IndieView with Susanne L. Lambdin, author of Seeker of Magic

I believe if you write about what you know, and what you actually experience in life, even when placed inside a fantasy story, that readers can feel this emotion, and often relate to it, and this makes your characters real to them. 

Susanne L. Lambdin – 19 October 2017

The Back Flap

Orphaned as a child, Taliesin was adopted by the Ravens, a clan that makes its living searching battlefields for valuables. Although she yearns to leave the scavenging lifestyle behind, she is good at it and has a knack for finding treasure amongst the fallen.

Civil war is brewing, though, and leaders both good and evil are searching for the magic weapons they need to help their forces achieve victory. The most powerful of these ancient blades is Ringerike, a sword that is said to be both a king-maker and a king-killer; it is a weapon so beautiful that people are transfixed by just the sight of it.

If Taliesin can find Ringerike, she can free herself from her life as a scavenger and save her Clan from the sinister forces out to destroy it. But not all is as it seems, and friends are not always friends; she will have to choose her allies wisely if she is to survive, much less find the sword that could be her salvation.

About the book

What is the book about?

Seeker of Magic is the first book in The Realm of Magic trilogy, and follows the saga of Taliesin, a young woman orphaned as a child who is taken in by the Raven Clan who makes a living scavenging off battlefields. All Taliesin remembers of her childhood is the days she lived with her father, John Mandrake, a renowned swordsmith who created beautiful swords for King Frederick Draconus. She remembers listening to wonderful stories about prior swordsmiths who used magic to enchant magical weapons owned by the eight dukes of the realm, and knows them all by name. Two hundred years earlier, a Draconus king fought against magic users and his son who attempted to usurp the Ebony Throne. As a result, the king outlawed all magic, ordering the deaths of magic users, and the disenchantment of every magical weapon. Now, King Frederick, failing in health, is under siege by the eldest of five sons, Almaric, who aided by the bloodthirsty Wolf Clan, has gathered many dukes to his side, including a war god. After the cunning Eagle Clan lord advises the king that a sha’tar has been born, a witch born one in a million, all eyes turn to the Raven Clan after word leaks that Taliesin possesses magical abilities. On the day Taliesin finds a magical sword that talks to the dead, a mystical map and a rebel prince’s flag on a battlefield, she and a handful of friends find themselves pursued by enemies throughout the realm. Taliesin must seek the truth about her own secret lineage, while on a quest to find Ringerike, the legendary sword of the Raven King, the one weapon that may restore peace, or bring about the doom of Caladonia.

When did you start writing the book?

I had stopped writing novels for several years for personal reasons. I felt inspired to write again when a close friend with cancer went to the hospital for surgery. Needing to distance myself from the stress and pain of seeing a friend suffer, Taliesin appeared in my mind, a girl standing on a battlefield, staring at the horrors of war. My thoughts tend to turn morbid when faced with the mortality of our own lives, and while my friend convalesced in 2010, Taliesin took me on a grand adventure. I’d always feared my friend’s health would decline, and eventually it did, so I immortalized him as the hero in this trilogy. I believe if you write about what you know, and what you actually experience in life, even when placed inside a fantasy story, that readers can feel this emotion, and often relate to it, and this makes your characters real to them. This trilogy was written for someone who touched my life, my muse if you will, and Taliesin is the perfect sentimental, yet strong female character who turned my pain into a beautiful story about love, sacrifice, family and an epic battle over evil.

How long did it take you to write it?

I wrote Seeker of Magic in three months, just prior to writing five novels in the Dead Hearts series. I published Dead Hearts before Seeker of Magic, as I felt it had a broader audience since it is about a fantasy zombie apocalypse. While I write the last three books in Dead Hearts (there are 11 in all), I also write the last two books in The Realm of Magic; Mistress of Magic and Queen of Magic. So, in a way, it took years for Seeker of Magic to be published due to pushing other books forward. I think ‘Seeker’ is my best novel, and while the editing process always takes longer than actually writing a book, I found the right publisher and editing team to bring my writing voice and this story to life. It was well worth the wait.

Where did you get the idea from?

