Leslye Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She’s a romance junkie who self-medicates with happily-ever-afters and steaming mugs of green tea. She lives in Maryland with her husband, an eighty-pound lap dog, and an attack cat. Visit her online at http://www.lpenelope.com.
I was lucky enough to be able to interview author L. Penelope through e-mail. She’s one of the nicest authors I’ve had the pleasure of talking to. And I’d highly recommend her books.
BP: What inspired you to write Song of Blood & Stone and Angelborn?
LP: The inspiration for Song of Blood & Stone was a little random. I was having a mini Jamie Bell movie marathon, as one does, especially when one has a minor obsession with the actor Jamie Bell. Anyway, I’d watched the films Retreat and The Eagle,and the image of a soldier being captured in an isolated place, needing the help of an awesome girl to escape just came into my head. The very next day I started writing.
For Angelborn, the finished product ended up very different than the initial idea. I’d wanted to write the story of a girl who falls for an invisible boy. This is not the first time I’ve wanted to write that story, but each time I try, it turns out a bit different and unexpected. Once I realized why Caleb, the hero, was invisible to everyone but Maia, the story took off in its own direction.
BP: How long have you wanted to be a writer? And what inspired you into being an author?
LP: I’ve been writing since I was five years old and learned how to form letters. I was constantly reading and constantly writing all throughout my childhood. For a long time, I didn’t believe it was possible or practical for me to be an author, it just seemed like a youthful fantasy, like becoming a ballerina or something. But when I got married and moved to a new state, I began taking writing workshops at the local writers center, just to meet people. That rekindled my desire to seriously pursue writing and publishing.
I also really felt that I had all of these stories inside me that should be released into the world. People love stories. I love reading and being transported, and I thin there’s always more room for that, to bring entertainment and an escape to people.
BP: What in particular inspired you for both Jasminda’s character and her name?
LP: Jasminda’s name was probably the first thing I knew about her. I was sounding out names: Jasmine, Jacinda and Jasminda just came out. Sometimes I will change a character’s name several times until I have one that fits, but with her, the name came first and then came the idea that she was lonely and felt like she didn’t fit in. I have certain naming conventions for the various cultures in my world, and her name purposefully doesn’t fit. It was like her parents just made up the name as a way to differentiate her. But it also serves to reinforce the fact that she is unique. She doesn’t quite belong in any of the boxes that everyone else seems to.
BP: Do you have a rough timeline for a book (or more books) coming after Song of Blood & Stone?
LP: There will be three more books in the series after Song of Blood & Stone. I don’t have hard dates yet, but I’m planning for book 2 to be out this fall and the rest of the series will be done in 2016.
BP: Do you have any other projects in the works that you can talk about?
LP: I’m also working on another novella in the Angelborn world that I plan to release this year.
BP: What type of books did you read growing up? And how have your reading preferences changed as you’ve gotten older?
LP: I read a little of everything growing up. I loved the classics like The Secret Garden and Jane Eyre. I read Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume about once a week for a while there. I think the cover nearly fell off, it was so well used. Also in the rotation were, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High and Christopher Pike. I also loved Edgar Allen Poe, Langston Hughes, and Nikki Giovanni. At certain times I focused solely on African American female authors like Gloria Naylor and Virginia Hamilton and later Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson and others.
These days, if it doesn’t have a strong romance and a happy ending, I’m far less likely to pick it up. I didn’t really start reading romance until I was an adult, but I fell in love with it.
I started with J.R. Ward, Nalini Singh, and Kresley Cole, and haven’t looked back.
BP: Do you think the books you read influenced how you write?
LP: I’m sure they do. I absolutely believe that to be a good writer you have to read a lot. Once I started really focusing on craft, I realized that I had internalized a lot of the “rules” of writing and that can only be because of how much I’ve read my whole life.
There are also specific cases of influence. For instance, Song of Blood & Stone takes place in an alternate 1920s time period. This idea came in large part due to Maggie Stievfater’s The Scorpio Races, which occurs in an undisclosed time period that felt very 1950s-esque to me. I loved the vibe she’d created and the rather unusual time period for the genre and wanted to do something similar.
BP: Do you feel like there is a lack of diversity in the SFF genres? Your main character is a non white female and most I’ve personally seen are white males.
LP: Though it is changing, I definitely feel there’s a lack of diversity in SFF. If you’re an epic fantasy lover, good luck finding many characters of color in worlds based on medieval Europe. (Though as the site Medieval POC details, it would not be historically inaccurate to include us there.)
I was asked if having a woman of color on the cover of Song of Blood & Stone would make it difficult for readers to relate to the book. I’ve never had a problem relating to all of those white characters I read, so why should anyone else have a problem relating to Jasminda? Or Maia in Angelborn?
SFF is a genre that is at its best when it’s critiquing our present world and projecting our reality onto invented worlds. “Diversity” is really just “reality,” and while whiteness has been the default for a long time, that’s changing due to globalization and the shifting demographics of the American population. More and more diverse voices are being pushed into the spotlight every day, and I’m grateful for that.