Friday, 17 July 2015

Interview of P.L. Blair (Author of Sister Hoods)

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Where are you from?
I was born in Tyler, Texas. Now living in Sheridan, Wyoming – which is a great place to be, by the way! Sheridan's “officially” in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains, but it's more of a valley, on the east side of the mountains among gently rolling hills.

Tell us your latest news?
Well … I'm working on Book 7 – still not titled – in my Portals series. Book 5 is with my publisher, and Book 6 is waiting for my publisher to finish Book 5.

When and why did you begin writing?
I feel like I've been writing all my life. My very first “piece” was a short story – three hand-printed pages, something about a witch – that I wrote when I was 8 years old. My teacher encouraged me to read the story aloud to the rest of the class, and – They liked it! That was when I decided I'd found my calling. As to the why … I love words, and the sounds of words, and the way they can be fit together to express ideas.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably, really, in high school when I took my first journalism classes.

What inspired you to write your first book?
My very first book – still unpublished – I just started getting these ideas that demanded – absolutely demanded – to be written. The first book in my Portals series – Shadow Path – started back in 2006 with a more conscious realization that I'd gone in journalism in the first place to develop skills that I needed to be a novelist. And … aside from that manuscript sitting in a drawer … I hadn't written a novel. So at that point, just shy of my 60th birthday, I decided if I was going to be a novelist, I'd better get started ...

Do you have a specific writing style?
Good question! I mean … I'm still trying to figure that one out. Basically I just sit down and start writing, no outline, usually not much more than vague idea about plot and a couple of opening paragraphs. I listen to my characters – at this point I know Kat and Tevis (my main characters) so well that they're like old friends. I guess if I have a style, it could be called “organic” – I keep an after-the-fact outline as I go, jotting down events that will have consequences later, and let the characters and previous events dictate what's going to happen next.

How did you come up with the title?
To date, all of my book titles have been plays on words. In the case of Sister Hoods, all the action starts with a band of Nymphs (the mythological kind) who are sisters, and they rob a bank, so they're “hoods.”

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Nah. I write for entertainment – which is the same reason that I read fiction. I write for the readers like me – people whose jobs or circumstances immerse them in the real world pretty much 24/7, so when they read, like me they read for escape. That's what my Portals books are for, escape, fun, a chance to get away from the real world and go live someplace else for a while. If my readers find a message in the books, I'm delighted, but I don't put it there deliberately.

How much of the book is realistic?
The Portals books are a mix. They're based on a concept that our world has a kind of “twin” in another dimension. The twin world, the Realms of Magic, is separated from our world by gateways – the Portals – that in ancient times were open, so the inhabitants of the Realms – elves, wizards, goblins, dragons, all the creatures of our myths and legends – could, and did, cross freely from their world into ours. That's why we have myths and legends about these beings. But then at some time, maybe a thousand or so years ago, Wizards forced the Portals closed. With no contact with the real creatures, humans had nothing but the ancient tales, which became more distorted as the centuries passed.
Fast-forward to the near future, and the Portals have opened again, and all the beings of our legends and nightmares are returning to our human world, and bringing their magic with them. Kat and Tevis, my main characters, are police officers whose job is to deal with crimes that are committed when magic is misused.
So – back to the question … I blend enough reality to make the books (hopefully) “feel real” to my readers.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not personal events, but I've spent years as a reporter (my day job) covering courts and crime, so I try to infuse some of that “police procedural” feel into the mix.

What books have most influenced your life?
Too many to list! My reading is eclectic, and I take away at least a little something from nearly every book I read. Lord of the Rings – Tolkien is a master of that rich depth of time and place in fantasy. W. B. Yeats' Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, which I first read when I was 9, and which really seized my imagination and got me hooked on folklore and myths. The Bible. I am a Christian, and I aspire to by Christ-like, even on those occasions when I fall far short of the mark.
Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books. Holmes was, and remains, my favorite fictional detective written by someone else. Holmes' character influenced how I wrote Tevis, the elf detective in my books. Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries. I love Archie Goodwin's bantering, somewhat tongue-in-cheek delivery.
Any of Isaac Asimov's non-fiction science essays. They opened my mind to the worlds of quantum physics. Not far behind that – Richard Rhoads' The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which includes a history of quantum physics as well as why we wound up in a Cold War after World War II. I'm kind of an amateur historian, not so much the what-happened-when, more of the “why did this happen.” Nothing happens in a vacuum, everything's connected.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Wow! Another tough question! Probably Stout, at least in a small measure. Kat, the human detective in my series, has a little bit of that Archie Goodwin attitude.

What book are you reading now?
I just finished The Beacon, which is the second book in Sam Kates' Earth Haven series. I haven't decided on what book to read next, and I may put off reading until I'm at least a little deeper into Book 7 of my own series. I tend to not read fiction when I'm writing, because I don't want to unconsciously “borrow” from somebody else's work. Non-fiction, I just finished re-reading The Caliban Shore by Stephen Taylor, which is the account of an East Indiaman,  the Grosvenor, which shipwrecked on the Wild Coast of southern Africa in the 18th century. Fascinating!

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Since I started participating in Amazon discussion groups, I've discovered quite a number of self-published authors that are at least new to me. Sam Kates … Jean Kilczer, who writes a great series about a MacGyver-like astrobiologist … Linell Jeppsen, who wrote some good SF type books and now seems to have discovered her true calling writing westerns/historicals … T. Jackson King, who's doing some solid SF.

What are your current projects?
In my Portals series … Getting into Book 7 and bugging my publisher to finish reading Book 5 so I can send her Book 6.
Also I write for Sheridan Media, a news organization here that owns nine radio stations and an online publication (sheridanmedia.com, if anybody would like to check it out). We also put out a couple of tabloid-size publications – Sheridan Chronicles, history pieces on Sheridan and Sheridan County (I wrote 30 articles for that) and the Sheridan County Fair tab which will be coming out sometime between now and the end of July.

What would you like my readers to know?
If anybody ever watched the old Man From Uncle series on TV … Illya Kuryakin is my image of Tevis, and he influenced some of the character's mannerisms as well. (Kat, the human detective, has a little bit of my attitude, kind of my alter ego except younger, prettier, thinner … well, you get the idea ...)

Beyond that, as I mentioned earlier, I write for people who want to be entertained, and who want escape in their reading.

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