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Author Spotlight: R. Lennard

For today’s Author Spotlight, we’re talking to R. Lennard! If you missed last week’s spotlight, check it out here!

M. N.: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What genres do you write in?

R. Lennard: I’m an author, librarian and cosplayer who writes YA epic fantasy. I’m currently writing an eight book series, with book two due out later this year. I got into writing in a very different way to most authors – namely because I couldn’t read properly for the first ten years of my life. My eyesight isn’t great, and it took a new optometrist before I could make out what the squiggles on the pages meant. After that, I devoured the whole library (pretty much – anything fantasy or sci-fi, at least).

M. N.: Cosplaying is fun! What has been your favorite character to cosplay as?

The Girl in the Fireplace

Lennard: My favourite cosplay was Madame De Pompadour from the Doctor Who episode, The Girl in the Fireplace. The dress was made in three days, with lots of blood, sweat, tears and swear words – mostly when I put a sleeve on upside down and had to re-do it. The dress is quite heavy – it’s known as a ‘backsack dress’ and there’s a great fall of material that hangs from the shoulders to the floor. The character was great – but the dress was constantly getting stepped on.

M. N.: Getting stepped on is no fun, but that dress looks great!

On the subject of Doctor Who, who’s your favorite Doctor and why is it David Tennant?

Lennard: Thank you. *laughing* David Tennant has a depth of character and energy that is very compelling, but my favorite Doctor is Matt Smith, actually. Although I have cosplayed as Tennant. Smith was my first doctor – I love how youthful and crazy he is.

The best Doctor

M. N.: What do you feel are the biggest challenges you face when writing?

Lennard: Time – both my own and keeping the characters timelines straight. In my latest book (that’s with betas at the moment) there’s a whole cast of new characters to keep in order.

M. N.: Do you have any tricks or methods you use to keep the timeline on track? Or to keep your timeline on track, for that matter?

Lennard: Once the book is done, I go through and save a copy under each character’s name, and then delete all the scenes that they aren’t in to make sure that their timeline is working. That’s usually after the beta read-through, and in the second stage of editing.

My timeline – that, I’m still working on. I’m a casual librarian, so my writing is fit around my day job. In the drafting stages, I usually get up around 5am to write before the day starts, and again after 8pm if I’ve been working. I have a set amount of words to write by the end of the week, and so long as I meet that, I’m happy.

M. N.: That’s a really good idea! I might steal that when my own casts start to get too out of control.
You mention that your beta read-through happens before your second stage of editing – Does that mean you do this during your second draft, or your third draft?

Lennard: I may have adapted the idea from another author, so steal away! I draft then edit, creating the second draft. The second draft gets beta read, then I edit again. The third draft goes to an editor, and when it gets back to me, I edit again. The fourth draft goes to a proofreader, then I edit for the fifth draft and format the manuscript, then the final proofread before it goes out into the world.

M. N.: What about your books do you feel is the most special or unique?

Lennard: When I started writing Ronah, there weren’t too many YA fantasy books around with strong female protagonists. That’s no longer the case. I would say that my main character’s lack of a love interest is the most unique part of the book. The series is special because of the world it’s based in – full of magic and possibilities, monsters and heroes, the likes of which hasn’t been seen before.

M. N.: Was the lack of a love interest a deliberate choice from the start? A lot of authors feel like they’ve got to include one whether or not it suits the story they’re telling, so it’s refreshing to see that not everyone has.

Lennard: Yes, and no. In the first cringe-worthy drafts of Ronah, Shari was paired up with different characters, but it felt so forced. She literally doesn’t have the time or energy to attempt to maintain a relationship, and she doesn’t want to either – so why force it? There are other characters who are intrigued by her, or who want to form a connection because of her power, but – spoilers – she’s never going to take them up on it.

M. N.: I’m sure there are plenty of shippers out there sad to hear that, but it’s refreshing to see a character that’s too busy for a relationship who then actually doesn’t get involved in one.

Lennard: Thank you. It’s a pet peeve of mine, so it’s nice to be in control of the story.

M. N.: Was there any particular book or author that made you want to write?

Lennard: I loved fantasy books growing up, but I ran out of things to read. Sometimes, the stories didn’t quite end the way I wanted them too, or the plot was too predictable, so I wanted to change it, but write my own story at the same time.

