Tuesday, June 05, 2007

She's finally here!!! Today Sandy Lender, author of "Choices Meant for Gods" is my very special guest on Reading Rucker.
Sandy is one of those extremely rare people. She is a first time author, who has written an spectacular and wonderful novel, and garnered the attention of the world in just a few short weeks.
I am thrilled beyond words to have her with us today on reading Rucker, but even more so, I am honored to be able to call her my friend!

“Choices Meant for Gods” is the absolute best new fantasy novel to come down the pike since JK turned Harry and gang loose on us, and forever changed the genre!
Sandy, welcome.

Sandy: Good morning, Linda. Thank you for letting me appear on your blog today, and thank you for all the great things you've been saying about my book. Nigel keeps me apprised when I've been working too much to visit all the sites…

Linda: Okay, you have to know what my first question to you is going to be, right?

Sandy: Is this about the title? I'm laughing…

Linda: You know I absolutely love that title, and I have to know where you got it.

Sandy: You'll die when I tell you this. And I almost hate to admit this, but it was one of those spur-of-the-moment, I-need-something-for-this-so-I-can-send-a-query-letter-to-an-agent kinds of titles a few years ago. It was a "working title" to use just to get the query letter off to the first agent I wanted to work with. I figured that it fit the book because the decisions (choices) Chariss is forced to make are choices she feels are better made by the gods of her society; not herself. They're choices meant for gods. So, pow, that stuck for that night and I printed off the letter, mailed it to an agent who had no interest (SURPRISE!) and the title has just never changed. It grew on me. (Oh, I never got an agent, by the way, until after I had the contract from the publisher.)

Linda: Can I get your phone number? I need a title for my new novel! LOL!

Sandy: Let me post my ex-husband's number on this public forum… But, seriously, you should let your visitors know that I'm very open to helping people out with stuff like that. You posted a question in our writers' group the other day about a title for a project you're working on and I know I was only one of several folks who wrote back to you. People are welcome to reach me at sandy_lender at yahoo.com.

Linda: Amanda Chariss is a very unique character. Knowing you, is she modeled after anyone you know; yourself, perhaps?

Sandy: You know, Chariss's experience moving from benefactor to benefactor, place to place all her life is modeled after my childhood (although I didn't realize this until I was answering one of the questions for an interview on this Online Book Tour just a few days ago) as a military child and member of a family with the "moving bug." I see more of my sister in Chariss than anyone else I know. There's also a hint of Jane Eyre in her just because there's that stoic orphan figure in her. I think Chariss is just…Chariss. I guess it's peculiar because she's such a strong and central character. What you may find intriguing is that very few of the characters in the novel contain characteristics of "real people." Each is his own person.

Linda: From reading so many emails from you over the last year or so, I think it’s safe to say that Nigel’s character wasn’t taken from anyone you know so intimately, so I’m assuming that maybe he is your fantasy mate?

Sandy: Nigel is every woman's fantasy mate. I don't think I can express it in words…other than he has physical characteristics of someone I do not know intimately. He has elements of Edward Rochester in his makeup, a little touch of Heathcliff once in a while, a bit of John Taylor (obviously), and a lot of Nigel Taiman. He's just himself. And, if I may say so, he's amazing. I love this guy.

Linda: Tell me, Sandy, was it difficult to come up with all the names and places you created for “Choices”? How did you ever keep them straight, and who provided the ‘map’ of Onweald for the book?

Sandy: Oh my gosh…Okay, I'll try not to rehash my entire History of the English Language class and bore your visitors to death here…A lot of the fantasy words you see in Choices Meant for Gods stem from Old English/Anglo-Saxon literature and themes. Read Beowulf (in the original OE) and you'll see a bunch of CMFG words in there. Oh, wait, no one can read OE these days… So! If your visitors check out my blog at www.todaythedragonwins.blogspot.com, they'll see that the Word of the Day column each day features the fantasy words I created or morphed for the novel. I decided that for the duration of the Online Book Tour, I'd define the fantasy words, give their etymology (how I created them) and give an example of how they're used in the novel for folks.

Now, as to how I kept all that stuff straight: I've got a recipe file box with 3X5 cards in it with the words alphabetized in it. There are also notebooks full of scenes and words and legends and backstory and characters and names… In fact, the Ungol in Tiurlang have their own language, which the reader will learn a bit more of in Book II.

