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Interview with Author Erin Lale

I am happy to present my interview with my friend, colleague, and fellow writer/editor, Erin Lale. Intelligent, well-rounded, and extremely talented, Erin is one of the few authors who has 'made it' in this industry. She was very candid in her interview. I hope you enjoy it.

1. I know a lot about you since we are colleagues, but many of my readers aren’t familiar with your work. Can you give us a list of your publications?

The full list is rather long. It's available on my author page LaleLibrary at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaleLibrary/ as one of the free file downloads, which also include some free short stories and poetry. Highlights of my writing and publishing career since it began in 1985 include writing the Outdoors column for the sports page of The Sonoma Index-Tribune, publishing and editing the quarterly magazine Berserkrgangr, having my science fiction short stories in the first issue of Sterling Web and the first issue of the new Perihelion Science Fiction, 15-- or is it 16 now? -- books currently available, some nonfiction, some science fiction, and a book of poetry. I also used to own a bookstore, The Science Fiction Store in Las Vegas, back in the 90s.

2. You and I know how tough the publishing world can be. What advice can you give to new writers who are just starting out and trying to get published?

Join a writer's critique circle. The difference between a yes and a no from a publisher is often a matter of how much time it would take an editor to fix the manuscript, because you're competing against manuscripts that arrive perfect.

3. Tell us a little about Time Yarns. Why the project is so important to you? What surprises will readers find in Time Yarn reads?

Time Yarns is a shared world that I originated. It's a different kind of shared world, because what all the stories in it have in common is the way physics and "magic" and time travel work. It's truly a universe, rather than a group of shared characters and places, although writers are invited to use my characters. I publish short story anthologies by multiple authors in the Time Yarns Universe, in addition to my own books. My 7 book series Punch is a military sf / hard sf / space opera, but it's also an attempt to publish the book of the future, packed with video and pictures and sound. Time Yarns was built for fans to play in, and the Time Yarns official page has photo instructions on how to build your own alien "dej" weapon and costuming notes and links to fan fiction.  Time Yarns official page: https://sites.google.com/site/timeyarns/home

4. In addition, to writing, editing, and a slew of other things, you’ve been involved in politics. Which is more difficult- the world of publishing or the world of politics?

Politics, definitely. You can become a successful author without starting out rich. Writing has a low barrier to entry, money-wise; almost everyone who lives in a first world country has access to the internet. After running for office twice, I've seen how the sausage is made in the political world and there is just no way for someone like me to win against the establishment. I learned a lot, but I'm never going to run again. Next time I'd be happy to be someone's paid staff. You can read some of what I learned the first time I ran in my 2 chapters in the book How to Run for Office on a Liberty Platform, edited by Gigi Bowman with an introduction by Tom Woods. Also, I combined my interests in politics and science fiction in my essay The Politics of Story Structure, which was published in the May edition of Perihelion Science Fiction. If you're a WorldCon member, nominate me for a Hugo in the Related Works category, and vote for me!

5. You and I both work for Damnation Books/Eternal Press. Unfortunately, DB/EP has a negative rating on Preditors and Editors. However, since that review, the company has been completely revamped. P&E is in need of an update because there are many company review that need to be updated. With that being said, can you speak a little about DB/EP and the work you do there?

I love my job! I read books all day, mwhahaha evil little laugh. Actually, I do a lot of social networking, both on the net and in person at conventions, for both my writing career and my job as acquisitions editor. The book that's been occupying the #1 bestseller spot at Eternal Press for the past few months, Autumn Leaves, I acquired by mentioning I was looking for that kind of book to a friend at a picnic in Town Square, Las Vegas, near where I live, and my friend had a friend who had a book.

I get asked about P & E all the time. I just looked up their entry on Eternal Press and it still says "A Canadian epublisher that plans to also produce print versions in 2008." Firstly, the couple who owns Eternal Press and Damnation Books live in California, secondly both imprints produce print books, and thirdly, anyone who bases their business decisions on data from 2008 probably isn't doing too well with their stock portfolio.

6. As the acquisition editor at DB/EP, what ‘gets your motor running?’ What tips can you give authors in regards to writing a great query?

Remember that a query letter is your first impression of your writing, so polish it as carefully as you do the first page of your book, don't just dash it off thinking it's unimportant. Read the submissions guidelines on our website and follow all the instructions. A lot of writers leave out important information like what genre their book is, or send the file in the wrong file format, or the synopsis is like a condensed version of the book that's a dozen pages long and lists every single action in the book, or they leave off the required marketing plan or don't seem to know what a marketing plan is. Check out the Daily Chocolate Rant on the LinkedIn group Fiction Writer's Guild, where I talk about the right and wrong way to write a cover letter. Link: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Daily-Chocolate-Rant

7. Let’s get heavy. Being a Christian is my religion of choice, but I also think it’s important to not be closed-minded about other viewpoints. It has been estimated that 92% of humans believe in a higher being. In my opinion, we all believe in the same power—it’s just our doctrines that vary. Although we ‘creative’ people tend to be more open-minded, I feel like Earth would be a lot more peaceful if we stopped fighting over ‘religion.’ From reading your work, I know that you are very spiritual. Can you speak a little about your views regarding spirituality versus organized religion?

