When we first conceived of going public with our secret cabal, the Evil League of Evil Writers, Dina and I decided we wanted to
stalk bother fawn over interview our favourite writers. We could pick their brains, talk about what makes them evil, and celebrate all the reader tears they’ve brought to the world.
There seemed only one logical person to be our first. The Patron of Evil Writers herself, Lilith Saintcrow. And so we made her an honorary member, begged for an interview, and you can read it below.
We’re also giving away a copy of one of her books. Check the bottom for details!
Oh…and there is SPECIAL EVIL at the end that we made especially for Lili. Keep reading!
1. Let’s start things off right: What’s your zombie survival plan?
Well, first is a stop to the supermarket, to stock up on canned foods and other goods—like tampons. Then it’s the sporting goods store for ammunition and personal defense items—hockey gear is a must! Afterward, it’s out to my writing partner’s house—she lives a fair ways out, and her place is easily defensible. Then it’s a simple matter of settling down to massacre as many zombies as possible. You know, life’s simple joys.
2. And if your zombie survival plan could involve taking one of your characters for help, who would you choose to fight zombies with?
Oh my. Probably one of the Watchers, or Jill Kismet. They have a lot of ammo and know how to take care of nasty slavering undead things. Of course, Jill is no picnic to hang around with, and the Watchers are pretty repressed. Maybe I’ll make a new zombie-hunting character just in case…
3. You’ve written a lot about caution with writers groups (I—Skyla—love those posts) (Dina does as well, I believe, but I’m typing up the questions, so I’m inserting my commentary) and how they can be damaging to writers. What do you feel would be the requisites for a successful writer group? Someone on guard with a really big knife? Black magic to keep everyone in line?
I think the same thing that makes for other successful and healthy groups would work for writers’ groups. Clear statements of agenda, institutionalized un-tolerance for drama and emotional vampirism, and a moderator (or group of moderators) with a really big stick and the willingness to use it would help. But really, it’s so much work, and healthy groups are so rare. Unhealthy writing groups seem to be in the majority, at least in my experience, so I tend to steer well clear of every writers’ group. Your mileage may vary, of course.
4. Writers tend to be a little on the physically unhealthy side, what with the constant sitting, and the mentally unhealthy side, what with the suffering for their art. What are your top writer self-care tips?
Physically get up and move at least ten minutes a day. Laugh at yourself at least twenty times a day. Do not let writing become the only thing you’re about—well-rounded individuals produce better work. Writing is a priority, yes, but it’s not a funhouse mirror or Narcissus’s pond.
5. Don’t respond to reviews. Great advice—one I give to all writers I know. Do you find it more tempting though to respond to a positive one (like planting a slobbering kiss on the reviewer) or a negative one (possibly with sharp objects)? Is it a policy you started with when your first book was published, or did you develop it along the way?
It was actually a policy I started before I was ever published. I just saw so many authors behaving badly on the Internet. Don’t get me wrong—many “review sites” are worse than high school when it comes to immaturity and bad behaviour. But writers carry a stigma far longer than review sites do, and that stigma can affect their financial situation. It isn’t worth the risk. And really, what reasonable human being has time to deal with middle-and-high-school shenanigans? (There’s a reason we’re supposed to grow out of them.) Time spent responding to reviews is much better spent actually writing.
To answer your other question…I think it’s a matter of personal preference, whether a writer is more tempted to respond to positive or negative reviews. I’d be more tempted to respond to the positive, because I like to thank people. The trouble is, that opens the door for responding at all, and sooner or later a negative review is going to piss me off enough to tempt me to respond. It’s human nature. It’s much easier to have a blanket prohibition against responding than it is to try to only respond to the positive.
6. When discussing our own evil idols, the name Lilith Saintcrow popped up as one we universally agreed is a writer of the evillest kind. Our Bad Horse, if you will. Who is the evillest writer you can think of, one whose evil you aspire to yourself?
Oh, my. I’m honoured to be your Bad Horse!
I think Stephen King is one of the most “evil” writers I’ve ever come across. He very rarely shies away from showing the consequences of the story and the characters’ choices, and that is very important to me. Kage Baker, in the Chronicles of the Company series, is the same way. I ached for Mendoza all the way through those books, my God! The most “evil” author I’ve read recently is Carlos Ruiz Zafon; In The Name of the Wind was just so terrific, and it didn’t look away from the choices the characters made. It’s pretty rare to find an author who doesn’t flinch.
7. What is the evillest thing you feel you’ve done in one of your books? What is the evillest thing others have claimed you’ve done? (Skyla is standing by, ready to cry “Woe” as needed.)
I think the one most readers don’t forgive me for is the end of Working For The Devil. Originally, Japhrimel was supposed to be a Mephistophelean character; I was surprised as anyone when he fell in love. And he paid for that choice; I still get hate mail for that.
8. You’ve had a bad day and head to YouTube to watch adorable animal videos. Kittens, puppies, pandas, or other: which do you pick first? This has absolutely zero effect on your evilness, of course, unless you pick human babies.
I’m more likely to pop in some Hong Kong action films from the sixties and seventies, actually. Baby animals just don’t do it for me. I start thinking about who’s feeding them, or cleaning up after them, or how they might be missing their mums, or all sorts of things. Cute animal videos actually stress me out, because I worry about them. Hong Kong action films, however, I return to again and again and enjoy each time.
9. We’re all tempted at some point to snoflake out and act speshul when we shouldn’t. Have you ever given in? Can you share with us your own embarrassing speshul snoflake moment? We’ll kill the witnesses afterward, if you like.
Most of my speshul snowflake moments have been while responding to trolls on my blog. But there was one memorable post where I said basically “If you don’t write, don’t call yourself a writer” and then made the mistake of engaging with people who thought I was Being Mean. If I went back and did it again I wouldn’t respond, I’d just let the post stand by itself. I’m tempted to play along and be nice and apologize so often; it really detracts from the things I truly believe and hold dear.
10. Have you ever shot a man in Reno just to watch him die?
I would like to point out that LILI DID NOT ANSWER THIS QUESTION. Presumably it’s because she’d have to kill us if we knew the truth. *looks at Lili warily*
11. We’re going to give a random commenter a Lilith Saintcrow book of their choice. Pretending they’re a LSC virgin, which book would you recommend for them?
That depends on what they like! If they like fantasy, I’d recommend Steelflower; urban fantasy, I’d suggest Night Shift; romance, I’d suggest The Demon’s Librarian; category romance, I’d recommend Taken; young adult, Strange Angels. Book choices are so personal! I’ve worked in bookstores for a long time, and it’s sort of a joke—whenever someone is looking for a recommendation, it takes 10-15 questions to narrow it down to something I really think they’ll enjoy. Recommendations are serious business.
Thank you so much for being our Bad Horse and first interview, Lili!