Then I've got the map you mention, which the incredible Megan Kissinger (an artist who worked for me at the university) created on her home computer after I gave her this crude drawing on 8 ½ by 11 notebook paper. You should see the pathetic chicken-scratch I gave her compared to the masterpiece she gave back to me. It's amazing what she was able to do; how she was able to take what was in my mind and display it electronically. She's simply stunning and she deserves so much more credit than what she's received to date. I had her on my blog for a week to celebrate her and she was able to offer advice and inspiration to other artists. She's even offered to do a joint book signing with me here in our hometown in the near future, so I'm going to talk to Barnes & Noble about arranging that. She's just incredible.

Anyway, her map appeared in color, ghosted behind the testimonial blurbs on the back cover of the novel, and in black and white on an interior page of the novel. I'm disappointed that the print quality obscured her name, which is on the map, down by the compass rose, but that will be corrected in a second plate creation.

Linda: I’m thinking that some of Drake’s more diabolical traits are taken from past relationships. He certainly has traits like an ex-husband of mine. So, when you created him, did you by chance have a ‘model’ of sorts, close at hand?

Sandy: This may surprise you, but Drake's behavior isn't modeled on anyone in particular. Like the other characters in the book, he's got his own personality and doesn't reflect anyone out here in the real world. To be brutally honest, anyone in my life dastardly enough to be manifested in Drake wouldn't deserve the recognition or the immortality.
But his name comes from a TV/movie star from the '80s. I love Jameson Parker from Simon & Simon (he played the blonde brother—A.J.), so, back when Drake first showed me Chariss, I wanted to know what his name was, and I took a good look at him. He looked a lot like Jameson Parker (come on, I was 13) and I heard the name "Jameson" come back to me. Fine. But, as I looked at scenes with him in the future, I realized A) he wasn't the good guy and B) his name wasn't quite right. So I watched his nature and name morph over the years. By the time I was ready to sit down and make my dream of writing "happen," he was an evil son of a gun and his name was Jamieson Drake.

Linda: When you delve into Chariss’s back story, how long did it take you to create the history?

Sandy: YEARS. She knew it all, but I didn't. It took her forever to tell me everything. I'm not always a good listener. As I mentioned, the first time I saw her was 1982 or 83. I didn't sit down to write until 2000. So that's a long long time to have ideas and thoughts popping in and out of my head. But it wasn't just her backstory I was creating all that time. When ideas came to me to jot down in a notebook, I might be writing down something about one of her ancestors or about one of the gods of the society she lives in. There's a lot of history and legend necessary for the telling of what happens to the god she's meant to protect.

Linda: I saw on GMA the other day that there is a woman spearheading an effort to get all of the Harry Potter books removed from school libraries because in her opinion, the books glorify and teach children about witch craft. Are you concerned that parents might take a dim view of the sorcery, magic, and the Gods and Goddesses that dwell in the world you created?

Sandy: Ugh. Yeah, when those books were getting popular a few years back, everybody was up in arms over the sorcery in them. Here's my take on that. Yes, the Bible teaches that sorcery comes from an evil source. Does that mean books that talk about sorcery are bad books? No. Fiction is the key thing to remember here. The Harry Potter books are fictional stories made up in J.K. Rowling's mind. She's a writer with a story she made up. I wish people would cut her a break.
Now, I did something different with Choices Meant for Gods, and I'm glad your question gives me a chance to talk about this. There's no mistaking that sorcery is bad in my novel. In the Harry Potter novels (and I've not read them, so you'll have to correct me if I mess this up), I believe that Harry and his friends are taught how to use their witchcraft and sorcery skills. Now, I don't think they're taught naughty uses. I think they're taught skills in general and they are good kids so they use their skills to do good things. That's where kids who aren't guided by a parent can get confused, in my personal opinion. In Choices Meant for Gods, Nigel, who is an adult, is taught how to use something called the geasa. It's not sorcery. It's not witchcraft. Heck, it's not even magic. It's a power that I created. I made it up for my fantasy realm because I didn't want my good characters to have their power derived from a negative source. I didn't want there to be any confusion.
Choices Meant for Gods has drawn a very clear line between the characters that derive their power from evil (the sorcerers) and the characters that derive their power from good (the Geasa'n).
As for the multiple-god thing, my hope is that any teens (and my book is not intended for children—it has a PG rating) who have questions about the polytheistic society will ask their parents or a guardian or teacher or someone who can say "no, in the real world, there's only one god."

