Please welcome Michele Lang to The Qwillery. Michele is the author of the Lady Lazarus Trilogy. Rebel Angels, the third and final novel in the Trilogy, will be published on March 12, 2013.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Michele: Thank you! It's great to be her. :-)
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Michele: We writers are a quirky bunch, I'd say. So many of us hear voices in our head, have prophetic dreams about our stories, and write all night to chase the muse. All of these things are true of me too, though I don't think they stand out too much from the writer herd.
I am a serious history junkie, though. My comfort reads are biographies of Tudor monarchs or 19th century American presidents. So if you see a book by Barbara Tuchman or David McCullough on my night stand, watch out! It means that I am walking on the edge, and these books are keeping me sane…
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Michele: Both! I love to write short stories as well as novels, and those tend to tumble out without any advance planning at all.
Some of my novels have come that way, too, but the LADY LAZARUS books all had a basic scaffolding of outline to keep me from getting too lost inside that gigantic canvas.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Michele: So often, the next book I need to write scares the living daylights out of me. It's the book I'm certain is too much for me, that insists I write it next!
That's great because when I take chances it stretches me as a writer. But intense books like the ones in the LADY LAZARUS trilogy take a lot out of me. I often joke about needing therapy as a result of this series, but now that I'm done I'm not sure I'm joking!
TQ: What inspired you to write the Lady Lazarus Trilogy and in particular take on the Holocaust and Nazis as a subject?
Michele: As a literal-minded college student, I first read the poem “Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath with a blend of awe and fascination. I had learned in class that she wrote the poem as a metaphoric description of her suicide attempts and rebellion against her father, but I liked it better as the revenge anthem of a Jewish woman who returns from the dead to kill the Nazis who murdered her.
Here’s an example from the poem. How could I read lines like these --
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air
-- and resist the urge to imagine a girl who could die and die again, and who uses her terrible gift to stop the murderers from killing anybody else?
My parents are both Holocaust survivors, and from my earliest days I wished with all my heart that it had never happened. For as long as I can remember I have asked myself what it would have taken to prevent the Holocaust, in what kind of world could my family have found any parity at all in fighting the Nazis. The ultimate “what-if.”
The war was a forbidden subject in my house -- my wishes and imaginings were silent. We didn’t really talk about it, but the war was always there, an invisible, looming presence. In order to write LADY LAZARUS, I had to violate the taboo and talk about the war out loud, in public.
LADY LAZARUS owes its inspiration to the heroism of the people who outlasted the Nazis, who outwitted Hitler and his henchmen, who insisted on their humanity and their spirit even if they could not survive.
In a way, I am reclaiming and celebrating the family I never got to know in this story. My grandparents, who saved my parents’ lives, are the true-life heroes who inspired LADY LAZARUS.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for the Lady Lazarus Trilogy?
Michele: A lot. Probably too much, and yet I still think I could have done much more. I read dozens of history books about the World War II period, biographies, books about Hungary specifically, and many, many personal memoirs from people who survived the war and wanted to honor those who didn't make it by telling their story.
I also did a lot of research about Jewish folklore and mysticism. That is a huge subject, and I could spend the rest of my life reading and still never read enough!
For people like me who are history fans, and for readers who would like a companion to the trilogy, I wrote a free book about the history and the mysticism you will find in the series. It's called The World of Lady Lazarus:
TQ: In the Lady Lazarus Trilogy, who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?
Michele: The easiest character to write in the whole trilogy was Count Bathory, the vampire who gives Magda Lazarus a job at the beginning of the series and stays with her until the end. He has such a strong, distinctive voice, and is so pushy, that all I have to do is get out of his way when he is speaking!
The hardest character to write is Magda Lazarus herself. I put her through such holy hell in these books that my heart sometimes breaks even as I'm tapping away at the computer keys. I've cried over her, laughed out loud chasing her, and even gotten furious at her. I put Magda through the wringer, but she wore me out too!
TQ: Tell us something about Rebel Angels (Lady Lazarus Trilogy 3) that is not in the book description.
Michele: The secondary characters in this book blew me away -- I wanted to stay with them and learn more about the wild world of Azerbaijan and Fire Angels. In this book, you learn more about Raziel's celestial roots, his band of rebel brothers. And you have some pretty fascinating historical characters, like Winston Churchill and Robert Capa, along for the magical ride. I had so much fun writing this book!
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is your favorite scene (or scenes) in Rebel Angels?
Michele: Magda and Raziel encounter flying carpets (which you can see on the gorgeous cover of REBEL ANGELS) and there is a scene right in the middle of the book where their ability to fly saves them from a dreadful fate.
