I’m so pleased to have with me today Lynn Flewelling, author of the acclaimed Nightrunner series. It seems that Lynn has brought some friends along with her as well. Lynn, Seregil, Thero, welcome.
LYNN: Thanks Shortlatte, delighted to be here. Aren’t we, boys?
SEREGIL: Of course!
THERO: Will this take long? I’m really very busy . . .
It shouldn’t take too long, Thero, I promise. Lynn, you’ve been writing the Nightrunner books for a long time now. How has your experience writing the series changed over the years?
LYNN: As far as the writing goes? In the early, early days, before I was published, I was writing strictly for myself, and a few friends. Once I had an agent, a publisher, and eventually readers, there was a lot of outside expectation. I had deadlines to meet, and a lot of feedback, not always good. It’s a challenge to keep telling the stories I want to tell, and not always be looking over my shoulder, wondering what others will think. That’s not to say I don’t care about my readers’ opinions; it’s just that if I start trying to guess what will please, rather than writing what I am inspired to write, then it will all soon fall apart.
As for the series itself, though, it’s just been more and more fun exploring the boundaries of the places and people I’ve created. Because of the episodic nature of the series, I’ve been able to go lots of different directions. I’ve gone places I didn’t even know existed when I first started writing Luck in the Shadows and met people I could never have anticipated unless I wrote the next book. Time passes, and it’s been a real delight watching/making my characters grow and develop. And I really think they all have. Thero here is a great example. I really didn’t plan for him to be anything more than a secondary character—
THERO: Wait— What?
LYNN: Sorry, Thero, but it’s true. I just wanted to show that someone had taken Seregil’s place as Nysander’s apprentice. You took an instant dislike to each other as I went along, and that was fun, but that also seemed to light a spark in my imagination. I realized that I really liked you for your foibles as well as your amazing talents, and that it was a potent mix for character development. And then there’s Alec.
SEREGIL: What about Alec? We’re the stars, the co-stars. How could you have Seregil without his Alec?
LYNN: I couldn’t, of course, but I had a hard time getting Alec clear in my mind at first. He was to be the Watson to Seregil’s Sherlock, but for well into the first few chapters of the first draft I just couldn’t get him fleshed out. He didn’t even have a name. I was writing one day and my cat jumped up in my lap. The cat’s name was Alec and I decided to use that as a place marker until I came up with something better.
THERO: You named Alec after your cat?
SEREGIL: Yes, but that cat was named after Sir Alec Guinness, so it’s really quite classy. So you can stop snickering now.
LYNN: How did you know that?
SEREGIL: Really now, are you of all people surprised that I know something I’m not supposed to?
LYNN: Anyway, characters have a way of suddenly blooming, the more I work with them. I think I was having trouble with Alec because I knew he was so important, both to Seregil, eventually—
SEREGIL: From the first time I saw him, actually.
LYNN: I suppose so. And for the story. But I have to admit, Alec gave me more trouble than any other character. Once I had him and the others in place, however, things just meshed together, inspiring more and more story.
Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling
What are some of the challenges of writing a long-running series?
LYNN: Keeping things fresh and different, for one. Because I chose to make the series a series of discreet adventures, I couldn’t just write the same thing over and over again. Ten books of them foiling plots in Rhíminee wouldn’t have worked. Because they are spies and detectives by nature, I had to find new mysteries for them to solve, and for that I had to take them to different environments to find new challenges. I had to keep myself interested, too.
Have any of the characters surprised you along the way?
LYNN: Oh, most of the major ones, anyway. Alec and Beka Cavish grew up fast, and Thero matured into a real three dimensional character. Seregil has secret sorrows and old wounds that make him vulnerable at times in ways that perhaps your common garden variety “hero” isn’t supposed to be. But I never intended for him to be common garden variety, ever.
Oh, I don’t think any of us readers would consider him common. What is the first fantasy novel that you remember reading, what was the last one you read, and what is your favorite?
LYNN: The first one I remember was The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron. The one I’m reading, several pre published novels of friends and they are excellent. My favorite fantasy novel ever? That’s a tough choice, as I’ve read so many good ones over the years. Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Man are probably top of the list, along with Tolkien and William Kotzwinkle’s Fata Morgana.
Seregil, it’s wonderful to have you with us today, though we’re sorry to see that Alec isn’t with you. What’s the last thing you said to Alec before heading out the door this morning?
SEREGIL: “Be careful. That could blow your hand off.”
Oh…my. Ah, Thero, delightful to see you as well. So tell us, what was it like inhabiting Seregil’s body?
THERO: When Nysander made us switch bodies? Bilairy’s Balls, do we have to go there?
SEREGIL: Oh admit it. You loved it. All that taut muscle and smooth skin and big—
THERO: You do know I can turn you into a brick, don’t you?
What do you think of that, Seregil?
