Cate: Please welcome fantasy author Sandy Lender. Sandy, will you please share a short bio with us?
Sandy Lender: Fantasy enthusiasts will recognize Sandy Lender as the author of the breakout novel CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS and a leader of workshops on world-building and characterization. Her four-year degree in English and seventeen-year career in magazine publishing augment her book publishing experience for a variety of presentations.
Cate: Tell us about Choices Meant for Gods and where it’s available.
Sandy Lender: My first fantasy novel is the beginning of a trilogy, so folks get to fall in love with the characters for a while. It’s a very Girl Power fantasy but without a feminist agenda. Amanda Chariss is the heroine who’s been running from a madman all her life. It’s when she stops running—stands up for herself—that she learns how important she is. The very gods of her society need her.
Folks can find the eBook version at the ArcheBooks Publishing site. But the print version of CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS is available in scads of places. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, BookHitch.com, Waldenbooks—you name it, they either have it or can get it for you. (And go ahead and ask them when they’re getting the sequel because CHOICES MEANT FOR KINGS is due out in July. Woo-hoo!)
Cate: Major congrats!
At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Sandy Lender: Eegads…I started writing little stories when I was a child. I wrote stories for my great grandma and she’d share them with the folks in her apartment building. One was about these mice picking berries in a field. A cat came along and scared one mouse so badly that he fainted and the other mice had to carry him home (running, of course). My first publication was this short (emphasis on short) one-sentence article in Mrs. Zeller’s first grade newspaper for our parents. What a great teacher!
My call story is nerve-wracking. The coordinator of the Naples Press Club’s Annual Writer’s Conference arranged a pitch session with Publisher Bob Gelinas of ArcheBooks Publishing for me. I believed in my soul that he’d made the arrangement for the weekend AFTER the conference, at Bob’s workshop on the other side of the state, giving me an additional weekend to get my synopsis and marketing plan put together. So while this gentleman and I were assembling name badges at the writer’s conference one early Saturday morning, I see Bob’s name and announce gleefully, “Hey, it’s that publisher.” Phil says, “yeah, you have a pitch session with him tomorrow.” I nearly fainted like the mouse in Grandma’s story… So I had to rush home after the conference that evening and type up a synopsis, marketing plan, character sketches, etc. Luckily, all went well and Bob accepted the ms. He sent me a contract a few weeks later and I frightened my bird with my shout for joy. I think the subject line was “Contract for Choices Meant for Gods.” Eegads.
Cate: Gotta love those type of emails! So are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Sandy Lender: My dad has a couple textbooks published for the drafting industry. He’s an engineer with Boeing and knows insane amounts of technical information about math. I, on the other hand, have to use my fingers to figure how much money is in my checking account at any given time. (The sad part of that statement is that the money in my checking account is under the number 10.)
Cate: Describe your writing in three words.
Sandy Lender: Creative, intelligent, suspenseful.
Cate: Do you have a writing routine?
Sandy Lender: I used to. Sigh. Then life got complicated. Now I write whenever I can…grabbing snippets of time…waking in the middle of the night and wondering if this is a writing binge comin’ on or just the need to wee.
Cate: How many hours a day do you write?
Sandy Lender: This answer will be misleading because I write for the day job. I’m a magazine editor. So I write for HOURS for the day job. Then I have to stop to feed myself (and my pet birds) and do common things like go to the store and blog. But I try to get a good hour of fiction writing in before passing out. I’m actually thankful for the nights when I wake up staring at the clock thinking, “I don’t need to wee…”
Cate: How do you pick the characters’ names?
Sandy Lender: They usually tell me their names, but for a lot of support characters, I’ll grab the Old English dictionary and figure out what matches their personality or their purpose.
Cate: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Sandy Lender: The most challenging aspect of writing has become finding the time. I think that will settle down now that a few personal “items” have finished off in my life. My divorce is over (thank God); my bankruptcy has been approved (thank God); my cancer is gone (thank God); my dying car is traded in for something that works each time you put the key in the ignition (thank God); the travel schedule for work is calm for the summer (thank God); and I’m about to approve the galleys on CHOICES MEANT FOR KINGS (thank God). So things are much better. Time is opening up in little chunks that were being consumed by the most bizarre of requests from the most bizarre of quarters.
The easiest aspect of writing is talking to the characters. They love to voice their opinions. They all have ideas for where a story should go. (Not always good ideas, mind you, but ideas nonetheless.)
Cate: Wow, glad things are going easier for you now.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of writing?
Sandy Lender: The most rewarding aspect of writing is having someone tell me they love Chariss or they want to be like Chariss or they wish they had written a character like Chariss. She is my heroine and my angel. I love her. When someone praises Chariss, I feel like a proud mom…
Cate: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Sandy Lender: Nigel is leaning over my shoulder right now. He has a blog where he makes fun of me at http://sandylender.blogspot.com. He’s always with me…
Cate: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Sandy Lender: One of my earliest reviewers said I redefined the fantasy genre—he had gotten bored with the same old story lines and I had changed all that for him. More recently, Suspense Magazine’s editor said I had woken the fantasy genre from a sleep spell. A couple of the reviewers on Amazon have made comments regarding my new approach to fantasy. I find that incredible. I knew I was doing a couple things differently because, hey, every author wants to stand out from the crowd, but I didn’t realize the audience would be so enthusiastic.
Cate: That's quite the compliment! One every author hopes to hear.
Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Sandy Lender: I love Charlotte Bronte (and her sisters). My favorite book of all time is JANE EYRE, and if you look closely, you’ll see influences in CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS. Right now I’m reading a book called CHARLOTTE IN LOVE by Brian Wilks. It’s driving me mad because, bless his heart, Mr. Wilks keeps saying the same things over and over and over…and they’re mostly things that Bronte scholars already know. So I keep putting the book down to read other books. That sounds very harsh of me. I should also say that he has done his research well. The things that he repeats are accurate and well-placed to make his arguments in the text.
Cate: What’s next for you, Sandy?
Sandy Lender: I keep on writing! I have a plethora of stories in the works.
Cate: Where can readers find you on the web?
Sandy Lender: This question made me laugh, Cate! I dare you to Google my name. Bwuahahahaha. Seriously, though, I have a brand spankin’ new Web site at www.authorsandylender.com. I also have a main blog that I’ve been posting to for several years now at www.TodayTheDragonWins.blogspot.com. What a cool name, eh? Then I have a presence at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ArcheBooks, FiledBy, Facebook, myspace, GoodReads, Shelfari, RedRoom, BookHitch, BookTours, AuthorIsland, Author’s Den, Gather, Ning, LinkedIn, Suspense Magazine, BookGlutton—the list goes on. And on. I just participated in the first live tweeterview on Twitter in Internet history. (Full interview is archived at http://tweeterview.blogspot.com)
Cate: Very cool!
Sandy, is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Sandy Lender: I’ve just listed a ton of social networking places. What site(s) do you go to when you’re looking for a new author or a new book to read? If you don’t have a particular book in mind…just browsing…where’s the first place you think to visit?
Cate: I'd love the answer to that as well.
Readers, Sandy is giving away a first-edition, hardcover book to a random commenter each week of her tour... so start commenting. Her tour organizers pick the winners at the end of the tour.
Sandy Lender: Cate, thank you so much for a lovely interview and for opening your blog to me as part of my tour today! It’s been great and I look forward to answering questions from your guests. “Some days, I just want the dragon to win.”
Cate: Thanks for being here today, Sandy!
Readers, below is an excerpt from Choices Meant for Gods. Enjoy!
This is a romantic scene as Nigel Taiman and Amanda Chariss ride from the estate at Arcana to Arcana City. Her wizard guardian has already clued her in to the fact that Nigel wants to court her, and she's upset over it. The scene mentions the bear-like ryfel creature that nearly killed Nigel in the training arena...
Nigel frowned at her. Spurring his horse slightly, he reached out to take hold of Shadow’s bridle. Bringing them both to a stop, he turned in the saddle to face her.
“Hey!” she objected.
“Indeed. Have I done something to anger you?”
Her cheeks reddened with embarrassment.
“You’re staring at me.”
“By the gods, Woman. All right, I’ll look at your horse. ’Manda,” he said to Shadow, “what have I done that’s made you angry?”
“I’m not angry.”
“You’re not a liar,” he spoke to Chariss again.
“All right, so I’m a little angry. It will pass.”
“And you don’t want to tell me what it is?”
She couldn’t blame her reticence today on worry over Drake. She also couldn’t blame her health because she’d completely recovered from her telabyrinth poisoning. With Hrazon and The Master attending the summer festival, she couldn’t blame some sort of timidity at being ‘alone’ in the city. No, she had to take a deep breath and be honest with him. Considering the number of suitors she’d sent packing in the past few years, this should have been an easy thing to do again. It wasn’t. She sighed, closing her eyes as if she could make the scene disappear.
“Do you agree that you’re my friend?” she finally asked.
He watched her open her eyes then, realizing where the conversation must be going.
“Yes.” It was said with exasperation.
“And that I’m your friend?”
“And does that please you?”
He sighed, but didn’t get a chance to answer.
“You see, Nigel, it pleases me. I appreciate your kindness, and I would be disappointed if we hadn’t built such a…such a…”
“Friendship?” he retorted.
“Such a rapport.”
He rolled his eyes. “A fancier word with even less affection.”
“My stay at Arcana is much more pleasant because I have this relationship with you. But someone has tried to convince me that your…your…”
“Well…your opinion of our relationship might be somewhat different from mine.”
“’Manda, just say what you’re thinking. You won’t hurt my feelings.”
She looked miserable then. “I don’t want to say what I’m thinking.”
“No, that’s not good. Hrazon thinks you’re…Hrazon believes you spend time with me because…” She paused, searching for the words.
“Because I’m in love with you?”
She nearly fell backward. “Just blurt it out!”
He chuckled slightly. “This is uncomfortable, isn’t it? I’m sorry to embarrass you. This conversation would be better in a darkened corner of Arcana’s parlor. ’Manda, I’m not going to lie to you. Hrazon has every reason to believe I’m after his ward because I am. It’s no secret to anyone I enjoy your company. What, where are you…You’re the only woman I know who can scoot that far away on a saddle without falling off.”
“I don’t think you should say those things.”
“Aye,” he sighed, watching her fidget with Shadow’s reins. But he made a decision to press the matter. “I’m going to say them and get them out in the open. Then we can decide if you’re to die of embarrassment, or slap me across the face.”
She couldn’t help smiling, even though her heart beat as if it would burst through her bodice from the tension she felt.
“I enjoy being with you because you’re my perfect match,” he said. “Have you noticed that we agree on almost everything? And the few things we don’t agree on are intriguing to argue because you make them intriguing. There’s no one at that entire estate, The Master and every intelligent student combined, who can hold my attention as you do. None of them compare.
“I’m attracted to everything about you, including your compassion. Even now, when you’re on the verge of falling off a horse with embarrassment, your concern is for my feelings, not your own. Godric, who doesn’t deserve to wash your feet, who finds every excuse to correct you, gets your respect because you remind yourself that he’s your benefactor. Do you know what strength of character that shows? Do you know how it endears you to me to know you bite your tongue after his arrogant remarks to save my mother’s feelings?”
She merely nodded, her eyes cast down.
“And do you know how it endears you to me to know you would fight to the death for little Kaylin?”
She nodded again.
“And do you know how it endears you to me to know you instinctively threw yourself into healing spells to save my life?”
“You shouldn’t assume that means—”
“I remember sliding toward death that night, life spilling out of me, and poison seeping into me from that thing’s claws. But do you know what I remember most distinctly? I remember you commanding me not to bleed to death…and I remember your hands afterward. Once I was healed, once Master Rothahn became preoccupied with the dead ryfel, you crawled over to me and put your hands on me again, as if you had to be sure He’d done a good enough job of healing me. But you would’ve done it for any member of my family. I daresay you would’ve done it for any student in the school. And it’s because you care about others, and you want the best for everyone around you. And you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
The last comment caught her off guard. It didn’t seem to fit with the logical argument he tried to make.
“I fail to see how these things tell you you’re in love. Kaylin enjoys my company. Mia enjoys arguing with me. I saved Sorne’s life once. Does this mean they’re in love with me?”
“If love could be explained that easily, it wouldn’t be real.”
“But what makes you think it’s real now? If you can’t explain your feelings, how do you know you’re not misled?”
“How does the rose know to bloom in spring?”
“Oh, now that talk I’ve heard before. I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t think you should let yourself believe it now.”
“’Manda, I’m telling you the truth and I’m telling you what I know. If I’ve made you angry by falling in love with you, you’re just going to have to deal with it. Because you’re not currently interested in me, you have to give me time to change your mind.”
They were silent then; he waited for some sign that she wasn’t going to cast him aside, she waited for her heart to stop beating so loudly in her ears. As far as she was concerned, she was often a foolish girl, but her intentions at the beginning of this conversation were foolish beyond compare. She realized—with alarm—that the blood rushing through her veins, the lightheadedness, the excitement at getting to spend an afternoon with him, were all signs she had chosen to ignore.
She swallowed hard against the fear in her throat, and, with as much calm as she could muster, said: “What gives you the idea that I’m not interested in you?”