M. N.: Do you remember the first book where the ending didn’t sit right with you?

Lennard: Not really. I do remember the first book I was never able to finish – one by Dean Koontz. I love his writing, but one of his books messed with my head and I had to put it down and couldn’t pick it up again.
I was also used to reading a lot of different series, and there’s a book by the name of Aida’s Ghost by Patricia Bernard that’s a stand alone – and I desperately wanted more of the story – of all books, that’s probably the one that made me want to write my own the most.

M. N.: Do you have a favorite book, or a list of favorites?

Lennard: Anne McCaffery, Isobell Carmody, R.A. Salvatore and Sara Douglas were my favourite fantasy writers, but I also love Matthew Rielly and Andy McNab. I’ve got a few new favourites now – Jodie Lane, Lynette Noni and Casandra Clare to name a few.

M. N.: Tell me about your current Work In Progress.

Lennard: Rakemyst is book two of the Lissae series, and sees Shari dealing with the fallout of announcing she’s the saviour of their Realm, Lissae. There is, as I mentioned before, a host of new characters, as well as a new Shifting Island to explore and new enemies to defend Lissae from. The biggest lesson for Shari in the book is that people aren’t always what they seem.

Click to Buy

M. N.: A Shifting Island and shifty characters? That sounds like a good combination.

Lennard: I think it is 🙂 There are seven Shifting Islands on Lissae, and they’re all sentient. There are a few shifty characters, one of whom is my favourite. He’s getting his own novella – so stay tuned!

M. N.: I’m curious about your names – Ronah, Rakemyst, Lissae. Do they have a special meaning?

Lennard: Ah, names. My nemesis. Can I share a secret? I’m dyslexic, some of the names in my book are harder to pronounce because my brain jumbled the letters up. Ronah is meant to be the ideal place to live, and I was looking for a name that meant idealistic. The word Lissae is meant to slide off your tongue. Rakemyst is the home of the Ilutri – winged beings, who named their home because the towers rake the clouds. My main character also carries the title of Altoriae, which is a dyslexic version of Latin’s ‘deep sanctuary.’ Fun fact: I studied Ancient Latin for a semester at Uni.

M. N.: What does your writing process look like? Do you outline, do you invent the plot as you go, or do things land somewhere in the middle of that spectrum?

Lennard: Oh, my writing process for Rakemyst looked quite different from Ronah. With Ronah, I was very much a ‘pantser’ – plotting by the seat of my pants. That book took 17 years to write, and went through almost as many drafts. With Rakemyst, each chapter was outlined, and there were plot points that carried over from Ronah. I’m about to outline book three as well, which I’m super excited to start on.

M. N.: That’s a long time! Did you decide to outline so that you would be able to write it faster, or for another reason?

Lennard: To be fair, there was a big chunk of time in there that I wasn’t writing. I started outlining because the story kind of poured out of me. I knew where I wanted it to go, and I knew who the main players who be and what they needed to do. It’s a little hard to get 120’000 words out in one go though.

M. N.: Do you have an good idea what’s going to happen in book three, or are you going to find that out when it comes time to outline?

Lennard: *Cue evil laughter* My biggest stumbling block for Rakemyst was figuring out the antagonist. I know exactly with the antagonist is for book three (and four), and the base outline is in my head – it’s just getting it down on paper and making sure the timelines are right.

M. N.: Can you give us any hints what it’s going to look like?

Click to Buy

Lennard: I can say that the antagonist for book three is not what you’d expect, but I can’t say anything else without spoilers, sweetie. Sorry!

M. N.: If you could go back and give yourself any piece of advice when you first started writing, what would it be?

Lennard: Don’t be afraid to be different. Remember to listen to your gut – and if it feels right, you will remember it.

M. N.: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve written, or a recommended “starting point” for people looking to get into your work?

Lennard: I currently have a short story in an anthology, The Evil Inside Us, a novella, Guardian, and Ronah available. If you’re wanting to explore the Realm of Lissae and follow Shari on her adventures, I’d start with Guardian.

Click to Buy

M. N.: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Lennard: I feel really honored to be able to write – to not only put words on the page, but to spin a story that people want to read. It’s corny, but true. Please, don’t ever underestimate how much your support means to a writer. There are so many people that have helped me with my journey. Without them, I wouldn’t be writing today.

M. N.: Thank you for joining us today!

Author Spotlight: Kelly Blanchard

As part of a new ongoing project, we at M. N. Jolley Writing are going to be conducting weekly interviews with authors from around the country to talk about their stories and their writing process. First up, we’ve got Kelly Blanchard, a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author from Texas!

M. N.: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What genres do you write in?

Kelly: My name is Kelly Blanchard. I live in Texas in the middle of nowhere with my husband (who’s also my co-writer), our Doberman, and our two cats. I write a blend of fantasy and science fiction. Currently I am publishing my series, The Chronicles of Lorrek, but I’ve already written it completely, so while I continue publishing the rest of that series, I am co-writing with my husband another series in my story universe called ‘The Ceralian Gambit’.

M. N.: What is co-writing like? Do you both write chapters, or does one of you do the writing while the other works on plotting and editing?

Kelly: Each of us have certain characters that we write although sometimes we share characters (depends on who all are in the scene). A lot of people have compared it to RolePlaying, which I suppose it may be. I’ve honestly never done any roleplaying, so I wouldn’t know the comparison. Sometimes there are chapters that involve only the characters that one of us write, so we’ll write it solo, but most of the time we co-write, writing our character’s response and then waiting for them to respond as well. It’s addictively fun!

Someday I'll Be Redeemed [Link]
Click to buy

M. N.: In my experience, roleplaying involves a lot more yelling at plastic cubes and begging the other players not to walk into obvious ambushes. That sounds like a wonderful process, but is it very time consuming to wait for your partner to respond like that?

Kelly: We don’t yell at each other about them walking into an obvious ambush or anything. It’s a bit more planned than that, and we agree on how things should unfold. What we don’t know is what exactly the character will say in response to what our own character says. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s hurtful, which can change the tone of the scene, but usually the scene progresses more or less how we imagined. As for waiting for my co-writer to reply, well, we only manage to write together on his days off (he works as an EMT in the ER of a Level 1 Trauma Center), and it’s a rather swift process when we do get to sit down and write. We tend to average 10k words a day. This is how we managed to finish our second book in less than two weeks!

M. N.: That’s an incredible average! And that’s a cool job for him, too. Do you handle the publishing business and marketing, or is that also a cooperative effort?

Kelly: I handle all the publishing and marketing. He’s far too busy!

M. N.: Do you ever disagree on where the story should go?

Kelly: How the story should go? No. How a scene should unfold, yes, but it’s rare. Once we had this one scene that we had to brainstorm for almost four hours until we came to an agreement because how it unfolded really affected major parts we wanted later on in the scene. We finally figured out a way to make it unfold with the results that we wanted, and it turned out great.

M. N.: Can you tell us what book that scene was in? I always enjoy getting a peek behind the curtain to see what was going on in the authors’ minds while they were working.

Kelly: I can’t say much without spoiling a major scene, but basically my husband’s character had to go in and slaughter a bunch of people. The character didn’t want to do it, but he had no choice because of different factors I can’t go into. We had to discuss how the scene would unfold. I had a specific idea, but my husband had another idea, and so we had to hammer away at both until we found a compromise that allowed the following scenes to unfold the way we needed them to. It worked out quite nicely.

M. N.: What do you feel are the biggest challenges you face when writing?

Kelly: Honestly, it’s not writing that gives me a challenge as it is marketing.

M. N.: On the subject of marketing, do you have any trouble selling a series that’s a fusion of multiple genres?

Kelly: Some people aren’t sure what to think when I say it’s a fusion of the two genres, but they tend to give them a chance without too much issue, and their concerns of the fusion of genres disappear. However, getting the books in front of people to discover it always a unique challenge!

M. N.: What about your books do you feel is the most special or unique?

Kelly: I believe my books are unique in how they are told. They flow like movies. There are subtle but powerful descriptions, strong characters with immersive stories, witty one-liners, and confident pacing. I take the usual fantasy and science fiction tropes, turn them on their heads, and make them different in a way that they stand out.

M. N.: Playing with tropes can be a lot of fun. Is there an especially interesting twist you’ve done on a trope, that you can tell us about without spoiling your book?

Kelly: In fantasy, there are often the idea of elves. However, I’ve created a new race called the ‘kelliphs’ that are roughly based off elves, but they are unique in that, in addition to their longevity, they have multiple lives. So, even if you manage to kill one, they won’t stay dead for very long. They are very difficult to kill permanently (which is actually a major plot point for Book 5). They also have a unique magical ability to change one material into another (like water into fire or stone into bread or flesh into dust, etc). There are shapeshifting dragons that prefer the shape of a human, and they are not evil and don’t hoard things. They also have magical abilities that are unique to them such as mind magic and magicking (teleporting with magic) to other worlds, and so forth. They usually stay within their own kingdom rather than trying to destroy the surrounding lands, but they tend to aid the humans actually as they are the only other race that has longevity–almost to the point of immortality. And then there’s the whole mix of magic and science too–that’s a lot of fun.

