Since I was participating in the Blog Tour for L.R.W. Lee's Andy Smithson series, I thought I would take the opportunity to ask if I could do an interview. Luckily, she agreed.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
The quick answer is I live in scenic Austin, TX with my husband, my daughter who is a Longhorn at UT Austin and my son who is enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.
Have you ever been to a country other than the one you live in?
Yes, I’ve visited Italy and Switzerland.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?
I hate scary movies. But, I love piano and strings music, sunsets in Hawaii and a good cup of decaf, French press coffee (yes, decaf!). I’m a healthy-eating fanatic (lean protein and complex carbs, if you please) and I exercise regularly. I also love Ansel Adams prints, and mobiles, as well as all manner of kinetic art.
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer and what made you want to become one?
When I was eight, I read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis and something in me said, I want to write a story like that when I grow up.
What specifically inspired you to write this story?
I had the rare and valuable opportunity to work with a mentor while building my company. Over the course of several years, I had the privilege of getting to know a man who lives out high ethical standards and well-thought-through philosophies that guide every aspect of his life. I learned much! I found that our culture does not teach, nor challenge us to think through these principles that can make life significantly more meaningful and enjoyable. The principles I learned and embodied as a result of this experience changed my life.
Because I believe these principles can change your life, too, I am passionate about sharing them with you through the vehicle of my books, woven throughout the story line. Some of the principles that changed my life include: overcoming frustration, impatience and fear – really. As well, understanding why, pragmatically, it makes sense to tell the truth, and understanding how responsibility, diligence and especially dignity are the keys to one’s success in life.
It is my hope that kids as well as adults reading this series will come away having been entertained, but more importantly, equipped with tools to better cope with life and its difficulties.
Can you tell us a bit about the series?
The seven-book series is a coming-of-age narrative of redemption about an overly ambitious prince who unscrupulously seizes the throne of the kingdom of Oomaldee from his older sister, Imogenia, plunging the land under a 500-year-old curse. As in all redemption stories, the offender, now king, is thwarted from restoring the kingdom by his own efforts and must rely on an unlikely candidate, an unextraordinary boy, Andy Smithson, to restore that which he most prizes.
For his part, Andy finds himself the chosen one to deliver this land having only his wits, experience as a gamer, a legendary sword and a magic key to rely on. Complicating his efforts, the king of Oomaldee’s northern neighbor, Abaddon, has committed to conquering the land, so in addition to breaking the curse, Andy must also overcome this evil monarch before true freedom exists.
Woven throughout this epic fantasy is a depth of meaning few authors today achieve. I leverage symbolism extensively. A few examples: Andy’s sword, Methuselah (yes, think Biblical), is legendary in its dividing good and evil; the magic key unlocks (even stone statues) and reveals secrets; gold envelopes contain messages from an unknown eternal sovereign who knows the end from the beginning, and orchestrates events; purple (royal) message spheres (no beginning or end) trumpet messages from the king’s father from the afterlife, to name a few.
In keeping with traditional fantasy narratives, I also use the numbers three, seven and twelve extensively. Three is considered the number of perfection, seven means security, safety and rest and twelve is the number of completion or a whole and harmonious unit.
Character names are also important in this series. Consider these: Andy, means brave or courageous. His best friend, Alden, means helper. Hannah, their female companion, means favor or grace. Others: Imogenia means blameless; Kaysan, the king, means administrator; Mermin, the wizard, is a parody on Merlin, and the list goes on.
I also leverage the names of the books to imbue yet another layer of meaning, revealing Imogenia’s progress as she feeds her emotional hurt, moving from furious and venomous, to acting disgracefully, below the dignity of a royal. A tiny spoiler: as the series progresses, enthusiasts are sure to see this young woman evolve. Whether it will be for better or worse, I’ll not tell…yet.
Who was your favorite character to write, and why?
Andy, because he is a portrait of my son.
How many books do you plan to have in the series?
A total of seven.
What is your favorite scene out of any of your books? If it doesn't give away too much ;)
I cannot reveal the scene specifically but let’s just say, the main protagonist, Andy, knows his dad does not approve of his behavior many times. He knows his dad has very high standards and views him as not measuring up to the level of responsibility his dad feels Andy will need to succeed in life. Andy deeply wishes his dad would just accept him for who he is, warts and all.
In book three, there is a scene which is the antithesis of this. I can say no more, but that is my favorite so far.
When you finish the Andy Smithson series, do you plan to continue writing?
Absolutely. In fact, I am collaborating with an illustrator at the moment to put together a trilogy aimed at younger readers that will instill principles including overcoming frustration, fear and fibbing. It should be out shortly before Christmas. In addition, I have plans to write a trilogy of prequel novellas to the Andy Smithson series focusing on Imogenia, a pivotal character. After that, because the Andy Smithson series is a coming of age series, I am thinking about taking a character or two and beginning a YA series. So many possibilities, so little time .
Do you outline your novels?
Yes. I force myself to outline in detail so when I am writing, I know where I’m going. It goes faster that way.
What is the most difficult thing about writing, for you?
Inventing narratives is not easy. If anyone says it is, they’re lying. For me, the crafting of specific narratives is the most difficult. I have to be able to fully imagine a scene before I can write it.
And lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Know “why” you want to write. If you do not have a “why” that deeply inspires you, it will be difficult to maintain passion over the long term.
I can say that I am definitely looking forward to more in the Andy Smithson series, as well those prequel novellas!
L. R. W. Lee writes to teach her readers principles that can transform their lives – overcoming frustration, impatience, fear and more. She also shows why responsibility, diligence and dignity are the keys to true success in life. L. R. W. Lee lives in scenic Austin, TX with her husband, daughter and son.