To help spread the word about the Grumpy Old Trickster Gods anthology, I’m interviewing the authors involved.
Today we have Lyssa Medana, author of It’s a Deal.
What is your story in the Grumpy Old Trickster Gods about?
My contribution to the anthology doesn’t include a Trickster god. Instead it’s the two gods from my contribution to Grumpy Old Gods III, Taranis and Cerne, trying to use guile to help out some of their worshippers. Of course, things never go quite as planned. But where would the fun be if nothing went wrong?
Indeed! What kind of research did you do for this story?
Research is weird. You can go along, minding your own business and perhaps admiring the flowers in a garden without realising that you are mentally filing away the details so that when you are sitting at your keyboard you can easily rattle off the right greenery for the background in your story. That leisurely stroll to the corner shop was accidentally research. The background reading I did for the previous anthology had stuck, so I didn’t read up much about the gods. I suppose that the research for the setting were the holidays I took at the seaside when I was a child. There were the slightly run down arcades and bars that, together with the fast food vans, that are the backdrop of the story. The main research I did while doing the actual writing was to go on eBay and see what the names and prices of motorbikes were. I don’t know anything about motorbikes. I am, unfortunately, really good at looking at things on eBay.
That sounds like a rabbit hole of “research”. LOL. Do you enjoy books filled with mythology and folklore?
I quite like dipping into nonfiction books about mythology and folklore. I’m happy to shamelessly loot them for ideas. I wonder sometimes about what differences there would be between what we see, for example, in the books about Greek Gods and how the average person in Homer’s time saw them. I wonder if there would be the same harassed mothers trying to keep kids quiet during the service while fathers were weighing up whether the gods would notice if he offered the nearly best wine instead of the actual best wine and how much trouble he would be in if they did.
Where did the inspiration for this story come from?
When I saw the plan to have the Trickster gods anthology, I wondered how it would affect a god of thunder and a god of the hunt. Thunder gods are not generally tricky. But they are often disposed to help their followers, and sometimes using guile is better than doing stuff that will end up in paperwork. Then I remembered the story of Home Brewed, which I originally wrote as a small addition to the previous anthology and thought that I could follow on from that. The rest was sitting back and asking myself – ‘what if…’
“What if..?” can take us to awesome places. What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?
‘Writer’s block’ means, to me, that I’m doing it wrong. In my experience, if I’m stuck and I can’t find the words, it means that I’ve got the wrong approach. Sometimes I junk a character. I’ve junked 20,000 words before. Sometimes I just try and look at the scene from another character’s point of view. If I can’t get the words out, I know that I need to try a new approach. Raymond Chandler said that he dealt with writer’s block by having someone come into the room with a gun. By the time he worked out why, the story was flowing again.
Having someone enter with a gun is one way to go. How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?
When you write a book, a story or a poem, you are putting part of yourself out there. You are giving a window into your imagination. It can feel like going out without your skin on. It’s hard. I have been incredibly lucky with the reviews and encouragement I have received, with only minor exceptions. Of course I feel upset when I see criticism, but I try and do two things. The first thing I do is keep a mental gap between me and the screen, as if the physical screen is a barrier between me and any hurtful words. The critic isn’t in the room with me, haranguing me as I flinch back. They are out there somewhere and there is a separation. The second thing is really, really, really hard – I try and learn from it. And sometimes it can even be encouraging – I’ve a post about it on my blog I’ve Improved.
Learning from critical reviews is the best thing one can do. What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
I get distracted so easily. As I type, I’m supposed to be getting on with the sequel to King’s Silver and instead I’m having fun with the interview and getting distracted by other ideas. I have the attention span of a kitten in a feather factory and there are so many stories I want to tell. I’m working on it.
Great imagery! How long have you been writing or when did you start?
I have wanted to write for as long as I can remember. I was always thrilled when it was time to ‘write a story’ in school. I kept writing little bits with scraps of ideas and poetry for years and finally self-published in 2012. There have been a few hiccups since, but I am writing more and, if all goes to plan, I may have another book or two out this year.
What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
I grew up reading Isaac Asimov. I felt that his particular genius was clarity. If the plot hinged on a chemical reaction, the average reader (and I am extremely average at science) would understand it. You always knew which hand was holding the blaster. You always understood the procedure that the character was following. There was no ambiguity, even in his wonderful whodunnits in Stories of the Black Widowers. Clarity makes it easy for the reader to relax and enjoy the story.
What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
I usually start with a situation and a basic idea about the characters and then get writing. After a while I find out that I need to change the plot and the characters aren’t doing what I told them. It’s a rollercoaster.
It’s always fun when characters go on their own adventure. How many books have you written and which is your favourite?
I’ve got eight novels, two novellas and I’ve been lucky enough to be accepted into a couple of anthologies. I also post flash fiction on my blog most Mondays – it’s like the gym for my fiction, keeping the writing muscles strong and supple. No matter what I’m doing, though, my favourite is always the one I’m working on.
Would you and your main character get along?
Absolutely not – I would hide under the table!
LOL. If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?
Hmm, there aren’t that many side characters to pick from but perhaps Nerys, assistant to a retired sea god running a fish and chip van at the seaside, may have some good stories to tell.
Name an underappreciated novel that you love.
This is a tough one for me, as all the novels I love are appropriately appreciated. I would give a shout out to the original Dracula by Bram Stoker. I love the way that it’s constructed with the insights into the characters. I also love the diverse cast of characters and how they interact.
When was the last time you Googled yourself and what did you find?
The last time I Googled myself I was checking to see if a review had turned up and instead I found that my book had been pirated. But the time before that, when I was looking for something that I had written ages ago, I found that I had a mention in the end of year review in Neverwas Magazine, and I had a smile on my face that lasted for days.
Piracy aside, that must have felt good. Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing?
I haven’t had pets in years. I’ve considered getting a pet rock, but I worry that I’d neglect it.
As someone who is never without pets, that sounds very sad. Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
The writer that inspired me to write an actual book was an author called Essie Summers. She was a New Zealander who was married to a minister and wrote wonderful, clear, believable romances. She died a few years ago, but there is a project to republish her work in Kindle form and I am looking forward to catching up on all the stories that I missed.
Which author in your genre do you most admire, and why?
I write steampunk, fantasy, urban fantasy, and horror which I suppose all comes under ‘weird stuff’. There are so many great authors out there in those categories, but I think I will give a shout out to Sir Terry Pratchett. His ability to write believable, consistent diverse, and interesting characters is incredible. I love the way he takes ideas and follows them to a conclusion that is so illogically logical. I don’t think that I’ll ever stop re-reading his books
About the Author
Lyssa Medana is a 53 year old author living in West Yorkshire, UK. Her works include The Forgotten Village, Digging up the Past, Dinner at Dark, Out of the London Mist, Under the Bright Saharan Sky, Tales from the White Hart, More Tales from the White Hart, Further Tales from the White Hart, and King’s Silver
Lyssa also regularly publishes poems, short stories and occasional book reviews on her blog, Always Another Chapter.
Lyssa is fascinated by the odd, the quirky and the unusual and enjoys dipping into old folklore and English social history, which she shamelessly uses for her writing. Her hobbies include knitting, reading and heckling history documentaries.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this interview. Any questions for the author?
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