M. N.: Was there any particular book or author that made you want to write?

Kelly: Not really. Stories have been a part of my life since before I could even write.

M. N.: Do you have a favorite book, or a list of favorites?

Kelly: As a rule, I don’t do favorites. I hold Lewis and Tolkien in high regard, and I am friends with a ton of fellow authors, but I have no absolute favorite.

M. N.: Tell me about your current Work In Progress.

Kelly: My husband and I literally just finished the second book of our series the other day, and we are now plotting the next book and will begin writing it soon. Even though this series is in the same story universe as my other series, The Chronicles of Lorrek, it does not have the science fiction elements but is mainly fantasy. It all began with the assassinations of the king and prince of Ceraleo. For too long, Princess Ensula has been a pawn in a political game–being sent away to a strange land for her own safety and betrothed to a foreign prince–but no longer. Now, she returns to introduce a new element to the game and show those in power that she is not a pawn in this long game but rather a queen.

M. N.: I really enjoy stories that blend sci-fi and fantasy elements together. How does that work in your setting?

Kelly: It’s hard to explain how it works. It just does. On this one continent, most of the kingdoms are more medieval and have magic whereas another kingdom has highly advanced technology. Later in the series, there is even space travel, but it all really works together in a way that I am pleased with.

M. N.: Is the technology magic-based, then?

Kelly: On the surface, no. There was only one land that had magic-based technology, but what happened to that land is a long story. But when you pull back the curtain, you realize mathematics, equations, and calculations are a form of magic–just viewed, understood, and applied differently.

M. N.: Since this new book doesn’t have the sci-fi elements, is that because of where it’s set, or because of when it takes place?

Kelly: It’s because it’s on a different continent than the Chronicles of Lorrek. They actually have a different system of magic, and the LORE of magic is so much fun to explore, and it is greatly explored in the series ‘The Ceralian Gambit’. It shows how all different systems of magic and even math and science and really any inspiration all stem from the same magic realm. It’s so interesting.

M. N.: What does your writing process look like? Do you outline, do you invent the plot as you go, or do things land somewhere in the middle of that spectrum?

Kelly: Usually I plot out the most major parts of the story and then wing it from there.

M. N.: Have you ever been surprised by something that happened in your own story?

Kelly: Oh yes! Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an instance right now, but things have surprised me. It’s fantastic.

M. N.: If you could go back and give yourself any piece of advice when you first started writing, what would it be?

Kelly: I would tell my younger self that I might never get a mentor, but that’s okay. I’ll find a lot of support online in the writing community.

They Must Be Stopped [Link]
Click to buy

M. N.: Are there any specific people or groups you’d like to give a shout-out to?

Kelly: Well, there are J. E. Mueller, A. R Harlow, Nan Sampson, Megan Hay, Allen Cheesman, Katie Davis, Annie Twitchell, Jessica Kirkpatrick, Jacquie Tuck, J. R. O’Bryant, Daryl J. Ball, Sarah Elisabeth, and so many more! All of these are writers (not all published yet), and most are superfans of mine. Some are even reading the rough draft of the books my husband and I are writing because they are so enthusiastic about the story universe we’ve created. It is so much fun! So much support and encouragement.

M. N.: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve written, or a recommended “starting point” for people looking to get into your work?

Kelly: I’d recommend the first book of my Chronicles of Lorrek series, ‘Someday I’ll Be Redeemed’, as a starting point. After my husband and I complete and publish The Ceralian Gambit, the first book of that series would be a good starting point since it takes place a few decades prior to the Chronicles of Lorrek.

M. N.: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Kelly: Not that I can think of. Thanks so much for interviewing me! It is a wonderful opportunity!

Follow Kelly Blanchard:
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Recommending: “The Fifth Season”

When you read enough books in the same genre, it can sometimes be hard to find a book in that group which feels fresh without also feeling like you’ve jumped the rails and started reading another genre entirely. The tropes become worn, the arcs become rote, and it can be hard to find that spark that got you interested in the genre in the first place.

Then a book like “The Fifth Season” comes along and reminds you.

If you run in fantasy circles, this probably isn’t going to be the first time you’ve heard someone recommending “The Fifth Season”, the first book in “The Broken Earth” trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. And for good reason: Not only is it a Hugo award winner, but its two sequels are also Hugo winners, making Jemisin the first (and only) author to have won the award three years in a row.

So, all I’m really trying to do here is signal-boost a bit to let anyone who hasn’t already heard of this book know that it’s absolutely worth the read.

