Marc interviews Lynn Flewelling, author of The Nightrunner Series.
Lynn, I am so happy you agreed to try out a live interview with me and gave me a second chance when technology failed me. I am a huge fan of your fantasy novels from the very beginning, when I googled ‘fantasy with gay protagonists’ and stumbled upon the ‘Nightrunner’ series. Even before that when I had no idea books about gay characters in my favorite genres existed, I read the Tamir Triade How did you come up with the ideas for your fantastic world?
I have always loved history, and fantasy, so when a character named Seregil came knocking at my brain, wanting to be a spy and thief, it seemed the best sort of world to build for him. It let me incorporate so many things I’m interested in! Martial arts and swordplay, medieval cookery, architecture and the like.
As to where the ideas come from? My unconscious, I suppose.
Well, I am really glad they found their way out. It was so important for me when I was coming to terms with my own sexuality at 20 to find stories where characters were gay like me and that was okay. Whether they overcame struggles in the romance genre or the gay thing wasn’t even the main concern – just part of the main protagonists like in your stories. Were you afraid that including gay characters would alienate some readers?
It crossed my mind, but I was committed to creating likable heroes who all sorts of people could identify with. I suspected that if I did it right, gay readers would like the books, but it was also important to me to have the books in the mainstream, where they might help straight people be more accepting. Given the mail I’ve gotten over the years, both my wishes came true and I’m very happy about that.
This is very slow.
I think your books have been very important in broadening the horizons of a few readers and giving gay readers great characters to identify with in the fantasy genre. But since we are talking of acceptance, I need to ask you something about the Tamir Triad. When I read the trilogy (later finding out it was a prequel of sorts to your nightrunners, in the same world) I just enjoyed the amazing character development and story. It is still my favorite of all your stories. Years later, when we were talking about gender studies, it was very easy for me to understand the concept of someone trapped in a wrong body. I think even though it is fantasy and magic in the books, they helped me to understand how a transgender person might feel and I am glad that you opened my own horizon as well. Did you intend for Tamir’s story to have that effect?
Absolutely! The whole trilogy was based on the theme of gender identity, and what it means to be human in different bodies. That’s something that has always had deep meaning for me; people tend to be judged on their outward appearance to the degree that others sometimes discount them entirely without getting to know the reality that dwells within the outer form.
(yeah, live interviews take more time, but are more responsive. If you need to do a part two of the chat we can. We can also continue with a more traditional email interview. Live interviews usually take about 4 hours, but in my opinion they are worth it, because they are so responsive)
The same goes for people of other races, ethnicities, or sexual orientation. Others have preconceived notions about them based on a label. I hate that.
[Oh dear, I don’t have four hours. Let’s see how far we get in 1.5. that’s all the time i have today]
Tamir’s story really went under my skin and resonated with me to the point that I got my gender studies professor and a few other students in that class to read it. I loved that every book was another stage in her journey and as I have read a lot of Gay fiction books in the past two years, I realized we direly need LGBTQ inclusive books. Even gay people who face their own discrimination need to be more open and accepting of others. Sometimes it saddens me to realize how far and stony the way to a more open-minded society is. Do you believe that books can make a big impact on the general public?
Yes, I do, along with movies, television, and social media. By making marginalized people of all sorts visible in the mainstream, it demystifies them and breaks down prejudices.
[absolutely – let’s do that <3]
I have heard that even in the LGBTQ community transgender people are not always accepted. Just shows that a five letter label doesn’t tell the whole story, either.
Yes, I have heard some unpretty things even in this otherwise so accepting community, which is why books like yours are so important. Going back to your Boys – Seregil is more than just a lover to Alec. In fact, the relationship happens in the end of the second book. Did you want for people to fall in love with the characters first so they would stick with them, even when they became lovers?
Yes, and of course, the characters had to fall in love with each other. I didn’t want to write an “eyes meet and they fall into bed” story, particularly with their differences in age and life experience. Seregil was protective of Alec and his innocence, and Alec made the first move, not knowing fully what he was getting himself into. More than passion or lust, they genuinely loved and respected each other by the time the relationship become physical.
A greater worry of mine was sustaining reader interest once they were a couple. Some readers only want the falling in love story; it’s quite something else to watch a relationship really develop, mature, and change.
I really love the different stages of their relationship and how it changes with years and experiences – but then I’m one of those people who can really appreciate novels with established relationships between the characters. Seregil and ALec really compliment each other and having read the two most recent books this month, I love how you can draw from their rich history. I also read your erotic anthology and loved the way you wrote the explizit love scenes. Did you not include them, because you didn’t think the actual explicit scenes would advance the story and thus be unneccesary or were you just not comfortable including those scenes, thus enabling YA readers and those not quite as comfortable with M/M pairings to read them as well?
My editor set the limit on how explicit things could get for the mainstream. Her goal was to keep the books in the hands of straight readers where they could do some education. I was also not all that comfortable writing explicit scenes in the early days.
I also like to leave a lot to the reader’s imagination. Everyone has their own idea of what’s sexy, after all.
I have a lot of readers ask me “Who’s on top?” I prefer not to answer that, as I don’t think sex is that binary. I guess I prefer to imagine they just go with the flow.
