Tuesday, May 7, 2013

“Wait a minute.What if I wrote the book I’m waiting for?”- Interview with Author Lauren Jankowski

Lauren Jankowski is a writer from Illinois. She holds a BA in Women and Genders Studies from Beloit College. She got her start writing short articles for the website "The Next Family" and reviewing genre books for the website "Planet Fury". An avid reader, she started writing fiction in high school when she couldn't find many strong heroines in the genre books she loved. "Sere from the Green" is the first book in a series that she has devoted much of her time crafting.
                                                                                                                  -Biography on Amazon

TradeMark Remark: What would Lauren's job be if she was camping?
                         Taking Care of the Dog(s)

Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?
My name is Lauren. I’m an adoptee, an unashamed feminist, and a vegan (don’t worry, I’m not preachy about it). I’m also a huge genre fan. Give me a well-written fantasy book any day of the week. Somethings people may not know about me:

*I’m also a massive horror fan. I have great respect for women that work in serious horror because they probably have it somewhat rougher than women fantasy writers.
*I used to compete in dog agility, which was an awesome experience and helped me learn about animal characterization (which comes in handy when most of your characters have the ability to shift into animals)
*I'm a proud aromantic asexual identifying woman and try to participate in asexual visibility causes whenever I possibly can.

What made you want to become a writer?
I’ve always been a reader. Even when I was younger, I was always more interested in losing myself in a book than in doing what the other kids were doing. As I got older, I began to notice how generic many characters were in the books that I loved. Believe it or not, I found more complex characters in ancient myths, which I found I preferred over popular fiction. There were few if any accurate depictions of adoptees in popular genre fiction, for example. The women characters in the genre novels I read were mostly laughably bad. For a while, I waited for a book that I would fall in love with, featuring strong complex women. Then, around my junior year of high school, I thought, “Wait a minute. What if I wrote the book I’m waiting for?” I found that I had a knack for writing fiction and haven’t looked back since.

Why is Sere from the Green a must-read?
Sere from the Green is my first novel and it features strong women that aren’t defined by men. They go out on adventures and dangerous missions. A lot of the characters in Sere aren’t typically found in genre. The main character is an adoptee, for example. I combined my love of myths and strong heroines in what I hope readers will find to be an enjoyable tale.

If you could spend time a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Oh wow. That’s an interesting question. There are so many characters that I would enjoy meeting in real life (including a few in later books. I’m thinking in particular of Alpha, who is introduced in the 2nd novel). If I were to meet one of the guardians, I think I would like to meet Adonia. She’s ancient and has seen so many historical events. I think we could just spend the day in her office, talking about that. For shape shifters, Sly would be an interesting individual. She has the kind of bad ass, doesn’t take crap from anyone kind of attitude that I wish I had at times. I’d love to do lunch with her and just ask her how she goes through the day.

It is a series. How many books do you think will be in the series, and when is the next one coming out?
I’m anticipating at least five books in the series. There might be a sixth, but it’s a bit too early to tell at the moment (I’ve only written four so far and I have a rough outline of the fifth). The next one should be out in the next couple months, depending on how soon I can find an affordable editor. I’m also currently in the middle of polishing the third book, which I want to release within a couple months of the second book (the second one ends with a cliffhanger).

On your blog introduction you write "This is the journal of a writer trying to do the impossible: break into the publishing industry. Fellow writers know what I'm talking about." What has this process been like for you? Highlights? Lows?
The publishing world is probably one of the most depressing chew-you-up-and-spit-you-out systems. When I was trying to find a traditional publisher, the amount of blatant sexism I encountered was positively mind-boggling. I had a literary agent, who happened to be a woman, flat-out tell me that nobody would buy serious fantasy written by a woman. This sentiment is shared by most men working in publishing (apparently the only kind of genre women can write has to also fall into the romance genre). That was a pretty low point in my career.

