Interview: L.D. Colter
Today we’re talking to L.D. Colter, who just released her book While Gods Sleep (now available from Amazon). I had the pleasure of reading an excerpt earlier this year, and Colter’s imagery still haunts me. While Gods Sleep is a contemporary fantasy set in Greece, in 1958. More than twenty years after his fantastical near-death experiences, Ty’s ordinary existence is shattered when he’s persuaded to play an ancient game of throwing bones. Entering the world of obsessive gambling, he soon finds himself deeply in debt, and his life hanging in the balance once more.
To repay his money-lender, Ty is forced to descend to Erebus, a mid-world that lies between the surface and Tartarus. His task is to steal an item from Eros' daughter, but to do that he’ll have to find a way to survive the demi-goddess as well as monsters he’d believed existed only in myth. Once in Erebus, those considerable dangers are eclipsed by far greater ones; he discovers the item he seeks is tied to the fate of the sleeping gods, the powerful factions that seek to control them, and an enemy that could destroy them all. Ty must make the biggest gamble yet, betting his life to save his own world and the underworlds below it.
It’s eerier than it sounds.
Hi Liz, thanks for joining!
Thanks for having me!
So it’s been months, and the tattooing sequence remains quite horrifyingly vivid in my mind. What has your experience been like with tattoos? Was there any real-world inspiration?
Tattoos have always fascinated me. I remember reading Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man" way back around high school age, and loving the concept of the supernatural markings. While Ty's are quite different, I evidently still love the idea of magic associated with tattoos. Funny thing, though, the answer to "What has your experience been like with tattoos?" is none. I do, however, know plenty of people with tattoos and got lots of feedback on some of my early drafts about all the things I got wrong. It also helps that I write fantasy, and these are no ordinary tattoos and no ordinary tattoo artist, so I had a little latitude.
Do you create an outline when you write? Were there any surprises that came up during the writing process for While Gods Sleep?
I’m a dyed-in-the-wool pantser (I write by the seat of my pants). Outlining just isn’t a tool that’s in my writer’s toolbox. Maybe I’ll acquire it someday, but I doubt it. On the other hand, I’ve never seen pantsing and plotting as black and white options. Both approaches have big gray areas for most writers. Even the people who outline in the thousands of words have to let go of the outline at some point and wing it, or the book would be nothing but an outline. In the same way, most pantsers have some level of plotting going on, even if it’s at a scene-by-scene level as they get there. For me, I begin with atmosphere (dark, humorous, gothic, whatever), then get an idea of the main character, sometimes a theme early on, and then an opening. While all that’s coalescing in my head, a sense of the story arc usually comes to me with some idea of where the story will end. At that point I start writing. In fact, at that point I have to start writing because the words of the opening start coming to me. And yes, there are always surprises. That's what I love about pantsing. Nearly all the antagonists in While Gods Sleep were a surprise to me, with the exception of the one in the opening pages.
You also have a more traditional epic fantasy novel out, The Halfblood War. How does the research and writing process differ for you between epic fantasy and more contemporary work?
I have a love of both epic fantasy and dark contemporary fantasy/magical realism, but they're so very different that I separate them with two different author names: L. Deni Colter for my epic fantasy and L. D. Colter for the contemporary and dark fantasy. The two styles have a very different feel, and I find I'm in a different mind-set depending on which one I'm writing. And, of course, with contemporary fantasy there isn't the struggle with the setting and establishing culture and all the world-building that comes with epic fantasy. Even though Western European-based epic fantasy draws pretty heavily from our own medieval and dark ages European history, epic fantasy usually builds its races, history, economy, geography, etc., from scratch. Fortunately for me, I started out writing secondary world fantasy, and have been told that world-building is one of my strengths.
When writing contemporary fantasy, I feel there always needs to be pretty rigorous attention to getting the details right. For me, when an author gets something wrong, it kills my suspension of disbelief and pulls me out of the story. If the author does it often enough, it can ruin a book for me. Readers are going to have a wide range of knowledge and expertise, and I try hard not to let them down by writing about a real place or real-world thing and getting my facts wrong. My debut novel A Borrowed Hell was the easiest of my novels so far for me to write, as the settings were nearly all places I know and have been and the time period is present day. On the other hand, While Gods Sleep has both a real-world and underworld settings, but the real-world setting is 1958 Athens, Greece, so there was a lot of research to get things right there, as well as double-checking my mythology facts (though, again, I was able to take a lot of latitude with the mythology since the plot takes off in some pretty unique directions and is in no way a retelling of an existing myth).
How did the cover art come to be?
I'm just thrilled with the original artwork by Trevor Smith, and the book design by E.M. Tippetts Book Design. I first met Trevor when he and I were winners in the same year at Writers and Illustrators of the Future in 2014 (Trevor was the grand prize illustrator winner that year). He was fantastic to work with on what I feel is a pretty unique cover. I mean, it's not your typical cover with a single symbolic image. The conjoined twins are characters in the story who are mentioned early on and play a larger part later, but having them on the cover alone would have been confusing to potential readers as they have no place in Greek mythology, so Trevor incorporated the agora-like structure, and the statues of Ares and Prometheus. Hopefully the cover art makes someone look twice to try to figure out the correlation, and then connect the dots with the wonderful cover blurb from Walter Jon Williams describing it as a blend of dark contemporary fantasy and Greek mythology.
From Sherri Cook Woosley: What critters are in your novel?
Ah, lots of great creatures here: a harpie, griffin, snake monster, centaurs, lions that aren't your garden-variety lions, and even a scorpo-mantis.
Finally, what question would you like to ask the next author interviewed here?
I'm always interested in what others enjoy reading, so I guess it would be "If you could pick one favorite book, what would it be?"
Liz has followed her heart through a wide variety of careers, including farming with a team of draft horses, and working as a field paramedic, Outward Bound instructor, athletic trainer, and roller-skating waitress, among other curious choices. She also knows more about concrete than you might suspect.
Her novels written under the name L. D. Colter explore contemporary and dark fantasy, and ones written as L. Deni Colter venture into epic fantasy realms. She's an active SFWA member with multiple short story publications, and her debut novel A Borrowed Hell was the winner of the 2018 Colorado Book Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy. Following a long interlude in Southern and Northern California, she returned some years ago to her home state of Colorado, where she spends her time with her husband, dogs, horses, and writing (according to her husband, not always in that order of priority). Her website and blog can be found at: http://lizcolter.com/
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