Q: I've heard it said that you recreated your genre. Can you describe this process to me?
A: I did have a fabulous review from Jamieson Wolf of Linear Reflections, which was reprinted with American Chronicle, in which he stated I had reinvigorated the fantasy genre and "reworked the standard quest into something meaningful and engaging." First of all, I'm extremely gratified to see something like that written about me as a writer. It wasn't what I set out to do. Second, I think the only way I was able to put so many new and/or redefined elements into Choices Meant for Gods is because I researched and toyed with the elements for years. When something felt out of place as I wrote, I could go back to my notes or the map I have on my desk or the wall calendar I have at my feet and see which characters were hanging out where and which were injured and which were in a huff and which were recalling legends from the past to use to their benefit in the future, etc. I developed an entire mythology for this novel…and hopefully that mythology can be published as well!Q: How big a part did your own Faith play in your book?
A: This is a bit odd because I'm a Christian by profession, yet I've created a polytheistic society in which the gods show up and walk among the mortals, literally interacting with them on an often irreverent level. But there's an important message showing up beneath this plot of Chariss (the lead female character) humbling and guiding, essentially re-educating, the highest active god of Mahriket: He's losing His followers. Over the past few centuries, people have been straying from the flock, so to speak. They've been turning to dragon worship (which is actually worse than it sounds) and wildcat worship, which I mention very briefly in a seemingly innocent scene in which Master Rothahn (Chariss's charge) goes to His temple in Arcana City. His temple is described in mockery of the mega-churches you see in our society today (but I doubt anyone picks up on that—symbolism is quite lost on the general public these days) with all its standard features all in their right and proper place, but few worshipers in the seats offering prayers of thanks for what they've been given. He realizes that fewer and fewer of His lesser gods have been bringing His followers' petitions to Him over the years, but, rather than stopping to consider that His neglect of His followers might be to blame, He gets upset with the priests and followers over it. It's a screwed-up bit of theology, to be sure, but it is part of the arc He must travel through in the novel. And it's part of the message I wished to get across. Out here in our world, how many of us are stopping to be thankful for what we have? Does it take a person like Chariss to step in and demand we take note of God The Father to realize we owe Him our thanks?
Other than that, my faith kept me from getting too crazy with the violence or letting the romance go beyond its "boundaries." There is a romantic story between Nigel and Chariss, which, and this is all the foreshadowing my nervous readers get, will blossom as we move forward. But while I have these characters unmarried, I'm not letting them fall into bed, if you know what I mean. (That's not to say they marry or fall into bed in the next book, by the way.) I figure I have enough to answer for when I get to Heaven that I don't need God asking me, "And why did you feel the need to put gratuitous sex in this novel that children could get their hands on?" I also kept the language clean. It proves what a splendid vocabulary and use of the English language you have if you can write a 170,000-word novel with only two or three swear words in it. That Henry Bakerson just gets too riled up…Q: A little birdie told me that you really would like to explain how much your religious ideals and upbringing influence decisions you made while writing this book. Can you share these with us?
A: I mentioned a couple there, but the big one deals with sorcery. With the popularity of the Harry Potter series, one can't help hearing about J.K. Rowling's use of sorcery with her characters. I think that might confuse the youth who read her books, and that's why adults should be around to monitor what their kids are reading. The Bible teaches that sorcery comes from an evil source. Period. Does that mean that books with sorcery in them are evil? No. Does that mean books with sorcerers in them should be banned? No. Does that mean I'm saying anything negative about Rowling? No. She created a fictional story with fictional characters and that story has entertained children (and adults) for years. Kudos to her! Now I have done the same and can only hope that older youth (and adults) will be entertained for years. But, with any fictional story, readers should be sure they're separating fantasy from reality when they read it; remember where the story ends and real life kicks back in. For my novel, I didn't want anyone confused in any way. I made the sorcerers very bad and created my own concept for the power the "good guys" possess. I call it the geasa, and I derived that word from genies, which, if you think about it, is a stretch. But, hey, it's fantasy. I pronounce is gay-suh. The people who possess the power (which is akin to magic in other authors' novels, if you need a point of reference) are called Geasa'n (gay-suhn).
Another concept I've highlighted in conjunction with the geasa is that of tolerance and acceptance. I believe in the Golden Rule. Do unto others… I see a lot of bigotry in our world, even today when we're supposed to be oh-so-enlightened. So the characters throughout the history of Onweald in Choices Meant for Gods, while not outlined or "visited" in the story, are mentioned as a group, in passing, once or twice as a persecuted race. People without this gift from the gods fear the Geasa'n and often react negatively toward them. In the past, the Geasa'n were hunted and killed for their "difference." Things have improved, in large part due to the Taiman family's influence, but there are still bigots in Onweald, and those who don't treat each other with respect, those who don't embrace each other despite differences in power or lifestyle or point of view are usually the bad guys and eventually get their comeuppance.Q: What would you like the reader to take away with them, after reading your book?
