Today I’m thrilled to present an interview by not only a fantastic author with a huge and unique imagination, but a really incredible lady, to boot. As I’ve said before, I met J.L. Mulvihill at Fandom Fest last year, and talking to her is just a joy. Not only do I have someone to discuss outfits and costumes with, but she can follow and add to all the crazy ideas that pop out of my head at any given moment. It’s also nice to know someone else who does the ‘whoa, idea’ moments at the drop of a hat, hee. She’s someone I definitely want to work with in the future, and I’m thrilled to be part of the Seventh Star Press team along with her. So yeah, she’s cool, read her books.
But since she did agree to be interviewed, I suppose I’ll include that in this post, too, so you can see for yourselves how great she is.
Selah, thank you so much for having me here for the interview, you know I really enjoy talking with you and I enjoy sharing a little bit of myself with the readers.
SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?
JLM: Selah I have to say that when it comes to short stories, I will think the story through for a couple of days, maybe even a week before I write it, but I don’t outline it except in my head. However, when it comes to my novels I have to do an outline because there are so many plots within plots and characters that it’s just too much to hold it all in my head without it exploding.
SJ: Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?
JLM: Ok here is a little secret, when I’m writing I am usually wearing an old worn out, plaid, extra-large shirt that has holes in it and missing buttons. I actually have two of these shirts and the silly thing about these shirts is that they belonged to my Pop (grandfather), and for some reason I feel like it helps me to write when I am wearing either of these shirts.
SJ: Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?
JLM: Some of my ideas come from dreams like my first novel started out as a nightmare where I was being chased by a giant spider through the woods. Some ideas just smack me in the head out of nowhere and it’s so weird because I will be just sitting there talking with someone and suddenly I go “Whoa.” If I’m with another writer friend they’ll ask if I just got an idea but if I’m with someone else they’ll ask me if I need an aspirin; I guess I must get a pained look on my face or something, ha ha.
Some of my ideas come from the eclectic items I keep in my office; like dragons, squirrels, books, plastic hands, daggers, marbles, TARDIS, puking unicorns,bottles of vampire blood, you know that kind of stuff.
Sometimes I get an idea when I’m watching Discovery or the History channel, I just never know where or when the idea is going to come, but it’s sometimes like that show connections where one thing leads to another.
I have to give my husband credit for some of my story ideas like Chilled Meat in the anthology Dreams of Steam II. My husband was watching the History channel about the Napoleonic War when he called me into the TV room to share with me some gruesome tidbit he had just learned and asked if it would help with one of my stories, I said, “as a matter of fact, I think I can use that.”
SJ: bonus question – If your muse had a physical manifestation, what would he or she look like and how would she or he act? Is it a sexy superhero version of Callisto? A sharp-tongued rogue? A reptilian alien? Do they have a catch phrase?
JLM: I think if my muse manifested it would probably be something like the Cheshire Cat, a little devilish but always smiling. Even when I try to write innocent stories for kids to read, there seems to be a little twist in there, not always evil or bad, but just a little twisted. I can’t really say where that comes from
SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?
JLM: The Lost Daughter of Easa is very much a part of me. The idea of Elsie waking up in the middle of an ancient forest with amnesia is very symbolic. Her whole adventure of trying to find out who she is was my own journey of finding out who I am. I think there is probably more in that book of myself than I had intended to put in but that’s how it is.
As for playing favorites, I am still too new an author to play favorites, I love all my stories, and I hate all my stories. It’s a very strange love hate relationship. I love them because they are mine; I hate them because I always think they can be better. I guess that’s the writer’s curse; the constant edit.
SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?
JLM: Oh you are so evil.
Gosh, that’s hard, don’t make me choose!
I would have to say fantasy. In fantasy you have the freedom to merge good and evil along with love, magic, horror, and mystery. You also get to create creatures and world build. So I guess for me fantasy is the complete genre, though I would really miss my steampunk
SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?
JLM: My biggest frustration is being told that it has all been done already and that there is no story that has not already been told. I hate that. I think THEY! Whoever THEY are, are WRONG! Someday I will write that story that has never been told, the plot that has never been done. I will find it if it takes my last dying breath to tell it.
