The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia
18 November 2008
Debut fantasy author Leslie Ann Moore
Leslie Ann Moore’s first novel, the fantasy Griffin’s Daughter (Avari Press), was awarded the 2008 Benjamin Franklin Award for First Fiction by the Independent Book Publishers Association. Griffin’s Daughter is the story of a half-human, half-elf woman and her struggle to find her place while, unbeknown to her, an ancient evil has awakened and plans to use her to destroy the world.
Welcome, Leslie Ann, and congratulations on the publication of your first novel!
Thanks for having me, Shauna.
Could you tell my readers about the encounter with fantasy author Terry Brooks that changed your life?
In 2001, I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival Of Books specifically to hear Mr. Brooks speak on a panel of fantasy writers. He discussed his creative process and recommended that every writer own and read The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, one of the best books on writing available. The book deals with how to use mythic structure to create strong plots and characters.
He then talked about how he’d written his first published novel, The Sword Of Shannara, while still in law school. It took him many years and several best-selling novels before he could give up practicing law and become a full-time writer, but the point that I remember best is that he did it . . . he successfully transitioned from making his living as a lawyer to making his living as a writer. A light went on in my head . . . I thought, well, why can’t I do the same?
After the talk, I took a copy of one of his novels to get it signed. When my turn came, he politely asked me what I did for a living, and it seemed as if my mouth had a life of its own! Instead of saying “I’m a vet,” I blurted out, “I’m a fantasy writer, like you!” He smiled and told me to never give up and to keep writing. Now, I’m sure he’s said that to everyone who ever tells him that they are an aspiring author, but those words, along with what he’d said during the panel discussion just flipped a switch in my brain.
I left the autograph session, found the Vogler book at the festival and bought it, then went home and dug out an old short story I’d written in college. That evening, I used that story as the basis for my outline of the novel which would eventually become Griffin’s Daughter.
Were there other speculative fiction writers who influenced your writing or career in important ways?
I’m a huge fan of Kate Elliot. Reading her work is like taking a master class in fiction writing. She uses words like a painter uses colors, and she creates the most beautiful descriptive passages.
And, of course, there’s Tolkien, the gold standard to which all modern writers of a certain type of fantasy fiction are held. I happen to think it’s unfair to reflexively compare every novel that utilizes elves and other mythic races as characters with LOTR, but it’s done all the time, despite the fact that stories about elves, dwarves, fairies, and such have been around long before Tolkien ever set pen to paper. My elves are nothing like the rather cold and haughty beings of LOTR. They laugh, cry, eat, sleep, sweat, bleed, make love, give birth, and use the toilet; in short, they are like us except they have pointy ears.
Do readers ask whether half-elf, half-human Jelena, the main female character in the book, is really you?
Jelena is, of course, me in the sense that I created her and like any “daughter,” she does have aspects of my personality in her, but she’s not me in the greater sense. She is a biracial person and so am I, and one of the themes I explore in the story is how racism affects an individual of mixed race and how she copes with the hardships of living in a society that views her as inferior due to something beyond her control.
In the early part of the story, Jelena has internalized the negativity and believes she is, in fact, not as worthy as a so-called pureblooded person, but part of any good story is showing how characters grow and change. Jelena does a lot of growing and changing throughout the entire trilogy.
You chose a new small publisher, Avari Press, to publish your book. What did Avari do to market your book? What are you doing to market it?
Avari chose me, actually. I sent them my manuscript on a tip from a fellow writer. She’d heard that there was a new small press specializing in fantasy fiction that was calling for submissions. They read the book, loved it, and made me an offer.
Avari, being a small company, has a small promotional budget. No full-page ads in the L.A. Times, sadly! What they have done is send out copies of the book to such reviewers as Publishers Weekly, Locus, Kirkus, and The Library Journal, as well as to all the major fantasy book-review websites and blogs. The book did receive a favorable review in The Library Journal and on the Fantasy Debut blog.
My marketing efforts consist of things that don’t cost huge sums of money, because I don’t have a big budget either! I have a website, which just got a brilliant make-over, and I maintain a MySpace page. I have glossy postcards printed with the book cover that I’m constantly handing out. I’m also in the process of podcasting the novel, with my publisher’s blessing. I had a radio interview at a local public radio station here in Los Angeles shortly after the book came out. I’ve had several signings around town, and I participate as a speaker/panelist at our local sci-fi/fantasy convention, LosCon.