That is true, everyone imagines it in a different way and sometimes I am getting tired of the ‘perfect’ sex scenarios – I don’t need sex in my books. However if it is well done, it can show some very intimate things about the characaters and add to the story. I actually loved the way you handled them in the collection, but agree they are not necessary to enjoy the stories and it’s more usefull not to include them. But yes, I do imagine them as versatile lovers as well
You’d laugh if you knew how much I wrestled writing the explicit sex scenes in Glimpses. As i said, it doesn’t come naturally.
When I started reading your series, there seemed to be a debate between your fans as some prefered the books more focused on nightrunning and intrigue and others liked it more when you introduced more fantastical aspects to yourworld. What kind of fantasy do you personally prefer reading and was it hard to deliver books that all your fans enjoyed and that stayed true to your own vision to the Journey of your heroes?
LOL. The scenes actually seem more intimate and honest than many other scene’s I’ve come across
During the time I was first writing Luck in the Shadows I was reading David Eddings, Ursual LeGuin, Tolkien and the like. But what I really love are mystery and horror stories. The fantasy genre gives me the change to mix in all sorts of elements. I had a great time writing the ghost story elements of the Tamír series.
I never wrote to please fans. I don’t mean for that to sound arrogant, because that’s not at all how I mean it. But as a writer, I have to write true to what comes from my heart and gut. And let’s face it, if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. I just aimed to write the best stories I could and hope someone wanted to read them when they were done!
The scenes in Glimpses were written very honestly. Perhaps that’s why I find them so difficult. It’s like being naked in front of strangers.
I’m going to type # when I’m done responding so you don’t have to wonder. #
I don’t think that sounds arrogant at all. As reader I want to get the story that’s in the head and heart of the authors. I think the way readers continue to stick with your characters is a testament to that However I heard that you won’t continue to write more books about our favorite nightrunners. Do you think the time has come to leave them happily in their arms and try out something new? Oh – and do you think it possible that you might rturn to the rich world you created with different characters in a different time – similar to what you did with Tamir?
(lol – thanks – that is a great idea
Thank you. Yes, Shards of Time is the last of the Nightrunner books. My instinct told me that it was time to bring the curtain down. It was a good time to make the break. I’m currently in my second year of graduate school, training to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, something I’ve long wanted to do. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing! I’m just giving myself a sabbatical. In the meantime I’m noodling around with some new ideas (new world, new people!) and writing some short stories. I’m involved in a shared world anthology series. The first books is called Tales of the Emerald Serpent and introduces a very exotic world. Harry Connolly, Julie Czerneda, Tom Lockwood, and Scott Taylor are just some of the other authors. I introduce a character named Shay Gatewell, a handsome young son of a brothel owner who is soon known as the Beautiful Angel of Death. The second book in the series, A Knight at the Silk Purse, is coming soon, with Shay becoming ever more shadowy. Julie Czerneda are already working on dual stories for the third book.
As for writing more in the Nightrunner/Tamír world? Well, never say never, but I need new horizons for awhile. #
Here’s a link to Tales of the Emerald Serpent
Tales of the Emerald Serpent
Taux, city of cursed stone and home to a growing population of the displaced. Deep within its walls rests the old Ullamaliztli Stadium, and it’s fabled Black Gate, where life treads a fine line between law and chaos. Tales of the Emerald Serpent allows readers a glimpse into this shadow world as …
It will be interesting to discover a new world and we do still have many books and audiobooks to re-read and listen to if we need a fix of that world – though I wouldn’t mind stepping into that world again at some point. Love the characters
Your ‘Shared World’ anthology sounds very interesting, can you explain to us how something like that works? Does every author write one shortstory in every book, what is a dual story and do you plot the whole books together?
I’m glad. I did a lot of grieving around ending the series and saying good bye to characters I’ve know longer than my own children. It’s tempting to just dive back in, but for the sake of my creative soul, I need to push my boundaries. #
Re: the shared world. Yes, Scott Taylor invented the city of Taux, which is based on mesoamerica. There’s a dangerous district which lies side the Black Gate, where Shay and most of the other characters live their shadowy lives. Scott gave us the world and let us begin adding characters, secondary characters and details. One of my favorite creations is Shay’s mother, Mama Serene Gatewell, who owns and runs the Silk Purse brothel. I do love writing about brothels! Because each writer has free rein in the first volume, we created a very wide cast of characters which we all now get to play with. #
That sounds great! I do love dark characters. Very intriguing to love a character, even as the character does things that are shady at best. Some of the things Seregil or the other characters in Nightrunner/Tamir did were a bit shocking to me but made them much more three-dimensional Is there a point characters can’t move past and still remain redeemable and if you think so, how do you avoid your characters crossing that line?
I don’t like rape stories–at all. I would never have a main character commit such an act. A villain perhaps, but not a protagonist. #
On the other hand, I do believe in redemption. #
Well, you do have a rich variety of very complex characters with complex relationships between them. Those characters seem much more realistic with flaws and a little darkness or a little light. But how do you keep track of them all and the way they relate to each other?Do you have a big character bible that you use and update?
I lost my bible in a hard drive crash years ago. I’m not a very organized person, and carry most information in my head, which accounts for the occasional mistake. I tend to use the published books as the final word on the world and it’s denizens, since that’s what came through in print.
Lynn Flewelling is the author of two internationally acclaimed series: The Nightrunner Series and the Tamír Triad. Her books have been published in a dozen countries, including Japan and Russia. A Maine native, she currently resides in sunny southern California with her husband Douglas and two naughty dogs.
Website – http://www.flewelling.net/