Friday, February 28, 2020

Fiona Lehn : Writing Warriors United Spotlight Author Interview

Writing Warriors United Spotlight Author Interview with Fiona Lehn

  1. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? Only one, and it was thrilling. After reading Pushkin’s poem The Bronze Horseman, I became fascinated by the Neva River and felt compelled to go see it. Off I went to St. Petersburg. For hours I sat on the bank of the Neva and at the feet of Peter the Great, and I thought of Pushkin’s tale, re-imagining the visions he’d created--ah, so humbling and very magical! 
  2. What is the first book that made you cry? Christa Wolf’s Cassandra. It’s a rewrite of history, told from a woman’s perspective. It’s a story of women and self-determination. When I read it, I had been writing stories with similar themes for years, but I thought I was the only one. Not only was Wolf’s novel amazing, it was touching, affirming, and inspiring to discover that I was not alone. 
  3. Does writing energize or exhaust you? Writing has always been a meditation for me. It grounds me, satisfies me, and helps me make sense of the world and my life in a way that nothing else can. So, I don’t know that I would say that writing energizes me, but it definitely feeds me. 
  4. What are common traps for aspiring writers? I think each writer is susceptible to her/his own peculiar potholes and pitfalls, which makes it hard for me to offer advice. I’ll share some of mine in hopes they may be helpful. Whenever I get an idea that doesn’t fascinate me but which I think will sell well, that’s usually a trap, and I wind up bored and frustrated until I abandon the project. Whenever I try to mold my writing to fit into a specific market, that’s a trap too. I have to be fascinated by the idea, and I have to write the story how I think it should be told. Persistence is also key. Keep sending stories out, regardless of how many rejections pile up. A lack of persistence is definitely a trap. 
  5. What is your writing Kryptonite? My health. I don’t have writer’s block, I don’t have paralyzing fear that my writing is terrible, but I do have severe cognitive and physical limitations that affect my energy, cause chronic pain, and interfere with my language skills. This restricts my ability to write well, to write a lot, and to read. My health slows me down a lot--like Kryptonite, it’s the only thing that can deprive me of my super writing powers!   
  6. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? My author friends help make me a better writer by offering me merciless criticism and boundless encouragement. They spot storytelling issues in my drafts that I can’t see, point them out to me, and I go in and fix the problems. This makes for a much better story. I also have editor friends who spot grammar and spelling issues. Without my writer and editor friends, I wouldn’t be publishing anything. 
  7. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? Getting my first pro publication gave me confidence, most of all. I had been writing for over a decade but hadn’t sent much out to publishers. That first publication set me on the path--I suddenly believed there was a market for my work and I might be good enough to get more published. After that, I sent out more and more stories, stuff I’d been writing for years and never believed was good enough. And then I got my next pro sale. I was on my way...
  8. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Money spent on novels, novellas, and poetry by great writers. I’ve read those creations over and over and they’ve taught me much about writing, about dreaming and creating, and about me. Best money spent, hands-down. 
  9. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? I became conscious of the power of language after reading stories such as 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and The Yellow Wallpaper. These books demonstrate how rhetoric can affect people and shape societies, and they clearly illustrated the power of language to young me. 
  10. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? It’s difficult to choose just one. Benefits by ZoĆ« Fairbairns (1979) is in my top ten of under-appreciated novels. An exploration of women’s lives in a dystopic future Britain, Benefits illustrates the harsh realities that women face as second-class citizens. It also serves as a call to action. Fairbairns’ novel deserves the acclaim that Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has received, and then some. 
  11. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? A calico cat: playful yet fierce, creative and relentless in pursuit of her goals. 
  12. What does literary success look like to you? To me, literary success means writing the best I possibly can and making a living from my writing. Though it’s rare for writers to make a living from their writing, I never say never. 
  13. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Probably the biggest challenge is making them emotionally real, not stereotypes, but I think if you write well-rounded characters, and you have fully embedded them in their culture/world, then the gender is just another facet of each character and easier to realize that way. 
  14. Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction? It might sound corny, but every time I read a book, whether it be fiction or a nonfiction book about the writing process, I read something that changes my thinking about fiction, about how I write fiction, and about what fiction can do—its transformative power. That’s why I feel it’s so important for writers to read, read everything, because it shapes your thinking, shows you possibilities, and leads you in directions you might not ever have gone on your own. 
  15. How do you select the names of your characters? I usually do research into the meanings of names and select something that is relevant to the character’s journey and/or themes.
  16. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? Not usually, but I did so in my latest release, Lift-Off. That novella has several “Easter eggs” that only die-hard science fiction lovers will notice and enjoy. 
  17. What was your hardest scene to write? Nothing specific comes to mind. All the scenes are hard, and painful. They are also easy somehow. That’s writing. It’s like devoting yourself to solving a koan. 
  18. What is your favorite childhood book? When I was little, I read all the Nancy Drew books, over and over. I wanted to be her, until I read Harriet the Spy, and then I wanted to be her...
  19. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? Probably knowing when the story is done. It’s challenging to know when to stop fiddling with it and send it out into the world. 
  20. When you die – what would you like the universe to say to you as you walk into the next life? I’d love to hear a great “Ahhhhhhhh!” like a huge, heavenly chorus that is both beautiful and bone-rattling. And then a booming, “Welcome! Here you will always be healthy and free to create without having to scramble to get your next meal, your rent, or any other Maslownian deficiencies! And then music will blast all around--something epic, like Queen or Muse, perhaps--and I’ll eat chocolate and macadamia nuts, sip maple vodka, and sit down to write... (Yep, the next life will be an artist’s utopia! :-)




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1 comment:

  1. Hi, Amy! Thank you for this interview. It was fun to do, and I learned a bunch too. All the best! --Fiona Lehn



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