Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Interview: Vivien Weaver and On a Twisted Tree

 I… am so excited!  My friend Vivien Weaver is coming today, and I’m just dying to introduce you to her.  She should be here… *looks at watch*… oh, my, any minute now! 

*hears knock at the door*… there she is now… *opens door*…

Vivien, how the heck are ya?  Come on in, sit my dear…  thank you so much for coming by to sit and talk with me, can I get you something to drink?  Coffee/tea…

Booze? I'm about to write this scene that requires some serious pre-gaming...yeah, my characters drive me to drink sometimes.

Booze it is.  I wonder what it says about me that your characters being so intense they're driving you to drink sometimes... makes me want to read your book that much more… *shakes head*…  never mind, let’s not evaluate that.  *makes stiff drink and passes glass to Vivien*... there you go. So tell me, what made you want to write?

I had Things to Say. Writing has always really been a voice for me when I didn't feel like I had one otherwise. It's a sense of empowerment, in a way. I can express my views and explore issues on my own terms. Yeah, I might be kind of a control freak. Just a little. :)

I write to figure things out, too, whether it's academic writing or fiction. I find that writing about something/someone different, that I don't understand, can help me connect with that person/thing and understand in a way I didn't before.

There a couple of quotes that pretty much sum up my ideas about writing:
“Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.” --Don Delillo
“Writing is making sense of life. You work your whole life and perhaps you've made sense of one small area.” --Nadine Gordimer
Wow, that makes sense, I’ve never thought about it that way.  Interesting.  Now… you’re currently working on,  On a Twisted Tree, is this your first book?

I've written some that remain unpublished (and probably always will—some things just don't need to see the light of day), but On a Twisted Tree is the first project I've really committed to commercial publishing.

And what genre would you classify it as? Any reason why that one?

It's urban fantasy. The label is only slightly misleading, since it takes place in places that are more rural. I've had a fascination with UF for years. I think that's because it's really an interesting combination of “traditional” fantasy elements and contemporary ones. I could write a treatise about it. It's just really interesting, and it fits my interests/styles well. I can't seem to write anything without some sort of supernatural element.

Ooooo, I love urban fantasy.  Tell me about the book…

It's about a pair of brothers, Cary and Lindsay Delaney, who were born and raised in rural Arkansas by a family of super-religious militants (not so coincidentally, I was raised in that area, although their background is a little more extreme). Their father taught them that they were warriors of God and destined for great things, until an accident left Cary with a paraplegic injury that was their father's fault. The brothers moved north to a bigger city.

When the novel begins, it's five years after the accident and they are struggling to stay afloat. They recently agreed to modify and sell guns on the black market for their uncle, and the opening scene is one of those sales. The woman they sell to has had her eye on them for some time, and she sort of forcibly introduces them to an entirely new world. She and her group tell the brothers that they are táltosk, Hungarian magical figures of legend. They are meant to protect the World Tree, which is the backbone of magic in all the worlds.

Their father was right about them being destined for great things: they discover that they are called the princes, prophesied to...okay, well, that's the trick about prophecies. Everyone has a different idea about what the princes are actually supposed to do.

And that's really where the heart of the story begins. The brothers have been told all their lives that they will do this and they will do that, and they have to make a choice between following some vague prophecy and deciding what they're going to do on their own. You add in a healthy dose of magical sentient horses, Underworld creatures, walking, talking magical archives and some really sticky personal relationships, and you have yourself a magical coming-of-age story. I hesitate to use that term because that implies young protagonists, but in a way, the brothers have never been their own people, so it's really about figuring out who they are.

Oh, Vivien…that sound fantastic!  Do you have a favorite character in the book?

Oh man...it changes day to day. I love both of the brothers, of course. Cary, who uses a wheelchair, is definitely the more macho brother. He puts up a front and runs his mouth a lot—without the wheelchair he'd be the absolute pinnacle of the rowdy redneck stereotype. And he's proud of it. Lindsay is quieter and more sensitive, and I love the way he balances Cary. They just have two completely different styles, and writing them both, seeing how they interact with each other and how they see the world, is really fascinating.

Interesting.  Vivien, I have to ask…this book sounds… different.  What inspired this?  How’d you come up with the idea?

I had a few inspirations: a rock band, a movie, a Wikipedia article, and the place where I grew up. Those weird combinations of observations are normally how I form my characters and my ideas. I wanted to write about a pair of brothers that have a really tight bond, and one of them ended up being disabled because the end of Avatar pissed me off (I wanted Badass Cripple to remain Badass Cripple rather than finding the Miracle Cure). I made them rednecks because I wanted to pay homage to the place where I spent my formative years. I'd never written about a place I knew really well before and I wanted to try. Finally, I'd had the idea that I wanted to use táltosk in a novel for a while, and thought...rednecks plus magic. Come on, how could I not?

*laughs* Indeed, how could you not.  I’m excited, can’t WAIT!