A: A deep appreciation for what Chariss is going through.Q: If you could create just one character from your book for a best friend, which one would it be? And why?
A: Well, I was about to say Chariss because she would make a fabulous best friend, but I've already got Nigel Taiman here. He does my blog at http://sandylender.blogspot.com and he's a fabulous muse to have around. Great guy. He'd put a sword through someone in traffic for you!Q: What fundamental laws are at work in your book? And how do they affect your writing?
A: Do you mean life laws or grammar rules, because I'm a grammar freak. You know I've got that grammar guide every week at The Dragon… I would have to say that the law of writing what you know has affected my writing in a very positive way. I've got a female lead character who is strong despite adversity, keeps her sense of humor despite mounting obstacles, etc.Q: A bit of a different question here, since my blog is a bit more on the side of marketing, can you share with us the path you've chosen to market your book?
A: I've relied heavily on online/electronic marketing at the outset here. I had a real-life book signing in June that I just don't want to repeat, but my day job precludes going on a world tour alongside Duran Duran anytime soon. So I needed a way to get the word out without spending a great deal of money or burning all my vacation days in one fell swoop. The internet is the logical venue. Consider the fact that about 400 titles are released into the book marketplace every day. Now, not all of those are published by a bonafide publishing house like ArcheBooks Publishing, but they're still books wanting the shelf space that my book is taking up if my book even made it to that store. Then consider the number of brick-and-mortar, mom-n-pop book stores that have closed just in the past few months. Finding a book store to sell your book is difficult. Finding web space to sell it through is not difficult. For instance, people can walk into Barnes & Noble and ask for Choices Meant for Gods, and there's a 90 percent chance it's not on the shelf. But you can zing over to Amazon
and order it any hour of the day or night and it's in stock. Now, some of those spaces on the net cost money, (my ad space at www.fantasybookspot.com wasn't expensive, but my year presence at www.authorisland.com was – but is also worth it) and you'll have to weigh that option when you get to that bridge.
I also have six blogs that talk about the book, introduce the characters, summarize the chapters, give a little bit of insight about my life, offer writing, grammar and promotional tips, host other authors' characters, etc., all in the name of marketing. Each blog is managed by me or a character from the novel. For instance, Abigail Farrier, whom most readers ask me to kill, has this sad, pathetic blog at http://abigaillovesnigel.blogspot.com
where she basically posts her diary entries. I've got that to build sympathy for her. (It's not working.) Henry Bakerson has the blog at http://friendsofdragons.wordpress.com
where other authors' characters are interviewed, and I/he created that blog specifically to help other authors with their marketing efforts. Yes, a few of the Choices Meant for Gods characters will pop in there from time to time, but I wanted a way to help people who were going through the same "ugh, how do I market this online!?!?" nightmare that I was in the beginning.
I haven't done this with Abby's blog, but the others are registered with Technorati and Blogflux and all that good stuff that makes them truly useful for search engine optimization, etc.
So there are lots of online options to help authors promote their works, beyond the static website.Q: Is there anything you'll change in your future writing endeavors?
A: I'd LIKE to be able to write all day, every day in some nice Tuscan villa with my bird at my side…For some reason, other people in my life have been able to take extended breaks from real life to pursue their hobbies (on other peoples' dimes), but I've yet to master this artform I consider freeloading. And maybe that's why I haven't pursued it yet…I consider it freeloading. Once I learn to call it a sabbatical, I might be off and running…
I'm going to just keep plugging along churning out as many books as I can as fast as I can to keep all the muses happy. I'll continue writing under the speculative fiction umbrella, and I'll try to keep positive, useful messages under the plots. Back in college, one of my professors taught us that Middle English scholars/writers set out to write literature with two goals in mind: 1) to educate and 2) to entertain. I don't know that society always picks up on the educational angle of fiction these days because we're not as in tune with symbolism and subtlety, but, if anyone's looking, they'll find scads of it in Choices Meant for Gods.Q: Where is Sandy Lender going from here?
A: Probably to take a nap. New authors don’t get to sleep much in this industry. ;)
Jan, thank you for hosting me today! It was wonderful to get to talk about issues that few folks have thought to ask. You were a great addition to the online book tour!
Labels: Sandy Lender - Book Tour