Superversive Sunday Spotlight: L. Jagi Lamplighter

Welcome to this week’s Superversive Sunday Spotlight. Every week we will chat with a Superversive author that you really should be reading.

This week we welcome Superversive author, L. Jagi Lamplighter:

How long have you been writing?

I started my first novel when I was 12. I wrote the first chapter and maybe one or two others. Though after that, I only wrote an occasional bad short story until after college.

After college, I went to work for my dad. I would write for two hours and work for him for six. (Only got paid for the six, but he let me spend two of the supposed eight work hours writing.

The first year, I only worked on grammar, because I knew mine wasn’t excellent. I would also write out passages by hand from my favorite authors and see how they used words, punctuation, and language in general. I still remember the semi-colon use from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Finally, I started writing. My first attempt was about a wizard who could make living  things out of a magical clay and drank a lot of tea. He was trying to make a daughter. I never finished it, but, to my surprise, it was quite funny. I didn’t expect that. I wasn’t funny in real life.

I went on to try several other novels and throw out over 1000 paged. One of those novels, currently called Uncross the Stars, I am still working on. I am on version 14. Someday, I hope to finish it. (Sadly, the main thing holding me up now is that the world has changed, and the story I had been trying to tell is not as pertinent.)

In 1992, I started what was then called Prospero’s Children. After about 12 chapters, I made an outline. Never wrote another word. I see this happen to others, too. No one tells them how dangerous writing an outline is for organic thinkers. But a few friends liked what I had written and in 1998 later, I went back to it. I ripped up the outline (mentally. Not literally)  and started again.

I finished it in 2001. I sent it to my agent, who was an old boss of mine. He got hired by Tor, which, at the time, was the number one publisher all SF and Fantasy authors wanted to be associated with. They were adventurous and happening and still directly run by the great Tom Doherty. So, suddenly, my book was on the desk of an editor!

It took him until 2005 to decide if he wanted the book. During that time, I rewrote the book and rewrote the book and rewrote the book. It took Tor two years after that to decide that they wanted to publish it. Eventually, when it came out in 2009—as a trilogy Prospero Lost, Prospero In Hell, and Prospero Regained—I had rewritten it six or seven times.

Which writers inspire you?

Tolkien, Lewis, Tolstoy, Lloyd Alexander, Roger Zelazny, Margaret Mitchell, Alan Gardner, J. K. Rowling. 

One of my first readers described my writing style as: Neil Gaiman meets C. S. Lewis or, for an American equivalent, Roger Zelazny meets Lloyd Alexander. 

That is quite an accurate description of my style.

So, what have you written?

I mentioned the Prospero’s Children series. (Tor published it as Prospero’s Daughter, because they put it in the “Women in Fantasy” line. I was told that my book would be put in this line “even though it had no sex in it.” When the series moved to Wordfire, we changed the series title back to the original.) This is a story about Miranda from Shakespeare’s Tempest, searching for her father, the Dread Magician Prospero, who has gone missing. The premise is that Shakespeare misled us at the end. Prospero never drowned his books and was still around, hundreds of years later, keeping order among the spirits of the air and earth, etc. and protecting the world from supernatural nasties.

Only Prospero has retired, and the children he has fathered over the centuries have scattered. Only Miranda is left to run Prospero, Inc. and protect the world.

When Prospero goes missing, Miranda must gather together her wayward siblings, some of whom she hates and some of whom she loves—and some of whom are not as wayward as she first thought—and rescue their father…

…who has been carried off, alive, to Hell.

It’s a fun story, full of magic and wonder and humor. It’s half urban fantasy (though with few of the clichés of modern urban fantasies, as I wrote it before UF was a genre) and half Dante. The story does turn out to be a direct sequel to The Tempest, but it takes a while till that becomes clear.

I have a couple of books I haven’t published, a children’s series about the Lost Brothers (Jacob and Nicky Lost, which is kind of funny because my husband wrote a series about a Preston Lost who became Lost on the Last Continent. I wonder if they are related.) and Visions of Arhyalon, of which Uncross the Stars, which I mentioned before, is the first book. It’s what you might now call LitRPG…only the roleplaying game it was based on was designed to feel a lot more like a novel, so it isn’t anything like modern LitRPG. Premise is: When a dragon attacks earth, three young writers recognize it as something that one of them made up. They discover that Earth has a magic power: Creator Vision, the ability to see into other dimensions—only you think you are making it up. Armed with the knowledge of stories that they and others have written, they head of into a strange and wondrous greater universe—after saving the Earth, of course.) I also have a book of short stories from E-Spec press called In the Lamplight.

My current project is The Books of Unexpected Enlightenment. This series is based on a roleplaying game that a friend, Mark Whipple, ran. John and I fell in love with the premise, and I decided to write it up. It will, God willing, be a long series—possibly 24 books.

The story follows a little British sorceress, Rachel Griffin, as she attends a magic school in America called The Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts. Rachel has a perfect memory, and she discovers that this allows her to see through certain kinds of enchantments that hide things from human eyes. So, while she is supposed to be going to school, she stumbles onto mysteries that involve not merely students, but the whole world—and beyond.

Rachel lives on a world without God, without angles or demons or Jews, Christians, or Muslims. Only her first day, she finds a strange statue of a creature she has never seen in any bestiary…a woman with wings. It’s not a fairy. It’s too big for a pixie.

Soon, she begins to discover that there are many things the world once knew about that have been forgotten—and, to a girl with a perfect memory, the notion of forgetting things is particularly terrifying, so she sets out to discover what has been lost.

Meanwhile, she takes classes in magic, tries to make friends, falls for an older boy, and gets into a great deal of trouble.

There is a cast of zany characters, but the  real breakout star among them is Rachel’s best friend, crazy orphan Sigfried Smith and his talking familiar, Lucky the Dragon. Siggy, who is the favorite of many readers, was played by my husband, author John C. Wright, in the original game, and is really fun to write. (John helps me with the “Sigification” going through to make sure that Sigfried is sufficiently, well, Siggy-like.)

It is a delightful series to write, filled with enchantment and wonder, humor and deeper, darker moments. It takes place on the Hudson River (literally, the island is in the Hudson near Storm King Mountain) and draws from the rich lore of that area (think Headless Horseman.) The religious elements are quite light, as by Book Five, it is still shrouded in secret, but part of what drew John and I to the story was that amidst the adventure, romance humor, and horror, it was fascinating to meet God again, as if the first time, through the eyes of an unprejudiced character.

I also have stories in a number of anthologies, including Planetary: Mercury, Planetary: Venus, and Planetary: Luna. I co-edited Venus with the lovely and talented A. M. Freeman.

What draws you to Superversive writing?

In 2013, my husband and I were driving back from Balticon and wondering why so little modern fantasy and science fiction seemed heroic. I said that I wished there were more stories that had moments that drew you out of yourself, made your consider the wonders and majesty of God’s greater universe (whether God was mentioned or no). Then, as a joke, because I had recently heard of someone else doing this and thought it was hilarious that a specific couple had done this, I said, “Let’s start a literary movement.”

We bandied about some names for our literary movement. John recommended Superversive, a word used by the great essayist, Tom Simon. Basically, as the word was described to me, if subversive was change by undermining from below, Superversive was change by inspiring from above. I don’t know if he coined the word or found it somewhere in Tolkien or Lewis (I’ve heard both, so maybe he coined it from inspiration found in the works of those two worthy authors.)

A year and a quarter later, I launched the Superversive Literary Movement with the Superversive Blog. The first article was The Art of Courage by Tom Simon himself: http://bondwine.com/2014/10/01/the-art-of-courage/  Many people wrote for this blog. It causes a tiny stir. Jason Rennie even contacted me from Australia, asking if he could start a publishing company around this idea.

And that is how it started! (If anyone wants to know more about Superversiveness, some of my original articles have been gathered in this free booklet: Holy Godzilla of the Apocalypse https://dl.bookfunnel.com/dif3flen4g

What are you working on at the minute?

I have started The Sixth Book of Unexpected Enlightenment, which is to be called: Guardians of the Shadowlands. It starts about two minutes after the end of the fifth book, The Unbearable Heaviness of Remembering. Rachel opens the book by nearly getting staked (by someone who mistakes her for a vampire.)

I am also working on a short story called “Who Rules the World” about Miranda Prospero’s blind brother Cornelius. I have tried to write this story for three different anthologies, and it just didn’t work out, but it is for the best, because this current anthology seems like a much better fit for the story.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors.

I don’t. And I say this with great sadness. But I have kids. I homeschool. I edit other people’s books. I teach writing…and when I am not doing all that, I write.

I do love to read, though. I read once a year on vacation, and sometimes, I slip in other books. This year, I was lucky. I took off three weeks and read Jonathan Moeller’s entire Cloak Mage series—15 books. Moeller has been my Indie publishing guru for years, and I had never read any of his works. The series was really fun. It was about a young woman whose brother is dying of an illness only advanced magic can cure, so she is dragooned into stealing things for a powerful elf and hijinks ensue.

I also have read most of Christopher Nuttall’s Schooled in Magic and Zero Enegma books. Chris and I write in the same genre. We just edited an anthology together, Fantastic Schools, Volume One (Volume Two is on its way) which is, to my surprise, doing quite well.

Though recently I had a real treat. I got to read House by the River by Anthony Regan—an unpublished work that I cajoled him into letting me read. It was just like my favorite books from when I was a child…where the magic is less obvious and mysterious and with a magical house. It was wonderful! I’m hoping he will send me the second book. I’m also hoping he will publish it so that the rest of you can read it!

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

I am on Amazon and at Silver Empire (they have a great new book club option. If you love reading, check it out!) There is a list of my works here, but it is not entirely up to date: http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/works/

Thanks for sharing Jagi. Be sure to check out Jagi’s books and be sure to check back next Sunday for our next chat with a Superversive author.

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