#IWSG, author interview, Elizabeth Seckman, Ellen Jacobson, Erika Beebe, fantasy, Hero Lost Anthology, Jen Chandler, L. Nahay, Mysteries of Death and Life, Olga Godim, Renee Cheung, Sarah Foster, Tyrean Martinson, Yvonne Ventresca
I first heard about the anthology competition when I joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group in September last year. The theme was “Hero Lost” and the genre fantasy.
This great project, with amazing writers, has now come to fruition.
Here’s the blurb:
Can a lost hero find redemption?
What if Death himself wanted to die? Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever the caretaker of a house of mystery?
Delving into the depths of the tortured hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler with The Mysteries of Death and Life, L. Nahay with Breath Between Seconds, Renee Cheung with Memoirs of a Forgotten Knight, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth Seckman with Mind Body Soul, Olga Godim with Captain Bulat, Yvonne Ventresca with The Art of Remaining Bitter, Ellen Jacobson with The Silvering, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe with The Wheat Witch, Tyrean Martinson with Of Words and Swords and Sarah Foster with The Last Dragon.
Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these twelve tales will take you into the heart of heroes who have fallen from grace. Join the journey and discover a hero’s redemption!
Now that your interest is piqued, let’s get to know the authors behind this anthology.
What drew you to the theme “Hero Lost”?
Jen: I’ve always been drawn to lost souls, be they a fallen hero or a wandering spirit. The idea of a hero who has lost the way, who has either decided or feels they have to turn away from heroism to become something else is intriguing. We’re surrounded by Super Heroes these days and, to be frank, I find them dull and uninteresting. In many instances, it’s the villains, the antagonists who tend to have the more interesting back stories. I love a story where it is discovered that the villain is really just someone who got misguided, was misunderstood, or who fell from grace because of something they did or, even better, something someone else did. I felt a pull towards that theme when I wrote my story. Granted, my hero never “turns to the dark side”, but the temptation is there, ever present, and it made me wonder: what would it be like to have to make that choice? How many people have become “villains” simply because they were unable to reconcile the situations that drove them away from their heroism? Not every Lost Hero becomes a villain, of course, and not all villains have a great reason for becoming an antagonist. But for me, thinking along these lines drew me into the Hero Lost theme and helped shape my characters.
Ellen: I find it encouraging to read about unlikely heroes. It gives me hope that each and every one of us has an inner hero inside just waiting to get out in the right circumstances.
Renee: For me, the image of a tragic hero always held a certain allure. Although I am a fantasy writer, I strive to depict reality in my plots, mirroring real life relationships and personalities. The idea that life can be harsh and just because you strive to do good, doesn’t’ guarantee you a happy ending always felt more realistic and as a result, I gravitated towards the theme.
Erika: I’ve always loved superheroes. I was the little girl with the big mind and lots of places to go. As early as four, I was jumping couches in the basement, fists out with my imaginary red cape fluttering behind me, yelling “There’s no need to fear, underdog is here!” Heroes give me hope. In some of my darkest days, I’ve always believed to look up and dream. It’s my foundation of the hero. Life gets dark. Find your strength and climb up. Keep climbing. Those people, “heroes,” who matter will see your pain and climb with you.
Sarah: I like complicated characters. Maybe someone who you think you have all figured out but then you learn more about them and see them in a totally different way. I think a lost hero is like that. We have to learn why they became lost, and if they still want to be a hero.
Elizabeth: As a romantic, a good hero pulls me in like a magnetar. (Full disclosure— I googled “most magnetic thing” to answer this question and came up with magnetar a neutron star with an extremely powerful magnetic field.)
Olga: Some time ago, I wrote a story where one of the characters was a Finder. She found lost things and people with her magic. She was not the protagonist of that story but she came out very colorful, and I wanted to write a story specifically for her. When I learned about this anthology – Hero Lost – the two ideas just came together. Of course my heroine was going to search for a lost hero. Her search is made harder because he was lost two decades ago, before she was born. It was irresistible.
Yvonne: I was drawn to the theme because the idea of being “lost” is an interesting spin on the traditional hero.
Tyrean: When I read the theme, I thought of the dark night of the soul that all characters go through and I wondered what it would be like for a character to be stuck in that dark night at the start of a story.
L.: The combination of the words ‘lost’ and ‘hero’. In a way, it sounds like an oxymoron, like they shouldn’t ever be used together. One word is bright and happy, courageous. The other is heartbreaking and hints at a tragedy.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver readers what they want?
Jen: Definitely more original. I’m not a fan of writing for markets or for trends. It’s hard, though, because so many people are following trends in writing and tend to make their reading decisions based on sales and marketing, hype and what someone they know is reading. I used to look at the NY Times’ Best Seller lists but I don’t anymore. I usually don’t read the most popular, “IT” books of the moment. The few times I have they have all been terrible disappointments.
Ellen: I’m currently working on a cozy mystery about a reluctant sailor. I’m trying to be original while also conforming to the “rules” of that particular genre.
Renee: Maybe a bit of both? Currently I write in the niche of technomancy – magic mixed with technology and this short story is situated firmly in that subgenre. It is not a subgenre I’ve come across frequently so I have no idea if readers truly want it. That said, I do hope that readers will enjoy the story regardless.
Erika: When I write, I start with a story for me. In my eyes, stories are most believable when they come from the heart. I research until the setting unfolds in my head. I want to picture myself in that moment and see my character. Then I write it for others to picture and feel it too.
Sarah: I usually do whatever my characters tell me to. My current WIP is a very controversial idea and I don’t really care who that bothers. But at the same time, and I think this comes up more in the editing process—you obviously have to make a story readable. So I like original ideas, but making a story that people will actually want to read.
