Of course, thank you for having me on your blog!
I’m a pretty nerdy person; I love getting into things and obsessing about them – music, books, science, ideas – it’s probably a good breeding ground for writers. I studied Applied Linguistics and I’m a translator and sometimes English teacher as my day job, and I live in a small apartment in Cologne/Germany with a little cat called Nookie.
As for the genre – I’ve always liked fantasy realms as escapism, but I also love supernatural creatures. I didn’t want to write urban fantasy because there are certain genre expectations there that I simply don’t want to write about but playing with were-wolves and fae in a medieval setting is just highly enjoyable to me.
What inspired you to write this book?
Apart from the genre, I really wanted to write about a complicated heroine in By the Light of the Moon. I’m a feminist and I am all for strong female leads but I am also a human being and as such, I often feel not quite represented by hard-core, sassy heroines that are so completely unlike me or my friends and the people I admire.
I wanted to create a character who doesn’t always feel strong, who has character and backbone but who also doubts herself and struggles with issues that make it very hard for her to fit in. I feel like that describes a lot of young women and readers and I wanted to write about that kind of strength – the strength to be who you are in spite of all that.
Do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?
It’s very complicated, much like your question implies. I would say that the most important aspect in the eventual choice has to do with melody and flow of the sound. It has to feel like the character to me.
Especially with this book, I also tried to give certain ethnic and family patterns to naming. And yes, in the very end, I check what the name actually means – and if it is too weird I sometimes change it.
Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?
Of course. I think that’s quite normal – you have characters that are basically a safe bet. These are characters that you know inside out, and you know what they say and how they react in any given circumstances. Both Moira and Owain are like that for me.
And then there are characters that are more mysterious, less predictable – like Maeve or Brock. They are harder to write but very rewarding in a different way because they can surprise you like crazy.
Do you have a formula for developing characters? Like do you create a character sketch or list of attributes before you start writing or do you just let the character develop as you write?
I don’t really believe in lists when it comes to characters – I have lists for all kinds of things but characters are a very organic construct for me. Mostly it just emerges from their back-story, their looks, their friends, their role in the story. Sometimes I only realize a character’s trait by the end of the book because I look back on the way they behaved through-out. So I’d say it’s a mixture – I give them some planning, a broad outline, a story, a premise and then I let them develop naturally.
Can you tell readers a little bit about the world building in the book/series?
Word-building is definitely something that keeps drawing to me towards speculative fiction. I have been coming up with worlds and societies ever since I was a child and I love doing it.
For this series, I didn’t want to go over-board. It is definitely a romance, so I didn’t want the world to overshadow that and take away too much time. So I relied on some more or less excepted genre tropes – your typical AU medieval kingdom with lords that rule over different fiefs. As a twist, I added two different races into the story – Fae, who stay mysterious throughout the first book because they are all but forgotten and thought story rather than real thing, and Blaidyn a kind of were-wolf race that was once created by the fae and now lives at the fringes of human society. Blaidyn are covered in prejudice and they have a complicated history with both humans and fae – which comes to haunt the male protagonist in the book. Mostly, I believe in world-building that supports the story rather than world-building first and then putting a story into that verse.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
Oh writer’s block. I think everybody does – although I have to admit I try to stay away from calling it that, just because I find that not very helpful. That makes it sound like a medical condition or something we just have to accept – but writing is a job for me, it is what I want to do with my life. And I don’t get translator’s block, or teacher’s block. With those, it’s just called… feeling a bit lazy or unfocussed. I feel like it’s the same with writer’s block.
And when I think of it as feeling a little bit lazy or unfocussed, then I can combat those feelings much more easily. Sometimes it’s just a matter of giving myself the day off.
Sometimes I need to clear my head with a nice walk outside or an hour of yoga. Sometimes, I just need to read some great book for half an hour until my head gets into the right place to expel my ideas in well-formed sentences. And when nothing works? Well, then I full-screen a writing doc, set a timer and force myself to write for half an hour. Even if it sucks, no internet clicking, no distraction, no food until I have written at least that much and over time the writer’s block goes away. Maybe not that day or the next, but it goes away.
Do you write in different genres?
Definitely. I have yet to feel the impulse to settle down in anything. It might not be the best idea career-wise but when I have written fantasy for a while, I get this really huge hankering for contemporary. Or when I’ve spent some time writing third person present, I just need to work on something in first person. I just like balance.
In the last few months, I’ve written or co-written paranormal fantasy, erotica, new adult dystopian, fairytale and contemporary YA.
What are your guilty pleasures in life?
