Happy Tuesday All!! Another NEW TO ME person and now to you… Lynn Forrest! I am so excited to have her here. Sit back and enjoy her. I did!
Lynn Forrest is an atmospheric science professor, lifelong writer, and unabashed nerd. When not working or writing, you may find her squeeing over books, weather, Star Wars, Halo, Portal, or Mass Effect, with a little Dragon Age thrown in for good measure.
Now to our interview!
Christina. What’s your current project? Tell us a little about it.
Lynn: I’m one of those people who tends to do a bunch of things at once, so I have a lot of current projects, but I’ll stick to my Pitch Wars manuscript. 🙂 My first completed novel, THE MEASURE OF A MONSTER, made it into Pitch Wars 2015–a fact that still makes me giddy with excitement two months after the picks were announced. I finished the first draft three years ago, and though I revised it in the meantime, it never came close to its full potential until my mentor worked her magic on it.
It’s an urban fantasy that follows the complex partnership between a lesbian half-human hiding her monstrous side and a detective who thinks the only good monster is a dead one. Since the Pitch Wars agent round is about to happen–please don’t mind me biting my nails over here–I’ll leave you with our pitch:
“Detective Ian Rinaldi gets all the weird cases. Weary of investigating supernatural murders alone, Ian unwittingly partners with Blake Winters, a lesbian half-monster posing as a human folklore expert. When Blake blows her cover saving Ian’s life, she also blows their alliance—but in the battle against Blake’s otherworldly kin, Ian must defeat a monster by trusting one.”
C. What has been your favorite scene to write so far?
L. THIS IS A HARD QUESTION. Um. Any of the ones that made me squee with excitement or cackle with glee. (Yes, I cackle while I write certain scenes. I’m a writer. It happens!) And there were a few I loved that I had to axe during Pitch Wars revisions.
If I have to choose, though, there’s a series of scenes that occurs after a major event. The characters and the reader get a chance to breathe–it’s a big spoiler if I go into detail–and I loved showing recovery, bonding, and the more casual sides of these characters. Plus I got to put Ian in a frilly apron while cooking, and he wasn’t embarrassed by it.
C. Who or what has inspired your writing?
L. I started reading when I was 3, and I started writing when I was 6 or so. I had this drive to read everything I got my hands on, and that evolved into a need to write my own stories. They began as variations on what I read–what I’d later learn was called fanfiction–but eventually took on lives of their own. I constantly made up stories as a kid because I had this bad habit of doing classwork too fast and then waiting for everyone to finish. (Letting my mind wander got me through a ton of boring college lectures too.) Reading horse stories, fantasy, and eventually science fiction and urban fantasy pushed me into writing similar things (but with RULES; I’m a scientist and my made-up worlds still have to follow rules, even conservation of energy).
Creating stories has been a part of my life for so long that it’d be like amputating a limb to give it up. That being said, I wouldn’t be working so hard on my writing without the support of my husband, one of my best friends, and the incredible people I’ve met through the Twitter writing community.
And–I realized this answering a different question–my writing is frequently inspired by music. I’ve created scenes and plots and dialogue based on songs, often instrumental ones. I also like to give my characters theme songs. (It makes it tough to listen to those songs for unrelated novels, though.)
C. What is your biggest goal with your writing?
L. On a large scale, creating mirrors for those still seeking them and for those seeking more of them. I’m still figuring myself out, and any time a novel makes a piece of me click in my head, I feel so much better about myself as an individual and as a human being.
Selfishly, I also want people to gush over my writing. (Who doesn’t?)
C. Do you have any pre-writing rituals?
L. None of these are perfectly habitual, and none of these guarantee I’ll write or prevent me from writing if I don’t do them, but I really like to make a cup of tea and start music playing. On weekends or when I’m stressed in the evenings, I’ll replace that tea with something stronger. 😉
C. What is the weirdest location you’ve ever written at?
L. Considering my brain is capable of coming up with scenes wherever I am, I’ll go with sitting on a 747 over the Pacific during a long, violent bout of turbulence. It helped me stay sane. Sort of.
C. How do you handle writer’s block?
L. Music. I take my noise-reducing headphones, curl up somewhere, and let my brain jump on a completely random idea inspired by whatever I’m listening to. When my mind creates something new, it often shakes loose whatever was blocking me earlier.
If that doesn’t work, I do something completely unrelated to writing–watch a movie, play a video game, wash dishes, go for a run or bike ride–and try again later or the next day. Sleep often helps.
