Monday, August 6, 2012

Author August: An Interview with Lauren Ritz

The lovely Lauren Ritz
This week I am fortunate to be interviewing fellow writer Lauren Ritz.  Lauren is a wonderfully supportive and talented writer with a knack for building worlds that readers will delight in getting lost in!   

1.       What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
By the time I was ten years old I was reading five to ten books per week (my max was 7 in one day, but I was pushing it, and I'll now admit that two of those were picture books), sometimes staying up all night reading.  I really don't remember many of them (quantity vs quality, you know?) but I think I was deep into Anne McCaffrey at that point.  I had also just discovered The Witches of Karres, which remains a favorite.

2.       Do you think your early reading habits influenced what you write now? 
Absolutely.  I was voracious, reading anything I could get my hands on as long as it was fiction.  I've never shaken my prejudice against non-fiction.  I eventually narrowed that down to mostly Sci-fi and fantasy (real life was just so BORING), so now I write both, and often in combination.  I have a difficult time with fiction set in this world because I have to follow someone else's rules.

3.       What character have you had a “book character crush” on? 

Hehehe.  Miles Vorkosigan (the VorKosigan books by Louis McMaster Bujold).  Aside from being short, he's smart, flawed and just all around fantastic.  Stubborn, deep and I just can't help it.  I'd probably hate him in real life.

4.       Which of your characters do you feel the most kinship with, and why? 
I think there are actually two.  The first is Merla.  Through her I'm trying to come to terms with history.  Because of what happened to her she doesn't think like other people, and I find working through that very interesting.  I hope the story can eventually show people what the result is when someone is consistently bullied over a long period of time.  It's been difficult to make her real because my brain does backflips to keep from going there.

The other is Enna, a semi-aquatic shape changer in a world where difference is not acceptable.  The rest of the people around her are human, mostly.  She has a hard time dealing with people, dealing with the problems that come up because of who and what she is.  She is stubborn, a non-conformist in a world that demands conformity, and has a difficult time taking orders that don't make sense.  She's in a semi-military position and is always arguing with her superiors.  :)  I've been writing about her for a couple years now so I think she's the character I know (and like) the best.

Merla is closest to who I used to be, and Enna is who I want to be.

5.       Do you listen to music when you write or do you need silence? 
It depends on the story.  I have a file of mood music, and if I'm stuck I might pull up the file that fits the mood I want, but for the most part I don't think about it.  If I'm deep into the story I won't notice, and if I'm not it's distracting.  Although come to think of it, that might be a way to get more emotion into my writing...

6.       Do you plot out your stories or let your characters drag you on their adventure? 
Oh, I am definitely a pantser.  It makes for more editing in the long run, but I find it very difficult to follow an outline.  I have tried.  Real life isn't plotted, it doesn't have foreshadowing, and plot holes are the norm rather than the exception.  In real life secondary characters snip in for a few hours or days and then disappear.  So I have to fix all that while editing.  My characters run the show, with periodic detours when they try to do something exceptionally stupid. 

7.       It can be hard to feel like a “legitimate” author when you first start writing. 
When did you first call yourself a “writer” and not feel like a fraud?  I remember once talking to a friend about my writing and I started to say "that's what I do."  It came out "that's what I am."  I've always been a writer.  I remember in 7th grade an English teacher gave me credit for an assignment even though I hadn't followed the instructions--we were supposed to write a half-page description and I handed in 24 pages.  :)  Being an author--I probably won't feel like a legitimate author even after I'm published. 

8.       Are you publishing traditionally or indie, and what nudged you in that direction? 
I'm actually thinking of going in both directions.  I have a series of six books, five of them complete (although editing will continue) that I want to do electronic and probably through Createspace or something like it.  Build myself a platform while I'm trying to get the others published traditional.  I read the information on the publishers websites and most of them don't take unagented submissions.  The rest seem to want exclusive for anywhere up to two years.  With four books completely edited and seven more finished, I can't have each book with a publisher for two years--I'd be eighty before I got through them all.

9.       What part of writing is hardest for you? 
I never thought it would be this way, but the hardest part of being a writer is being alone, working alone.  I never considered myself a social person, but I find myself retreating into my own little world and have to force myself to go out and meet other people.  Otherwise I retreat more and more, I start getting depressed and it's reflected in my writing.

The hardest part of the writing itself is having to cut characters I love.  I usually compensate by telling their stories in a separate novel.  Which is part of why I have so many incomplete novels floating around.


10.   What is your currently work in progress about? 
I usually work on more than one.  Right now it's a duo (is that the right word?)--working titles "Lord Bar" and "Lady Silva," about a husband and wife who have to go in different directions, working toward the same goal.  I haven't written the query yet, but here's a basic outline.  It's set on another planet, where a small human population carved out a safe zone from an alien wasteland. After 500 years, that space is shrinking and humans may find themselves extinct. 

Bar stays in his Keep, trying to protect his people, while his wife takes their children to her ancestral Keep, which was swallowed by the wasteland several generations past.  Both work against the superstitious violence of the humans, who have been killing the one thing that can save them.  Both find that truth and reality are two very different things.  Lord Bar is at 78 K at the moment, and Lady Silva is at 73k.  Lady Silva may actually have to split into two, so it may turn into a trilogy.  Not sure yet.

That's one problem with my writing--novels tend to divide, like an amoeba.

Here's a short excerpt from Lady Silva--a description of the natives of this world.  Part of the scene this was taken from is here
, if your readers are interested.

Lady Silva had no words for the thing approaching through the trees, no words for the shape or the color, but it was well over two meters tall, and had claws. With that small familiarity, she was able to identify the things attached to the claws as limbs of some kind.

It was furred--she could see that much, and had a bump on one end that might or might not be a head. Perhaps those bulging protuberances ringing the base of the head were eyes. It helped, to find one more thing that she could identify, and if they weren’t eyes the thing had none.

It was a nightmare, a shape hidden and incomprehensible because her mind had nothing to compare it with. It stood silent, letting her look her fill. Others, smaller, appeared around it, scuttling on legs that bowed upward like a spider. The big one settled to the ground facing Lady Silva.

She turned her head, hoping not to see another, but was disappointed. The one behind was larger, and had its own attending band of large spider-shapes, each with a double-barbed tail arching over the back. The big ones had no such tail but walked on segmented, claw-tipped legs covered with a fur-like substance that wasn’t fur.

The claw-tipped arms moved aside from where they had been crossed in front of the...barrel, and Lady Silva knew that her assumptions were all wrong. The moving arms revealed a face, and it poked its head out of the body to look at her. What that swelling at the top might have been she had no idea, but because it was not swathed in fur she’d assumed it to be a head. 

If you would like to help Lauren with that dreaded writerly isolation, seek her out here:

Twitter:  LaurenRitz1
Facebook:  LaurenRitztheWriter
Blog:  Eclectic

Her website isn't up yet, but she is working on it!  You can also find additional samples of her writing here.  I appreciate Lauren taking the time to share some of her talent and wisdom!