Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Interview with Lee Collins, author of The Dead of Winter - October 30, 2012

Please welcome Lee Collins to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Lee's debut, The Dead of Winter, is published today in the US and Canada and on November 1st in the United Kingdom. Happy Publication Day to Lee!

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery!

Lee:  Happy to be here!

TQ:   What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Lee:  For me, writing isn’t best when done while isolated from all stimuli. I need distractions to work at peak efficiency. Nothing too large (I don’t write best in the middle of a riot, for example), but I find I have much more difficulty getting a day’s worth of writing done without my girlfriend watching a show or playing a game in the same room.

TQ:   Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Lee:  I grew up reading Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Frank Peretti, then moved on to Orson Scott Card, Terry Goodkind, and George R.R. Martin in high school. All of them had a say in how I learned to write, from the pace and structure of storytelling to the construction of sentences. Tolkien, Lewis, and Martin are still writers I read frequently, but I’ve recently added a lot of Stephen King (who was a forbidden author in my childhood), some Ursula K. le Guin and Connie Willis, and a smattering of newer writers like Paolo Bacigalupi and Saladin Ahmed to the mix.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Lee:  I approach a novel like I approach planning a cross-country flight: get a good idea of where you want to end up, file a flight plan with the proper authorities, and let the wind blow you around a bit. If something stops working or catches fire, reevaluate where you want to land. Similarly, I get a good synopsis of the plot together but am open to emergency landings if need be. I don’t actually outline, though; too much work.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Lee:  Coming up with ideas that I think would make good novels. I have no shortage of scenarios, characters, or worlds that seem interesting to me, but very few weather the months-long cogitation crucible required for me to seriously consider devoting that much time to them. I don’t like the idea of just starting a novel to see if it can sustain itself; I want to be reasonably sure it can hold together before I put a single word down. As a result, I don’t have a lot of half-finished novels lying around, but I don’t have an abundance of ideas I feel confident in pursuing, either.

TQ:  Describe The Dead of Winter in 140 characters or less.

Lee:  Old West bounty hunter Cora Oglesby must face her past if she is to overcome the unholy creatures lurking in the mines of Leadville.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Dead of Winter?

Lee:  The character of Cora Oglesby was the spark. She began life as a Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning witch hunter in 2008, evolving into an Old West bounty hunter when I wrote her into a short story for a Western horror anthology Morpheus Tales was preparing. Sadly, the anthology never came together (although the story appeared as a regular feature in Morpheus Tales IX), but the character continued to grow in my imagination until I worked out a novel-length world for her to inhabit.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Dead of Winter?

Lee:  I picked up a few books about frontier living and cowboy humor to get a feel for both the environment and characters that would surround Cora. Serendipity struck when I learned of Marten Duggan, who served as marshal of Leadville from 1878–1882; suddenly, I had a way to boost the historicity of the book while still having a critical role filled. I also had to do quite a bit of reading on how the different firearms of the period functioned, from calibers and loading to dates of manufacture for certain models.

TQ:  What is the oddest bit of information that you came across in your research?

Lee:  Apparently, Oscar Wilde stopped by Leadville during a tour of the United States and proclaimed that a sign begging saloon patrons not to shoot the pianist was “the only rational method of art criticism” he had ever come across. That factoid was just too good to leave out.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Dead of Winter that is not in the book description.

Lee:  Cora Oglesby’s original name was Miriam. Her name came to me as “Mad Madam Mim” when she first popped into my head, and that’s how I thought of her for three years. Her name changed to (the possibly more historically accurate) Cora when I signed with Angry Robot. They requested the name change so as not to cause confusion between my books and the fantastic protagonist Miriam Black of Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds. Still, the name Miriam occasionally pops into my head when I think of the character.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

Lee:  The Catholic priest Father Baez was the easiest for me to write. I based him on a colleague of mine at the university who is one of the kindest, quietest people I have ever met. Writing the scenes with this character was as simple as imagining how the real-life inspiration would handle a person like Cora Oglesby. On the other hand, my biggest challenge was Fodor Glava, the main antagonist. He’s a classic narcissistic villain, but I didn’t want him to become a cartoonish exaggeration of the trope. I tried to incorporate some development to explain why he views the world as he does.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Dead of Winter?

Lee:  The scene on the train when Cora first meets traveling Englishman James Townsend has always been a favorite of mine. It captures both Cora and Ben’s relationship as well as how she handles the strangers she meets in her travels.

TQ:  What's next?

Lee:  I’m currently working on research and a synopsis for a third book in the series, but I also have a science fantasy story set in Soviet Russia that is demanding more and more of my head space.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Lee:  The pleasure was all mine!

About The Dead of Winter

The Dead of Winter
Angry Robot, October 30, 2012 (US/Can)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook
November 1, 2012 (UK)

Cora and her husband hunt things – things that shouldn’t exist.

When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious deaths, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible. But if Cora is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, she must first confront her own tragic past as well as her present.

A stunning supernatural novel that will be quickly joined by a very welcome sequel, She Returns From War, in February 2013.

File Under: Dark Fantasy [ Winter Chill | Small Town Blues | Dead Reckoning | Sharp Shooter ]

About Lee

Lee Collins has spent his entire life in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), he generally prefers to stay indoors reading and playing video games. As a child, he never realized that he could create video games for a living, so he chose to study creative writing at Colorado State University. Upon graduation, he worked as an editorial intern for a local magazine before securing a desk job with his alma mater.

Lee’s short fiction has appeared in Ensorcelled and Morpheus Tales, the latter of which awarded him second place in a flash fiction contest. In 2009, a friend challenged him to participate in National Novel Writing Month, and the resulting manuscript became his debut novel, The Dead of Winter. It will be published in 2012, and the sequel She Returns From War arrives in 2013.

In his spare minutes between writing and shepherding graduate students at his day job, Lee still indulges in his oldest passions: books and video games. He and his girlfriend live in Colorado with their imaginary corgi Fubsy Bumble. You can track him down online via Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads