This week I have Karen Lord, fellow 2012 Campbell nominee, and author of the novels Redemption in Indigo and the forthcoming The Best of All Possible Worlds:
. . . My first novel (fantasy) Redemption in Indigo won the Frank Collymore Literary Award for 2008 and was published by Small Beer Press in July 2010 and Jo Fletcher Books (Quercus) in March 2012. It won the 2011 William L. Crawford Award and the 2011 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, and has been nominated for a World Fantasy Award. My second manuscript (science fiction) The Best of All Possible Worlds won the Frank Collymore Literary Award for 2009 and will be published in 2013 by Jo Fletcher Books/Quercus in the UK and Del Rey/Random House in the US. German rights have been sold to Heyne Verlag and Spanish rights to RBA Libros . . .
QUESTION: Your novel Redemption In Indigo delves quite a bit into non-European mythology. What were your inspirations, derivations, incantations, and exclamations regarding this departure from “standard” fantasy?
KAREN LORD: Folk tales, myth, science, history and current affairs inspire me. Redemption in Indigo is indeed based on a West African folk tale, but the original contained no fantastical elements whatsoever. It was a completely realist story about a foolish glutton and his long-suffering wife (wives, in the original German text). I made up the supernatural beings from a combination of jumbies and djinn, Gaia-hypothesis and quantum physics, archetypes and art. Apart from the Trickster, who is of course Anansi, the djombi have no single origin in any culture, faith or academic field. The food is mostly Caribbean, but some recipes I created out of wishful thinking. The towns and villages have no single real-life counterpart although they are of course reminiscent of West African and Caribbean settings, but I’ve also been influenced by stories and histories told by friends from all over — Micronesia to India to Croatia.
QUESTION: Working on a sequel yet? Can you tell us about it?
KAREN LORD: I’m working on a sequel to Redemption in Indigo, but that won’t be ready for a while. I’m also working on a sequel to my science fiction novel The Best of All Possible Worlds which is due out next February.
QUESTION: What other projects do you have planned for the future? Any short fiction?
KAREN LORD: My immediate future will be filled up with writing and editing the sequels I mentioned earlier, but I have written a short story which will be coming out in a VanderMeer anthology.
Sometimes when I’m immersed in writing I forget to read (see question below), so when Karen Burnham invited me to do a podcast with her, I jumped at the opportunity. We’re doing a series of episodes, reading and analysing hard science fiction and Caribbean literary speculative fiction.
QUESTION: Of those professional Science Fiction & Fantasy authors (living or dead) which ones did you enjoy the most when you were younger, and who are your current favorites you enjoy now?
KAREN LORD: When I was younger it was Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Madeleine L’Engle, mid and late-career C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Ursula LeGuin . . . I’m sure I’m forgetting someone. Now it’s a bit strange because my fiction reading slowed radically when I was doing my PhD and after that I tried to stay in a SF-free bubble while working on my own stories. I’m gradually reading more. I no longer read solely as a casual reader, but also to appreciate a certain a level of craft. I enjoy Ted Chiang’s work very much, and also Karin Tidbeck, but you need to ask me again in a year or two when I’ve properly caught up on my to-read list.
QUESTION: Of your daily living — life and the universe stuff — which activities or enthusiasms do you find “leaking around the edges” in your writing?
KAREN LORD: Mainly tai chi, sociology and history, I think, but I find everything leaks in after a while. Most recently it’s been astronomy and physics.
QUESTION: Do you enjoy writing stories simply for the sake of discovery, or do you have a larger message (or messages?) you want to impart to your readers?
KAREN LORD: I think if a story has a message it should be incidental and accidental, otherwise it leans too close to indoctrination. Readers can also take away messages you never intended, which can be either a danger or a delight. Discovery — that’s a far better way of looking at it. I’m happy to show people the pretty shells I’ve collected on the beach, and maybe one or two might be special to them. But they need to collect their own, and they usually do regardless.
QUESTION: As a Campbell nominee, what’s been the biggest surprise; since getting the announcement that you’re on the ballot, that is?
KAREN LORD: Recently, I was shocked and thrilled to receive an invitation to a literary festival. I can’t say more at the moment, but that’s the biggest and best surprise to date!