There are certain tv shows that I am terribly addicted to – and can rewatch to infinity. At the moment, the very worst is Game of Thrones, but also Parks and Rec, Doctor Who, Downton Abbey and the like. I get very emotionally invested. I also have a very real imaginary relationship with John Krasinski ;). Really, I’m pretty average in my guilty pleasures. Also: soda and pinterest.
Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?
I really love music. I can spend a whole afternoon and evening on bandcamp searching through indie artists and getting ridiculously excited at my finds. I also have two guitars – one signed by my favourite signer song-writer and I sometimes practice and write silly songs ;). Especially recently, though, writing has very much taken over my life and pushed most other things out – but I’m really into photography and graphic design even though currently that is almost completely limited to appreciating it and getting inspired by it rather than doing much of it myself.
What was the last amazing book you read?
The last book that really blew me away was 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – I have a thing for magical realism and strangeness.
What can readers expect next from you?
The next thing lined up is obviously the next book in the Lakeside Series, the sequel to By the Light of the Moon. My publisher’s final decision pending, it is called A Taste of Winter and it follows the protagonists away from the sheltered castle into the wilderness where they actually have to work on their relationship and have to face some realities that they hadn’t considered in the first book.
I also have a few erotic short-stories in upcoming anthologies, starting with Ladylit’s Anything She Wants, edited by Harper Bliss, and a Cleis Press anthology about occupational fantasies, edited by Alison Tyler.
Two other co-written novels are currently in the editing stage – one erotic romance, one NA dystopian. So these are at the horizon as well and I’m currently working on an erotic novella by myself as well as avidly planning a YA contemporary one.
Where can readers find you on the web?
Everywhere! Well, that is the goal at least – I’m really getting into google+ right now.
The easiest way to find them all is to just check out my homepage @ www.lailablake.com. It links to everything.
Would you like to leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from the book?
Sure, I would love to. This is from the fourth chapter of By the Light of the Moon (Lakeside #1).
Moira didn’t bother with shoes; they would be too loud, and this time, she had to get past the wolf, too. She was too desperate to feel the night wind on her face and the cool earth under feet to truly worry about it. Squeezing herself through her door, she managed to close it with softest click and exhaled a sigh of relief before she crept along the hallways, barely allowing herself to breathe.
The castle was dark but she knew every loose stone, every carpet and she carefully set one foot before the other, toes first and then she quietly let the rest of her foot follow. The castle was still absolutely silent; she checked every few steps, stopping and holding her breath. Still not a sound anywhere.
The stairs were trickier, but she knew the ones that squeaked and how to squeeze herself against the wall and walk so close to where the boards where fixed in the stone that they had no place to bend and creak. Even Blaidyn had to sleep; they were alive, weren’t they? Every creature alive slept and all she had to do was creep quietly enough not to rouse him.
She was clinging to the wall, fingertips hooked into the narrow gaps between the stones, carefully setting one foot onto the landing and keeping herself from exhaling a deep breath. She wouldn’t make it past the portcullis but there were other ways, smaller, secret ways in and out of the castle and the wolf wasn’t likely to know any of them. She just had to reach the closest one, down by the kitchens. It wasn’t that far, just a little further and she would finally be able to breathe deeply, to run, to scream if she felt like it.
“My lady.” A voice suddenly came out of the darkness and Moira uttered an involuntary squeak before she could slap her hand over her mouth. She furtively looked into the direction she had perceived the voice to come from. For a moment, she was sure she saw two eyes glowing eerily in the dark; they made her step back, her heart hammering rapidly in her chest.
Then she heard the soft rasp of a match against wood and a moment later saw a tiny flame at the end of a sliver of wood held in large hands, which brought it to a candle.
“There’s no need to be afraid, milady,” the voice said again and now that he lifted the candle to his face, she recognized the Blaidyn. She should have known, she wanted to scold herself, scaring like a little girl. Of course it was the wolf, her own personal prison guard.
“How long have you been standing there?” she demanded, trying to sound like his superior. Her voice was croaky and still shaking, and she wrapped her arms protectively around her torso. He didn’t look cruel but the candlelight cast a strange glow on his features that wasn’t inspiring trust or safety, either.
“A few minutes, milady,” he answered truthfully. “Since you entered the hallway.”
Her mouth opened and then she closed it again. She wanted to be angry and indignant but in grasping for the emotion through the fog of fright, she came up with embarrassment, of all things. He had heard her slowly, carefully creeping down the long carpeted hallway, holding her breath almost the entire time, taking minutes for a distance usually crossed in less than one. And he had stood there, waiting, knowing exactly what she was up to. The very idea made her neck itch enough to press her hand against it as she tried to make out his features again from lowered lashes.
“Are you going to stop me?” she finally asked into the silence.
“That depends, milady.”
Book Trailer http://youtu.be/7TSvdUiTAGE