I have always been a huge fan of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I grew up reading Conan, John Carter of Mars and LOTR, and it always bothered me that there was no strong female characters in fantasy novels to bond with. In comic books, you have Wonder Woman and Red Sonja, to name a few. In mythology I always identified with Valkyries, but as a young girl, I saw myself as a female Thor. I also love Camelot, the troubles of King Arthur and his love triangle with Guinevere and Lancelot, and of course, Excalibur. With Taliesin and her story, I simply imagined a young woman, who didn’t know her parents, or remember her past, and placed her in a war-torn kingdom where women are considered inferior. I saw a picture somewhere of a red haired Celtic girl in a green cape, standing on a hill at sunset, overlooking a battlefield, and though I can’t remember where I saw it, this is where the idea sprang from.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

The biggest challenge in writing this fantasy saga was juggling all of the characters. My claim to fame is writing books with multiple characters, and I mean more than seventy, though I usually keep to one main character to tell the story. To keep organized, I always prepare a glossary for every book, and later post them on my websites. I also needed a map. The map slowly came to life as I imagined the kingdom and the places my characters visited, and the original map was a childish drawing on my part. The wonderful illustrator, Brad Voth, worked with me for weeks on this map, adding every castle, ruins, rivers and magical places. I think he did a wonderful job.

What came easily?

I am a strange creature, and when I write a novel, it’s already inside my head, simply waiting to be put down on paper. The initial first draft was easy. The characters walked onto the page, introduced themselves, and the story grew in size, along with the twists and turns of the main plot, and the many sub-plots. The magical weapons, and there are many, are as wondrous as the next, and they also popped into my head. Writers will tell you that their characters come to life, this is true, and Taliesin was easy to work with, and told me her story that I merely scribed.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

There are always real people in my stories because I write about what I know, who I know, and relationships that have affected my life. I will use real things that happened, whether they are quarrels, misunderstandings, places I visited, or love affairs; however, I always idealize people or events, so they turn into something else in my books. The roots of my stories are based on truth. The main hero in ‘Seeker’ is a real person, but it’s a romantic impression of the man, an illusion, and it’s who he should have been had he reached his full potential. Taliesin is a little bit like me in real life. She is far more tolerant of the failings of others, and she allows others to see the ‘real’ her without hiding behind a mask, and that is not like me at all. The only way someone can know the real me is by reading my novels, and in that way, they are inside of my head and get to discover what I really think about.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

As I said, Tolkien is a favorite, because of the wonderful world and characters he created, and how he led me on adventures as a child. I love Edgar Rice Burroughs, Anne Rice, Frank Yerby, Mary Stuart, C.S. Lewis, Marion Zimmer Bradley, J.K. Rawlings, Jane Austin, Emily Bronte, Alexander Dumas and Dame Daphne du Maurier. I obviously have a great love for mystical, magical, grand adventures, sad romances, with a dab of mystery, and the supernatural.

Do you have a target reader?

I write for Young Adults, however, I have just as many adults read my novels as teenagers. With my Dead Hearts series, I can always spot someone who will like my book before they approach my table at a convention. If I could put my finger on it and explain this, I would. All I can tell you is that I write for teenagers, yet my readers are often middle-aged. People just want a good story to read at the end of the day, and now days, they don’t care if the book is targeted for a certain age group. I have a growing reputation as a good storyteller. I want to share one story about a reviewer who is a woman in her twenties that I met at a con. Her review is on Seeker of Magic. It can be found on Amazon.com, and goes into detail, not only about the plot, but how she identified with the story. It was on such a personal level that she actually experienced flashbacks to past lives. I have never seen a review like this before, or ever had a reader who felt so in tune with my characters and story that she experienced deja vu. Loved it!

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

Now that I write full-time and this is my job, I am very disciplined. The writing process has to start with just writing a few sentences every day, anything, and over time you write more. I rise early and by 9:00 a.m., I have a cup of coffee on my desk and I am writing. On a good day, I will write more than forty pages. I am able to write a 300-page novel in two weeks, if I put my mind to it, and the story is flowing, and no one bothers me. I’m a hermit when I write, with the exception of my dogs who nudge me when I need to take a break. I write three to four novels a year. I know precisely how many chapters I want, how many pages that are needed in each chapter, and when I return to comb through a novel, I rewrite it at least ten times before it’s published. I think of writing a book like making a cake. Add in all the ingredients, stir gently, and after it’s baked, then you add the icing; that means, I make sure my research is accurate, continuity is correct, all sub-plots are finalized, and the overall plot ends with a powerful climax.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

