Please welcome Alis Franklin to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Liesmith was published on October 7th by Hydra.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Alis: Thank you so much for having me, it's great to be here! As to when I started writing... honestly, I can't ever remember not writing. Story exercises were some of my favourite things in kindergarten, and somewhere around then I got my first "publication credit"; an acrostic poem I wrote about a local river. It was collected in an anthology of work from local school children. I still remember most of the words to the poem (it started "Murmuring waters wash / Under, over and / 'Round") because I had to recite it at the book launch. Scary stuff!
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Alis: Both, I guess. I'll tend to get an idea, let it churn around for a while, write it down as a rough outline, start writing the first draft, then go back to refine the outline if I run into plot walls. It depends on the story.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Alis: Finding time to do it. Like most noob authors I have a day job, and also a husband, both of which take up good chunks of attention. So I have to grab writing time when it comes. Most of Liesmith was written on my iPhone, for example, when standing in queues at the grocery store or, well, sitting on the toilet. (No comments on that one, eh?)
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Alis: Terry Pratchett blew my mind when I was a teenager. There's a real highwire balancing act between writing books that are "clever" and writing books that are "self-indulgent". Pratchett is extremely good at keeping on the "clever" side of that equation; his books are full of references and in-jokes, but I never feel like he's talking down to me if I don't "get" them. Plus he deconstructed fantasy for me so effectively I basically stopped being able to read anything else in the genre for years.
A bit later, Michael Marshall Smith (Spares, Only Forward) made me fall in love with unreliable narrators, first-person POV, and deft foreshadowing. Stephen King taught me the importance of character, and Poppy Z. Brite was the first time I'd ever seen queer sexuality depicted in a genre novel which was, again, mind-blowing, since I'd never seen anything before that allowed for gay characters in fiction that wasn't specifically about being gay.
TQ: Describe Liesmith in 140 characters or less.
Alis: "Reincarnated Goddesses, Anthropomorphic Archaeopteryxes, and the End of the World (Again), or, What I Did Over Summer" by Sigmund Sussman.
TQ: Tell us something about Liesmith that is not in the book description.
Alis: Liesmith is on third sweet romance, one third urban fantasy action-adventure, and one third wall-oozing horror.
TQ: What inspired you to write Liesmith?
Alis: I got really interested in Norse mythology as a teenager, partly due to growing up in a place called the Woden Valley. It was kind of a weird feeling to realise that the bus interchange I sat in every afternoon on my way home from school was named after the Viking god of death and wisdom, and it got me thinking about a place where gods really did name shopping malls after themselves.
The second element in Liesmith came from growing up geeky and studying computer science at university, and realising how much of tech culture is a mythology in its own right. I mean, in oldskool hacker circles, arguments over things like operating systems were called "religious issues" and "holy wars", and we still refer to things like the "Cult of Mac" nowadays. Plus I just kind like the idea that kids who grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and watching Star Trek wouldn't be particularly phased by encountering things like magic and sentient non-humans. It's kind of what they've been prepping for their entire lives, after all!
Finally, the third element... well. Early on, I latched onto Loki as a favourite of all the Norse gods; he's an outsider, who doesn't always make great decisions, but is loyal in his own way and generally tries to help the gods up until the point he kinda... gets sick of it. But the character I was really fascinated by was his wife, Sigyn. We basically know nothing about her, other than the fact she stayed--at great cost to herself--with her husband after his exile from Asgard. I mean, Loki might spend an eternity being tortured in prison but at least he gets to have his revenge when he gets out. But what about Sigyn? She cares for her husband through all that time, so she must feel something for him, but we never know what it is. Is she resigned to his punishment? Does she think he deserved it? Is she with him out of fear or obligation... or is it love? And if it is love, how pissed off must she be over what happened...
... and what price would she pay to fix it?
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Liesmith?
Alis: I read a lot of books on Norse mythology and played a bunch of video games. It was torture, honest.
TQ: In Liesmith who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Alis: Lain is the easiest to write. Partly because I've been writing in his POV for years, so I'm used to it, and also because I just find present-tense first person flows really easily. The hardest are probably the gods--Baldr, Sigyn, Loki and so on--because the florid Ye Olde Speake, while fun to indulge in, is way too easy to over over-write. It's also easier to do in present tense, so swapping between the present tense first-person (for Loki) and past tense third person (for Sigyn and Baldr) can be a little tricky.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Liesmith.
Alis: There's a scene later on in the book where Lain quotes Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings ("fly you fools!"). It's not the line itself so much as the fact I got to have him say it while... well. When people read that scene, just remember Tolkien based Gandalf on the god Odin.
So basically yeah. I'm a huge dork, it's true.
TQ: What's next?
Alis: Next is a holiday! We're off round the world later this year. The Hubby is taking me to New York, I'm taking him to Iceland, and it's basically going to be awesome (albeit extremely cold). Plus a bunch of plane flights should (hopefully) give me some decent blocks of writing time; I owe my publisher some sequels for Liesmith in 2015, so... iPhones out and get typing!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Alis: And thank you so much for having me!
Hydra, October 7, 2014
eBook, 308 pages
At the intersection of the magical and the mundane, Alis Franklin’s thrilling debut novel reimagines mythology for a modern world—where gods and mortals walk side by side.
Working in low-level IT support for a company that’s the toast of the tech world, Sigmund Sussman finds himself content, if not particularly inspired. As compensation for telling people to restart their computer a few times a day, Sigmund earns enough disposable income to gorge on comics and has plenty of free time to devote to his gaming group.
Then in walks the new guy with the unpronounceable last name who immediately becomes IT’s most popular team member. Lain Laufeyjarson is charming and good-looking, with a story for any occasion; shy, awkward Sigmund is none of those things, which is why he finds it odd when Lain flirts with him. But Lain seems cool, even if he’s a little different—though Sigmund never suspects just how different he could be. After all, who would expect a Norse god to be doing server reboots?
As Sigmund gets to know his mysterious new boyfriend, fate—in the form of an ancient force known as the Wyrd—begins to reveal the threads that weave their lives together. Sigmund doesn’t have the first clue where this adventure will take him, but as Lain says, only fools mess with the Wyrd. Why? Because the Wyrd messes back.
Alis Franklin is a thirtysomething Australian author of queer urban fantasy. She likes cooking, video games, Norse mythology, and feathered dinosaurs. She’s never seen a live drop bear, but stays away from tall trees, just in case.