Linda: What advice would you have for the parents of children who pick up your book?

Sandy: First of all, don't freak out. There are no sex scenes—romance is there and incredibly tense but the characters aren’t married so there's no "falling into bed," if you catch my drift; the violence is mostly implied; the creatures might produce a few nightmares; but, to be honest, this is not a children's book (it's rated PG). I had a friend buy the book for his son, and his ex-wife said she wouldn't let the boy read the book because "the devil is in that book." You could have knocked me over with a feather. The devil? In my book? Probably not! I'm a Southern Baptist. I'm not going to put the devil in my book. What I think she may have picked up on is the bad guy's partner, Julette, who is referred to as The Dragon, The Betrayer, and The Devil. She has other names, too, but those are the ones mentioned. The deal is this: if you're going to have a showdown between good and evil, you have to have a good guy and a bad guy.
For a parent concerned about letting her teen read Choices Meant for Gods, I would suggest she just keep in mind that the differences between Christianity, Judaism, and any other faith-based religion out here in the real world, and the made-up religion in CMFG are so blatant (on purpose) that teens shouldn't draw any parallels. There are multiple gods set on a hierarchal level that interact with the mortals in a corporeal fashion, and these gods are not always portrayed in a positive light. They are flawed (well, except for Parrin Aeschere, but he's got a purpose that's going to blow everyone away in Book III) and imperfect. Not like the Savior I know…

Linda: Well, time will tell if “Chariss and company" become the new HP and gang. But, I have no doubt that Sandy Lender will become as much of a household name as JK.

Sandy: You know, I'm not interested in fame for me. I want Nigel and Chariss to be mentioned when people talk about Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra, Abelarde and Heloise. One of these days, I'm going to be watching some TV show, and the host will say, "Like Nigel and Chariss," and I'm going to either burst into tears or die of a coronary event. If I die of the coronary event quickly enough, I won't have to hear the guest say, "Who?"

Linda: Speaking of time, do you have a completed itinerary for your book tour yet? Any concrete dates on where and when your fans can meet you and get their copies of “Choices” signed?

Sandy: The itinerary keeps getting stuff added to it, which is cool! I have a couple more online chats scheduled where people can "meet" me in the virtual sort of way. There's www.cassidymckay.com on Thursday, June 28 from 8 to 9 p.m. eastern time; then http://willifordblog.com on Monday, July 16 from 9 to 10 p.m. eastern time; then www.authorisland.com chat room on Wednesday, July 18 from 8 to 9 p.m. eastern time. Note that these are all on different nights of the week so folks who have different nightly commitments can pick and choose when to check in and chat.
If someone lives in the Southwest Florida area, he or she can meet me and enter a contest to win a replica of Jorin Taiman's training sword at my first official book signing two days from now, Saturday, June 9, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble in
Naples, Fla. It's the one in the Waterside Shops at the corner of Pine Ridge (Seagate) and 41 (Tamiami). I tried to get into a book store for a signing in New York for next weekend while I'm up there for the Duran concert, but, a brick wall called "we-don't-need-new-authors-helping-us-sell-books" kept going up when I'd call around. Sigh. I'm extremely grateful to the folks at this B&N in Naples. They were excited when I called. I took them four-color flyers to put in shoppers' bags ahead of time. I gave them cloth bags with my book's cover and my blog's URL and my slogan "Some days, I just want the dragon to win," on them to hand out to anyone who bought my book ahead of time. They were thrilled. I gave them bookmarks to hand out. They said people love those things. So…the stores in New York lost out on a great opportunity.
Anyway, the itinerary for each week gets listed on my site and Nigel's each weekend. Folks can check that out at www.todaythedragonwins.blogspot.com and http://sandylender.blogspot.com.

Linda: Well, just remember to give me a call when you have the dates for your Orlando stops. I plan to be the first in line.

Sandy: You and I are doing a joint signing, Baby.