“The Fifth Season” doesn’t break the mold, it instead feels like it rebuilt the mold from scratch. To describe its synopsis, then, would do it little justice. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one: It’s set in a fantasy world with a unique twist to the environment, there’s a special group of feared magic users who all get trained at a wizard’s college to control their great and terrible powers, bureaucrats with a dagger behind every smile, and a race of mythic humanoids with strange motivations and stranger powers.)

No, where “The Fifth Season” succeeds is in taking all these well worn ideas, breaking them down to their component parts, and reminding readers why they’re such effective story tools to begin with. Jemisin displays almost complete mastery over the genre, knowing both how to set up the pins and how to knock them down.

In certain parts, the book lets you in on some secrets, rewarding readers for being familiar with certain tropes, but then it’ll let the penny drop and throw you completely off guard for having ever thought you knew where the story was going next. Even being very familiar with the genre and knowing where the story was going in general, this mix of surprise and familiarity kept me on my toes throughout the story, because even when I thought I knew what to expect, I could never be certain when Jemisin was going to pull the rug out from under me to reveal something I’d never have expected.

I haven’t gotten to read the two sequels, (“The Obelisk Gate” and “The Stone Sky”) yet, but you can bet they’re the next two things on my reading list.

Let’s Talk About Liking Things

Everyone’s a critic. Myself included.

I have a reflexive habit of responding with a lot of negativity towards the media I consume. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily – Being negative is no more inherently a bad quality than being positive is inherently good – but it tends to dominate the conversation. Even coming out of movies or books that I really enjoy, there’s a reflex I feel to hedge that enjoyment by pointing out all the flaws. Whether I do this out of some unconcious, misplaced instinct to be “Fair”, or just because it’s easier for me to see and explain the isolated flaws in a work than to comprehend what made that work good to begin with. I just recently finished playing Hollow Knight, (an excellent Metroidvania that you should absolutely play,) and despite the fact that I enjoyed my time with the game so much that I played it to 107% completion, seeking out every bit of bonus content and every hidden area the game had to offer, when I talked about it with friends I was quick to bring up the isolated moments and small quirks that frustrated me.

This isn’t unique to myself, of course. Go on Youtube and look up video essays or think pieces about movies, you’ll find that most of them aren’t deconstructions of “Good” films, but are instead critical analyses of bad works, and this isn’t even taking into account the deluge of nitpick channels and riff-style comedy shows. (This isn’t a universal rule, of course – Bob Chipman (“Moviebob”) notably has an excellent series called ‘Really That Good’ where he exclusively talks about renowned or otherwise great works.)

Again, I want to stress that this isn’t a bad thing. Deconstructing a bad work of fiction can be incredibly illuminating and educational, not to mention cathartic and satisfying, and if you’ve never seen Lindsay Ellis or Dan Olson do a visceral autopsy or thorough takedown of a bad film, you’re really missing out. A lot of “Riff” humor is genuinely funny. (There’s a reason why Mystery Science Theater ran for twelve seasons and 211 episodes, and it occurs to me that if I keep up with this blog I’ll end up divulging my entire Youtube and Netflix playlists.)

However, even as I add another video to my ‘watch later’ with a title like “A Thorough Deconstruction of ‘Show Dogs’ (2018)”, I feel like there’s a point where too much of a good thing can start to cause problems. I don’t watch movies or read books because I want to see them lambasted, no matter how thoroughly or precisely an author can list all its flaws.

I watch movies because I like them. I read books because I enjoy them. When the chips are down, I like liking things a lot more than I like disliking them.

Criticism and deconstruction are valuable tools, but I don’t want that to be something I make a part of my identity, because as easy as it is for me to complain about a film, that’s not what I want to spend all my time thinking about. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world right now, and I think everyone could use a few more positive thoughts.

So… I’m going to make a stand, sort of. This blog won’t be a negativity-free zone, because like I said at the top, negativity can be important, but I’m going to try to make it a positivity-forward zone. If I’m going to take the time to talk about a subject, I’m going to pick something I like, and I’m not going to pick a subject that’s going to end on a downer note, because plenty of that already exists.

I wish I had a better mission statement or thesis here, but I really don’t. I’m still feeling this out, trying to find my style and my voice on this site, figuring out what I really want to write and who I want to be out here.

But while I’m figuring all that out, I might as well make it something fun.

(Links:

Moviebob (Bob Chipman)

Lindsay Ellis

Folding Ideas (Dan Olson) )

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