Probably the best thing I’ve done to create my marketing platform is to join the Greater Los Angeles Writers’ Society. It’s given me an entry into the L.A. Times Festival Of Books, which I can now attend as an author with selling privileges. That’s a huge advantage.
What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of a small publisher vs. a large publisher?
A small publisher will spend a lot more time with an author and give her/him a great deal of input into things such as cover art. An author would never get any say about the cover at a large publishing house. It’s the personal care I get as an author with Avari that’s so valuable to me. I get to talk directly to the president of the company and he consults me on most issues concerning my books. I’m not sure even the biggest name authors would ever get to talk directly to the presidents of the major houses.
The main disadvantage involves access to markets. The big bookstore chains rarely stock product from the small indie presses, so consequently, sales potential is reduced. Small presses have to rely on indie bookstores, which are, sadly, falling like flies—please, people, support your local indie bookstore if there’s one in your area!!!—or Amazon for the bulk of their sales, along with however many copies the author can sell her/himself at signings.
What is your writing regimen? Would you recommend it to aspiring authors?
I used to only have time to write an hour or two on weekends or during my lunch break at work. I also took my laptop with me on every vacation. I was a full-time practicing veterinarian, which is a very demanding and stressful profession. However, recently, I’ve been able, financially, to make the choice to cut back to part-time status, so I can now devote one day a week solely to my literary career. I try to get any chores out of the way by 2:00 pm, and then I write, edit, work on my podcasts, or print story submissions for magazines—anything that has to do with my literary career.
If I had another free day, I’d devote one strictly to writing and the other to miscellaneous literary chores, but I don’t, so it all has to get done on one day. Consequently, I usually only write about three hours at a stretch, which is why it takes me so long to finish a project. Any aspiring writer has to find her/his own schedule that works best.
The only rule is to work on your literary career at least one day a week; that’s the bare minimum. If you can squeeze any time at all during your day to write a little bit, even if it’s only a few paragraphs, do so. Lunch breaks, early in the morning before going to work, after dinner when the family is asleep, grab that time and write. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything finished.
When will the next two volumes of the trilogy come out, and what will the next installment be about?
Griffin’s Shadow, the second book of the trilogy, will be released 2/27/09. The third book, Griffin’s Destiny, has no firm release date yet, but if Avari follows the same schedule, I expect it’ll be out sometime in early 2011.
Griffin’s Shadow continues the story right where Griffin’s Daughter left off. I don’t want to give anything away for those who haven’t read either of the books yet, but I can tell you that several new and pivotal characters will be introduced, and where GD was about finding love and acceptance, GS is about adversity and loss and how the main characters deal with them.
What was your favorite part of writing the Griffin’s Daughter trilogy?
I loved writing the love story. I’m a hopeless romantic, and my characters became like my own kids to me. I wanted to see them happy!
You have been on the front lines of podcasting as part of Clonepod. Clonepod releases new and previously published science fiction and fantasy short stories as podcasts. Why did you choose to take part in Clonepod? Is podcasting a better medium for fantasy and science fiction short stories than print or online magazines or just an additional outlet?
For a new and relatively unknown writer, podcasting may be the only medium in which to get one’s work out. I look at it as part of a continuum of outlets. There have been writers who’ve started out podcasting their short stories or novels and received such good buzz, they’ve come to the attention of publishers and editors and have gone on to place their work in print magazines, and a few have even gotten book contracts out of it. Those are the exceptions, of course, but it’s possible nonetheless.
I chose to work on Clonepod because, first, I wanted an outlet for my own short stories; second, I like doing voice-over work and wanted to get better; and third, I really like the other people who are involved. We’ve all become good friends.
I think podcasting will only get more popular and important a source as time goes on for all types of things that once were only in print—books, magazines, short stories, etc. As our lives get increasingly hectic and we have less and less time to sit down and read a book, being able to listen to a story on one’s MP3 player while performing another task will be very valuable.
Again, thanks, Leslie Ann, for stopping by my blog. I look forward to your return to talk more about Clonepod and how authors can submit their work.
Thank you, Shauna.
You can learn more about Leslie Ann and Griffin’s Daughter by visiting her Website at http://www.leslieannmoore.com/. Her book is available from Amazon.com.
I’ll be speaking on “Myth and Folktales in Science Fiction and Fantasy” at the Orange County Science Fiction Club on Wednesday, November 26 (the night before Thanksgiving), at 7:30 in Fullerton, California. Everyone is welcome to come. For directions, please see http://www.ocsfc.org/ocsfcmap.htm.