Interview with Lisa Redfern
Haylee and the Last Traveler
Time Traveling Romance: A small genre, and tough to pull off. (I should know having written one).
Relationships are tough in the best circumstances, when you travel through time and need to save all the people you hurt while mentoring your child and taking care of ailing mother-in-law, it is even harder to find the time (pun intended) to work on your relationship.
If you read through the blurb, it sounds like the fault of this book would be that it tries to take on too much, and what should be a series is mashed up into an epic novel. However that isn’t the case. The many complex ideas are skillfully woven together. Making the ideas, all merge into the proper book form.
There is a lot of great stuff in this book. Easily enough to fill a 400 page book. So it is epic novel worthy. However, the book is 500 pages long.
The extra hundred pages in there aren’t bad. In a book half its size an extra 20% wouldn’t be bad, but in a book where you are asking the reader to invest 20 hours of their life, the same amount of time as an entire season of a TV show, the extra amount is noticeable.
It’s a clear example of “kill your darlings.” Pointing to anything specific, I’m sure the author will have a dozen legitimate reasons to keep it in. However as Emperor Joseph II said to Mozart, “There simply too many notes, lose a few and it will be perfect.”
All aspects of this book, the relationships, the time travel, the supernatural intrigue were handled well. Worthy of four stars. It was the little bit extra that took away, rather than added to the these elements. So I wholeheartedly give this a four star and I will add that should the author do a very hard edit of the parts which are merely, “good” and not “damn good” or “excellent”, it would easily be a five star book.
How has your writing process evolved?
My series, Haylee and the Travelers Stone and Haylee and the Last Traveler, is a genre-mash. It’s a contemporary, romantic, time travel, dramatic suspense story. Since I’ve been a life-long follower of most of those genres, I wanted to see if I could write the book(s) I always wanted to read. Like scaling a mountain and taking time to appreciate the view, I’m satisfied that I accomplished my goal.
Now, I’m attracted to historical fiction, breathing fresh life into old (true) stories so time doesn’t obliterate the collective memory of human struggles. The projects I’m excited about are a local watershed study (blog) that will become a documentary and a novel about the Chinese who came to California to work on the railroad.
Time Travelling Romance is tough to pull off, I know because I wrote one, what did you find toughest in keeping the time travelling treads together?
Haylee’s contemporary and historical storylines were on their own tracks, each one brought out aspects of her personal development and maturity.
In the second book, Haylee and the Last Traveler, a sub character discovers a connection with a character from Haylee’s past. This was an unplanned event. I woke up one morning with the idea, and it had to grow.
One problem I have in writing is having way too many ideas coming at me, I end up taking a machete to my plots before I start to write. You took many complex ideas and managed to make them meld together well. Was this a case of “Damn the Torpedoes, full speed ahead!” or did you envision all the work it would take before you wrote this?
Ha! It’s more like, ‘how do I get all these pieces to fit?’ I take my time thinking it through, often drawing mind maps to make sure the puzzle doesn’t have gaps. As I mentioned in the question above, many solutions appear after a good night’s sleep.
If you could visit the past or the future, which one would you choose? Why?
Since I’m visually and sensory oriented, I need those inputs to write about them well. It’s possible to pull past information from archives, antiques, museums, and period cookbooks.
Characters in the Haylee books time travel in a leap-frog style. To write the story I had to visit both.
A scene-setting is San Francisco during the Gold Rush. By studying historical photos, I imagined the sights, sounds and smells of hastily built wooden structures, devastating fires, large object swallowing mud, and abandoned sailing ships in Yerba Buena harbour.
Technology trends, artist renderings, futurist predictions, sci-fi novels and screen productions help support ideas about what the future looks like, but no one knows for sure. My futuristic character is weird, stiff, and socially inept. Is this because she’s never been disconnected from the data stream or because the author was wobbling on shaky imaginary ground?
This is the second part of a story, but it is definitely a stand alone. I’ve read a lot of ‘middle’ works that claim to be a stand alone, then gotten completely lost. As you handled this well, what advice would you give to anyone who has written a series and wants people who haven’t read the first one, to read one in the series?
Ask fresh beta readers for feedback. To write a series, an author must keep the entire story arc in mind. Getting your head out of it, for a stand-alone test, is nearly impossible. This is where we must depend on fresh eyes.
Describe your ideal fan (the person who would love your book)?
People who are old enough to understand that life doesn’t serve-up the idealistic dreams of youth, and folks who enjoy a mystery with a twist of horror.
Running several titles through ScoreIt!, artificial intelligence claims that my ideal fans are Lisa Jackson & Nancy Bush (Something Wicked) readers as well as Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie) followers.
After your first reaction to my review (first reaction is always wrong) and you had a chance to look it over, what did I miss?
You didn’t miss anything. Once an artist releases a creation into the world, the receiver’s experience of it is unique and personal.
What would you like any one who read my review to know?
Since Darrell and I ‘met’ in an online book review group, we don’t represent typical readers or reviewers.
A review group is like taking a class that includes an assigned novel. Those reviews, though every independent author is happy to have them, are different from those written by people who read a book recommended by a friend.
If you’re a Diana Gabaldon or Ken Follet fan, and in love with the world the author created, it’s reassuring to know you can linger there for a while.
Of all the reviews of your book, what was the greatest take away, what did you learn about your writing from a review?
Though most independent authors make herculean efforts to put out perfectly edited and formatted books, there’s always gotcha’s. I think our brains stop seeing errors after combing through a manuscript multiple times. Fortunately, with digital formatting, errors are instantly repairable. By the time a book’s been out for a while, the kinks have been worked out.
Every author gets bad reviews that miss the mark so completely, that you have to look at the rating to know if it was a positive or negative review. Have you ever looked at the negative reviews of your favourite author and chuckle, knowing that the review could be applied to your work?
No. When I evaluate reviews, I read a few at every level, then make a judgment call. If I see a book with 100% five-star reviews, I figure no one but the author’s friends have read it.
I get inspired by B-Movies, I’ll sit and laugh at “Attack of the the Eye Creatures” (Not a typo, that is the name of it) but learn as well, mostly what not to do. What sources inspire you, that you wouldn’t recommend others try?
I was an Orphan Black binge-watcher. While the mystery, chase scenes, and good vs. evil story elements were standard, I thought the unusual characters – the same female actress playing (believable) multiple roles and her flamboyant, gay, artist brother – made the series into a hit. Orphan Black was exciting because it gave us something new.
As content creators, I think it’s challenging to produce original work.
I would avoid re-telling classic tales people already know or attempting to re-create a story that’s on best-seller lists.
What is the WORST piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
This was more of a gut reaction.
On the second day of a college English class, after reading introductory paragraphs written on day one, the teacher walked in saying, “There wasn’t one paper I graded higher than a D.”
I didn’t wait around to find out if the teacher was more than a spirit crushing power tripper.
Who is your favourite indie author(s)?
Hugh Howey – mentally entering an ecosystem of people living inside grain-like silos is claustrophobic and creepy!
Where can we find more of your books?
Little Mountain Publishing
What books do you have coming out?
Historical fiction – Crossings East. At Charles Crocker’s invitation, a young Chinese man travels to California to work on a nineteenth-century engineering marvel, carving and blasting railroad tunnels on Donner Pass.
Favorite Cover of one of your books:
Phases of Gage, After the Accident Years
P.T. Barnum called him “the man with his brains blown out.” A medical curiosity, Phineas Gage was the first recorded case of a frontal lobotomy.
Through his sister, brother-in-law, and Phineas himself, this novella explores what Phineas’s life was like after his traumatic brain injury.
Where can readers follow you?
First off I want to thank Lisa for doing this. It is really a joy to ‘talk’ to a writer who has a passion for multiple genres.
“I wanted to see if I could write the book(s) I always wanted to read.” The best reason for writing ever!
If for no other reason, at the end you’ll have a book you love to read.
“I would avoid re-telling classic tales people already know or attempting to re-create a story that’s on best-seller lists.” This had me laughing out loud, as I got a recently got a review of An Extra Topping of Horror that said, “For me, if you take the story line of Brian and Amanda, and her time traveling, out, and wrote about them only, I’d of enjoyed it more.” Goodreads and my first reaction was: “Yes, and I could change my name to Audrey Niffenegger, get a sex change and become a Mormon.” Don’t get me wrong The Time Traveler’s Wife was a great book, but if I wanted that, I’d save myself months of work and just read her book (again).
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One of the reasons I started doing these interviews, was a piece of marketing wisdom for authors, “Let the readers get to know you as a person.” to which authors (if they are best-sellers or have never sold one book) all get a blank stare and ask how to do that. Ask them about their book and a vibrant personality emerges. It’s the same with their books, say, “have an original work” and get a blank stare. Ask, “What would you like to read about?” and ideas come flowing out faster than they can put them to words.
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“Since Darrell and I ‘met’ in an online book review group, we don’t represent typical readers or reviewers.”
After I reviewed her book and a few others, I started to think about this problem. Because after writing 75 reviews with the same problem is the best time to think about it. Since then I’ve tried to address it, it’s up to others to judge if I’ve succeeded, or if it’s like a reviewer said of Keanu Reeves acting in Point Break, “It’s like a dog walking on two legs, sure it looks awful and unnatural and is entirely pointless, but you have to admire the effort.”
I’ve been putting a “First off, let me say” followed by my immediate reaction, “I liked it”, “it was okay”, “I didn’t get it”. The type of review as a typical reader I would give. Then get into the details. But I still admit my reviews don’t represent the typical reviewer.