Friday, October 19, 2007

An Interview with Lilith Saintcrow

Hi Ms. Saintcrow! Thanks so much for taking the time from what must be a very busy schedule to spend it with Darque Reviews. We’re looking forward to getting to know more about you, your future writing plans, and your Dante Valentine series.

LS: Thanks for having me.

To start things off, can you tell us how long you’ve been writing and what influenced you to choose it as a profession?

LS: I've been writing ever since fifth grade, I think. I entered a novelette in a fiction contest and won second prize. I suppose I did it just to see if I could; and there was also the thing I think every nascent writer goes through: finishing a book that is somehow unsatisfactory, and thinking "Gee, I could make that end better, I know I can." So before you know any better, you set out to do so...and the bug has bitten. As for choosing it as a profession, it didn't quite happen like that. I've been many things in my life--bank teller, insurance company slave, bookstore manager/clerk, massage therapist, etc. I wrote all through that, every day, just because I couldn't stop. When we moved to Vancouver before my son was born I didn't want to rebuild my massage therapy business from scratch, so I was just knocking around and decided, well, I've had this book ( smoke, now published as Anna Beguine) written for a couple years, why don't I revise it and see if it's any good? That started a long process of learning about rejection, again and again, sort of feeling my way around and submitting the manuscript several places. Finally Linda Kichline at ImaJinn Books took a look at the book and, while it wasn't quite for her, was very game about it. So I wrote her a book to spec (Dark Watcher, first of the Watcher series.) At that point I fully expected more rejection, but instead Linda came back with a list of revisions that would have to be done if I wanted the book published. I thought, "This can't be happening" and wrote back, "Sure, that sounds reasonable." And she offered me a four-book contract.So I had a very circuitous route to getting published, and with each book since then I've thought, "This can't be happening. Lightning can't strike twice." I never set out to be a professional writer; I didn't even think it was possible. It just wasn't on my radar, writing was more of an embarrassing personal habit I never told anyone about. Taking the plunge and sending the manuscript out was one of the scariest things I've ever done.

Writing a book from beginning to end is a long process that you’ve been through many times now. Do you still enjoy writing as much as you did when you published your first book?

LS: Oh, absolutely. Maybe "enjoy" isn't the word. I am helpless to stop writing. If I don't write during the day I feel unsettled and unsatisfied and restless at night. The fact that I have deadlines and a outlet for the books is new and heartstopping, and each time I finish a book I have a sort of snapback elastic reaction to that much sustained mental and creative effort brought to fruition. When I write, though, I feel very much as if I am doing what I was designed and built for--the way a cheetah, I imagine, feels when it's running. Or a racecar feels on the track. There's a sense of speed and of doing what I was made for that is, quite frankly, one of the best feelings in the world.

The fourth book in your Dante Valentine series, Saint City Sinners, will be released by Orbit Books in November and the fifth book, To Hell and Back, in January 2008. I’ve read that this will wrap up this series. Do you feel that everything you wanted for Dante has been realized?

LS: It's funny, if one of the main characters in the first book hadn't utterly disregarded my plans for him the series would have been only three books long. But as soon as the demon Japhrimel grew wings and fell in love, I knew what the entire series was going to be. I knew what each book involved and where the story was going, I even knew the ending line of the fifth book. I don't know if everything I wanted for Dante has been realized. Part of being a writer is seeing your work in print and thinking, "my God, I could have done better." If you don't look at something you wrote six months ago and see how it could be made better, you're not growing as a writer. So there's a certain amount of dissatisfaction once a book is finished and past the page proofs. There are certain things I would have done differently, but by and large I feel I did what the series needed. I think it's a good bit of work, and I'm proud of it.

Can you tell us what you’re working on now, and do you have plans for a new series?

LS: Well, right now I'm working on the third book of a new series. Orbit Books bought the first two books in the Jill Kismet series, about a modern-day exorcist/hunter--when things go bump in the night, Jill bumps back. Hard. The first two books, Night Shift and Hunter's Prayer, are due out in the next two years and I'm working on the third, tentatively titled Redemption Alley. Kismet is a much harder-edged character than Dante, and a little bit more of a whole person, which is a challenge to write.Fans of the Steelflower series will be happy to know I'm also working on Steelflower's Song, the second book in the series.

Do you work on more than one project at a time?

LS: I usually flip between two or three books while I'm working--a main project that's taking up most of my time, a book that's near completion and bubbling along, and sometimes a third work-in-progress that I'm just "noodling" with for my own personal enjoyment. I can't settle down to one book at a time, it feels too much like work.

Who are some of your favorite authors, and have your tastes in reading changed since you became an author yourself?

LS: My all-time favorite author is Tanith Lee. I think she's just amazing; every time I read something of hers I'm just blown away by the sheer craft she puts into everything. I'm also a big fan of history--I reread Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire constantly. I also am a big Stephen King fan, and I reread Jane Eyre and Sleeping With The Enemy at least once a year. They're my comfort books.My taste in reading has changed a little in the past five years. I give a book ten pages and if it doesn't hook me, I'm gone. I'm reading a lot for craft now, to peer under the hood and see how other authors solved some of the intrinsic problems of the written form. I read less for pleasure nowadays--but when I do get a book that makes me forget to look under the hood, what pleasure! Recently I read Chelsea Cain's HeartSick, and I was pleasantly surprised; I didn't look "under the hood" once.

When your writing schedule and family life allows for some free time just for you, what do you like to do with that time?

LS: Read. Seriously, that's what I do. I also go for walks or bike rides; physical activity helps keep everything going smoothly. I like going to see films, I love to knit, and I've recently taken up baking. But I rarely have free time just for me. When I do get it, I generally end up curling up somewhere and reading something I don't have to think too much about. I suppose it's the mental form of comfort food.

If you could live anywhere you chose without any pesky obstacles to stop you, where would it be, and why?

LS: Paris. I need at least six months to go through the Louvre, five years to get to know the Biblio, and the food's good, not to mention the history everywhere in the city and the fact that one can get almost anywhere in Europe by starting out there. I'd visit Rome but I wouldn't stay; I'd take a trip through Italy. Come to think of it, I also wouldn't mind living in Hawaii. I need to learn to surf before I die, it's on my list. And I like the idea of a slower pace for a few years.And while I'm dreaming, I suppose I wouldn't mind spending a couple years in Japan. But given my druthers, I think I'd love living in Paris.

Before we go, do you have any last thoughts you’d like to share with your readers?

LS: Just that I am grateful for the chance to tell stories and floored every day that people seem to like them. That's the best gift I could hope for, and I get it every day from my readers. Thank you so much!

It’s been a pleasure. Thanks again for sharing your time and giving us a little peak into the life of Lilith Saintcrow.

LS: Thanks for having me. I've enjoyed being here.

Kimberly Swan, Darque Reviews

Be sure to stop by and visit Lilith Saintcrow’s website at:
You can find out when her books will be released at:


Katie said...

Great interview. I really love her Dante series and I'm looking forward to reading some of her other stuff.

Kimberly Swan said...

Thank you, it was really great of her to do it. I love the Dante series as well, it's so different from anything else anyone is writing. I was really excited to hear that she's writing another series too! :)