[Interview] Sandy Lender

Sandy Lender has been on a virtual book tour to promote her debut fantasy novel, Choices Meant for Gods, (ArcheBooks Publishing, 2007). The tour, which started on May 21 and ran until July 21, saw her being featured as, among other things, a guest blogger on sites that included Pump Up Your Online Book Promotion; Spiritual Visitations and The ArcheBooks Publishing Blog.

In a recent interview, Sandy Lender spoke about her writing.

What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?

Can I choose stability? I think the biggest challenges I face as a writer are: finding time for all the things I want to do with my writing career and not letting the negative voices drag me down.

How do you deal with these challenges?

First, finding time for all the things I want to do with my writing career means staying extremely organized. Because I balance my second career (writing), which doesn't pay anything yet, with my first career (I work in a magazine publishing company), which pays some of the bills, I have to be very cautious with my time. My days are packed with commuting, working, marketing/promoting, writing, preparing and sending press releases, editing, maintaining the current blog tour, etc. If I didn't keep everything organized and prepared ahead of time, I'd probably lose my mind.

Second, keeping the negative voices from eating away at my positive energy is a challenge. There are many people who don't understand the publishing industry, and they say things like, "Oh, wow, your ranking on Amazon is at 200,000 today. What on earth will you do to improve that?" What they don't understand is that the ranking on Amazon is a bogus number that anyone can pay a PR company to inflate for him or her; and it was probably around 40,000 three hours prior. And 200,000 is actually nothing to sneeze at.

Or a family member will tell me I'm overworked and I need to make a decision as to whether I'm going to continue working so hard at marketing my book or just concentrate on my "real" career. I made the decision when I signed the contract with ArcheBooks Publishing. And here's how I deal with this challenge: My writing career is my passion, and even if no one else understands it, I'm in it for the long haul

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concerns as a writer center on building an audience. I want to write stories that captivate and inspire and bring more readers into the core group so that the audience of people who love my characters expands with each release.

How would you describe the genre in which you do most of your writing?

Speculative fiction is the catch-all umbrella under which I'd classify my writing because I have a vampire trilogy under way and I've completed a bizarre little paranormal romance novel, but my true passion and the true genre that my Choices Meant for Gods trilogy fits beautifully into is high fantasy. This is where the heart of my fiction writing lies. I've already begun a prequel for the Choices trilogy and what could be two novellas and a volume of short stories centered on the world, characters, and history I created for the trilogy, so I'd have to say high fantasy is where my muse likes to direct me.

Anyone who has ever watched the SciFi channel or enjoyed a gothic novel like Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights is in my audience. For a majority of my work, my target audience is mid to upper teens on up through adults and senior citizens.

Being a Christian, I try to keep my content clean enough that it's not embarrassing or distressing to anyone who reads it -- in language, romantic elements, or violence. The first book of the Choices Meant for Gods trilogy received a PG rating for violence, which surprised me until someone started asking me questions like, well, does anybody die in the book? Oh…

What motivated you to start writing in this genre?

This evil sorcerer named Jamieson Drake visited me back in 1982-83 and showed me the most beautiful, most independent, strongest, kindest, most endearing woman I'd ever seen. Her name is Amanda Chariss, although, at the time, I couldn't get her name quite right. I don't know how many people out there have had experiences with evil sorcerers (or fantasy characters of any kind), but they can be very persuasive in getting you to write down stories…

In the writing that you are doing, who would you say has influenced you the most?

Different forces influence writers at different stages in life and in projects, and my experience is no different. I would say that as I was writing the first of the Choices Meant for Gods books, different songs and sources of inspiration influenced me more than people. When you're a career-minded person married to a computer geek, no one supports the idea that you're writing a book. When you tell someone that you're sending a query letter to a literary agent, they glaze over, not understanding what that means or caring what the outcome may or may not be. So my "influences" on my writing were the deceased Charlotte Bronte, anything Old English or Anglo-Saxon, the incredible lyrics and music of Duran Duran and Arcadia, and the muses like Nigel Taiman that keep me from sleeping.

[Also] I believe the axiom that every work has a touch of autobiography in it. But then I look at Chariss, the main character in Choices Meant for Gods, and think I must be extremely arrogant to think any aspect of her reflects me because she is just so good. For a 20-year-old Geasa'n, she's got an amazing maturity about her. I can't possibly be "in" there anywhere. Yet she's flawed, too, so…maybe I am in there somewhere. But she says some things that are directly out of my personal experiences. So even though I write high fantasy that takes place in a made-up world with dragons and ryfel and edras popping in to threaten the characters, challenges that I've overcome in my life present opportunities for my heroes and heroines to shine.

Here's a big example that hadn't occurred to me until I needed text for some marketing materials (read: after the novel was at the printer). Amanda Chariss and her wizard guardian have been on the run from Jamieson Drake for 16 years when the reader picks up the story. They've been on the move from place to place to place, literally picking up and moving from one homestead to another, making berth in whatever household would take them in, finding new benefactors for Chariss all her life. This completely mirrors my life. My father was in the military when I was born on Homestead Air Force Base and my family and I moved 18 times prior to my move to college. (I'm preparing for a move right now…) So I subconsciously let that personal experience influence one of the main plots of Choices Meant for Gods.

Which aspects of the work that you put into Choices Meant for Gods did you find most difficult?

Keeping track of the names of the cities. I swear…I have a yellow sticky note taped to my phone that reads: "Lenors -- on the continent to the north."

Which did you enjoy most?

Dialogue. I absolutely LOVE it when one character realizes another is teasing him or her. Love it!

What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?

The articles I've been writing for the magazines I've edited and published over the past 15 years have ranged from animal husbandry and agriculture to asphalt mix design and road construction to uber-Catholicism. Believe me when I say writing high fantasy fiction about a polytheistic society about to be thrust into a war for a dragon's social domination of an entire continent sets this book miles apart from other things I've written.

In what ways is it similar?

I just can't think of any.

What will your next book be about?

After the Choices Meant for Gods trilogy and prequel, I've got that crazy paranormal romance novel ready to go. Then I've got the vampire trilogy in progress. And I've got a sci-fi/fantasy novel in my head, too...

Do you write everyday?

I write everyday. Because I work for a magazine company, I spend time writing and editing at that job. Then I write press releases, marketing materials, short stories, and character blogs, as well as my writing and marketing blog at www.todaythedragonwins.blogspot.com, in the evenings in support of Choices Meant for Gods. I also write an online serial novel for a small group of folks. I've completed Book II of the Choices trilogy but I am writing Book III. (I'm also working on the aforementioned vampire trilogy, but that takes a back seat to Choices.)

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.


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