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Author Q&A: Lorina Stephens and her book From Mountains of Ice

ABOUT LORINA STEPHENS In 1980 Lorina Stephens picked up the pen professionally and never looked back. She has worked as editor, freelance journalist for national and regional printFrom mountains of ice media, is author of six books both fiction and non-fiction. She has been a festival organizer, publicist, lectures on many topics from historical textiles and domestic technologies, to publishing and writing, teaches and continues to work as a writer, artist, and publisher.

Lorina has had several short fiction pieces published in Canada’s acclaimed On Spec magazine and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fantasy anthology Sword & Sorceress X. Her books include: From Mountains of Ice, And the Angels Sang, Shadow Song, Recipes of a Dumb Housewife among others. She lives with her husband of three plus decades, and two cats, in a historic stone house in Neustadt, Ontario.

 LS: That didn’t happen until 1980 after I had to take a short leave of absence. While I’d always crafted stories, I’d never actually committed anything to paper, and when I suddenly had all this time on my hands I found myself recording those stories.

 

Chazz: Tell us about your book. How did you get the idea for your book?

LS: The genesis for From Mountains of Ice came about because I wanted to write a story about an unlikely hero, someone who wasn’t all beauty, youth and brawn. In fact, I wanted a middle-aged man who reluctantly takes up the mantle of responsibility. That, combined with a fascination for the myriad funeral and death rituals around the world, made for the foundation of the novel. In particular, I found the Romano-Celtic legend of the cucullati of interest, and that legend plays a fundamental role in the culture of the novel, and the development of the plot.

Chazz: What research was involved in your book’s development?

LS: While there wasn’t research specifically undertaken for this particular novel, I did rely on research I’d previously done simply as part of my own interests; that is, study of Renaissance Italy; the history of the longbow as well as bow and arrow construction; death and funeral rituals, in particular the legend I mentioned previously, as well as the Indian festival that takes place annually on the River Ganges; study of historical dress; the Byzantine Empire; study of the historical basis for tattoos and their cultural impact; study of psychopathic behavior. The list really is quite expansive, and some of the resource material I used is listed in the afterword.

Chazz: Tell us about your writing process.

LS: I pretty much always begin with a concept surrounding a vehicle, usually an individual placed in an extraordinary situation. What seems to have developed over the years is that I write my first three chapters first, sometimes the ending, to get a feeling of where I want to go with the novel, to familiarize myself with the characters and milieu, and once I have that in place I write myself a fairly detailed chapter outline. I don’t always adhere to that outline, but it acts as a map.

I do try to be disciplined about my writing, working every day except for weekends, but with this current novel I’m finding that a bit difficult, partly because I’ve also taken on the role of publisher, but partly because I’m challenging myself with this novel.

Chazz: How did you arrive at the decision to self-publish and what did you have to learn and do to accomplish that task?

LS: From Mountains of Ice took about 18 months to write, although I’d had the concept slumbering for about a decade.

I decided to self-publish partly because of the changing culture of publishing, and partly because of what I write. As to the first part, so many large houses have not only shut their doors to unsolicited manuscripts, but have cut their  authors (many of whom are actually bestsellers), and that has resulted in agents closing their doors because they’re scrambling to find homes for orphaned authors. What chance would an unknown author like me stand in the face of that?

And then there’s the reality of what I write. I don’t write easily pigeon-holed stories. Moreover, I don’t write feel-good stories. My work tends to cross genres, being neither speculative, science fiction, fantasy, historical or mainstream. That makes me a difficult sell.

Given the ease with which a person can now self-publish (and I’m speaking of true self-publishing, not vanity press), and reach a market, I decided to jump into the deep end. The learning curve was interesting, but not overwhelming, given I already had some background in publishing. The most challenging thing was learning software (InDesign and Photoshop). The channels and rituals of the long tail of publishing was pretty simple. And I’m good at polite persistence.

All of that led me to expand my publishing venture and give voice to other Canadian authors so that we now have four authors (including me) publishing, and will present another four in the next two years.

Chazz: What was the biggest challenge you experienced through this book?

LS: Perhaps my biggest challenge has been overcoming lazy readers, and I know that sounds disgustingly arrogant. There was one reviewer who was convinced I’d written a knock-off of Gladiator because I had the soundtrack listed as inspirational music. Didn’t matter that I explained to him the majority of the music I listened to while writing From Mountains of Ice was in fact by the group Dead Can Dance, and even listed which tracks underpinned which scenes. I think this is how Paul Stookey must have felt when academics insisted Puff the Magic Dragon was actually a song about drugs.

I also had two reviewers trash the novel because they insisted there was a glaring error when in fact what they read was correct, heraldic terminology. I know if I read something I don’t understand, I first go and look it up before assuming what I’ve read is incorrect.

Chazz: What was the hardest part of the publishing process?

LS: For me the hardest part of publishing is convincing people my work is worth reading, worth the investment of their time. In short, it’s difficult overcoming the stigma of self-publishing, with good reason I might add. But I love what I do. I love every moment, the high and lows, the triumphs and tragedies.

Chazz: What advice would you give unpublished writers?

LS: This is perhaps not wise advice, given society’s propensity to create clones: be true to yourself. Write with your own voice, from your own heart, adhering to standards of excellence.

Chazz: Have changes in the book industry forced you to change how you published or marketed your work?

LS: Absolutely. One of the reasons I self-published, and also one of the reasons I rely heavily upon internet social networking.

Chazz: What’s your next book project and what can you tell us about it?

LS: My next book is called The Rose Guardian, and deals with a woman coming to terms with the death of her mother, and her own search for lost innocence. It is in fact three stories which occur simultaneously. I must say this is the most difficult piece I’ve written. It has been hard to find just the right tone for each of the three main characters, and to link them together in a cohesive fashion without sounding too dark or cynical. I think I’ve finally conquered that problem, and am now making headway.

Thanks, Lorina! If you want to know more about Lorina and fancy buying her books, here are several ways to find out more:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lorina-Stephens/136091476870

For Five Rivers: email: info@5rivers.org

Twitter: 5rivers

Website: http://www.5rivers.org

Blog: http://5riversnews.blogspot.com/

Filed under: Author profiles, author Q&A, authors, Books, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. […] Author Q&A: Lorina Stephens and her book From Mountains of Ice (chazzwrites.wordpress.com) […]

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