Today I’m chatting with Leah Cypess, who is offering a book giveaway of her new fantasy, Mistwood! Post a comment on this interview, and we’ll randomly choose one lucky winner to receive a copy. Please be sure your post links to your e-mail or website so we can contact you, or check back on Monday’s post to see the winner.
Chris: Hi, Leah – Please tell us about your new book.
Leah: Mistwood is the story of an ancient shapeshifter bound by a spell to protect the kings of a certain dynasty. And of a confused girl found in a forest who is told she is that ancient shapeshifter, even though she can’t remember anything about her past. Possibly they’re the same story… possibly not. She’ll have to figure it out while protecting the current prince, navigating his intrigue-filled court, and making sure nobody finds out that she has lost both her memory and her powers.
Chris: Why did you choose to write in this genre? What inspires you?
Leah: Fantasy has always been my favorite genre. I grew up reading science-fiction (mostly 60s pulp novels, which my father had stored in boxes in the garage), but the moment I discovered fantasy, I was hooked. I think Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen trilogy and David Eddings’ Belgariad series were the primary culprits.
Chris: Are there special challenges in writing speculative fiction? How do you deal with them?
Leah: I think one of the challenges in writing speculative fiction is that there’s so much to juggle. You want to have a believable world, but you don’t want to overwhelm the book with world-building details that aren’t relevant to the plot. You want to be able to give a sense of that world without pages and pages of description. You want your characters to be believably situated in their culture – not just 20th-century people who somehow got dropped there – but you also want them to be relatable to your readers. You want to play with new ideas, but to keep your focus on telling a story.
My solution is to write a messy first draft into which I throw everything that crosses my mind, and then revise often and extensively. A large part of revising, for me, involves deciding what is important and needs emphasis – often, more emphasis than I originally gave it – and what I need to cut despite the fact that I think it’s really cool. I am lucky to have an editor who is not afraid to simply cross out multiple pages of my manuscript. (Really, I am! Even though I sometimes don’t feel it when I first look at the revision package…)
Chris: Has finding a publisher been difficult?
Leah: I sent my first manuscript to a publisher when I was 15 years old, and got my first novel contract when I was 32 years old. So yes, there have been some challenges!
To be fair, that first manuscript was not actually publishable. However, I think the four that followed probably were; each of them got me at least one revision request from an editor and multiple requests for future manuscripts, plus one of them went to the acquisitions committee at two different houses. In the end, no matter how much you work at your craft, there is an element of luck involved: the right manuscript has to land in the hands of the right editor at the right time. I feel very fortunate that I finally got to that point.
Chris: Answer the following question, or post another comment on this interview, and we’ll randomly choose one lucky winner to receive a copy of Mistwood.
What book(s) have you read that opened new worlds of interest for you (as a writer or a reader, or even for your career or hobbies)?