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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Interview with Eileen Wilks, 'World of the Lupi' author

It would appear that Christmas is still rolling on for me – because today I received an email in my inbox from one of my all-time-favourite urban fantasy authors, Eileen Wilks! 
I have loved her ‘World of the Lupi’ series since I first read Lily and Rule’s short story ‘Only Human’ years and years ago. 
Now the series is nine book deep (with ‘Ritual Magic’ set for release in August 2013) and the World of the Lupi is one that still captivates and fascinates. Lily and Rule are one of the urban fantasy coupes du jour and Eileen Wilks surely has to be on every paranormal lovers ‘must read’ list. 
Getting to ask some questions of one of my favourite authors was certainly a gift to me, and I hope you’re as tickled by this treat as I am - Enjoy!

Q: Are you a plotter or a ‘pantser’? – That is, do you meticulously plot your novel before writing, or do you ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ and let the story evolve naturally?
I'm mostly panster.  I do some plotting ahead of time, but in a loosey-goosey kind of way.  I send my editor what I call a (cough, cough) synopsis (parenthetical expression included.)  I like to know a couple of the major Turning Points before starting, but often find in the course of writing a story that they change in ways major or minor.  For example, In the current work-in-progress (Ritual Magic), I've kept one of the Turning Points I envisioned, but it's going to work at the Climax instead of the Midpoint Crisis.  The villain has changed since I wrote the (cough, cough) synopsis, and at this moment I'm not at all sure how to resolve that climax, but I'm pretty clear on what the final scene will be.

Q: Where do story ideas generally start for you? Do you first think of the character, theme, ending? Or is it just a free-fall?
Writing a series is different from writing stand-alone books.  There are always trailing ends from the previous book waiting for me to snatch them and launch into the next one.  Sometimes I know as I finish one book where the next one will start and what it will deal with. Often I don't, but I do have those trailing threads to play with, tangle and untangle . . . for me like Lily) it's all about the questions.  What question left hanging from a previous book won't let me go until I begin digging into it?

I can say one thing about my process definitively: I never think in terms of theme.  Not before I start a book.  Not while writing it.  Not after I finish.  For me, themes are like ideas: they emerge from Great Cosmic Swamp, surprising beasts dripping gobs of primordial ooze.

Q: Lily and Rule first appeared in the short story ‘Only Human’ for the 2003 ‘Lover Beware’ anthology. You then made ‘Only Human’ into the longer novel ‘Tempting Danger’. And now we’re at nine books in the ‘World of the Lupi’ series, with a tenth due out next year. Did you ever envision that Lily and Rule would come this far? What was it about the ‘Only Human’ short that you couldn’t let go of, and knew had series potential?

Something about Lily and Rule and the world they lived in had ideas popping and bursting in me.  The possibilities fizzed and churned and would not let me go--making that one a short story was terribly painful, so I was enormously relieved when my editor said I could turn it into a book, the start of a series.  And gave me a contract so I could make it so.  What was it about them and their world that set up such a firestorm in my creativity?  I think because they tapped into all sorts of ideas and thoughts I'd been daydreaming and thinking about for years . . . questions that wouldn't let me go.

Q: Your series has really become one of the hallmarks of the ‘Urban Fantasy’ scene – I wonder if you were always fascinated by werewolves and witchcraft before you started writing ‘World of the Lupi’, and what so intrigued you about werewolves in the first place?

Werewolves intrigued me because they're such an interesting vantage point to look at what makes us human . . . and what makes us monsters. Being human means carrying the potential for monstrous behavior within us--and isn't that how most people think of werewolves?  As a man/beast or man/monster hybrid . . . but animal half is not where monsters are birthed, is it? 

Q: Lily Yu has been such a fascinating protagonist. She has a very sad past, but is such a strong character. She’s certainly no damsel in distress, and she holds her own in this dangerous supernatural world. Why was it important to you to write such a strong female protagonist?

I'm not sure how to write any other kind.   There are all sorts of strength, however. I consider Arjenie one of the strongest characters I've written, yet she is the opposite of Lily in many ways.  The two women have some things in common, though. Both know themselves well enough to understand their limits--then push beyond them when they have to.

Q: Cullen Seaborne has many fans – and his unconventional marriage to Cynna pleased many of them. And their daughter, Ryder, is a really fascinating new edition to the universe. Will we see Ryder grow up and if yes, would you ever consider writing a young adult series based around her?

One of the things that bothers me is that I may not have the chance to write about Ryder as she comes into adulthood--and she would be such a great character to write.  All I can say is that we'll see.  I surely don't know.

Q: I loved book seven, ‘Blood Challenge’, partly because Benedict and Arjenie’s romance was absolutely delicious. You also wrote a short story for them in the ‘Tied with a Bow’ Christmas anthology. Do you have more short stories planned for these two – or perhaps another ‘World of the Lupi’ book that focuses on them as ‘Blood Challenge’ did? Would you ever consider a spin-off series for them?

I'd love to write more about Benedict and Arjenie, but don't think I could base a whole series on them.  Another novella or even a book that focusses on them--that's a real possibility, though I don't have a story like that in mind right now.

Q: What’s next after ‘Ritual Magic’ is released in 2013? How many ‘World of the Lupi’ books do you have planned?

Um . . . a bunch?  I don't plan ahead enough to put a number to this.

Q: In your ‘World of the Lupi’ FAQ, you answer the question of “will Lily and Rule ever have a baby?”

I used to answer this question by saying, I don't know.  Now I do . . . but I'm not telling.  

Q: Favourite book(s) of all time

No answer possible for this, but I love to reread favorites.  I recently reread several of Jim Butcher's Dresden books.  Before that, I reread some of Laurie King's.  After watching the Hobbit in 3-D  I'm thinking it may be time to revisit Tolkien.

Q: What advice do you have for budding young writers?
Write, write, write.  Writing is a practice.  Baseball players don't learn how to connect bat with ball by reading "how to hit a home run" books.  Be patient with yourself.  You won't know what you're doing most of the time.  Do it anyway.  Give yourself permission to do it wrong.  When you sit down to write, set aside your hopes and dreams.  Those are all about you, not about the story, and bringing them into your practice gets in the way.  Write a bad book.  Write two or three, and learn from them.  You start where you are, not where you hope to someday be.

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