A varied background makes good writing: meet the ladies of Southern Indiana

Our guests are Marian Allen and T. Lee Harris, who Lyndi met at the Context 24 conference a couple weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio. Very interesting ladies.

Thanks for being with us today. First, would you tell us a bit about yourself? What area of the country do you live in, do you have a family, pets, etc. Are you a coffee fiend, or do you have another “addiction” you must have on your desk at all times? What’s your education, if it’s relevant to your writing, and how does that education help you/or do you find that you can write well even without the diploma others might think they must have?

Thanks for having us as guests. We’re answering as ourselves and as members of the Southern Indiana Writers Group.

MA: I live in southern Indiana, having moved a whole 30 minutes from my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. I have a cat and a “grand-dog” who belongs to our oldest grandson. Coffee fiend? That’s a big YES! I have a BS in English and I’m glad of it, even though it never got me one job; the classes taught me how to take stories apart and look at the pieces.

T: I live in New Albany, Indiana with a house full of pets. There’s a clowder of cats, tanks of fish and one Great Pyrenees dog.

Coffee? Absolutely! No way I could kickstart my day or get a word written without it.

My education does affect my writing, but in a somewhat indirect way. I have a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts — yeah, *real* useful. What’s been most useful was the art history that goes with the BFA. When you learn about art, you learn about the people who made it and, through them, the world they lived in. This is especially helpful when I’m writing historical fiction, but doesn’t hurt when I’m writing stories using Josh Katzen who is an archaeological artist and photographer.

Tell us about your most recent publication/whichever book you’d like to talk about today?

MA: My latest book is FORCE OF HABIT, a cop/sf/farce. When Bel Schuster goes off-limits on the planet Llannonn, she falls afoul of criminals from two other planets and what passes for Llannonn’s criminal justice system.

T: Here I went and told you all that about art history and historical fiction and now I have to admit that my most recent publication is in the Southern Indiana Writers Group’s anthology, FUTURE PERFECT — and it’s science fiction. lol Just goes to how how all over the map I am. The story is called BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOONS. It’s also a cop story with a handful of humor thrown in that follows Sgt. Lloyll Apogee and her canid partner, Officer Euff Gral, through a wild night in New Chicago during the Kyjolian Solstice Festival.

What inspired you to write this story? What interesting thing did you learn or research to write it that you didn’t know before?

MA: FORCE OF HABIT started out as a Star Trek (The Old Show) story in Devra Langsam’s fanzine, Masiform D. When I decided to turn it into an original story, I learned, by watching the characters change from the Star Trek ones into original ones, how characters and plot and setting shape each other.

T: BY THE LIGHT OF SILVERY MOONS grew out of a challenge to write a space cop story. As it evolved, I became aware that no matter where people go, they take more than physical things with them. They take along beliefs, lifestyles and attitudes to name a few.

How would you best describe your books?

MA: Each book is different. I would describe FORCE OF HABIT as “silly”. lol!

T: I tend to think in terms of series more than individual books. Even my short stories follow particular characters that are featured in my longer works.

What is your favorite genre to write? To read?

MA: The answer to both questions is, “Dead heat between fantasy, science fiction and mystery.”

T: I enjoy reading mysteries, thrillers and, lately, a large dollop of urban fantasy. What I write tends to follow those lines with forays into horror, science fiction and even a bit of fantasy here and there.

What would you write if you could do write anything you wanted to write?

MA: I do write anything I want to write.

T: As I said earlier, I’m all over the map. If it occurs to me, I write it.

What do you most like about writing? Least like? When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

MA: What I like most and least about writing has to be revision. It’s hard, and sometimes it hurts, but it’s so satisfying! I knew I wanted to be a writer when my mother told me people made a living doing it. Since making up stories was what I liked most, that seemed easy. ha!

T: I was an only child and spent a lot of time entertaining myself with stories — some I read, some on TV and when I ran out of books and nothing was on, stories I told myself. It seemed a natural thing to write those stories down.

What I like most about writing is exploring the worlds in my head and becoming someone else for just a little while. The part I like least is editing. Hands down. Needs to be done and the work is better for it, but after a while, I just get so tired of seeing Those. Same. Words. AGAIN.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Are there any writing websites you find particularly useful?

MA: The Southern Indiana Writers Group has been an anchor and a launching pad. It’s a critique group and a resource and a society of for-your-own-good nagging. I never wrote short stories until the SIW started doing anthologies.

T: I also belong to the Southern Indiana Writers Group and it’s been a tremendous help to me. I wasn’t a short story writer when I joined, but with the annual anthology, that changed fast. I also took over the publication of the anthology and doing that taught me a lot about the submission process as well as the nuts and bolts of assembling an actual book.

What’s your favorite thing about the book featured here today? Any special memories you have in the creation of it?

MA: I love FORCE OF HABIT because I had so much fun writing it, even though the multiple points of view nearly drove me nuts! I had an outline on a big pad of paper, color-coded by who was in each chapter and whose POV told it. I loved doing a story for FUTURE PERFECT because hadn’t done short science fiction in a while, and it was good exercise getting back into that groove.

T: I enjoyed SILVERY MOONS because it let me dust off and revisit some characters I’d had on the back burner for a looooong time. Apogee and Gral were characters I’d used in a pen and paper role playing game way back in my misspent youth. It was good to let them out again and see what they’ve been up to in the intervening years.

What are you writing now? What’s next for you—will you be making personal appearances anywhere our readers can find you?

MA: I have another book under contract with Echelon Press and a couple in submission. I’m editing a series of fantasies. National Novel Writing Month is coming up, when I’ll be working on the fourth of a proposed series of humorous cozy mysteries.

T: I’m currently putting finishes on a paranormal buddy/cop series to be sent out for submission in the very near future. I’m also getting back into a historical mystery novel featuring the scribe Sitehuti of Western Thebes and Nefer-Djenou-Bastet, the temple cat who adopted him. October will find me in Muncie, Indiana at Magna cum Murder (Marian will be there, too) and November will be NaNoWriMo. I might draft Josh Katzen for NaNo, he’s had it too easy for too long.

What would you like to tell readers?

MA: Never give up! Never surrender!

T: Ditto what MA says. lol

How can I argue with that? Check out Marian and T. Lee, and for that matter, the Context conventions in Columbus,in August.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for letting us visit you and the Elves, Lyndi! :)

  2. Marian & T are indeed clever writers. Neither would I hasten to challenge either in a duel to the death, with either words or the power of the pen. Their forces combined? You’d best hope they’re on your side.

    Great interview, wonderful choice of interviewees.

  3. Wonderful authors, very committed writers. Or is that “writers who need to be committed?” ;)

  4. Lyndi

    *L* @ Red Tash. So true.

One Trackback

  1. By MARIAN ALLEN · Interviewed by Elves! !! on September 9, 2011 at 6:19 am

    [...] Long, long ago, at a convention far, far away … Okay, so it was a couple of weeks ago at Context in Columbus, Ohio. Anyway, T. Lee Harris, Samantha Lopez and I met Babs Mountjoy (a.k.a. Lyndi Alexander). She emailed us later with some interview questions, we answered, and the interview appeared yesterday at her blog, Clan Elves of the Bitterroot. [...]

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