I am delighted to welcome Lavender Ironside to my blog. She is the author of the recently published ‘The Sekhmet Bed,’ a novel set in Ancient Egypt, which is garnering excellent reviews. She kindly agreed to answer some questions from yours truly and is also offering a giveaway copy to readers of this blog.
Dooley: Why do you write? Because you have to, you like to or for some other reason?
Ironside: I love to write. I’ve always liked storytelling and the craft of writing itself — developing memorable prose. I wish I “had” to write. I’d be much more productive. Unfortunately, I have no difficulty finding plenty of distractions and I’m afraid I don’t write as much as I should.
Dooley: Why did you choose to write about Ancient Egypt versus other interesting epochs?
Ironside: Ancient Egypt is the most interesting historical setting to me…or one of the most interesting. I enjoy good yarns set in Greece, Rome, and many of the other more popular times and places in historical fiction, but I’ve never felt a strong drive to research these time periods and cultures. I could read about Egyptian history for hours every day and never get tired of it. So for me, it was the natural choice for a setting.
Dooley: Who would you list as your top three writing influences and why?
Ironside: Vladimir Nabokov is my biggest writing influence, although his influence doubtless doesn’t show much in The Sekhmet Bed. It’s a more straightforward book than anything he ever wrote. But I write a lot of other types of fiction, and I think the influence shows much more strongly there. Nabokov’s writing is very emotional and sensory, and full of unique descriptions. Plus he was a master at subtle word games and tiny but graceful flourishes. I can return to any of his books or stories I’ve read a dozen times before and find new gems hidden in otherwise familiar prose, things I’d never noticed before. His work was written with the expectation that it would be re-visited by readers, maybe many times over, and he deliberately layered “Easter eggs” in his prose for dedicated readers to find and enjoy. I love that Nabokov wrote with an audience in mind — I think all writers need to do that.
Ray Bradbury is a strong influence as well, for his sheer skill at storytelling. He was the king of pacing and character development. I adore his short fiction especially; he was able to create such believable characters and define their predicaments in the span of fairly short word counts. He was concise but never skimped on the things that make a story or a book wonderful.
Finally, as far as my historical fiction goes, I think I must honestly rate Orson Scott Card as my third influence. Although I find his political and personal writings ethically unpalatable, there’s no denying Card’s great skill with fiction. His early works (before he started expanding the Ender series) are among the most exceptional novels in all of science fiction and fantasy. Tight pacing and clarity of story and character define these works, and he still managed to keep his imagery unique and even haunting. Card’s early works are worth studying.
But it is hard to define only three influences. It is so important for writers to be widely read. If you don’t read, and read a lot, it shows in your work, with cliches, poorly drawn characters, and boring pacing, to name just a few problems that can come up. Writing has to be constantly sampled and constantly studied, or a writer has no claim to the title!
Dooley: Who are some lesser-known writers you read and would like to recommend?
Ironside: I am currently reading a fantastic ancient-history novel by Rebecca Lachlann, called The Year God’s Daughter. It’s set in ancient Greece and Crete. Lachlann is a fellow independent author and she has a real skill with description. Her world is painted in very lush, highly sensory strokes, and the book has so far been a pure delight to read. I am going to do a review of it on my blog and on the Historical Novel Review blog when I’ve finished it.
I also recommend that people read outside their usual genres, whether they are writers or not. Writers benefit from reading that which they do not like to write by being exposed to new ideas, new tropes, and unusual executions. Readers benefit by finding new favorites and by venturing into new genres. It’s a winning situation all around.
Some of my favorite lesser-knowns include Alfred Bester and Ted Kosmatka in sci-fi (Kosmatka has a lot of excellent short stories published and his first novel comes out in early 2012); Ron Hansen in literary fiction; Michael Ondaatje in poetry (though his literary works are well known); and John Moe in nonfiction/essays.
The more widely a person reads, the more she discovers the lesser-knowns who are so worthy of praise.
Dooley: What books are on your nightstand right now?
Ironside: It’s so funny you mention a nightstand, because I actually have a magazine rack next to my bed because a nightstand isn’t big enough to hold all the books I like to read. I am one of those obnoxious readers who rarely just reads a book cover-to-cover; I like to have five or six I am going through at any given time, so I can read whatever suits my current mood.
Right now I have The Year God’s Daughter, a 1960s primer on “How to Be Elegant” (which is very amusing), Billions and Billions by Carl Sagan, and Mark Twain’s autobiography. Plus I am revisiting George R. R. Martin’s latest book (A Dance With Dragons) via audiobook while I commute and exercise. I also have a few independent novels in my “to-read” stack which I’ll be reviewing when I’ve finished them. I’ve always got a never-ending stack of books to be read and in progress.
Dooley: What’s your idea of a perfect date?
Ironside: I have had a perfect date, I am happy to say! It was very impromptu. We went for fish and chips and then drove around the old neighborhood we’d both grown up in. At the end of a cul-de-sac we saw two kids’ bikes with training wheels on them and a “FREE” sign next to them. We rode the bikes around the street laughing like maniacs (and then returned them, of course.) I’m still with that guy, too.
Obviously I’m a lady who’s easy to please.
Dooley: What’s your “hot button” political topic?
Ironside: Ugh…I have so many. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just say “separation of church and state,” since that covers most of the rest of them under its vast umbrella.
Dooley: Do you have any other artistic pursuits apart from writing?
Ironside: I paint a lot, with pastels and watercolors. I’m getting better at it!
Dooley: If the almighty Zeus RSVP’d that he’ll be attending your dinner party what would be on your menu?
Ironside: Hmm…I supposed I’d have to include ambrosia! I love to cook and I like to make a lot of Moroccan and other North African dishes. I’d probably make him my Moroccan lamb stew. It’s good enough for a god.
Dooley: What’s up next for Lavender Ironside?
Ironside: If The Sekhmet Bed proves successful enough, I’ve got two more books in the Hatshepsut series to release. Other than that, I’m working on some literary novels under a different pen name, and currently have a few short sci-fi stories out looking for homes as well!
We’ll see how all that goes.
Thank you for having me at your blog, Diane!
Dooley: My pleasure! Best of luck with your writing endeavors.
Giveaway! The author is giving away a copy of The Sekhmet Bed (e-book or trade paperback) to a random commentator answering the following question: what do you think is the most interesting era in history? Also, if you have any questions for the author please feel free to ask them in comments.
Here is the blurb for The Sekhmet Bed:
Queen Ahmose knows her duty: To give the Pharaoh a son. But she is young, and has just watched her closest friend die in childbirth. If the Pharaoh plants his seed in her she will die the same way, in a pool of blood, surrounded by wailing women. She has her husband’s love, but a king must have an heir…and even the Pharaoh’s patience will run out. Meanwhile, a lesser queen – Ahmose’s own sister – has given him three sweet, bright children, all of them boys. Ahmose knows her grasp on the Pharaoh’s heart is loosening.
Desperate, she begs the gods for courage to become a mother. They give her more than courage: she is granted a vision of a shining prince, her son – a gift for Egypt who will bring glory to the land. He will be more than the son of a king. He will be the son of the god Amun.
But when the child arrives, it’s a girl.
Ahmose knows the vision was not wrong. Her daughter Hatshepsut has a male soul, and Amun intends the girl to rule. But the Pharaoh will not scandalize Egypt by proclaiming a female successor, and in punishment, the gods take one of Ahmose’s beloved nephews. Her relationship with the Pharaoh is crumbling. Her sister’s remaining children are in danger. If she cannot convince the Pharaoh to accept Hatshepsut as his heir, everything Ahmose loves will be destroyed.
“In Lavender Ironside’s ancient Egyptian historical, two sisters share a husband and a burning desire to be the mother of the next Pharaoh. With accessibly modern prose, vivid detail, and deadly sibling rivalry, The Sekhmet Bed is reminiscent of Michelle Moran’s Nefertiti.” ~Stephanie Dray, author of the critically acclaimed Lily of the Nile
The Sekhmet Bed is available here from Smashwords and will soon be available as a paperback from Amazon.