Aug 19, 2011

Behind the Quill: Q and A with HL Reasby

Halloo there, ladies and gents; changing up the context by bringing in a special treat for all of you. I had a chance to sit down with the fantastic H.L. Reasby, author and self-confessed fangirl, to discuss her current Sekhmet's Light trilogy, her foundations in literature and her own past, present and future. So let's warm up the WABAC machine, Mister Peabody, and sit back for a fun conversation with a wonderful woman.

RC: First, let me get you something to drink; coffee, or tea or something brewed?

HL: Ironically, I never really drank coffee before I came to Seattle, but now I drink it on a semi-regular basis. Generally speaking, however, iced tea or water are my drinks of choice.

RC: Yes, the northwest seems to have that effect on people. I never really understood that before. Okay, so let's jump right in. Pretend we're in line to see "Columbiana" or something, and we have a couple minutes. Also pretend that we've never met - - tell me about your books before we get to the cashier.

HL: The Sekhmet’s Light series combines Ancient Egyptian mythology with a modern setting. It’s a superhero-like universe where the gods grant power to avatars to combat the followers of their enemies. Another writer I know refers to it as “Isis meets Wonder Woman”.

RC: Isis meets Wonder Woman. Sold me! Where'd you come up with an idea for characters like the ones in your books? What was the inspiration? And why Egyptian mythos, as opposed to Celtic, Roman or Grecian?

HL: The idea for NuruSekhmet actually came from a dream that I had a long time ago now, shortly after a visit to the Field Museum in Chicago. I was interested in Egypt before that, but I became absolutely fascinated by their Egyptian exhibit which has lots of hands-on type displays. The night after we visited the museum, I dreamed about a woman who was given a portion of Sekhmet’s power and, through that, gained a spiritual connection with the goddess. Through further research, I decided to name her NuruSekhmet (which translates into Sekhmet’s Light) because Sekhmet is strongly associated with the sun and fire.

RC: Bonus points for not only giving us great stories but teaching us a bit in the process. An extra +5 for having this idea come to you in a dream. That's excellent! Now, you're in the middle of writing book 3 right now - how's that going? Any spoilers you want to share?

HL: Work is continuing apace on book 3. I’m at about the halfway point of the first draft. I’m very happy with the way some of the characters are evolving and with some of the turns it’s taken. Although it wasn’t my intention initially, the third book is, in many ways, turning into a little bit of a love letter to the Special Forces community. In book 2, I introduce the readers to Maximus “Church” Churchill who is the leader of one of the Horus temples, and a SEAL.

In book 3, Church and other SpecOps guys get more spotlight which really allows me to highlight the quiet professionalism of these men that many writers don’t seem to understand very well. Although I’d always intended to take Church from tertiary to secondary or primary character, I do think that recent events in the real world have prompted me to focus on that a little more than I’d originally thought I would.

RC: Makes sense - - sounds fantastic, I can't wait to read it! (I may have to send a copy to my brother, who's over in Afghanistan at the moment.) To be honest, my "make or break" element of any book is, above all, the characters themselves - and the Sekhmet's Light trilogy is filled with some pretty diverse and very interesting characters - of them all, who was the most fun to write? Who was the biggest challenge for you?

HL: Oh, wow. Well, here’s the thing… all of them have times when they’re a lot of fun, and sometimes each of them can be just a pill to deal with. The one who’s most consistently easy to write is Aramair. She’s very sweet and nurturing so it’s pretty easy to see what she’s going to do in most situations.

Honestly, the one who’s the hardest is Nicole for the most part. She throws me curveballs on a fairly consistent basis and, especially in book 3, she can be very unpredictable.

The most consistently fun to write have been Bailey and Weber. They have a great chemistry between them and it’s been fun to explore their relationship.

RC: I can imagine! I definitely can appreciate the kind of theatricality you embrace in your books, as well - both in the interpersonal dramas as well as the pacing and action; I could totally see them on the big screen. If your books were already made into movies, what soundtracks would they have?

HL: The first book would definitely be geared more toward traditional-type Egyptian music. It really explores the more traditional aspects of the sects and although it takes place in the modern world, it’s very anachronistic in many ways.

The second book would be more rock based, or maybe a score similar to Steve Jablonsky’s work on the Transformers films (say what you will about the movies themselves, the music is just AMAZING). It really drives home the fact that although the Ancient world intersects with the modern, it’s definitely not the old days and that the sects can’t afford to pretend otherwise any more.

The third book should be similar in tone to book two, but with the ‘epic’ feel cranked up a few notches and with instances of a Latin flair thrown in as well.

RC: You had me at "anachronistic" - hah! So, going forward, now: once you're done with this trilogy, what's next?

HL: I have a tie-in collection of short stories/novellas that I’ll be compiling to fill in some of the back story that is only hinted at in the novels. You’ll get to see the raid that Meshrew and Imanekhet conducted that resulted in the rescue of baby Aramair and her mother, the origins of the very first NuruSekhmet in detail, more about Bailey and Weber’s partnership and more.

From there, I’m planning a couple stand-alones: I was asked to do a pirate story, so I’m pondering that. I also have a story about the lost continent of Atlantis which could turn into another series as well down the road.

RC: Pirates! Yes! I'm already in line for that one. Are you putting in any public appearances we should know about?

HL: My first official public appearance as a writer is going to be at Emerald City ComiCon the last weekend of March 2012. I’m particularly excited about that because ECCC is run by a wonderful bunch of guys and the crowd that attends tends to be incredibly friendly and warm.

RC: So, here's a pretty hot topic I'd like to touch on. I notice that you're self-published - why did you decide to go that route, as opposed to going through a "traditional publisher"?

HL: There were a lot of reasons for the decision, but the primary was that by self-publishing I actually retain control of my creation which is important to me. Also, by going the self-pub route, I’m keeping the lion’s share of the money from each sale for myself instead of it going to the publishing company. The unfortunate truth is that many first-time writers get lost in the shuffle of big publishing. The major pubs don’t want to spend money to promote an author that doesn’t have a track record, so there’s little effort made to bring awareness to those books, generally speaking.

RC: Those are some great points! How do you think being self-published has helped you connect to your audience?

HL: By self-publishing, there’s no expectation that anyone’s going to promote my work but me so I’m walking in with eyes wide open. It means that I have to find a way to get in touch with my audience so I’ve taken it upon myself to join as many social media outlets as possible (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) as well as book-oriented sites like Goodreads so I can make myself accessible to readers who want to know more about my books.

RC: That's definitely refreshing - I'm surprised more authors don't turn to social networking to get to know their readers, but I'm really glad to see that you do! So, changing gears again, let's set the WABAC machine for your childhood - - awwww, you're such a cute kid! So tell us - what is the little you thinking? What does she want to be when she grows up? If a writer is the top of your list now, what's number two?

HL: I was a big animal lover and for a long time growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian. That lasted until I realized that being a vet would mean seeing animals in pain and having to do things like put them down which was just too much to contemplate. Once Veterinary school was out, I then latched on to paleontology/archeology, but unfortunately, I didn’t have the grades to pursue those avenues. I was one of those kids that drove teachers up the wall because I was obviously smart and knew the material because I always did well in class discussions and on tests, but I despised homework and rarely applied myself in that arena.

RC: On that same note, when did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What was it that really made that decision come alive for you?

HL: I’ve always enjoyed making up stories, but I didn’t really start writing them until I hit college. I needed another elective after reading some of my stories, my mom convinced me to take a creative writing workshop.

Boy, let me tell you that was terrifying. The way the workshop worked was that each week we were required to bring in enough copies of a 1-3 page story which we would then take home and read and critique. We would then come in and read the piece aloud and listen to feedback before collecting the copies of our stories so we’d have the hardcopies to improve our work.

As a kid who was notorious for being painfully shy all my life (I didn’t even speak until I was three, according to family lore), it was nerve wracking, to say the least. However, as that first semester went along, I found myself looking forward to the opportunity to read my piece and hear what everyone thought of it. It helped me overcome my shyness and also showed me that I had genuine talent for writing.

Unfortunately, I didn’t do much with it until after my mother passed away in 2001. She was always my biggest fan and expressed confidence that I could be a writer if I wanted to be. By early 2003, I’d decided that I would try to make something out of that faith and came to Seattle for the first time to attend the Fairwood Writer’s Conference at NorWesCon. I got a universally great reaction to the concept for Sekhmet’s Light from the pros that critiqued it, but I struggled with it for several more years. Once I figured out why it wasn’t working and corrected the issues (turns out I was trying to cram a trilogy into one book, which was the major problem), it worked well.

Once I got the first book done and held the proof in my hands for the first time, I knew I’d love to do this for a living.

RC: Isn't that the best feeling EVER? So what's the best piece of advice you've ever had in regards to being a writer?

HL: I’m not entirely certain who first told me this, but it was something to the effect that “writers write”.

RC: I've heard that before as well. I always liked the directness of it. So, home stretch time: Who was the better archeologist - Allan Quartermain or Indiana Jones?

HL: Okay, I think this is a great question because both of those guys tend to make actual archeologists cringe. I think in terms of sheer panache, I have to give it to Indy (the fact that he was a massive childhood crush of mine might also come into play).

RC: Good call. We named the DOG Indiana, by the way. True fact!

Okay, let's tell people what they've been dying to know: Where are your books sold? What formats are they available in? If my readers want to know more about you, where can they go?

HL:All the major outlets are carrying my books and they’re available in paperback and the major ereader formats: Amazon’s Kindle, and ebook which is the standard for NOOK, Sony, and others. I’m also more than happy to do direct sales if anyone has problems purchasing from the various outlets which can be coordinated if they contact me via my website.

Akhet for Kindle
Akhet for NOOK
Akhet Paperback
Peret for Kindle
Peret for NOOK
Peret Paperback

Thanks so much to HL Reasby for taking the time to chat with me - - best of fortunes going foward, and do check out her Sekhmet's Light series, at an e-bookstore (or brick and mortar, as well) near you!

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