My good friend and fellow member of Myrddin Publishing Group, Lee French, has a new book coming out soon. The cover is gorgeous, in my opinion. I also love the title, Girls Can’t Be Knights. This book is a young adult fantasy novel, championing Girl Power while exploring the world of a secret organization, the Spirit Knights. I can totally get behind that!
Set in Portland Oregon, Girls Can’t Be Knights is another in the long line of French’s impressive career, which includes nine books, one trilogy, one epic fantasy series and a short story. Her works are popular among fantasy and paranormal readers, with many re-reading books several times after purchase.
Lee has consented to answer a few questions for us:
CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:
LF: I was a late reader, not really grasping the whole thing until 2nd grade. Once I did, I clung to books with both hands and a glare for anyone who dared to attempt prying one away. At that time, my school district ran an annual book fair, for which they encouraged students of all ages to submit “books” for “judging.” With my mom’s help, I self-published an epic six page volume about The Mean Old Man’s Backyard, which is to say that I cut all the paper, wrote all the words, drew all the pictures, and let her glue the fabric to the cardboard for the cover.
From that point on, I considered myself a “writer,” though I considered it a hobby for a long time.
CJJ: That is a cute book! Tell us about your most recent book. How did you come to write this novel?
LF: Girls Can’t be Knights started as all my books do—with an idea that sounds brilliant but is ultimately kinda dumb. I wrote it for NaNoWriMo last year, which means it had curious ideas and plot points that had to be rewritten quite a bit. The primary idea comes from Les Miserables, specifically the idea of two men, eash the hero of his own story, striving against each other. The two main characters were Valjean and Javert, and elements of that remain. What happened is that Claire stepped in and demanded agency. The core ideas had to mutate to accommodate her.
CJJ: How does Girls Can’t be Knights differ from your other two series of books?
LF: This is my first foray into YA. The Maze Beset trilogy is similar to urban fantasy, though being about people with superpowers who got them through a genetic thingy, it’s technically science fiction. Like that trilogy, The Greatest Sin is generally suitable for teen readers, but wasn’t written with them in mind.
CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?
LF: When I first took the plunge into writing novel length work, I winged it. A lot. October 29, 2008, I decided to do NaNoWriMo for the first time and had just a basic idea of where I’d go. I finished, but it was awful. The next year, I took outlining a little too far. Since then, I’ve found a happy medium that works for me, where I go back and forth between winging it and outlining. The first chapter of a book is usually off the cuff, then I outline a few chapters, then I work up to the outline and wing a bit, then go back to the outlining. It works for me, which is the most important part of any Process.
CJJ: What genre would you consider this book, and how does it differ from others of its genre?
LF: Girls Can’t Be Knights is Young Adult Urban Paranormal/Fantasy Adventure. This book is all about family issues. Justin has a happy traditional family, but he’s the only one, and he came to it by way of domestic abuse between his own parents. This story shows a number of characters in various stages of dealing with broken homes and lost family members, and for various reasons. I’m really looking forward to pursuing the theme further in the second book, which is untitled as yet and will probably be out in 2016.
CJJ: What sort of books do you read for pleasure?
LF: As a book blogger, I don’t really read for pleasure in the strictest sense anymore. My reading material is almost exclusively indies, because that’s who needs book reviews. I’ve had the good fortune to meet a number of excellent indie authors, though, and their writing is mostly what I read, ensuring that steampunk, traditional fantasy, the occasional bit of space sci-fi, and some guilty pleasure smut fills my reading time slots.
CJJ: When you are not writing, what do you do for fun?
LF: Though writing is, admittedly, the most fun thing I do, I also enjoy baking, gardening, and cycling. Every year, I participate in Ragbrai, which is a lunatic pedal-powered festival across Iowa that attracts about 20,000 other cyclists for long days of torturous riding in abysmal heat punctuated by camping every night. It’s awesome.
CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.
LF: At first, I chose it because the process of querying an agent or publisher made me freeze in panic. It also made my hideously impatient side cringe at the expectation of waiting months to get rejected. After pursuing it for almost two years now, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d probably be unhappy with a traditional publisher. I’m too impatient, I have too much need for control over the aspects, and I actually *gasp* enjoy formatting my own books. If someone took one of my books and gave me a cover that I didn’t like without letting me at least make suggestions, I’d probably punch them in the face.
CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?
LF: Read everything you can about how it works and don’t discount one or the other because you’ve “heard” x or y thing. Independent publishing is now a major force in the market, but traditional publishing isn’t going to roll over and die. There are benefits and detriments to both paths, and every author has to decide what’s right for them. Investigate the market to discover who your audience is and where and how they shop. Get out and meet other authors in your area. Pay attention to the books you come across and how you came across them. All the information you need to make the best choice for you is out there.
CJJ: I always enjoy your POV, especially on the way the publishing industry works, and what indies need to take note of. And now, the blurb, and the the cover reveal for Lee’s new book:
GIRLS CAN’T BE KNIGHTS
by Lee French
release date June 12, 2015
Sixteen-year-old Claire wants her father back. His death left her only memories and an empty locket. After six difficult years in foster care, her vocabulary no longer includes “hope” and “trust”.
Everything changes when Justin rides his magical horse into her path and takes her under his wing. Like the rest of the elite men who serve as Spirit Knights, he hunts restless ghosts that devour the living.
When an evil spirit threatens Claire’s life, she’ll need Justin’s help to survive. And how could she bear the Knights’ mark on her soul? Everybody knows Girls Can’t Be Knights.
Lee French lives in Olympia, WA, and is the author of several books, most notably the Maze Beset Trilogy, The Greatest Sin series (co-authored with Erik Kort), and assorted tales in her fantasy setting, Ilauris. She is an avid gamer and active member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she is known for her fondness for Angry Ninja Squirrels of Doom. In addition to spending much time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with one dragon and absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don’t get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.
She is an active member of the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association and the Olympia Writer’s Coop, as well as serving as the co-Municipal Liaison for the NaNoWriMo Olympia Region.