Elizabeth: I aim to please the reader. If they’re not happy, what’s the point?
Olga: That’s funny – the story of my life. I try for what people expect, but most of the time what comes out is different from the norm. Look at this anthology. Everybody else wrote about a hero who was lost or fallen metaphorically, but I wrote about a Finder looking for a hero lost literally. Nobody can find him. And my protagonist is not a hero herself, just a girl doing her job.
Yvonne: I ultimately want to create a satisfying story, but during the initial drafts, I focus most on the ideas I’m trying to express. The reader experience gets more attention during the revision process.
Tyrean: I have to admit I generally go with whatever crazy idea is in my head and I think about what readers might want in the editing phase. I hope there are a few readers out there that have similar tastes to my own.
L.: It’s hard to declare my style or plots as original, but I know they are not mainstream and don’t fit into specific genres. I focus on the story and the characters that come of it, and how they want things told.
What were your goals/intentions with your story, and how well do you feel you’ve achieved them?
Jen: I wanted to take an idea (The Angel of Death) and give him a face, emotions, and a destroyed soul. I wanted to find a person, in a similar broken state, to pull herself out of her current predicament and focus her energy on helping someone worse off than herself. The first line of the story came to me immediately and I had to follow after it, see who on earth this “person” was as well as who the narrator was. It was fast paced and not at all how I usually write. I think I achieved my goal as much as I could within the word count. There’s so much more I wanted to do with Gaston and Leia, so much more to their stories, but I had to reign all that in and focus on the immediate tale that surfaced with that first sentence.
Ellen: My goals were to complete a short story (this was my first one) and submit it to a contest. I ticked the boxes with this one.
Renee: My goal with this story is two-fold. First to introduce readers to this world I’ve created where mythic and fantastical creatures have immigrated into our technology in this alternate world and to pose the what-if questions on how those dynamics would work. Second, I wanted to experiment with twisting a very traditional trope and modernizing it while keeping a very fairy tale quality. I do hope I have achieved both but you never know until the readers comment!
Erika: I want people to always believe there’s a little light in the darkest of moments. I write deep themes and then show how the character fights them, until they learn to believe. Characters are my strong point. I dive into them, breathe life into them as if I were living in their minds, imagining all the things they would.
Sarah: Well, one of my goals was to be in the anthology, so I guess I achieved that! For the story itself, my initial idea started out so vague—just about two people searching for a lost hero. The story developed into so much more than that so I think I surpassed my initial intention.
Elizabeth: I wanted to blend romance with fantasy so it fit the theme of the anthology and represented the sort of books I write.
Olga: My heroine did find her lost hero – so that would be the goal achieved.
Yvonne: My intention was to portray the emotions of a girl who doesn’t have the same beliefs as those around her. I hope I’ve achieved that!
Tyrean: My goal was to delve into a character who is going through a kind of mid-life crisis with his calling as a dragon-slayer. I hoped to do so in a high fantasy trope setting with a bit of humor. I seem to have received a few chuckles so I think it mostly worked.
L.: I wanted to continue with the word play of ‘Hero’ and ‘Lost’. A hero is someone who does something great, who you’d expect to be lauded. And while lost is self-descriptive despite the many ways something can be lost, I veered towards an absolute state. My protagonist spends all her time worrying over her enemy, and never shares many details about herself. My goal for the reader was to realize that at the end, they know virtually nothing about her: her name, her past, her family life, her personal life. She is lost several times over. As I intentionally went with subtle, I don’t know how apparent that’ll be.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Jen: I’d probably choose a dragon: they can be big, blustery and terrifying and sometimes I wish I could be that way. I do breathe smoke and fire when I’m angry, but I’d rather curl up in my lair with my treasures close by and hoard my ideas until I feel they’re “perfect”!
Ellen: A sloth. I write and edit very slowly so it’s encouraging to have a spirit animal who gets it.
Renee: My online nick is wired crow and while I used the brand more for my web design side, I’d like to think of the crow as one of my totems. They are wily creatures and like all blackbirds, harbor secrets of the city and stories they glean from their wanderings.
Erika: I would guess the Lion. I’ve needed lots of courage through life and I am very protective of those I love.
Sarah: Probably a cat. I’m actually a bit lazy when it comes to writing, but with random bursts of energy. Kind of like when my cat spazzes out for no reason. I’ll get creativity for no reason and just run with it.
Elizabeth: A dog. But not just any dog. I want to be the sort who lives a pampered life with bowls of treats and boxes of toys.
Olga: I’m not much of an animal person. I never had a pet in my life, and neither did my parents. Some freaky confluence of circumstances pushed me into collecting toy monkeys. I started my collection in 1994, and by now my collection counts over 300 monkeys. Maybe 400, I’m not sure. I lost count long ago. So maybe a monkey is my mascot.
Or it might be a squirrel – the only animal I ever wrote about. I have a collection of short urban fantasy stories, Squirrel of Magic. All the stories in the collection are united by the same protagonists: a young witch Darya and her familiar, squirrel Beatrice. Beatrice is smart and telepathic and grumpy and loyal – a perfect friend for a modern witch.
Yvonne: My mascots would be my two dogs – they keep me company while I write.
Tyrean: A griffin with a streak of humor
L.: Definitely a dragon. Though my Nightmare unicorn follows me around quite closely.
Now that you’ve gotten a sneak peek into the heads of these writers, why not go and read their awesome anthology?
Any questions for the authors? Do you enjoy reading short stories? What do you think of the theme “hero lost”?