I belong to a disorganized religion, myself. Read a short introduction to it in my book Asatru For Beginners. There are of course great advantages to organized religion. To take a non-random example, in the county in which I live, the Las Vegas wedding industry is a huge money-maker for both the local economy and the local government, and local government allows Elvis impersonators to perform legal weddings, but not the clergy of my religion because we aren't ordained by a church that owns property in the county. It's about owning property, not about being recognized as a religion, since the Flying Elvi aren't a religion. There are enough Asatruars in my local area to combine to buy property for a religious building if we all got together, but we don't because we aren't organized. All the advantages I can think of to organized religion are like that, though; they are all about living in the world, not about one's relationship with God. Spirituality as distinct from religion is purely about relationship, it's internal rather than external, and focusing on spirituality rather than worldly advantage is one of the things I love about my personal belief system.

8. Greater than the Sum of my Parts was enthralling, informative, and ingenious. By reading it, my respect for you multiplied. Due to modern dramatizations, there are lots of ‘myths’ and ‘assumptions’ regarding Dissociative Identity Disorder. Can you tell us a little about how you overcame those stereotypes? What’s the most important thing you want people to know about Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Thank you, I'd like for people to read the book to find out about how I triumphed over this. I get a lot of submissions in my inboxes at EP and DB featuring a character with DID, and the authors always make this person the killer. I am tired of it. Having a mental health label does not make a person more likely to commit a crime, it means they are more likely to have been the victim of a crime. Mental health labels from the DSM exist for one reason only: to get insurance companies to pay for treatment. They aren't an excuse for murder or even for just being a jerk; people still have the ability to choose whether to do good or evil regardless of what labels have been put on them.

9. As writers, we sometimes find inspiration in the strangest places. What inspires you?

A lot of my story dialogue and poetry is literally inspired; I wake up with poetry running in my head.  I get these fragments of dialogue between characters who just pop up fully formed, and then I try to figure out how to string it all together into a coherent story. I sit down at the computer and start typing and it just comes. This even happens in some of my nonfiction. I've been working on a new nonfiction book, American Celebration, which started out to be a happy smiley book of how to celebrate holidays with friends and family of different faiths, and has ending up being full of political ranting, without any intention on my part. For example, I was writing about American rites of passage and started to talk about prom dresses, and my fingers just started going and out popped a screed that left me wondering when I became a feminist. They say that highly creative people are "mad geniuses;" perhaps they are right.

10. Do you think that writing is an inherent talent- or is it a craft that can be learned?

Mostly craft. My "talent" basically consists of exactly the same elements that got me labeled with a mental health diagnosis. A ton of writers hear their characters' voices; "we're all mad here," as it says in Alice in Wonderland. Everything else is plain hard work.

11. Writers are artists, so many readers are always curious about how an ‘artist’ spends his/her free time. What are your hobbies?

Cats, gardening, cooking, swimming, martial arts, hiking, meditation, drum circles, quilts, and of course going to sf cons and filking and costuming, although now that I am going to cons as a pro guest I usually don't get to do any costuming anymore. At LepreCon, I had both professional and costuming panels on the same day and thought I'd change outfits in between but didn't have time and ended up showing up for an indie publishing panel at which I was: 1. the only woman among 12 panelists, 2. the only person representing indie press rather than self-publishing, 3. dressed as a hobbit, including a Pendragon corset and hand-made wig-hair hobbit feet. That was not an experience I cared to repeat, so when I went to SpoCon last week and had both costuming and professional panels on the same day, I showed up to the costuming panel in a normal-looking outfit where each separate piece could be used in costuming.

12. Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite book or books?

I have so many favorite authors and books, but if I had to pick just one I'd say my favorite living author is Lois McMaster Bujold, for the Vorkosigan saga. I reviewed her latest book in Perihelion and managed not to squee too much.

13. Are you working on any new projects?

In addition to American Celebration, I've got some new sf books in the Time Yarns Universe in the works. Planet of the Magi, and The Will, are books that I've been holding for later publication because I extracted short stories out of them which were published in Perihelion Science Fiction and are still under contract. Sometime soon I'll be putting the final polish on them and will publish them as soon as I can. Magi will come first because it's more ready, with cover art and everything, and needs less polishing than The Will. Also I recently "heard" some dialogue between two elves, and I may turn that into a short story.

14. How can we keep up with you? Website? Facebook Page?

Yes, in addition to the above links, I'm also on these social media:
Facebook
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+

15. Where can we buy your books?

Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Here's a link to my Amazon Author Page, which lists all my books:

http://www.amazon.com/Erin-Lale/
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