C. How much research was involved in your latest piece and how did you tackle it?
L. This particular novel had small bursts of research. Not to say I don’t do much research for novels–if I was talking about my science fiction WIP, I’d be writing you an essay on wormholes and electromagnetic induction–but I didn’t need as much for this one. I read about what medical examiners do and how detectives operate and spent a lot of time looking for information on monsters from all over the world. Most of the details for Blake’s role as a community college instructor came from personal experience, though I did go to Portland Community College’s website to make sure I wasn’t artificially including stuff that only applies to four-year universities (where I actually work).
C. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
L. Both, though it depends. My stories tend to start with an idea, a scene, an image. For example, THE MEASURE OF A MONSTER began with a thought, “What if a monster lived among us wishing she was human? And how would someone who hated monsters react to her?” And then my imagination runs away with me, I write a whole bunch of stuff, and the logical side of my brain has to come in and clean up the mess with outlines and common sense. I often sketch out ideas, even write entire scenes, to get to know the characters and then work out the plot’s skeleton based on the results.
C. What has been your biggest learning experience so far in your career?
L. Getting rejected for contests. I didn’t quite understand what I was doing wrong until I started reading the advice the contest creators posted and joined a peer critique for our queries and first 250 words. I didn’t realize how omniscient third person POV pulled readers out of the story. I knew what was going on; why didn’t my readers? It stung at first, but the experience humbled me and helped me improve to the point of getting into Pitch Wars.
Of course, I’ve learned SO much from Pitch Wars too, but I wouldn’t have had this opportunity if I hadn’t gained the contest experience first.
C. Is there anything you wish you were told prior to writing or publishing?
L. Write a book. Let it sit. Revise it (not line edits; actual REVISING). Find CPs. Send it to CPs. Revise it. Find betas. Send it to betas. Revise it. Let it sit. Revise it again. Now you can query.
I weep when I look at my querying history. I didn’t know what I was doing at all. But now I have CPs and betas and an amazing and supportive writing community. And I know that even though I love my novel and want it to be published, I’ll keep writing other novels because this one might not get me an agent.
C. What’s next for you?
L. PITCH WARS AGENT ROUND
Honestly, though, querying and working on a few different WIPs. I’ve set a YA fantasy inspired by Japanese culture and folklore as my NaNoWriMo novel, though I don’t expect to write 50k words in the next four weeks. (I’ll be happy with 20k. Or 10k. November is consistently my worst writing month.)
C. What do you like best about writing?
L. Sorting through the myriad of random things that run through my mind and seeing them develop on the page. Understanding myself and the world around me better by creating scenes and watching the characters run with the ideas I’ve begun. (You didn’t think we actually wrote our characters ourselves, did you? They misbehave allll the time.) And talking/commiserating/rejoicing/squeeing with other writers.
C. Is there another genre you have tried writing?
L. I’ve worked on adult and YA fantasy and adult and YA science fiction, and I have a burning idea for a YA contemporary. Only the adult fantasy has a complete draft, though.
C. Have you taken any writing classes?
L. I got a writing minor in undergrad and nearly gave up on creative writing as a result. I wasn’t symbolic enough! I didn’t have enough nuance! They didn’t like how I played with sentence structure! My GPA suffered because of that minor too. But that only applied to the creative (subjective) courses. I loved learning more about grammar and other structural aspects of writing.
C. What scares you the most?
L. Never finding a good balance between my day job as a professor and my dream job as an author. (I’m getting better, though!)
C. When did you start to feel like an author?
L. When friends who read my novel told me they forgot I wrote it because it felt like a real book, though these responses were prompted by the pre-Pitch Wars version. It’s so different (and so much better) now.
C. Which poets or authors have influenced you in your own writing?
L. Rather than ramble on all day, I’ll pick two. When I was younger, I hated first person POV. I’m not sure why. Maybe I didn’t like seeing the world through only one pair of eyes, like I wasn’t sure if I could trust that one point of view. But that changed when I read The Dresden Files. I finally understood what “voice” meant. And I fell in love with the idea of voice. One of my WIPs is an attempt at an extremely voicey YA sci-fi.
Most recently, I found myself blown away by the limited third person POV in Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades. I was awed by his ability to switch between characters and vary their voices without entering first person. That’s my new goal when writing third person.
C. Have you ever acted out a scene to see if it worked?
L. Absolutely. I have a pair of used wrapping paper rolls for sword-fighting scenes. I’ve flailed my arms around to figure out how they’d behave if they’d gone numb. I’ve set up chairs to make sure a character would trip the way I envisioned (the answer was yep and ow).
C. Have your parents read your work?
L. Hahahaha no. My Pitch Wars novel starts with a decapitated corpse, there’s what my mom would call a lot of cursing, and one of my two main characters is a lesbian. They support my writing, but I’m not sure I’ll ever ask them to read any of it. (It’s important to me to feature queer characters, I identify as queer, and my parents don’t know that.)
Thank you So much Lynn for coming!!