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Tuesday, 4 September 2018

An Interview With Author Lauren Alder

A few days ago this author in a writing group I am a part of on Facebook suggested a co-interview where she would send a set of questions to an author to answer and that author would send her another set of questions to answer, or she would answer her own. I answered her questions and as they were well-written and relevant I found it would be easier for her to answer her own set of questions. Here is her response!


1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’m a 53-year-old freelance commercial artist who has been writing fiction for as long as I can remember. At this point I have almost 1.25 million words of fan fiction on Archive of Our Own, which was an excellent training ground for writing “The Codex of Desire”. I am a past Eisner award nominee, an honour which I shared with my husband of 23 years -- living and working in the same home studio with another artist is SUCH a blast, we’re completely sympatico and always on hand to help each other out as projects come across our desks.

2. What is the title of your current work (WIP or recently published). and what is its genre?

The title is “The Codex of Desire”, and the genre is... kind of hard to pin down. Time travelling science fiction, definitely. Fantasy? There are elements. Romance? Only of the most tragic kind.

3. Is this book suitable for children, or is it adults-only? If there's mature content, what type of mature content does the book contain?

I would say that it is definitely NOT suitable for children, due to physical violence, acts of murder, and suggestive sexual situations.

4. What inspired you to write this work?

The original premise for “The Codex of Desire” was inspired by a non-fiction book: “Ninja: 1000 Years of the Shadow Warrior” by John Man. In that premise, a warrior from the Samurai culture was captured by the Ninja culture and fell in love with a Ninja singer -- and all the characters were intelligent talking feathered dinosaurs.

5. What makes this book special, unique, or interesting? How does it "stand out"?

Intelligent talking feathered dinosaurs that only come up to an adult human’s kneecap are certainly not common in fiction. Add a time-travelling human paleontologist whose perspective provides interest, and the unique twist of not one but three tragic dinosaur love triangles, and you have a book the likes of which has never been seen before.

6. Tell us some key information about the main character(s), both protagonists and antagonists.

The first thing you need to know is that everybody’s desire is directed toward somebody who it’s a REALLY bad idea to desire in the first place. There’s romance here, but it’s both dark and doomed.

Tir’at, the male protagonist, thinks he’s the Hero but is actually the Damsel in Distress. Ev’ora, the Most Potent Chieftess of the Tribes of the Inspiration, thinks she’s the Hero of her people but is actually an utterly ruthless Villain. And Girn’ash, the Lowest slave in all the Tribes, scorned and cuffed and spat upon, is in fact the Hero of the piece.

Also, as much as I love Tir’at, he’s an utterly self-absorbed and vain little dandy. But to his credit, falling in love with La’leet does make him a (somewhat) better individual in the end.

7. What is your back cover blurb? Or if you don't have one yet, how would you pitch your work in 200 words or less?

The back cover blurb for “Codex” reads as follows:

“A rousing tale of love, war, lust, secrets, and betrayal... amongst intelligent feathered theropod dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous Period.

“An ancient civilization is threatened with destruction when Girn'ash, a shrewd and secretive slave girl, falls hopelessly in love with Tir'at~Esk, a dashing enemy fighter -- and she will do anything in her power to win his freedom. But can anyone escape the cruel desires of the Most Potent Chieftess Ev'ora, whose overriding goal is to claim the handsome captive warrior for her own?”

8. Share a tempting bit of the plot with us. Is there a particular scene that you're really excited about? Why does it excite you?

Not to give too much away.., but the end of Girn’ash’s story arc had a couple of my beta readers outright crying. It was heart-wrenching even for me to write, yet it made absolute poetic sense -- and in a civilization where poetry means everything, Girn’ash could not have asked for anything better or more fitting.

9. Share up to 800 words of your current work with us (with an intro of up to 200 words to establish context).

This is the entirety of Chapter 6, where we first meet Girn’ash… 

Chapter 6: The Lowest

A change of frequency, as jarring as a radio abruptly shifting to a new station: from free-moving strutting arrogance to small and constrained and meek... no, not entirely meek... there was a depth here, a silent undercurrent of resistance held fast and secret against all abuses... Deguchi struggled to get his bearings in what was clearly a different mind, huddling in stuffy darkness.

"Get up!" 
The musical Inflection Common warble of Hi'rata~Ton'n, Fourth Handmaiden of the Most Potent Chieftess, penetrated the warm nestling-comfort of the Lowest One's dreamless sleep like the stab of a scythe-claw. The Lowest One uncocked her head from under her bedraggled wing and cracked open both sets of eyelids, wincing against the pale glow of a single oil lamp held high overhead, her inner eyelids slow to retract — too slow for Hi'rata~Ton'n's liking.


