Author Interview & Book Giveaway: INHERITANCE by Malinda Lo

inheritance-finalcover-525wJust last week, while I was away, the sequel to Malinda Lo‘s heart-pounding, gripping, sexy Adaptation series, Inheritance, entered the world—and now that I’m home I have an interview with Malinda to celebrate its release! I’ve asked Malinda to answer some of my favorite author interview questions, and here’s what she said…

Scroll down to see who won a set of signed hardcovers of Adaptation and Inheritance


NRS: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during a checkup: “So what’s your next book about?” 

Inheritance is the sequel to Adaptation. The duology (with bonus ebook-only companion novella Natural Selection!) is an X-Files-inspired science fiction thriller about what happens when birds start attacking airplanes, sending them crashing to the ground. Why are the birds doing that? Why is all the information about the crashes being wiped from the internet? Is the president of the United States telling the truth? And seriously, is that a bisexual love triangle? (Yes. Yes it is.)

So, it’s about crazy birds, conspiracies, secret military bases, and loooooove.

inheritance-finalcover-525wNRS: Did you learn any deep, shocking truths while working on this novel—about writing in general, or about yourself?

ML: I learned that my favorite thing to do as a writer is to set my characters down a path that seems like it’s going really well, and then to completely pull the rug out from beneath them. I think it’s because I had two books and about 900 pages to set them up and knock them down. By the time I got to the climactic portions of Inheritance, I’d been waiting to get there for about 700 pages (counting Adaptation) and I could not contain my evil authorial glee!

I think this is just part of becoming more conscious about my writing, though. With every book I write I become increasingly aware of the tools and techniques I have available to me, and I get really excited about using them.

NRS: Do you ever write fiction snatched from real life—your own, or someone else’s? Is there a secret or not-so-secret piece of this novel that came from something we may not realize is “real”?

ML:  Yes. I don’t get this question much because I’ve written fantasy and science fiction, but of course, parts of my books come straight out of real-life experiences I’ve had. However, I’m not going to tell which parts! I reserve the right to write a memoir someday, and then people can try to match things up if they want.

NRS: What is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? How did you overcome it?

ML:  The internet! I have all sorts of tricks for avoiding being sucked into the internet, but mainly I use Mac Freedom, which is this software that disables all access to the internet on my computer for a set amount of time. I’ll set it for up to three hours, and even if I click on my internet browser by accident, no websites will load. Also you can’t disable Mac Freedom once it’s running except by forcing your computer to shut down, and that freaks me out because I’m worried I’ll lose data, so I never do that. I use Mac Freedom all the time.

NRS: Imagine you’re on the subway, or the bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could imagine devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe him or her (or them?) for us.

ML:  It would be Gillian Anderson or David Duchovny reading Adaptation or Inheritance with the cover easily visible, preferably while on a stakeout in a black car, and I would totally photograph them with my phone and tweet it immediately.

(Seriously? I think I’d be super excited to see anyone reading any of my books in public. I’ve never seen that before!)

NRS: What do you know now that you wish you’d known as a debut author? 

ML: Not much. I feel like part of being an author is experiencing a kind of gradual disillusionment with the job that forces you to genuinely engage with why you want to write at all. That sounds grim, but it’s actually not. Most debut authors are filled with a natural enthusiasm and excitement because it’s their first book—and I wouldn’t want to diminish that joy. Having your first novel published is a wonderful thing that should be treasured.

By “disillusionment” I mean coming to understand the nuts and bolts of the business, which can seem really mysterious and sort of fantastical before your first novel comes out. It’s all deal announcements and cover reveals and book tours—until you learn what goes into making a deal, creating that cover, or negotiating those public appearances. It can be quite difficult to deal with all this prosaic, financially minded reality, but the fact is, if you want to be an author with a long career, you’re going to have to learn how to deal with it.

The biggest challenge for me (and probably for many authors) is learning how to balance those often frustrating business matters—plus a lot of public judgment—with nurturing the creativity you need in order to keep writing. Every author has to figure out what works for themselves, and that takes time. It would do no good to know everything at once, and in fact it would probably be terrifying. You need to work your way through it gradually.

NRS: If you had to pick one sentence, and one sentence only, to entice someone to read your book, what would it be? 

ML: This was so hard! In Inheritance most of my favorite sentences are dialogue that either make no sense outside the context of the scene, or are too spoilery for me to post. But I did find one sentence I really like that’s in one of my favorite scenes, and it’s about the liminal space that occurs between choices, and maybe more broadly, the liminal space of adolescence itself. Anyway:

“For a moment it was like being suspended in time—just the two of them in this room, divorced from everything that had come before, poised on the brink of what might come after.”


(Photo by Patty Nason)
(Photo by Patty Nason)

Malinda Lo is the author of several young adult novels including most recently the sci-fi duology Adaptation and Inheritance. Her first novel, Ash, a retelling of Cinderella with a lesbian twist, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Andre Norton Award, and the Lambda Literary Award. Her novel Huntress was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Malinda lives in Northern California with her partner and their dog. Her website is www.malindalo.com, and she tweets @malindalo.



ANNOUNCING THE GIVEAWAY WINNER…

inheritance-finalcover-525wOne winner was chosen to receive a set of signed hardcovers of both Adaptation and Inheritance, and that winner is…

Marthapao!

Congrats! I’ll be in touch for your address so you can claim your prize!


If you’re a YA or middle-grade author with a new novel coming out by a traditional publisher and you’d like the chance to answer some of my interview questions to celebrate your release, let me know!

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Turning Points: Guest Post by Malinda Lo (+Giveaway)

This guest post is part of the Turning Points blog series here on distraction no. 99—in which I asked authors the question: What was your turning point as a writer? Here is author Malinda Lo revealing hers…


Guest post by Malinda Lo

Coming to bookstores Sept. 18, 2012!

In September 2006, I spent a week at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, a Buddhist retreat nestled in the hills of Marin County, north of San Francisco. Every morning I hiked in the hills, partly as walking meditation, partly to escape the confines of the practice hall. I climbed narrow, beaten trails through knee-high grasses, watching lizards scurry over the dry ground. Entering the woods, I plunged into dim coolness: a world apart.

Growing up on the flat part of Colorado, I’d never encountered woods like these. These trees sprawled in the temperate air, giant oaks carving out entire clearings for themselves, branches gnarled and twisted like crones’ fingers. This place seemed to exist outside of time.

On Tuesday, September 19, 2006, I wrote in my journal:

“I woke up feeling kind of out of sorts, but when I went for my morning walk I found the most beautiful part of the land—a little forest on top of a ridge, with a huge spreading oak tree, one limb long and thick as a trunk, extending toward the ground in a moss-covered seat. The moss felt incredibly soft, like a carpet of tiny green fibers. After finding that tree, there was nothing to be upset about.”

I had arrived at Spirit Rock three days earlier, upset about almost everything. I was on a seven-day silent meditation retreat focused on creativity, but I spent the first two days of the retreat resisting every creative possibility the teachers presented to us. It wasn’t until the third day that the tangled knot inside me unraveled. That day when I found that oak tree, I remember: an opening. Loosening the fist I’d clenched around myself.

I was in a bad place at the time. During the summer of 2006, I left one stressful editorial job for another. I had been supporting myself (just barely) as a freelance writer since 2003, mainly by writing for LGBT media, and I was starting to feel like a hack, meeting deadline after deadline. At the same time, I was trying to revise what would become my first published novel, Ash, which I had begun writing all the way back in 2002.

By 2006, I’d gone through a couple of drafts of Ash and was in the midst of an extensive revision that involved gutting much of the manuscript. It was going poorly. I was too tense and too resistant to change to see what needed to be done.

I registered for the meditation retreat because I’d been meditating for a few years by then, and the retreat’s focus on creativity seemed like the perfect fit. I’d discovered that meditation seemed to bring me closer to that soft, vulnerable place I needed to access in order to write creatively. Instinctually, I knew that I had to go there. I had to relax my real-life boundaries; to free myself to experiment; to sink into a character’s emotions.

But I found it so difficult to do.

Like many writers, I’ve suffered from clinical depression. I’ve gone through this twice in my life, and in 2006, I was finally mostly recovered from my second bout of depression. Part of my recovery involved coming to accept my desire to be a writer, and taking steps to make that happen. I remember discussing this with my therapist and telling her that I envisioned the act of writing as a room that existed behind a closed door in the attic of my mind. Every time I sat down to work on Ash, I had to cross that attic and open the door. Sometimes the handle turned easily and I could walk right through. But some days the door was locked, and I couldn’t find the key. Some days the attic of my mind was so cluttered with boxes and baggage that I couldn’t even get to the door.

Meditation seemed to strip away all the junk standing between me and the door. It seemed to give me the key. So I signed up for the retreat with high hopes. I had a feeling that it might be a turning point for me, but I didn’t know until much later what exactly that meant.

It wasn’t always so difficult. When I was growing up, I wrote constantly. I started writing down stories as soon as I was able to write, and I wrote three novels while I was a teen. But when I went to college, although it was a life-changing and wonderful experience, I came to believe that my writing needed to be put on hold. I needed a job—a good one. I didn’t believe I could support myself through writing.

For several years in my early twenties, I didn’t write fiction, although I still kept a journal. The dream of being a self-supporting writer was just that: a dream, and one that seemed to recede further into the distance with every passing year. And every year, I hardened up a bit. Living with a dream while you deny it to yourself is a sure way to drive yourself into a dark hole full of regret. The only way I could survive in that hole was to deny that I was in it. I built a wall around the dream and tried not to look at it.

It took something pretty massive to shake up my world so much that I had to acknowledge the existence of my dream, and my role in preventing it from coming true. That massive thing? Coming out.

I believe that accepting who I was in terms of my sexual orientation could not have happened without also accepting the fact that I had always yearned to be a writer. These two identities had always existed inside me. I couldn’t embrace one without embracing the other.

Becoming a freelance writer and writing about LGBT entertainment was one step toward making my dream a reality. Even though, by 2006, I sometimes felt like a hack, I knew that my day job was a gift. When people asked me what I did for a living, I could answer, “I’m a writer.” The fact that I was writing about queer people was another blessing. I was able to be open about who I was on more than one level.

But there was one wall I had yet to break through, and that’s what I discovered at Spirit Rock that September. It was a wall I had built around my sense of wonder.

When I was a teen, there was no wall between me and the wonderful. That’s when writing was only a joy. But in all those years of not writing fiction, I forgot how to find my way into that world of wonder. I could write blog post after essay after review and still be on the other side of the wall. For me, that kind of writing didn’t access that locked room in my mind.

The thing that showed me how to open the door—and how to keep it open—was so unexpected I would never have come up with it on my own. That week at Spirit Rock, I was invited to paint.

In the mornings I had a couple of hours free to write, but in the afternoons I joined other retreatants in a big room underneath the practice hall to paint under the instruction of Mayumi Oda. Oda is a Buddhist and an artist who paints goddesses. She gave us a series of different assignments, many of which seemed rather new agey to me. Initially I was resistant because I’ve always resisted those kinds of things. But on Tuesday after that walk, and after a particularly significant sitting meditation, my resistance began to break down.

At one point during the week she invited us to paint our hearts as mandalas. I didn’t really understand what that meant, but something about it resonated with me. Almost immediately, I began to spend most of my time imagining what that could look like. I envisioned a big circle with several smaller circles within it, centering around a heart. I became consumed by this painting; I thought about it every minute I wasn’t thinking about Ash.

And I kept walking. On Thursday morning I went back to the little forest on top of the hill. I sat on the oak tree limb. On my way back, three deer were standing in the middle of the trail: one fawn and two does. I still remember the way their ears perked, one in my direction, one in another; their giant brown eyes; the black tips of their noses.

Wonder.

I finished the painting:

Painting by Malinda Lo

The process of creating that painting made something click inside me. It made that door unlock. It allowed me to prop it open.

In retrospect, I realized that I was able to break through that last wall because I was doing something I had never done before. I wasn’t a painter. I had no skills in that area; I was a complete amateur. That meant I was free to do anything. I was free to mess up.

That’s the kind of attitude you need to take with you when you go through the door into your creative space. You need to be free of expectations.

While I can’t say that I’m always free of expectations now, I can say that I’m very much aware of negotiating with them. So far, the door hasn’t closed. Some days it seems to slide shut, but it’s always cracked open. And I know that if it does close, I have the tools to unlock it. If I’ve done it before, I can do it again.

Ultimately, that was the turning point that Spirit Rock gave me: the knowledge that I can access the deepest heart of myself, and the courage to do it.


Photo credit: Patty Nason

Malinda Lo’s first novel, Ash, a retelling of Cinderella with a lesbian twist, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Andre Norton Award for YA Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the Lambda Literary Award. Her second novel, Huntress, is an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Her young adult science fiction duology, beginning with Adaptation, will be published in September 2012. Visit her website at www.malindalo.com.


AND THE WINNER OF THE GIVEAWAY IS…

Who Won a *Signed* Finished Copy of Malinda’s New Novel Adaptation?

…Congratulations to Alexandra Corinth! I’ll email soon for your address so you can claim your prize. Thanks to everyone to entered and to Malinda for this wonderful post and giveaway!


There’s more in the Turning Points series. Catch up with any posts you may have missed here.