I love fantasy. Actually, I need to hedge that a bit. I love stories
where perfectly normal folks tumble into a fantastic world. I find
the adventure of it compelling. I think I want to be the girl who
tumbles down the rabbit hole. All of my favorite authors are writing
reality turned fantastic these days. You've met Linda Joy Singleton
and Dotti Enderle in past interviews. This month, I'm talking to
the collaborative team of Debbie Federici and Susan Vaught who wrote
L.O.S.T -- the story of a seemly ordinary teen-aged boy who finds
himself in a world turned upside down, and he's expected to save
I'm always fascinated with collaborations. How did you work out
the mechanics of collaborating? Can you think of an example of something
specific that you could say, "This came from me and this came
I wrote Bren's first chapter, which I thoroughly enjoyed writing.
But I just didn't have an idea where I wanted to take the story.
I asked Susan if she wanted to collaborate. When she asked me where
I wanted to go with the book, I said, "surprise me," and
did she ever! I wrote all the Bren chapters, and Susan wrote all
the Jazz chapters. :-)
Debbie and I are comfortable with each other after years of working
together, so we didn't have to worry about offending each other
or threatening each other. We just flew back and forth, letting
our characters antagonize one other.
I see you are working on another visit with Jazz...will we see more
of Bren, too?
Are you kidding? Someone's got to keep that obsessive, demanding
witch in line.
Bren is such a pain. He's messy and all crumby and impulsive and--and,
well, stuff! Why would you want to see more of that giant donkey-brat?
Do all of your sanctuary inhabitants come from "real"
folklore like dragons and elves or do you make some up whole cloth?
The flower-topped monster didn't ring a bell for me but I'm sure
there's a lot of folklore I've never met.
Susan introduced some of the more unusual characters like the klatchKeepers.
The flower-headed monster was just something I made up. Bren had
to learn another lesson about things not always being what they
appear to be....
Most are based in folklore and modified for our purposes, but some
completely created, like the klatchKeepers.
You both say on LostWitch.com
that you've written all your lives. What advice would you give young
people who are writing right now? How can they best feed the dream
of writing for publication?
Read, read, read the type of books you want to write. Read books
on how to write. Even if you think you know how to write, believe
me, there's more to storytelling than just telling a story. Once
you start writing, keep on writing 'til the end. Don't keep editing
yourself along the way. Make notes on things you'd like to go back
and do at a later time, things you might like to fix, but just keep
Marion Zimmer Bradley is one of my favorite writers of all time.
She has an excellent advice section for new writers at http://mzbworks.home.att.net/advice.htm,
the site her trust maintains now that she's passed into the universe's
great mystery. I couldn't say it better than her--but I agree with
Debbie completely. Read, keep writing until the end, and, like the
article says, "Apply the seat of the pants firmly to the seat
of the chair." I would also encourage young writers to ignore
what we say at will, because from their fertile minds will come
the books that shatter all the molds we've created. And so it should
Ditto on Susan's last line. Let your thoughts fly free!
Do you both do school visits? What kind of things do you bring to
dazzlethe teens on your visits? Have you been able to connect much
with your readers personally? Do you get fan mail?
I haven't done school visits yet, but intend to. But my 13-year-old
son sure gives a lot of my books to his teachers and classmates.
He absolutely loved L.O.S.T. and said it is now his favorite book.
That meant a lot right there. :-) And yes, we do get fan mail, which
I've done on-line school visits and some book signings, and I'm
planning to do school visits. For my first book, FAT TUESDAY, I
have an assortment of Mardi Gras giveaways (beads and masks). For
L.O.S.T., I was thinking of trying to do some parchment copies of
the Wytches Book of Tyme (the prophecy), some bookmarks, book covers,
and book bags. I'm not above candy, either. Candy is usually good.
We get fan mail, yes, and we're just starting a newsletter so our
fans can keep up with the progress of L.O.S.T. II!
And watch for Susan's STORMWITCH that will be out any day now. It
will blow you away!
Why fantasy? What draws you to the magical?