SEREGIL: He saved my life that night, and others, at considerable risk to his own. I’ll always be grateful for that, especially since he didn’t like me back then. But I do think that he got the better end of the deal in that trade. I hate to think what he got up to with my body while I was gone.
THERO: Uh, brick?
Thero, how accurate would you say Seregil’s otter persona is?
THERO: Surprisingly accurate, really. Otters are by nature playful and love their families. They also defend themselves and those they care about with a vicious bite if threatened. And they both like fish, lobsters, and the like.
Thero, any pastimes that Lynn isn’t privy to?
THERO: Well, I paint a bit, just for my own amusement, and dabble in manuscript illumination. I’m also writing a treatise on the preparation of beetle carapaces for use in the transmutations of certain metals—
SEREGIL: (yawn) And he’s writing love poetry.
THERO: You— You!
SEREGIL: It’s rather good, too.
THERO: Oh. You really think so?
SEREGIL: I do, really. It’s very good.
THERO: You might have asked, though.
SEREGIL: Sorry. Old habits.
Seregil, what’s your favorite disguise that you’ve adopted?
SEREGIL: Well, as you probably know, I carry off female disguise rather well. It’s wonderful how your average villain underestimates women. Off the top of my head, I’d have to say playing Lady Gwethelyn has been the most fun. I mean, when I can fool a randy hound like Captain Rhal, I know I’m doing well.
One more question, Seregil. Any thoughts on who would play you in the stage version of your life? What about Alec?
Glimpses by Lynn Flewelling
SEREGIL: I get asked that a lot. I’ve been around long enough that there have been a succession of actors who’ve aged out. I think Daniel Day Lewis was the first, back in the “My Left Foot” period when he was young and had long hair. Michael Praed was in there, too, at some point. More recently Johnny Depp. He has a great deal of depth and has played a huge spectrum of roles. He’s not getting any younger though. Benedict Cumberbatch, of Sherlock fame, would be another good choice.
As for Alec, that’s a tough one. Years ago there was a Finnish Olympic ski jumper who looked right, but overall I can’t seem to find anyone who’s just right, although the version of him on the cover of Lynn’s book of short stories, Glimpses, isn’t a bad likeness.
On that, I’d have to agree. Back to you, Lynn. What is one character that you’ve read and wished you had created yourself?
LYNN: Sherlock Holmes, of course!
You’ve been somewhat of a pioneer in your genre. What direction would you like to see fantasy fiction take in the future?
LYNN: I’d like to see more strong, believable female heroes.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
LYNN: Editing and revision are my absolute favorite parts. There’s no such thing as a perfect first draft and for me, the rewrites are where much of the magic happens. I come up with all sorts of new ideas and action, even new characters in rewrites. First draft can be a bit of a chore; revising is play!
Do you listen to music while you write? What might be a few songs on the Nightrunner soundtrack?
LYNN: I listen to music constantly while I work. It can set the mood, or just block out the world. I wrote Stalking Darkness to Enya’s Shepherd Moons and Watermark albums. I wrote Casket of Souls to Apocalyptica turned up loud, and the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Alice. For the Nightrunner finale book I’m writing now, currently titled Shards of Time, it’s mostly classical and New Age so far, but that may change as I go. I need something really spooky.
Seregil’s friend, Micum Cavish’s theme song would be Sting’s “It’s Probably Me.” Seregil’s song for Alec might be Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man.” Thero’s song might be Enya’s “Cursum Perficio.”
You’ve always held open the possibility for further Nightrunner books. Any chance that you’ll be revisiting the characters from the Tamír Triad again in the future?
LYNN: The honest answer is that I’m not sure, but probably not anytime soon.
What do you find most fulfilling about being an author, and in writing Casket of Souls in particular?
LYNN: On a personal level, the process of crafting something new that no one has ever seen before is very fulfilling. But I’ve also gotten some remarkable, often touching reader responses. A number of young LGBT people have found Seregil and Alec to be heroes they can really identify with, and some have used the books to come out to family and friends. One person said my books kept him from committing suicide at a dark time in his life. It doesn’t get much better than that.
SEREGIL: If I might just add, Casket of Souls is one of my favorite adventures, and has a gorgeous cover. (And no, that’s not me on it.) You can read the first chapter for free here! http://www.sff.net/people/Lynn.Flewelling/excerpts/casket.souls.exc.html
And you can read the whole book on May 29!
Lynn, Seregil, Thero, it’s been lovely having you all here. I know I’ll be first in line come May 29 to see what adventures you have in store for us.
Check out the rest of the Nightrunner series using the links below, and be sure to buy your copy of Casket of Souls on May 29!
Luck in the Shadows: Amazon| Goodreads
Stalking Darkness: Amazon| Goodreads
Traitor’s Moon: Amazon| Goodreads
Shadows Return: Amazon| Goodreads
The White Road: Amazon| Goodreads
Glimpses: A Collection of Nightrunner Short Stories: Amazon| Goodreads
Casket of Souls: Amazon| Goodreads