No. I’ll be honest, I have written more than forty books during my life, and most will never see the light of day. I used to write outlines. I have two file cabinets filled with outlines and half-written novels. Over time, I discovered if I write an outline then I have taken all the magic out of the writing process. There are no secrets, no twists and turns, no big reveals, and I’m bored, and stuff it into the monster cabinet to rot. When you are new to writing, write an outline and stick to it. It’s a must. For me, I now wing it. I’m a pantser!!! I sit down and I write. The story flows out of my head, through my fingers, and the plot unravels before my eyes. I don’t think about it. I let my characters take over and write the story for me. Sometimes, a character will die in a story that I didn’t plan on dying, it just happens, and I am very upset when it does. People will say, well, you’re the author, just don’t kill them off. But I can’t do this. It’s the same thing with good characters that turn bad, or bad characters that become heroes…I don’t plot it out, I don’t make characters follow rules…if I did, I’d die of boredom and stop writing the book.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

I’ll make this short. DO NOT EDIT WHILE YOU WRITE! Finish the novel first. Period.

Did you hire a professional editor?

I started out publishing on my own. I hired a college professor. I had the entire senior class of a high school read as alphas, and then I published the book as an Indie author. Wow! I still had errors. An author should edit after they finish their novels. An author should edit the editors editing. However, authors who edit their own books and publish them later regret it. Hire an editor. Editors are the bane of authors. The truth is, you are only as good as your editor, so find a good editor. It’s not mom. It’s not a friend. A professional editor believes in your work, believes in you, and is willing to work with you, understand you, and appreciates your writing style, and your novel. Avoid butchers. Avoid bullshit. Interview your editors, find the right one, and try not to spend a fortune on editors. But you will.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

I listen to soundtracks from movies and from games. I like moody, dark music, and I like the music to match the genre that I’m writing at that time. I wrote to Azam Ali (look it up) for the entire Dead Hearts series. For the Realm of Magic, I discovered the soundtracks to Assassins Creed, and to game soundtracks in general, and they are fantastic. My collection of movie soundtracks is vast. Many people say when they read my novels, they see a movie in their head. Exactly! It’s precisely why I listen to that type of music while I’m writing.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

In the beginning, in a galaxy far away, I did submit my work to agents. I bought the Writer’s Market, sat down, picked out three agents, wrote the query letter, an outline and provided three sample chapters. Remember that file cabinet that I mentioned? My mother recently said stop telling people you have lots of rejection letters. Well, it’s true. I’ve had four agents in my lifetime, and none of them did a thing for me, so I don’t recommend them. I don’t recommend a new author going through this tedious, awful process. You’ll end up scarred. You’ll end up depressed. But you won’t end up with an agent who believes in you, who wants to help make your book the best it can be, and then help you find the right publisher. Yeah, everyone dreams about the top big publishing houses, riches, and fame. If you want to be a writer, write…and you don’t need an agent to do this, not unless you are a glutton for punishment. The worst and best story about agents: I sold a Star Trek: The Next Generation script, and Paramount bought it (Season 4, Eps. 76 – Family), and I have a screen credit. However, this agent took the script I sold, and instead of shopping it around Hollywood to get me a writing job for another TV show, they sent it back to Paramount. The terse letter I received from Star Trek sent me through the roof. I called the agent up and said, ‘You’re an idiot,’, and fired them on the spot. That was my last agent.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

Let me say first, just because you wrote a novel doesn’t mean that’s the novel to publish. So many authors will self-publish their first novel, and I don’t agree with this. When I say first, I mean they didn’t write anything else until that novel, and now they think they know what they’re doing and this book just has to be published. Know your craft before you think about publishing. As I said, I wrote many novels before I decided Morbid Hearts, the first book in the Dead Hearts series, was the right book to publish. I wasn’t about to go through another agent and waste my time reading rejection letters like, “I’m sorry, but I do not feel sanguine enough about this book to represent you,”, so I self-published through Create Space.

I had a professional editor edit Morbid Hearts. I hired Create Space to design the book. I paid someone an elaborate sum to illustrate the book cover, and I had Create Space set this all up for me. Morbid Hearts, under my new publisher, is the 4th edition.

I think Create Space is wonderful, and I highly recommend it to everyone. There are three different packages you can buy or just do it all yourself. You can design your book for free and get it out there for the world to read, or you can have Create Space do it for you (and they edit).

