Warnings... if you weren't curious about Choices Meant for Gods or Sandy Lender before this interview you're going to be chomping at the bit to get this book to devour! Mwuahaha...
1. How did the idea for Choices Meant for Gods first come to you?
Sandy Lender: Way back when I was in junior high or early high school, the evil bad guy, Jamieson Drake, showed me Amanda Chariss. She was standing on a balcony, holding back the curtains as if embracing the morning sunrise and she was beautiful. I fell in love with her instantly. I got her name wrong at first...and I wasn't sure how she met Nigel Taiman at first...but I always knew she'd been running (with her wizard guardian) from this nasty old sorcerer Drake since she was a child.
I've got a notebook somewhere with a scene of Chariss and Hrazon meeting up with Nigel in the forest before they get to the Taiman estate. The names are all wrong but the camaraderie between Chariss and Hrazon is amazing. It shows Nigel instantly falling in love with this young lady, which I think is way too obvious, of course!
2. I'm pretty curious about Chariss. Why is she a heroine readers can get behind?
Sandy Lender: On one hand, Chariss is this amazing, kick-butt, no-holds-barred gal who possesses a well-controlled form of magic (the geasa) through years of training and self-sacrifice. On the other hand, she's just a 20-year-old girl who's been running from a madman since age four when the guy killed her whole family in front of her. She's sympathetic that way. She doesn't think of herself as any great shakes. She's done all this training so she can protect herself; not to impress anyone. She doesn't believe she can do anything great (flaw #1); she can't cook (funny flaw). She loves her guardian wizard like a father and would lay down her life to save his. She's kind to everyone because she just feels that's the right way to be. When she finds a fledgling dragon, she's excited and wants to feed it. She's just approachable and fun, strong and fabulous. There are reviewers on Amazon who state it more succinctly than I can because I'm too close to her. I've had her in my head for 25 years or so.
Oh. And then there's this amethyst on her cheekbone, high up near the corner of her right eye that she was born with. It's a "birthmark" of sorts that seals her fate...
3. What are some of the overarching themes that will drive your Choices trilogy?
4. What are some of the difficulties in world-building?
Sandy Lender: Tracking those darn moons. I have a big ol' desk calendar, though, that I've plotted the moon patterns on so I know when the two moons in the world of Onweald are both full, both waning, etc. I need that information...
Another difficulty was measurements when I've got a flooding river in the mix. I have the evil bad guy in cahoots with an evil bad goddess (because one evil bad guy isn't enough, you know?) and they've got an evil bad army marching toward Chariss's latest refuge. Well, I've got to measure out how long that's going to take so everyone converges on the same place at the same time in Book III. So far, I think I have it timed just so...
5. Of course world-building isn't all work-a lot of it is fun. What's your favorite fantasy element you've incorporated into your world?
Sandy Lender: This is a really great question, Keira! There are a few elements I love...like Malachi, the dragon. I can't go into "why" because I would be giving away a bit of a mystery that the reader is supposed to solve before the end of Choices Meant for Gods. Chariss doesn't solve it (silly girl), but the reader figures it out. Mwuahahahaha.
I will pick: the geasa. I'm one of those funky Southern Baptists (even though I write bizarre fantasy about polytheistic societies - go figure) that believes sorcery and magic are things you best be pretty darn careful about. So, in my fantasy novels, I didn't want to confuse any impressionable minds (teens, etc.) who would be reading by having my "good guys" using sorcery or magic. So I made up a form of magic that comes from the good side of nature in my world. Now, you can argue that we're still using magic, and I agree, but, hey, it's my fantasy world and I'll cheat if I want to. So I made up the geasa as a god-breathed form of power that some people get while they're forming in the womb and some people don't. It's not necessarily hereditary, but many frightened bigots in the world of Onweald fear that it is, and many families have been murdered for producing Geasa'n children. That's where the theme of tolerance comes into play in the series. People who are intolerant and bigoted don't fare so well in my novels...
6. When it comes to the written word and real life, how do you define love?
Sandy Lender: I've just gone through a 17-month divorce, after a 13-year marriage that was mostly devoid of love, so I might not be the right person to ask. He he he. In fact, not long before I filed, my ex-husband informed me that he'd spent most of the marriage resenting me. Nice. So...I think I'll say that love would be NOT resenting the other person.
To be very serious, though, I would define love as mutual affection, respect, and, in romantic love, passion. Isn't it Eleanor in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility who throws "esteem" into the mix? I agree with the concept. Even for romantic love, the friendship qualities have to be in there or your characters are just having a fling.
In Choices Meant for Gods, when Nigel and Chariss first see each other, Chariss is so distressed over a plot development that's happening that she doesn't really notice too much about him. But Nigel is instantly enamored. He wants to come to her rescue. A friendship builds between the two before Nigel ever announces his intentions. Chariss wouldn't have had it any other way.
7. How did ArcheBooks first hear of Choices Meant for Gods?
Sandy Lender: I had a pitch session with the publisher, Bob Gelinas, at a writer's conference in Southwest Florida. He took my proposal, synopsis, marketing plan, first three chapters, and then requested the full manuscript a few days later. Woo-hoo! That was probably the most stressful interview of my whole life. Bob was a kind person, rather informal, just havin' a conversation about my book, but he probably doesn't realize I was on the verge of cardiac arrest the whole time.
8. Fill in the blank: If you're not writing, you are irritable.
9. What do you hope readers will gain from Choices Meant for Gods and the rest of your trilogy?
Sandy Lender: Even though life isn't always fair, even though we don't always get what we want, there are amazing people we meet during our journeys who lift us up. Without these people, the journey wouldn't be worth much.
10. Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
Sandy Lender: This might seem a wee bit odd, but in addition to my Choices Meant for Gods, I would encourage folks also to read Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. This novel is one of the best ever written. It's my favorite of all time. There are elements in Jane Eyre that influence my writing on a conscious and subconscious level, and folks who have already read the book will probably pick out a few of those elements in Choices Meant for Gods.
Also, thank you so much for hosting me! And thank you to all the visitors who've stopped in to read our interview today. It's been a fun exercise.
Thank you so much Sandy for sitting down and doing this interview with me! I'm so excited about this book and I hope everyone else is too.
To learn more about Sandy and Choices Meant for Gods check out the rest of her blog tour: