Monday, June 25, 2012

Author Interview: Luisa M. Perkins

I'm so stinking excited to host my dear friend Luisa on my blog today. She and I met online years ago, when my blog was brand new. We struck up a friendship based on the fact that we're both knitters (that's how we connected originally), writers, and Mormon.

Our friendship has gone way beyond those things. Today, we communicate via email and text almost every day, often several times, as we report our progress with to-do lists and goals and cheer each other on. Everyone needs a Luisa in their lives.

Aside from being a great friend, she's a great writer. As long-time readers know, I don't officially review books here. That said, her new book, Dispirited, is fantastic. It's deliciously creepy (this from someone who doesn't like to be scared), with a fascinating story, complex characters, and lyrical writing (something missing from a lot of fiction).

First, a bit about Luisa. Then her interview. And finally, a giveaway!

Luisa Perkins writes contemporary fantasy. She loves cooking and eating, all kinds of music, and knitting. She and her husband, Patrick, have six children and one aging-but-still-insane cat. They are in the process of moving from the Hudson Highlands to Pasadena, California.

And now our interview about writing and her new book. (Isn't the cover delicious?)

AL: How long have you been writing and how did you get started? (When did the bug bite you?)
LP: I’ve been writing off and on since I was four years old. (Note to self: remember to burn those early journals.) I started writing because reading was my life, and I wanted to give that gift of wonder and escape to others—kind of a “pay it forward” situation.

AL: Where did the idea for Dispirited come from, and how is it significant to the book?
LP: A long time ago, I read an article about astral projection. I immediately wondered—as cool as it sounded to have your spirit floating free—how would you possibly protect your body while you were away? That problem wouldn’t leave my imagination alone until I started exploring it through fiction.

AL: What research did you have to do for it? What was the most interesting thing you learned?
LP: I read a lot of folklore from around the world about unembodied or disembodied spirits. (I realize those terms are somewhat redundant) One of the most compelling myths was that of the wekufe, a Chilean legend about malevolent beings who envy the bodies of the living.

AL: What is your writing style? Are you an outliner or a by-the-seat-of-your-pantser? Somewhere in between?
LP: I actually totally changed styles in the midst of writing Dispirited. I started out knowing how I wanted it to end, but having no idea how to get there. I wrote the first third of the book that way—in the “discovery” or “pantsy” way.

Then I got horribly stuck and started researching story structure and outlining methods in my desperation. I made a spreadsheet and finished the book adhering to a pretty strict outline. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to pantsing it.

AL: What is your typical writing schedule like?
LP: I wish I had one. I try to write every weekday—or at least every day that my children are in school. I try to get that done sometime between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., so that I can be fully present for my kids when they get home from school. It doesn’t always work that way. I am trying hard to be more consistent and disciplined.

AL: What is one big thing you've learned through the process of publishing this novel?
LP: That I am not my writing—that there will inevitably be people who do not care for my writing, and that I can’t take that personally.

AL: What's been the biggest surprise?
LP: I love to garden. Every spring, I plant seeds. A few weeks later, I am always astonished and delighted when they actually grow. It’s the same kind of act of faith when you publish a book—and the same fun surprise when people actually buy it and enjoy it.

AL: What’s the greatest challenge?
LP: My greatest challenge has been trying to balance focusing on marketing the currently published book with working on my new work in progress. It’s very hard for me to switch hats like that.

AL: What’s the greatest reward?
LP: I love hearing from readers who were touched by the book—that it frightened them or made them cry or made them think. Books affect me deeply, and so when my book makes an impression others, I get that “pay it forward” reward that got me writing in the first place.

AL: Which authors are your biggest literary influences in the national market?
LP: I’ll stick to people who are alive, or we’ll be here all day.

  • Susanna Clarke and Neil Gaiman write the kind of quietly creepy book that I find thrilling and thought-provoking. 
  • Peter Straub and Stephen King’s books are never quiet, but I almost always get sucked into their masterful webs of dread and hope and redemption. 
  • George R.R. Martin and Neal Stephenson are geniuses at creating immersive, complex, fascinating worlds and plots. 
  • Mark Helprin is unmatched for the gorgeous and uplifting way he portrays the human struggle.

I could go on and on listing writers whose work I deeply envy.

In the LDS market?
There’s this writer I adore named Annette Lyon. You should check her books out. They rock.

AL: Wow, thanks! [blush]
LP: Also: Josi Kilpack, Julie Wright, and Melanie Jacobson. LDS writers writing in the national market whose work I love: Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Rob Wells, Anne Perry, and Elana Johnson.

Any advice for aspiring authors?
Most writers read a lot, but for someone who wants to break out, I would say that it’s time to add weightlifting to your cardio routine. By that, I mean read outside your favorite genre. Hard stuff. Classic literature, histories, biographies, poetry. I firmly believe that you’ll only ever write half as well as the stuff you consistently read. If my writing could ever be half as good as that of Dickens or Cather or Toni Morrison? So be it.

I also wish every writer or artist or other creative type would read Steven Pressfield’s two amazing books, The War of Art and Turning Pro. They are second only to the scriptures as to influence on my creative life. My writing lives and dies by them. Buy and digest them at once.

Isn't Luisa awesome? I love her to pieces. Be sure to check out her cookbook, Comfortably Yum, as well. I'll never be the cook she is, by I can pretend. 

Get Dispirited HERE (only $3.99 for the Kindle edition!).

This is a great book for reading and discussing in a book club; it's got lots of layers and cool meanings and symbols. Luisa has an awesome discussion guide for book clubs, created by a friend who is a pro at these things. Get the discussion guide for Dispirited HERE. But don't read it unless you've finished the book, as spoilers abound. 

The Giveaway!
Luisa will send one copy of Dispirited to one lucky reader. Leave a topic-oriented comment on this post. For additional entries, spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, and/or your blog. Leave comments for each thing you do so I can keep track. A winner will be drawn on Sunday, July 1, and the name announced a week from today, on July 2.

Be sure to include an e-mail address I can reach you at. If the winner doesn't reply to my notification e-mail within 24 hours, they lose their prize, and that would be a real bummer.

Good luck, and happy reading!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Full Circle

A couple of weeks ago on Facebook, I mentioned getting a phone call that marked a full-circle moment for me. Life has been nothing short of hectic lately, so this is my first chance to explain.

March of 1996, I joined my local chapter of the League of Utah Writers. I attended their spring workshop, where I first met Rachel Ann Nunes, who wasn't yet published, but who today is pretty much a superstar in the local market.

I went to chapter meetings, which turned out to be one of the few times I left the house then, as I was a new mom. That fall, shortly after my son's first birthday and discovering I was expecting my second child, I attended  the League's annual Roundup conference. (I remember talking to Rachel in the hall after I'd stepped out of a class because I was so tired from the pregnancy that I kept falling asleep. She was out there soothing her newborn.)

At that conference and other Roundups that followed, I sat in classes taught by big names in the LDS market, which was where my goals were set.

I listened to Orson Scott Card, Jack Weyland, Jennie Hansen, Chris Heimerdinger, Anita Stansfield, and others.

More than once, I sat in a workshop and thought, "Some day, I want to speak at Roundup as a published novelist like these guys."

I became a published novelist in 2002. (My first book came out in July, so we're almost exactly to the decade mark.) I didn't speak at Roundup that year. Or after my second, third, fourth, or fifth books. (I'll stop there. My ninth book with Covenant is about to go to press.)

The last couple of years, I have taught at Roundup, but it's been under the umbrella of Precision Editing Group. And while that has been great (and I've been grateful for the experience!), it didn't fulfill my original dream of speaking in my own class, representing just me. I've been there as an editor, not a writer.

Some people may think that hey, it's silly to still want to be invited to speak at Roundup. After all, I've taught at a bunch of conferences, often several a year. Right? True. But it's never been at LUW, not me speaking as just me, the novelist. Roundup was my first big conference, and it was my first big goal.

You can probably see where this is going. I recently got a phone call inviting me to teach not one, but two workshops at Roundup in September! My picture and bio are already up. (Proof! CLICK HERE.) I'll also be there with Precision Editing, but this time, it's different.

I did it. I made it as me. The little whisper of a goal I had 16 years ago will be fulfilled in a few months.

I still have plenty of goals regarding my writing career, and I'm working hard toward them. But I must say, it's pretty cool to have something checked off the list so many years later.


If you're interested in attending this year's Roundup, check out the League's site. The conference will September 14 and 15 in Park City. Members of LUW get a discount, but anyone can come.

I'll also be teaching at The Teen Writers Conference on June 23 at Weber State University. This is the conference's 4th year, and it just gets better. If you have (or know!) a teen interested in writing, be sure to let them know about it, and soon, because registration forms must be postmarked by THIS Friday, June 15.

Other news:
*Paige, my contribution to The Newport Ladies Book Club, goes to press any day and will hit stores in August!

*The sequel to my Whitney Award-winning novel will be out in January, titled Band of Sisters: Coming Home. No cover on that yet. I imagine we'll be starting edits in the next couple of months.


Amazon's famous Prime Day events are huge for so many reasons, and for bookworms, it's even better: books aren't high-ticket ite...