I've always loved worlds that I could get lost in, and magic is
just so cool. I love the endless possibilities of what can happen
and does happen in magical worlds. I love creating those worlds.
I'm an organic writer, so my work develops as I write it and I picture
the worlds. Susan has different ways of writing and visualizing
fantasy. I do read lots of teen fantasy.
I have probably read at least 9/10ths of everything TOR ever published,
and consume new fantasy series like popcorn. (Bren's side note,
because at one time he didn't have a clue: TOR is the largest fantasy/science
fiction publisher in the world. Now back to Jazz. Um, Susan.).
like a good fantasy, a fresh take on magic or worlds, new and interesting
races and creatures--all of that. I'm a bit obsessive on my world-creating,
because a) I'm also an avid science fiction reader, and the science
of it has to work for me, and b)in real life, I'm spatially impaired.
This means I can't figure out how to fit all my groceries in the
fridge, etc etc., and I need concrete props so I don't get lost.
I start with creating the actual solar system and the physical world.
Then I move to fantasy mapping software and make a detailed, scaled
map of the world. Either before or after this, I create the races
and sketch out how the magic works--and make up beasts, unique features
and powers, and on and on. I've always appreciated what J.K. Rowling
said about having notebooks full of character histories and details
that no one would ever want to see. No kidding! I have to nudge
myself to quit playing with the worldbuilding and write. Worldbuilding
mind (mine) just fogged over at the thought of all that fantasy
mapping and detailed sketching. Gulp. As you can see, all writers
work in their own way. No one writer writes the same as another,
and that's the way it should be.
What inspired L.O.S.T? It's such an interesting concept.
Ummm, well that first chapter pretty much happened to me, almost
exactly that way, on my way to San Diego. Minus the girl with gold
eyes and the freaky blue-eyed guy with the totem. The first line
came to me, "It all happened because I had to pee," and
the rest of the chapter flew from there. Other than the freakier
stuff, that was me after driving a couple hundred miles--only I
was driving a white mini van with my three hyperactive sons! Now,
the concept for the Sanctuaries and the witches, and that world,
came from Susan.
I tried to think of something to make that town truly bizarre. Jazz's
opening lines struck me, about the boy being okay in that scruffy
sort of way--too bad I might have to kill him. After that, my character
took over and ran her mouth the rest of the way.
Anything else you'd like to tell young readers?
Read. It's a way to visit new worlds, to discover new possibilities,
to realize that you can make dreams realities. And always, always,
walk your own Path.
Believe in your talent and in your ability to change the world.
You can and will. You're our best hope. And do feel welcome to join
the Different Paths newsletter at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DifferentPaths/
Thank you for sharing with us about the process of L.O.S.T.
Susan: Thanks for having us, Jan!
Contact Bren: email@example.com
Contact Jazz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Debbie Federici and Susan Vaught
Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd -- November 2004
ISBN: 0738705616 - Hardbound
Young Adult Fantasy
Read an Excerpt
by Jan Fields, MyShelf.com
this fantasy adventure, it's 17-year-old Brenden who finds himself
stranded in a land of witches, monsters, and evil shadows. And
if that isn't enough, he's falling in love with the queen of
the witches, a girl who despises him. Or not. The story is told
in alternating viewpoints, between Bren and Jazz, the witch
queen. I have to admit, I sometimes wanted to yell at these
two for wasting so much time playing "do-I-feel-this, does-he-feel-that"
but that's just a weakness on my part. It's probably why I don't
read romances. Despite their rocky romance, the book offers
plenty of excitement and surprises as it unfolds. I was fascinated
by the whole idea of a chain of worlds connected by passages,
like beads on a string. And I found the klatchKeepers particularly
spooky and effective. And I enjoyed seeing young heroes who
were convincingly young -- uncertain, easily sidetracked and
just plain ineffective, at times. It was easy to believe in
the reality of Bren and Jazz and to like them despite their
faults. L.O.S.T. is an interesting first-book collaboration,
and I expect the future installments to get better and better.
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