Linda: I’m so happy you stopped by here today. You know you’re my new hero, don’t you? If “Choices” doesn’t sell a million copies, it certainly won’t be for my lack of trying. I think I have talked CMfG up on every community page I belong to. And I know it won’t be for your own lack either. I have watched you and followed this blog tour with fascination. It is wonderful to see you in action. Arche Books should count themselves fortunate to have landed such a talented and truly determined author.
Can you tell our readers where they can get their copies of “Choices Meant for Gods”, and where they can go to read an excerpt?

Sandy: First of all, thank you. That's incredible to read…
This Online Book Tour has been mentally exhausting. I'm grateful to all the folks who've been willing to let me appear on their blogs or in their chat rooms. I'm actually on the ArcheBooks blog tomorrow…if Bob doesn't forget…I better go jog his memory…hmmm…

To get a copy of Choices Meant for Gods, folks can visit their local book stores and beg. ;) Or they can order it from the comfort of home at http://www.amazon.com/Choices-Meant-Gods-Sandy-Lender/dp/1595071652/ref=dp_return_1/104-9089752-5140754?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books&qid=1175821346&sr=8-1. There's a free shipping option there at Amazon. Now, if folks have a Barnes & Noble membership, I think they get a discount at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9781595071651&itm=1. My publisher also offers a discount if you order it direct from ArcheBooks, but you have to pay shipping. There's also a huge excerpt of the first three chapters at this link: http://www.archebooks.com/BookIDX/Indexes/Fantasy/CMG/CMGDesc.htm
Now, if you go to http://www.authorisland.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=shop.flypage&product_id=195&category_id=12&manufacturer_id=0&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=43 you can read four short excerpts from the book. If the link fails, it's basically a page buried on www.authorisland.com, where I have a presence under the "Fantasy" link.

Linda: Again, a million thanks for stopping by Sandy. I wish you all the success in the world with “Choices” as well as the rest of the books in the trilogy.

Sandy: Thanks for having me here! I've enjoyed it! I'll check in shortly to see what questions I can answer from your visitors…




Heather Froeschl said...

Sandy, you wrote in your interview: As for the multiple-god thing, my hope is that any teens (and my book is not intended for children—it has a PG rating) who have questions about the polytheistic society will ask their parents or a guardian or teacher or someone who can say "no, in the real world, there's only one god."

It is MY hope that that teens know that they have religious freedom of beliefs and if they choose to be polytheistic, they certainly can be. For those who are, there is NOT only one god, and no one should try to tell them they are wrong.

Sandy Lender said...

You, my dear, are going to LOVE my book. The Geasa'n in my book have, in the past, been persecuted because they are "different" from the majority of society. The people who in "present-day" continue to persecute them are the people who the reader learns to distrust. I've got a press release going out all over the country about this concept and a variation of the press release available to all my online book tour hosts to use as a guest blog article because I want people to catch the concept that acceptance is a theme under the myriad plotlines in Choices Meant for Gods. It's my personal belief that there is one true god and Jesus Christ is His son. But I have friends who weren't raised believing that, and that's their prerogative. In Choices, people who don't let others have their own beliefs, or their own lifestyles, or their own choices, are the ones we root against.

Sandy L.
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

Heather Froeschl said...

I look forward to reading it! Care for an award winning editor's review? Drop me a line. I'm looking forward to your guest blog on my www.spiritualvisitations.blogspot.com too!

Vicki M. Taylor said...

Sandy, you've created a complex and intriguing world. Which character brought the world to you or did you always know about the world and put the characters into it?

Kim Robinson said...

Really great interview, you are really a creative person
I love the way that you just came up with a wonderful title like that off the top of your head, I am going to do a title contest next month for my new book, I am going to make sure I contact you.
Much success

Jeni said...

Kudos to both of you on this interview! As soon as I get my finances straightened out again -and have some funds (again) for some book buying, you're at the top of my list Sandy! I had mentioned a bit about your book the fantasy world stuff especially - to my daughter here and she thinks it might make a good book for the stepgranddaughter (will be 16 in Dec.) to read because she really is into Harry Potter and other fantasy realm stuff. I don't generally pay much attention to the "censorship" codes - my Mom never told me when I was a kid what books were beyond my capacity, my maturity level - whatever - and I don't think I suffered from her so-called "parental laxity" there but rather that I learned to read and love it that much more. JMHO, kiddo!