Sunday, June 7, 2009

Interview with Sandy Lender

HI Everyone

Below is an interview with Sandy Lender, who is here promoting her new release, Choices Meant for Gods. My apologies for getting this up late today. Moving weekend was not a good time for me to agree to do this! But without much more ado, here is Sandy.

Welcome Sandy!

Interview With Fantasy Author Sandy Lender

1) RM: Sandy, I’m amazed at the diverse reasons authors state for getting hooked into fantasy/futuristic/sci-fi writing. What were yours?

Sandy Lender: Hi there, Rayka. Yes, we all have something that pulled us in. And you’re right to ask me what “were” the reasons I got hooked into writing fantasy. I have a few. A couple of the minor reasons are that I love dragons; I get a thrill out of my funky dreams with faeries and trolls and dinosaurs and people whipping out swords; I need a way to channel all the Old English literature and Anglo-Saxon angst bouncing around in my brain; and I’ve enjoyed reading the genre ever since my dad brought home a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT when I was in the fourth grade. I just ate up David Eddings’ BELGARIAD and MALLOREON series and Elizabeth Moon’s PAKSENARRIAN series and the like. Reading or writing fantasy is like taking a vacation someplace you can’t get a plane ticket to.

But the big reason I got hooked was Amanda Chariss. She’s the heroine of the CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS trilogy and she’s amazing. (Just ask Nigel…) The bad guy of the series showed her to me years ago and I’ve been in love with her ever since (as has Nigel). If it wasn’t for Nigel and Chariss pressing me to get her story out, I wouldn’t have so much invested in the fantasy realm. I mean, that’s where her story takes place. That’s where and when she lives. That’s where and when she had to fight the battles she encountered. And that’s where and when Chariss had to make her choices…

2) RM: In Choices Meant for Gods, you have various mythological beings and creatures. How do you go about researching information for these characters?

Sandy Lender: In the world I created for CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS, I have two categories of creatures, if you want to look at it that way. One set of beings are what I’d consider traditional and “expected” in fantasy. I left a lot out—I don’t have any elves or trolls in my series; faeries are (sadly) extinct. But I’ve included your humans, your wizards, your dragons, your shapeshifters, your sorcerers, and then normal animals like certain birds, sea turtles, horses, pigs, wild cats, and even a domestic cat that young Kaylin Taiman keeps as a pet. (That cute little kitty is quite important to our heroine, Chariss, in Book II.) You have to have some “ordinary” elements with which the reader will immediately and easily identify.

Then you wrap the extraordinary around these elements. That’s where my second category comes in—the creatures I made up. I manufactured demons called edras and ryfel that can cross between the spirit and mortal worlds and who bow to the ancient evil goddess Julette and obey her commands to harass the hero and heroine. I made peaceful, artistic, humanoid creatures called the Ungol who guard the prophets and the prophecy scrolls in an underground set of caverns known as Tiurlang. I created my own pantheon of gods with nobility who serve them in their secluded city…until a few have to walk among the mortals for our story, of course. And Geasa’n instead of “people with magic” populate my fantasy world because I made up my own source of power for the “good guys” in the world of Onweald.

Now here’s how I research these two different categories:
For something as popular and traditional as dragons or wizards, there’s always the Internet and Google searches and online groups to throw questions into. But I also own scads of books with established “rules” on what has been done in fiction before. (But remember what Elizabeth Swan learned from the pirates about rules—they’re more like guidelines.) I’ve got research books like THE MONSTER HUNTER’S HANDBOOK—The Ultimate Guide to Saving Mankind from Vampires, Zombies, Hellhounds, and Other Mythical Beasts by Ibrahim S. Amin (2007, Bloomsbury); DRAGONS—A Natural History by Dr. Karl Shuker (1995, Simon & Schuster); THE BOOK OF THE DRAGON by Monte Sant/Ciruelo (1992, Paper Tiger); GOBLINS—A Survival Guide and Fiasco in Four Parts by Ari Berk/Brian Froud (2004, Abrams); THE SWORD IN ANGLO-SAXON ENGLAND by H.R. Ellis Davidson (1994, Boydell Press); THE DRAGON CHRONICLES by the Great Wizard Septimus Agorius (2002, Pegasus Publications); DRAGONOLOGY by Dr. Ernest Drake (no relation to the sorcerer Jamieson Drake) (2003, Candlewick Press) and a bunch more that I’m just too lazy to list for folks. There are a variety of magazines out there that give excellent information and ideas as well. I’m waiting to see how the new version of REALMS OF FANTASY turns out before I say anything about its predecessor. (It may be a professional publication now. Insert cheesy grin here.) Then there’s the lovely FAERIE MAGAZINE INTERNATIONAL, produced quarterly by the folks at They don’t know me, but, as a national magazine editor, I admire their publication.

To research the second category of creatures for CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS, I can’t rely on the pros who’ve gone before me. I can’t pick up a clever and colorful book about the ryfel or the edras and write out their descriptions for my readers. No, those poisonous demons are in my head. But they still involve research. I have to know my world’s legends, and I have to be able to separate the legends from the actual events that took place in Onweald history.

Here’s a good one for you: When I first created the Ungol years ago (this trilogy has been a long time in the making), I called them the Lognu. It’s in some of the spiral notebooks hidden in the back of the closet. I decided I didn’t like the way that sounded when I read it out loud and I turned it around. Ungol pleased me. The high priestess of this group had some unpronounceable name (of course) and the scenes in Tiurlang took FOREVER to get through. (Thank God for editing. We can’t have Chariss away from Nigel that long! He’d go insane.) But to form these underground people, I needed to figure out what their occupation was. I had to figure out how they got food. How did they sleep without catching pneumonia underground? How did their children grow without sunlight? For that matter, how did they create their art without light? Enter the research phase of fantasy writing! I created a language for the Ungol that focused on beauty and peace and companionship. (Of course, I don’t include their whole language in the books. I’m not expecting readers to learn Klingon or anything!) I started learning in my mind about specific Ungol families and their family units. I borrowed “technology” from the ancient Egyptians so my Ungol could position large mirrors in their underground growing and gathering rooms to capture light from tunnels to the surface. And I made these graceful people excellent hunters who would go out on “haas luna” (hunts by the moon – or night hunts) to kill only what meat they needed for their tribes. By the time I finished researching all they needed for their society, I had this loving, beautiful place for my main character Chariss and her guardian wizard to seek refuge one dangerous winter when the sorcerer Jamieson Drake first sought Chariss to kill her. The flashback to a scene of the kind old wizard teasing young Chariss about worms falling on her head in the underground city is touching and sweet. And where would that scene be without all the research I’d done to create that atmosphere for them?

Imagine my horror when I learned this past spring that J.R.R. Tolkien had a society in his works called Ungol. I was livid with him once again. I already hold a grudge against him for taking the greatest dragon name EVER. Smaug. Sigh. But, I guess that’s why he’s the god of fantasy literature, right? And I guess that’s why his story THE HOBBIT is one of the reasons I got into the genre.

Thank you for the thought-provoking questions, Rayka. I got a little long-winded there…but it was FUN! And thank you for hosting me today during my online book tour. If anyone wants more info, they can leave me a question here in the comments. I’ll be checkin’ in!
“Some days, I just want the dragon to win.”

RM: Sandy, great responses. I can only imagine your feelings finding out about Tolkien. LOL. I for one am really looking forward to reading Choices Meant for Gods. I am also posting an excerpt and a blurb about the book next. Thanks for visiting, Sandy.




  1. Thank you, Rayka!
    I checked in on your blog yesterday and thought you might be insane today. Moving is NOT much of a fun experience. My last move was kinda rushed because my landlord was in foreclosure and I had this surprising deadline suddenly in my life. So two weeks after major surgery, I'm carrying the lightest of the boxes...
    On the way to the new apartment, the moving van got a flat tire.
    At that point, I called a friend and just laughed about it while I watched the tire-changing taking place before me...

    I truly hope your move is going VERY VERY well.
    Sandy L.

  2. Nice to meet you, Sandy. I'm a friend of Rayka's. Your story sounds very intriguing! Best of luck with sales - although you probably won't need it! (grins)


  3. Excellent interview. I read your excerpt too and am very intrigued. I love working with mystical creatures and fantasy as well. Good luck with sales!

  4. One of the reasons that I don't write fantasy (though I LOVE reading it ... I, too, cut my fourth grade reading teeth on "The Hobbit") is because of all the research and world-building involved. I'm terrifically impressed by all the work you did on yours!!

    Mysti -- who wonders who she will stalk over the next couple of days why you are off tour...

  5. Hi there, Phyllis,
    Thank you for stopping in to say hello! And thank you for the good wishes. I wish there was a good way to track sales with Amazon...besides having the publisher beg them for numbers...
    Sandy Lender
    "Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

  6. Hi Ciara,
    Making up the critters is half the fun of fantasy, isn't it? When you need a big snarly beastie dripping something slimy from its can just build it in your head.
    Sandy Lender
    "Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

  7. Hi there, Mysti,
    Yeah, I'm off for a couple days. Gotta go to Sacramento for the day job. But I've got that Twitter Tweeterview with Jamieson Wolf that's coming up on the 20th to get everyone excited about.
    But today is a good day here at Rayka's blog with cool questions she asked. That can tide folks over, right?
    And thank you for the kind words about the world-building. It's a great past-time!
    Sandy Lender
    "Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

  8. What an amazing story! I love fantasy, also 'cutting my teeth' on Tolkein's world. Read it five times by the age of 18! Good luck with your book...

  9. Sandy, I am just amazed by people who can create such complicated worlds. Good luck with your books!