"Get up, I said!" The eyes of the Lowest snapped open fully even as she cowered against the patch of bare wooden floor which served as her bed, to see the clawed hand of Hi'rata~Ton'n raised to deliver another blow to her head. "Sloven! Lazybones! Don't make me —"

Before the Handmaiden could finish her angry threat the Lowest lurched onto her bony feet, head submissively bowed until her narrow chin knocked against the floor. She spoke in a soft flat croak, her best attempt at the more melodic Inflection Exalted: "This Lowest hears and obeys, O Most Inestimable Hi'rata~Ton'n! Pray, what may this Lowest do to serve thee?"

Hi'rata~Ton'n coughed impatiently... but she lowered her claws. Only her glare remained unsheathed. "Eat your porridge," she growled, as if begrudging the Lowest even that small bowl of poor nourishment, "and keep out of the way until we're ready to go down to the Audience Chamber. Stick one feather out of place and you'll get more of this - cuff! And this - cuff!"

The Lowest endured the blows, although those cruel curved foreclaws penetrated her ragged shoulder feathers to scratch the hide beneath. And she remained silent, because she had survived this long through knowing what was desired of her — and at this moment, neither speech nor a side-twitch of her head in acknowledgement of the command were wanted. Instead she simply closed her eyes again, and after a few heartbeats Hi'rata~Ton'n hissed, turned on her heel, and departed the small side-chamber where unused mats, rugs, and odds and ends of the Nest of the Most Potent Chieftess were stored, her polished scythe-claws clicking irritably on the hard floor.

The Lowest lingered in the shadows left behind, head lowered, until she was certain that the Inestimable Hi'rata~Ton'n had gone back to the main chamber of the Nest, where the Magnificent Ev'ora~Nal'Ur was doubtless eating a repast far finer than a gruel of coarsely ground root-mush. Such meals were the lot of one in perpetual disgrace, one so low in rank that there were none to groom her feathers, one whose duty was to be neither seen nor heard — but merely to serve in whatever humble capacity was required of her. Lower even than the harem males was she, for those males at least kindled eggs in the belly of the Most Potent Chieftess...

But not these past two-fours of seasons — a mere two clutches in a full turning of the year...

It was a heretical thought, one which would have gotten this Lowest much worse than cuffed if she had voiced it... but she voiced nothing that she was not told to say, did she? Therefore none knew what was truly in her heart: the dangerous knowledge that for a ~Nal, the bearing of fertile eggs was key to prestige and power.

And a ~Nal who could not produce regular clutches of healthy eggs was no ~Nal at all. How much more so, then, for one who called Herself the ~Nal'Ur, the Most Potent Chieftess of all the Tribes?

The Lowest cautiously opened her eyes, put aside those thoughts — for how could they possibly serve her? — and crept to the doorway to peek her head under the painted leather curtain, where a rough-carved bowl of cold porridge lay awaiting her on the hallway floor. 

Her perpetually underfed stomach clenched and twisted within her. She gulped each tasteless mouthful, never suspecting that this day would be unlike any day before in the span of her silent, creeping, colourless existence.

10. What is the easiest part of writing for you? And what is the hardest?

The easiest part is just pouring out the words -- so, the actual writing. The hardest part(s) are the multiple editing passes which must follow, during which the material I produced so copiously in the first stage must be ruthlessly cut and tightened. So to paraphrase the famous comic book artist Alex Toth: “I spent half my life learning what to put in, and the other half of my life learning what to leave out.” 

11. Finally, if you could offer some advice to up-and-coming writers, what would that advice be? 

JUST WRITE. Don’t get caught up in editing during the first stage of any creative project - your only job, in the first draft, is to get your story down on paper or out onto the screen. It may be hideously ugly, but at least you’ll have material to work with in the editing stage - and you can’t edit what you don’t got.  

Editing is the great speed killer. Avoid it like the plague until you type “THE END” -- and even then, put your manuscript aside for 2-4 months before you take a second look. Believe me, you’ll come back to it with a fresher set of eyes and you’ll be able to see what needs to be done next. 


Buy her book on Amazon:

End Note

This was a really interesting and cool exercise! Maybe I will post more stuff like this in future. Her book also seems so fascinating; do check it out if you're interested! And of course, her interview of me:

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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
I've also published three YA fiction books and two poetry volumes. To check em out, copy and paste this link into your browser: