done all summer? Did you camp out in your backyard like I did, with severe weather warnings looming about?
The weather around here is all the crazy anyone should have to handle; I don’t need to add to it. Back in the northwest, summer was a very temperate75-80 degrees and lightly overcast. I went camping and fishing and hiking and threw barbeques and drove out to the beach to go swimming and build lewd sand-sculptures and go to the zoo and the aquarium and generally love life. Here, now, it is 10 million degrees in the shade with 110% humidity and I pretty much lie naked in front of the air conditioner and sweat.
Have fun getting that image out of your head.
Does your family have any summer tradition, or ritual to break in the season?
When I was a kid, we would go on road-trip vacations every summer right after school let out. Gradually, those trips dried up. Now that I’m grown, we’ve started doing them again, not at the beginning of summer, but at the end, during the Midwest’s two-week autumn season before the muggy heat of summer gives way to the lung-blistering cold of winter.
Here’s a scenario for you: Your family is just about to chillax while you’re about to dunk the turkey in the deep fryer. Moments after placing the lid on, you realize the propane tank runs empty, and you don’t have another to replace it with. Oh, and the propane store is closed because it’s a holiday, what do you do?
Hmmm. I have to begin by wondering what alien pod attached itself to my brain-stem to force me to first buy a deep-fat fryer or cook with propane. Also, why are we actually celebrating Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving? In our family, we postpone holidays until the crazy dies down. But okay, I’ll play along. The deep fryer is out of noxious gas, you say? Pull out the roasting pan we use every other year and pop it in the oven. We can eat hor d’oeuvres and watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy until the bird’s done. What’s another four hours?
What genres do you write, and were you inspired by any particular authors?
I could have sworn I was writing horror until my books started popping up on romance forums. But that’s okay, because I think too much awareness of genre can cripple a good story. One of the best compliments I ever received from a fan was, “All of your books change lanes, but this one (she was talking about The Scholomance) jumps the curb and crashes into a sandwich shop, and I still loved it!”
My father introduced me to JRR Tolkien, HP Lovecraft, Alexandre Dumas and movies like The Thing and The Dark Crystal. My mother’s bookshelves hosted Jane Auel, Anne McCaffrey, and Dorothy Sayers; in her company, I attended science-fiction conventions, got out of school to see Star Wars and Star Trek movies, and attended premiere viewings of Alien, Terminator and Willow. I read as many comics as I could afford, new and used, everything from Tales from the Crypt to Spawn to XMen to ElfQuest. My favourite authors are, in no particular order, Rudyard Kipling, Peter S. Beagle and Stephen King.
Take us through your process when developing a new concept for a book.
Let’s take, for example, my next book, Pool.
First, the Inspiration. In this case, it was a movie about a group of people trapped underground who are being picked off by a monster. Towards the end, the monster gets whapped in the head by a climbing axe/pick. “Poor guy,” my sister remarked. And I had to agree. Think of it from the monster’s point of view. He’s at home, chilling in his cave, when along come these loud, mutated creatures with bright lights and noise, invading his territory and killing his friends, completely without provocation. But nobody ever makes the movie from the monster’s point of view. Hmm.
Second, the Pictures. I’m a very visual writer. I don’t write words; I see pictures and try to describe them. So a few days after seeing the movie, I pick up one of my many notebooks and start sketching caves and creatures. Killing people, sure. Snarling and leaping and hanging from walls looking menacing, all that. And sleeping. Fishing. Nuzzling their children. Under one of these sketches, wherein a creature is licking the wounds of another while both crouch over a very dead human, I write, without thinking, “Peace returned to their lives, for they were peaceful, really. Not in the same way as modern men would have reckoned peace, but the modern age had largely passed them by, and their ways were peaceful enough.” Hmmmm.
Third, the Idea. Over the next several weeks, the thought of underground creatures turns over in my head, along with vague character impressions of the people who will inadvertently be invading them. Scenes suggest themselves, but I do not write them down. I start researching pit mines and when/why/where one of them might be abandoned. Secondary characters on both sides begin to make themselves known. The sketches in my notebook start to get names: Hayley and Kyson. Echo. Norah. Pool.
Finally, the Pieces Line Up. For another month or three, I work on editing my current book and think about Pool in my odd moments. I have several solid ideas now and several unwritten scenes, but I make it a rule (I broke it only once) never to start writing unless I have a beginning and an ending. I have the beginning of Pool clear in my mind. The ending is a big, black blank until suddenly it’s not. I think it over for a day or two, pull out an index card and jot down the working title and a few names, then put it up on the board over my desk next to cards like The Bull of Minos, Coyote Rose, and The Bone Tree. As soon as The Last Hour of Gann goes live, I will pull all my Pool notebooks out and begin writing.
Summer is one of the seasons where weather can impact everything whereas plans are concerned. What do you, or your family do when you’re rained out?
My parents were foster parents for dozens of children when I was growing up, most of them children with disabilities, so special events (and even grocery shopping) had to be planned out in advance and everything could change at a moment’s notice. Now that I’m grown, having the freedom to just hop in the car and go wherever I want, whenever I feel like it, is still a little staggering at times. When the weather gets nasty—and here in the Midwest, it does not kid around when it gets nasty—I don’t mind so much changing my plans to stay in and watch a bad movie instead of going out. If the power blips, I can still read or write. The last time we lost power for more than an hour, my sister and I roasted smores over a candle in the living room and played Scrabble.
Tell us about your latest release.
This weekend, I’ll be releasing The Last Hour of Gann. It should go live on Amazon Kindle immediately. It may be a little while before its available for the Nook. Plans to get my stuff on Kobo, ARE and Smashwords are in development, but proceeding slowly.
It was her last chance
Amber Bierce had nothing left except her sister and two tickets on Earth’s first colony-ship. She entered her Sleeper with a five-year contract and the promise of a better life, but awakened in wreckage on an unknown world. For the survivors, there is no rescue, no way home and no hope until they are found by Meoraq—a holy warrior more deadly than any hungering beast on this hostile new world…but whose eyes show a different sort of hunger when he looks at her.
It was his last year of freedom
Uyane Meoraq is a Sword of Sheul, God’s own instrument of judgment, victor of hundreds of trials, with a conqueror’s rights over all men. Or at least he was until his father’s death. Now, without divine intervention, he will be forced to assume stewardship over House Uyane and lose the life he has always known. At the legendary temple of Xi’Matezh, Meoraq hopes to find the deliverance he seeks, but the humans he encounters on his pilgrimage may prove too great a test even for him…especially the one called Amber, behind whose monstrous appearance burns a woman’s heart unlike any he has ever known.
From R. Lee Smith, author of Heat and Cottonwood, comes an epic new story of desire, darkness and the dawn that comes after The Last Hour of Gann.
WARNING: This book contains graphic violence, strong sexual content and explicit language. It is intended for mature readers only.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I’ll be hard at work on Pool presently and hope to have it up and running next year. After that will be either The Bull of Minos, my retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, or Coyote Rose, a story which began as a NaNoWriMo challenge in which we adopted the mutual themes of love and death. After that, there are a number of index cards up on the ol’ cork board and new ideas swimming around in the back of my brainpan, but we’ll just have to wait and see what shakes out.
Thanks for hanging with us today!