Ok, now… I’m all into the “how do’s” of this writing thing and how it works.  Do you have any “rituals” or do you have a special place you like write?

I try not to form rituals around writing because I really think that encourages the idea that circumstances must be just so and the stars must be aligned in order for me to write, and that just isn't so. That said, I prefer to write longhand with a pen (if I can find one—cats are thieves), and I have my phone set to go off at 8:00pm every night to prompt me to write. I asked my writing buddy to make me stop talking to him at that point so I won't have any distractions. I usually do that for about half an hour, and I can get around 500 words in. If I write more, great. If not, I don't feel obligated to. I know I'll come back the next day. I prefer to take it slow most of the time, especially when I'm busy, but I make an effort to make time every day.

I’ve heard several authors talk about the music they listen to while they write.  And, I’m not sure why exactly, but I just love knowing what songs they’re listening to as they make their books of the awesome.   How about you?  Do you listen to music while you write? If so, could I talk you into telling me… what exactly?

Generally, I do. I have a playlist for this novel. I know when I'm really invested in a project when I start making playlists. :) It's pretty extensive and there's lots of Led Zeppelin, but here's a sample:
  • “Kings and Queens,” 30 Seconds to Mars
  • “The Hunt,” Niyaz
  • “Black Dog,” Led Zeppelin
  • “Alejandro,” Lady Gaga (very specific reason for that one)
  • “TNT,” AC/DC
  • “Sun Going Down,” The Tea Party
  • “Opiate,” Tool
  • “Not Afraid,” Eminem
  • “New Generation,” New Politics
There's a lot of country music I could put in there, but it would make my soul die a little.

*gasps* I LOVE ZEPPLIN! love Love LOVE!  You have great taste in music there my dear, awesome playlist.  There’s even a few there I’ve not heard of… *scribbles in notebook*… I’m going to have to check them out… *looks up*… uh… sorry…right… *mumbles*… we’re doing an interview here Amara... *clears throat*...

So, tell me, what do you like to read?  What’s your Favorite book?

I really just read anything that can teach me/make me think more about something I didn't even know I wanted to think/know more about. It's really really hard for me to choose a favorite book. I think if I had to pick a favorite UF book, it's Night Watch by Sergei Lukanyenko. When I first read it, I was mostly just, “Bwuh??” and I didn't really understand it even at the end. I decided to go back and re-read, and within the first few pages I was like, “OMG it all makes sense now!!” It's written in a style that I think is challenging for an American reader, but that's what interests me so much about it. It's like a puzzle in a way.

I love books like that.  I’m curious, is there an author that inspires you?

My “big author” inspiration changes frequently, but I'm always inspired by my fellow writers and especially my co-authors and friends as well as the authors I get to edit at Candlemark & Gleam. I don't mean that just as a shout-out, either. I can connect with them on a personal level. I can read Jim Butcher's book and think, yeah, that's pretty awesome stuff, but with my friends/co-authors and the people I edit, I can actually see their work progress and I get to tell them my thoughts about their work directly. It's really more of a social experience.

These are the people who keep me going. They set the bar high for me. I see them doing really amazing things and taking risks, and I want to do the same.

*nods* Nice.  Tell me, what do you do for fun when you’re not writing?

I'm an amateur photographer, considering going back to school for photography at some point in the future. (Like I need more school.) I'm a documentary whore and Netflix Instant Play is almost always on in the background. Right now I'm watching Dogtown because I can't resist a show about rescued animals. Occasionally I draw, and I also do graphic art when I have the time. Both of those endeavors are really time-intensive for me, so unfortunately I can't make time as often as I'd like.

*blinks*… Really?   I’m into a lot of that myself.  I love that.  *grins* Sweet.  So, until I get you back here again … where can we find you online?

I'm pretty much everywhere. On Tumblr, Twitter, LiveJournal and Blogspot I'm vivienweaver. I'm also on Facebook.

Awesome Possum… I, uh… I mean… Thank you for coming by Vivien.  I can’t wait to talk with you again!

*walks Vivien out*

Heehee, that was fun!



  1. What kinda booze?! I love knowing what peoples prefered alcohol is. I love the playlist too! such an odd grouping of music! simply splendid! I cannot wait to read this book!!

  2. @Mia: LOL, you make me laugh. Not telling what kind of booze, but be assured... it was some of the best. Maybe next time Vivien comes over, she'll spill the details.

    From what I've seen so far, I think this book will be right up your alley. For sure!

    Thanks for dropping by darlin'. Hope you had a good day. =)

  3. @Mia: I have incredibly pedestrian tastes in alcohol. Mostly it was Smirnoff Ice raspberry flavor, with some riesling when that ran out.

    As for the playlist, that's a pretty typical grouping on my personal playlist--I have a weird mix of tastes. It's always interesting writing rednecks and listening to Persian electronica, though. ;)



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