Interview with Lauren Jankowski
The Blog Ring of Power Presents...
Today we have fantasy author, Lauren Jankowski on the Blog Ring of Power via BRoP member Sandra Ulbrich Almazan. Lauren is here to tell us a little about her creative process and about her latest novel, The Storm and the Night.
This is part three of a five-part interview. Be sure to check out the other BRoP sites for the rest of the interview:
Part 1 @ Sandra Ulbrich Almazon - Monday, August 19
Part 2 @ Vicki Lemp Weavil - Tuesday, August 20
Part 4 @ T.W. Fendley - Thursday, August 22
Part 5 @ Emily LaBonte - Friday, August 23
BRoP: Where do you get your story ideas?
Lauren: My brain. I think this is the question every writer dreads being asked. I truly don’t have an answer for this. I borrow aspects of stories I love (a lot of mythic figures tend to turn up in my work, albeit in different guises) and then just write a story that I would enjoy reading.
Sometimes, if I experience something that I find difficult to understand, I’ll write a story to try and work it out. Violence is a topic I just can’t wrap my head around and it turns up a lot in my books. I try to understand the motivation behind not only those who do violence onto others but those who react with violence.
BRoP: Do you have a specific writing style?
Lauren: Do you mean point of view? I tend to write in third person limited. I find this to be the easiest way to write a story. If you’re referring to length, I’ve always been a novelist. I’m most comfortable writing novel-length stories. Short stories just don’t afford me enough words to craft what I want. I truly admire writers who can write short stories. I always manage to go way over the word count.
BRoP: How do you deal with writer’s block?
Lauren: Cardio! Oh, writers really need to give it a try. It is a first rate way to break even the toughest writer’s block. Just put the pen (or laptop) down and do a good hour or two of kickboxing or step, whatever kind of cardio you enjoy (but you need to break a sweat. That’s important. If you’re not sweating, you’re not working). I also do an hour of pilates after cardio. Remaining active does wonders for writing.
BRoP: How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
Lauren: I start out asking a question: “What if X happened to Y?” or something along those lines. Then I create a logic chain: first this would happen, so-and-so would respond this way, this would happen, then this, and this would have to occur. I can usually string together the barebones of a plot using this formula.
I love creating characters. It’s probably my favorite part of writing. I’m currently working, on and off, on a project that involves creating family trees for various main characters. Usually the way I create a character is I first think of characters I enjoy. Then something usually pops into my head, a characteristic or motivation, and I start molding that character. For example, when I was creating Alpha (a character in my second novel), I was thinking about what the opposite of a protector would be, which is what most of my main characters were in my first novel. I came up with the idea of a rebel. As I was creating that group, I thought about who would lead them. I knew right off the bat they would only be led by women. In order to lead rebels, she would have to be smart and tough. When I thought of the word rebel, I associated it with the opposite of expectations. So Alpha came out as a somewhat androgynous woman with a fondness for metal and she runs this massive club of desire.
BRoP: Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser” (do you plan/outline the story ahead of time or write “by the seat of your pants”)?
Lauren: I’m a plotter, almost to the point of neurosis. I won’t start a novel unless I know exactly how it starts and ends. I usually have the middle planned out as well, but am more open to making adjustments. I often have a beginning and end for each chapter as well (I have my novel outline and then my chapter outlines). I also have a series outline. I still make adjustments to my outlines, but I need to have a general idea of where I’m going to start and finish.
BRoP: Do you use critique partners or beta readers? Why or why not?
Lauren: I do not use critique partners or beta readers for a couple reasons. I am extremely protective of my work and borderline paranoid about someone stealing something that I’ve dedicated years of my life (blood, sweat, and tears) to. It is very difficult for me to trust people and I tend to see plagiarists everywhere.
I would have no problem with a person I trusted looking at my work, but they all have their own lives and jobs. I would feel like an absolute nuisance asking them to read a novel-length work. Just thinking of doing that makes me shudder.
BRoP: How much time do you spend on research? What type of research do you do?
Lauren: I think I spend way too much time on research. I want to know what I’m writing about inside and out (I once took an anatomy course in college because one of my characters is a doctor. I don’t recommend doing that, especially if you’re not spectacularly good at memorizing just a ton of information. Then again, my professor was kind of a conservative dickhead). I usually spend one to four days researching, depending on how important a topic is to what I’m writing.
I’m an information hoarder. Most of my research is done online, but I also use books liberally. I also a friend that has offered to be my Classics source. So I usually email him about every other week (sometimes once a week, if I’m writing a lot) to pick his brain. I’ve found that having a number of sources for research is best.
BRoP: Is there anything you find particularly challenging to write?
Lauren: There are a couple of things I find particularly difficult to write. I’ll start with the funniest one: men’s clothing. No matter how much research I do (I’ve even got a Visual Dictionary on hand) for some reason, this characteristic continues to elude me. It’s quite funny just how clueless I am when it comes to fashion in general (I have absolutely no fashion sense), but menswear is particularly difficult for me.
In regards to themes/genres: I can’t write romance to save my life. I’m an aromantic asexual identifying woman, which might have something to do with it. Flirtation, sex, and love are just things I can’t seem to get a handle on. Wow, I really hope that didn’t sound ridiculously dirty.
I also find emotions in general to be incredibly difficult to write. Before my novels undergo rewrites, characters emotions often stray into melodrama territory. I struggle to write subtle emotions (and I frequently have to remind myself that people in general don’t regularly yell).
For as long as I have been writing, I have struggled with dialogue. In my first draft, the dialogue is almost always stilted and doesn’t read correctly. I often have to read the lines out loud and even then, it’s very difficult to write. I’ve often wondered if this is because I’m quiet by nature (I’m very much an introvert) and struggle in conversations. Writing is so much easier than speaking aloud.
BRoP: What format is your book available in (print, e-book, audio book, etc.)?
Lauren: Both novels (Sere from the Green and Through Storm and Night) will be available in print and ebook.
Where can readers can stalk you:
Blog | Facebook Fan Page | Goodreads | Twitter | Amazon Author Page | Flickr
THROUGH STORM AND NIGHT (THE SHAPE SHIFTER CHRONICLES VOLUME 2): The Meadows is home to the guardians, a race of beings similar to the deities in ancient mythology. They watch over the Earth from their serene lands like the gods on Mount Olympus. For millennia, it has been peaceful. However, in the beginning, there was a great war. A war with Chaos: a war that is still remembered in the legends of guardians and shape shifters. More than five months have passed since Isis, a shape shifter/guardian hybrid and member of the prophesized Four, last saw Coop. The Four are still no closer to finding the Key and their search has yielded nothing but more questions. The sudden and unexpected return of a face from the past, one long believed dead, plunges them even deeper into the mystery of the Key. Meanwhile, a powerful enemy begins toying with them. Who are the strange, scentless men in suits who can move impossibly fast? Who are the strange shape shifters known only as “the glowing-eyes” and what connection do they have to the vanishing bodies? The answers may be found in the stories about the War of the Meadows, but a small oversight in the legends may prove to be the shape shifters’ undoing.
The Blog Ring of Power (BRoP) is a consortium of five speculative fiction writers who have banded together to bring you highlights from the current speculative fiction market--news, reviews, and interviews with speculative fiction authors--with an emphasis on small-press and self-published authors. So grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and relax. Have we got a story for you...