SJ: If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?
JLM: Ok I definitely do not want to be in any of my short stories because they are very scary and deadly, I could put a few enemies there, he, he, he.
The Lost Daughter of Easa is too close to me and there are giant spiders in Authora and I hate spiders especially fourteen-foot spiders. There are too many scary demons and monsters in The Lost Daughter of Easa besides the spiders and it is way too easy to get killed there I think.
I would have to say the new book coming out, The Boxcar Baby. I love steampunk and it’s in America, even if it is an alternate dystopian America I could live with it so I guess I will take The Boxcar Baby. I would put my loved ones in that novel as well.
SJ: Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?
JLM: I don’t think there is a sure-fire way or recipe for any career in life. You just have to work hard, be strong, and be exceptionally talented at what you do. I don’t want to be a cookie cutter author, I want to write what I feel passionate about, and if that makes me successful someday then great, I’ll quit my day job and donate more money to charity.
I do want to be a success but not at the risk of compromising my own personal standards.
SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?
JLM: I think I can better answer that question with a recount of the wise words from a green frog named Kermit who once sang:
It’s not that easy being green
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer
being red or yellow or gold
or something much more colorful like that.
It’s not that easy being green.
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.
And people tend to pass you over
’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
or stars in the sky.
But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green can be big
like an ocean
or important like a mountain
or tall like a tree.
When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why?
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine
And I think it’s what I want to be.
SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.
JLM: Fantasy allows you to express the human inner desires to explore what there is and find it to be grander than they expect. In a world where reality may suck, fantasy gives the reader the opportunity to escape and become the hero, fly instead of run, to wear frocks of gold instead suits, to ride on dragons instead of the subway.
Fantasy can also be used as a teaching tool to children who see things in a much broader spectrum than we do and life’s lessons are more easily processed when spoken from a toad and frog than a boring old teacher with a monotone voice.
Besides, we all live in a fantasy world in our minds already, fantasy books just help us to organize those thoughts better.
SJ: What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?
JLM: Literature, I want my writing to become literature and last the test of time. I would like at least one of my novels or stories to be like the Wizard of Oz, by Frank Baum, a classic that everyone is familiar with and remembered as one the greatest stories ever written. This would be my legacy. I guess all writers want that though.
SJ: Please tell us about your latest/favorite work or a little bit about what you’re working on right now. It’s plug time, so go for it!
JLM: Yeah! Ok my most recent book is Southern Haunts, Spirits That Walk Among Us. I co-edited this anthology with Alexander S. Brown, and I have a short story in there as well called Bath 10. The anthology is short fictional stories based off of real supposedly haunted places in the South. The stories start off light but as they progress they get darker and scarier. My story Bath 10 is based off of Hot Springs Arkansas and is close to the end of the book which means it’s one the scariest. This anthology is published through Seventh Star Press and came out around the end of March and has been selling like hot cakes. It has been such a success that the publisher is doing another one.
Around the same time this came out, my short story The Book came out of Dreams of Steam IV – Gizmos, from Dark Oak Press/Kerlak. It’s a steampunk thriller that takes place in Memphis and is about an antique book that sends people to Steampunk Hell.
My next novel coming out is from the Steel Roots series, The Boxcar Baby, and it will be released through Seventh Star Press in 2013. The Boxcar Baby is about a fifteen-year-old girl who was found as a baby in a boxcar. The man who adopted her and raised her as his own is now missing and she has to find him. Aided only by a motley gang of friends and a map she found hidden in her papa’s spyglass given to her by a mysterious hobo, and which has clues written on it, AB’Gale Steel train hops her way across the United States in a desperate attempt to find her papa and put her life and family back the way it was. This great American adventure takes place in an alternate steampunk dystopian world.
Thank you so much for having me, I really enjoyed our little talk.
Massive thanks to J.L. Mulvihill for such a well-spoken and heartfelt interview. You can check out her website at www.elsielind.com