Another low point was finding that indie publishing can be extremely cut-hroat. The amount of competition among indie authors, particularly women genre authors, can get really nasty and it’s rather disheartening. I understand how competitive writing is, but do we really need to make it harder for other women just starting out?
By far the highlight of the process was meeting some of my genre heroines. I write book reviews for a genre feminist website called “Planet Fury” and my editor is Heidi Honeycutt, and she’s incredible. I also recently met the Soska sisters who are also genre feminists (they work in indie horror cinema. I can’t wait to see their new movie American Mary). Having these women that I respect and admire ask for signed copies of my book was the most thrilling moment of my life. I find I feel more comfortable among genre feminist filmmakers than I am with other novelists. There just seems to be a lot more support and encouragement.

What sites or resources have you found to be supports in writing or marketing?
I haven’t found many (I’m still getting my feet wet in regards to marketing). “Broad Universe” is a good place to start. I have a feeling I’ve sold a lot of books through them. World Literary Café is good for exposure, but I’m not sure how many people buy books. St. Somewhere Marketing is a good place for indie authors to get an agent (they’re a bit pricey, but the work they do is worth the cost)

What do you think about the Ebook Revolution?
Oh, this is tricky. I’m so torn about this issue. On the one hand, anything that gets more people reading I’m for. On the other, I’m very old-fashioned about physical books. To me, there’s something about holding a book in your hands, something about the weight and the smell and the texture, that’s irreplaceable. A book has character. I like to take notes in the margin, highlight passages of text on occasion. I’m sure you can do something similar on eReaders, but I’ll always be an old-fashioned, stuck-in-her-ways book girl.

On your blog you wrote a post titled "Questions that no man working in a Genre will ever be asked" Here. Any thought on how all writers can combat this?
For one thing, they can quit pigeonholing themselves. That sounds really harsh, but I hate hearing people suggest that selling out to get a toe in the door is the way to go. It really isn’t. It just makes things worse for the people coming after them.

I think it was Hillary Clinton who, when asked about her clothes, asked the interviewer, “Would you ask a man that question?”People need to not be afraid of being bold. Don’t be an inconsiderate ass, but don’t feel you have to answer every single question just because it’s posed to you. If a question seems condescending, don’t feel obligated to answer it (take a page from Clinton’s book).

Someone could interview a heterosexual-male asking these questions women authors are asked.
That would be an absolutely brilliant idea. I would love to see that.

 What book that you have read has most influenced your life?
I’ve been inspired by a lot of books. The one that most influenced my life, however, no question about it: The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander. My fifth grade teacher read the first book to us in class. I immediately read the rest of the series (this in turn led me to the work of writers like Tolkien, Le Guin, and Angela Carter). Not only did these books get me addicted to fantasy, it showed me that girls could go on adventures just like boys. Alexander wrote this wonderful young heroine, Eilonwy, who was just as smart (smarter in fact) and tough as the main character. Having really only encountered passive Disney princesses until that point, Eilonwy was a revelation. I credit Alexander putting me on the path to becoming a writer.

Another book that really inspired/influenced me was The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I'm continually amazed at how relevant that books remain. When the US House tried to redefine rape, the first thing that popped into my mind was that novel. It also turned me onto the idea of dystopian fiction, something that I've been fascinated with ever since.

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?
I’m a newbie, so I haven’t had much of a chance to interact with readers/fans yet. Someone did tell me they couldn’t wait until they had a “Lauren Jankowski” section of their library, which was incredibly flattering.

Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a day job at the moment (hence my being poor). I’m truly a hardcore starving artist.
Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?
I hope to make enough money to be able to attend a few more conventions, hopefully make some kind of living as well. I would really like to develop a niche audience that I can interact with. If I’m successful and make enough to live on, I’d like to try to develop something that helps women genre writers (serious genre). I want there to be a similar camaraderie among novelists that there is among filmmakers that I’ve met. Genre feminists should always stick together.

Anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I love you all. You make this writer so incredibly happy and I hope you continue to enjoy my work.

Where can we find you online?
Twitter: @Lauren_Jankowsk

Sere from the Green is available on Amazon (http://tinyurl.com/d8xh6e5) and CreateSpace (https://www.createspace.com/4170910)

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