Welcome back to You Heard Write! A place where writers and fans can hear from their favorite authors as they discuss aspects of the craft, up and coming publications, and personal experiences.
Today we welcome a very special guest, middle grade fantasy author Lou Anders!
About the author:
Lou Anders is the author of the the middle grade fantasy adventure series Thrones & Bones, as well as the novel Star Wars: Pirate’s Price.
He has always been a fan of fantasy adventure stories. Frostborn and its sequels was his attempt to write the kind of story that would have excited himself as a kid (and still as an adult). He wanted to introduce young readers to fantasy fiction in a book that parents and kids can enjoy together (or each on their own).
He’s done a lot of things before becoming an author. He wrote and directed plays in Chicago. He was a journalist out in Hollywood once upon a time, where he hung out on the sets of a lot of science fiction television shows talking to actors and directors and crew. He wrote movie scripts too, a few of which he even got paid for! He worked for an Internet start up in San Francisco. And he worked as an editorial director and art director in publishing, and wound up winning the Hugo and Chesley awards for editing and art directing!
These days, there’s not much Lou would rather do than write, but when he’s not writing, he enjoys playing video games, running Dungeons & Dragons games for his family and friends, reading, television and travel. He’s been fortunate enough to have visited many countries around the world ─ including countries in Great Britain, Europe and Asia.
Right now he lives with his family in Birmingham, Alabama.
Thrones and Bones series
Star Wars: Pirate’s Price
CN: World building is one of the most important aspects in terms of writing a great fantasy book. What were some of the techniques you used when you created the world for Thrones and Bones?
LA: Whenever I’m inventing a culture, I light to look to real world and mythological examples. For the country of Norrøngard, I was obviously heavily inspired by real world Norwegian history and Viking myth. But for something like the Calderans of Thica, I was looking at the real world Spartans and combining them with the historical Greek notions of the Amazons (as opposed to modern notions). I will research a lot of history and mythology, watch lecture series on the periods I’m interested in, and source as much photo reference as I can. But I also have another technique that’s a bit odd, which evolved by accident. After Frostborn sold, and while we were still in rewrites, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Norway. While there, I was struck by how unique the landscape is. I worried that I would have to do a description pass on my manuscript, because I didn’t see how I would have gotten it correct before my visit. But to my surprise, I’d actually nailed the look and feel of Norway, the only exception being that I had to add the red berries that are all over the hillsides. I couldn’t figure out how I’d managed to pull it off until I remembered that I was over one hundred hours into Skyrim. And Bethesda has obviously spent millions on duplicating the look of a Norse environment inside their game. So now when I am creating a new culture, one of my techniques is to see if I can find an historical videogame that takes place in an analogous real-world land. Playing the game helps me internalize the experience of walking around inside a historical space. So… long, dry lectures plus video games = research!
CN: How do you handle the times when your inspiration to write seems to be on an extended vacation? Do you muscle through, or do you have a process that gives you that extra oomph?
LA: Well, these days with two kids and a dog demanding attention, the impediments to writing aren’t so much writer’s block as external claims on my time. But there have certainly been times when I wasn’t “feeling it,” or my mood was coloring my output. I learned to remind myself that I’ve spent decades honing a craft, and that “my talent exists irrespective of my mood.” Some material that I wrote under very trying temperments–where I just absolutely hated the process of writing–ended up being some of my favorite bits of the Thrones & Bones series in retrospect. So I’ve learned to just sit and type and know that my fingers know what they are doing, even when my brain thinks otherwise!
CN: If you could go back in time and give your pre-published self one piece of advice, what would it be?
LA: Writing, like everything, is a muscle. It only improves with usage. I wish I’d started sooner. I’d be that much better now if I had!
CN: ( Fun One) Given your love for video games, if you could write a story about any video game character, who would you choose and what kind of story would it be?
LA: I’d be torn between writing about the Dovahkiin from Skyrim or Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption 2, with Lara Croft as a close second. I suppose the world of Skyrim appeals to me more than writing a Western or that of a modern day treasure hunter, but really what I’d rather do is work on a videogame for Thrones & Bones! I’m also a very big pen and paper RPG player, so a Dungeons & Dragons Thrones & Bones supplement would be grand.
CN: What can your fans expect from the next Lou Anders book(s)?
LA: Well, my first Star Wars novel, Pirate’s Price, came out this past January. It ties in with the main ride, Smugglers Run, at the new Galaxy’s Edge attraction at Disneyworld and Disneyland, so that’s made a bit of a splash. Then my next original novel will be out from Penguin Random House in Summer 2020. It’s not public yet, though I imagine it will be very soon (we’re through copyedits and the cover is done). It’s not a Thrones & Bones novel. Instead it involves new characters in a different location of the world. I’m not going to say much about it now, except to say that it’s very different for me, a whole lot of fun, and definitely involves unicorns.
Myself and Lou want to thank you all for stopping by You Heard Write! We hope you had as much fun reading the Q and A as we did ourselves, as well as furthering your knowledge on the craft of writing. And be sure to get your hands on a copy of the Thrones and Bones series!
Don’t forget to follow Lou Anders on Twitter @LouAnders. You can also visit www.louanders.com to stay up to date with his work!
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