This midpoint is my favorite part -- it is a culmination of Magda's quest through the whole trilogy, and yet it upends everything she had worked for until this moment.
I also loved writing the end. I found it quite cathartic, and brought the entire story to its culmination. All the pieces seemed to fall into place of their own volition.
TQ: What's next?
Michele: I have some recent short story releases that will give readers a taste of my writing. I wrote a story for the latest Mercedes Lackey short story anthology Elemental Magic. "The Phoenix of Mulberry Street" is a tale of magical muckrakers in New York City in the late 1800s. (Amazon : Barnes and Noble)
I also have a story in the Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance. "Fade Away and Radiate" tells the story of a terraformer who has to face her past in order to survive. (Amazon : Barnes and Noble)
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Michele: Thanks for having me!
About the Lady Lazarus Trilogy
Lady Lazarus Trilogy 3
Tor Books, March 12, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
Magda Lazarus has twice come back from the dead to fight the Nazis’ devastating conquest of Poland. To prevent the Holocaust her sister has seen in terrible visions, Magda will need the Heaven Sapphire, a gem powerful enough to defeat even the demon Asmodel. With the future of all Europe in the balance, Magda and her husband, the fallen angel Raziel, begin a perilous journey to the Caucasus, the resting place of the fabled stone.
Surrounded by Germans, Russians, and mistrustful Azerbaijani tribesmen, Magda must summon all her magic to withstand the predations of the deadly supernatural foes. But more dangerous yet is the power of the Sapphire itself, which could stop Hitler…or destroy Magda.
Rebel Angels, the climactic book of Michele Lang's Lady Lazarus trilogy, filled with suspense, magic, and action, will have readers at the edge of their seats until the exciting conclusion.
Lady Lazarus Trilogy 2
Tor Books, January 17, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
(also available in Hardcover)
Magda Lazarus was a reluctant witch until the dire threat of Nazi Germany convinced her to assume the mantle of her family’s ancient powers. But though this young, beautiful Jewish woman has fought off Hitler’s SS werewolves and the demon who would rule through the Führer, she has been unable to prevent the outbreak of World War II.
As long as Magda can summon spirits, there is still a chance to save people from the dire threat of the Holocaust. Her family’s guardian angel, Raziel, stands beside her in the battle against the human and supernatural forces of evil arrayed against her people and all of Europe.
In Michele Lang's Dark Victory, as the Nazis prepare to invade Poland, Magda and her beloved Raziel marshal their own army, a supernatural force that will battle Hitler’s minions to the death…or beyond.
Lady Lazarus Trilogy 1
Tor Books, August 31, 2010
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
(also available in Mass Market Paperback)
With the romance of Twilight, the suspense of The Dresden Files, and the delicious thrills of True Blood, the enthralling saga of Magdalena Lazarus unfolds. Descended from the legendary witch of Ein Dor, she alone holds the power to summon the angel Raziel and stop Hitler and his supernatural minions from unleashing total war in Europe. The Nazis have fighters more fearsome than soldiers, weapons more terrifying than missiles, and allies that even they are afraid of SS werewolves; the demon Asmodel who possesses a willing Adolf Hitler, and other supernatural creatures all are literally hell-bent on preventing Magda from possessing the Book of Raziel, a magical text with the power to turn the tide against Hitler’s vast war machine.
Magda, young and rebellious, grew up in the cosmopolitan city of Budapest, unaware of her family’s heritage. When her mother dies, Magda--ready or not--is the Lazarus, who must face the evil that holds Europe in an iron grip. Unready to assume the mantle of her ancient birthright, but knowing that she must fight, she sets out across Europe searching for the Book. Magda is desperate enough to endanger her soul by summoning the avenging angel Raziel. When she sees him in the glory of his celestial presence, her heart is utterly, completely lost…
The Magic of Fabulous
A young woman discovers her own brand of magic in a pre-World War II Budapest teeming with monsters, vampires, and demons…
Eva Farkas has managed to survive in fascist Budapest despite her heritage and her congenital lack of magic. But after seeking the help of the Vampire Lord of Budapest, Eva comes to realize that mere survival isn't enough. She must find the magic hidden inside of her, and not just survive, but fly.
THE MAGIC OF FABULOUS is a novella set in the world of the LADY LAZARUS historical fantasy series, and contains both an afterword by the author and excerpts from the other books in the series.
www.michelelang.com or find her on facebook http://www.facebook.com/michelelang
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