It’s easy. That’s it. That’s all you have to do, and you’re published.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

For Dead Hearts, I hired artist Weston Jones to illustrate all five books. For the Realm of Magic, I hired author/illustrator Audra Crebs to design the covers. In short, I recommend anyone who wants to find an artist to illustrate their book cover to go to a local comic con, look at the artists, pick out one you like and work with them. I know many artists who have the small publishing house they are with pick out a random artist, or they purchase already created artwork off sites to use. Just hire your own special illustrator and have them design the perfect cover for you. You can spend anywhere from $50 to $1,000, and I have.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

Never wing it when it comes to marketing. Have a plan. I have a plan, and this year that plan includes social media. You can hire someone to do this for you, or you can use every social media avenue, from Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, to building your own websites, and then network. It’s all about networking. I make a living attending cons throughout the United States, and I advertise on Facebook, on my websites, and I set up book signings, attend library events (and I donate to libraries at schools and local ones), and I ask my fellow authors, artists and actors to help spread the word. You can’t do it on your own. You have to meet and greet. You have to scratch backs. And you have to get the word out there and let people know about your book. A book cannot sell itself without a little help…if no one knows about it, no one will buy it…so spread the word and network.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

My favorite thing to do is give advice, and I sit on many panels at cons talking to new authors about how to write a novel, how to market it, and how to get it published. The biggest thing to know, folks, is to publish the right book. Don’t just publish the first book you wrote because, hey, you wrote a book. First, good for you. I’m glad you wrote your first book, but if you intend to be a successful author, then it better be the best book you ever wrote. I attend many book signings with Indie authors and they stare at me while people come and go from my table buying books, and they’ll ask me later how I did it. It’s because the product is good. I’m passionate about what I write, and about why I write what I do, and I make certain what I do publish is the best book it can be. I don’t just publish a book because I wrote the damn thing. It better be fantastic because there are hundreds of thousands of writers out there, and they’re Indie authors, and it’s shark infested waters, and don’t you think otherwise. I don’t like authors who devour each other, who steal sales, or put other authors down, and they do. It’s awful to watch, and it’s horrible to see an author flee in tears from an event because someone put their book down, made fun of them, or they just didn’t know how to properly sell their book.

Indie authors no longer have a stigma. They are real authors, writing good books, working their butts off to be read, and to make sales. Indies are no longer shunned by bookstores, or the literary world in general, and that includes their peers who are published by big publishing houses.

Note: As an author, the only person you have to impress is yourself. If you are happy with what you wrote, if you believe in this book, then others will too, so publish it yourself and then go sell that book!

About You

Where did you grow up?

I’m born and bred in Wichita, Kansas. During my life, I have traveled all around the world, and I like to say I sailed the seven seas (I did). I also lived and worked in Los Angeles for eight years, during the late 80s and early 90s.

Where do you live now?

I’ll tell you, but first I’ll tell you why I live where I do now. When I was off to Los Angeles, my older brother told me, “Sis, I’m proud of you, but you’ll never be as famous as Stephen Spielberg.” That hurt. “When you get tired of all those people, when you’re sick of it all, it’s okay to come back home. No one will think you’re a failure. I don’t think you’re a failure. Just come home.” Well, after my Star Trek adventures (another story), and all the headaches of those power lunches, ass kissing and networking in shark infested waters, I decided my brother, who has since passed on, was right. I figured out that my family is more important than anything else. We’re small, but we are mighty. I returned to Kansas, and you know what, it’s smackdab in the middle of the U.S., and it’s the perfect base as I travel to cons throughout the country. I’m just where I need to be, and I’m happy.

What would you like readers to know about you?

It’s a good story. While I was a bailiff in criminal court in Wichita, the newspaper came across my desk, and I saw that ST:TNG was going to be on TV. I saw Patrick Stewart would play Captain Jean-Luc Picard and thought here is my chance to meet him. I was a big fan. I was also a huge Star Trek fan, and wrote fanfiction before it was fanfiction. I sold my horses, quit my job, and with $3,000 in my pocket, I moved to L.A. In six months, I had a job at Paramount Pictures. I wrote a ST:TNG script called The Death Merchant, and one day, I simply walked into producer Michael Pillar’s office with it. His secretary looked up and said, “Do you have an appointment?” I said, “No”, opened the door, and walked right into his office. Mr. Pillar was seated behind his desk and stared at me, and said, “Can I help you?” I approached his desk, slammed the script on it, and said, “If you’re looking for a good script on Wil Crusher, this is it.” I turned and walked out. He called me the next day and said, “You have big balls coming in here like that. Come back. I want to meet you.”

The script I actually sold to Paramount came next, it was The Wish, and it turned into Eps. 76 – ‘Family’, and I have a based in part screen credit. I wrote this script with the mailroom boy, Byron Stuart. My boss, Peter Kane, was the attorney for the Arsenio Hall Show, and I had permission to work late on my scripts; everyone knew I wanted to be on the ST:TNG writing staff. One day, Bryon came by my desk, very depressed, with tears on his cheeks. I asked him what was wrong, and he told me that his father had just died and he didn’t get to say goodbye to him. We talked and it turned into a discussion about Wesley Crusher and how he must have felt about never meeting his father, Jack Crusher. Our script The Wish, is Wesley’s wish to meet his father when he turns eighteen, and he does on the holodeck. In our script, the holodeck program was interactive, so his father had many things to say to Wesley, things that Bryon had wanted to say to his father, and frankly, it’s one of the best episodes of the show. True story.

What are you working on now?

At the moment, I’m about to start the final editing process on Queen of Magic, the third book in The Realm of Magic. I am wrapping up the editing on Bloodlines: Exordium, the sixth book in Death Hearts, and I have alphas reading my new military sci-fi, Acropolis 3,000. I have three books in motion, and I have five more books in the Dead Hearts series waiting to be edited. In all, I have eight more books to publish this year and next year, all ready to go.

I also just released a free Deep Space 9 fanfiction novel (the publishing house didn’t want to mess with it since it has third-party characters), however, this book is epic – For the Love of Gul Dukat. It’s a fantastic book, and it’s only at Star Trek Fanfiction.com. Something happened to me on a personal level when I released this fanfiction novel (it’s 1,200 pages). Offers suddenly appeared that I never expected, from an actor to write a web-pilot, to writing reviews on different sci-fi episodes, and appearing at schools to speak to classes. I just wanted to tell a story about Gul Dukat, since I love Cardassians, and I did write three DS9 scripts and submitted those to Ron Moore who produced and wrote for this show. They weren’t bought, but I still wanted to write something about this series, and I think this book is wonderful. It has lots of battles, a bit of romance, and really gets into the ‘mirror’ history of the DS9 universe. I’ve been made honorary members of different Federation ships in Colorado and in Kansas, made a member of S.T.A.R.S. in Colorado Springs, and the Ghostbusters in Colorado Springs; they love me in Colorado because Dead Hearts is set there. But the point is, whether you publish as an Indie author, through a small publishing house, or through a prominent publishing house, there is always room for fanfiction. Why do I bring this up? Fanfiction is the best way for a new author to get their feet wet and not bitten off by sharks. Write whatever you like, get it out there, and let people read your work. Use the feedback from people to hone your skills and learn your craft. People who put fanfiction down don’t understand why it’s important. I have two full-length Harry Potter fanfiction novels that maybe one day I’ll release, and it’s just great fun to write fanfiction.

All I want as an author is to be read. I am happiest when a reader comes up to me and says, “Your book really touched my life.” A friend in Colorado contacted me recently, and said, “Susanne, I hope you never give up writing. As a child, I didn’t have any friends, and I spent all of my time reading. Books were my friend. I read your book. In those few hours, I was taking away from all my problems and able to immerse myself into a wonderful world. Your book meant a lot to me. If just for me, please write another book, so I can make a new friend.”

Thank you so much for letting me tell you about myself, about my novels, and in particular, talk about Seeker of Magic, which I think is an incredibly special book. I hope it touches your life too.

End of Interview:

For more from Susanne, check out her main website or her websites for The Realm of Magic series or the Dead Hearts series.   Send her a friend request or like the Facebook page for the Dead Hearts series. Or you can follow her on Twitter.

Get your copy of Seeker of Magic from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

2 responses to “IndieView with Susanne L. Lambdin, author of Seeker of Magic

  1. Thank you for spending time interviewing me. It was an absolute pleasure, Al, and I appreciate it so much! I hope folks will comment, and contact me as well.