Life is funny. Full of the unexpected. Somehow, while trundling along in my own little world on social media (in this case Twitter) I stumbled across an author named L K Weir who was describing her freshly released novel. I cannot remember the exact words that she used, but I do recall it being something like “science fiction noir”. Well, I had to give this novel of hers a go. So I chuffed off to Amazon and bought it. I was not disappointed. As I read, so I swapped comments with her on Twitter. Along the way L K Weir became someone I knew. So I asked whether I might interview her. She agreed and what follows is the outcome.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I’ve read Prism City and really enjoyed it. It is a well crafted tale in a well crafted world. Naturally that raises the question of how you write. Would you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser?
I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle, a Plotser? I set up goals for my characters, usually chapter by chapter, and then I pants my way to that destination. I’m always open to the plot taking an unexpected twist and having to redo the goals as I go. It’s happened a few times, resulting in some crazy turns and exciting new ideas.
In my experience characters often fight our intentions for them. Do you find that?
When a character fights my plot, it’s usually around the same time I get writer’s block. I find these two things tend to go hand in hand. It feels as though they refuse to move forward if I don’t fix my mistake. It can take several days of stewing over the problem until I have an ‘aha’ moment and end up scrapping pages, or even chapters, of work.
You say that you are open to the plot taking unexpected twists, but how do you evaluate the potential of such a change and whether there is value in pursuing it?
I have a few tactics.
1. Quiet time with my imagination. This tactic takes intention. I have to shut off distractions and let my mind wander around the world in the book without getting side-tracked. I let the characters play a bit until they reveal something great. For example, I have a character that acts completely nuts. He is kind one minute and horrid the next. I struggled to figure out why he was acting this way. So I spent time alone with my imagination and, after some awkward talking to myself, the reason hit me. He turned out to be a very unique character that moved the plot forward in unexpected ways.
2. Brainstorming. I imagine different scenarios for a character based on their actions and write them down in a mini chart. For example, If character A does this, then this will happen, if character A does that, then that will happen. And so forth until I have one path that I absolutely love.
3. I let the plot unfold in my writing. If it takes a crazy twist while writing it, I will just go with it until I reach a stopping point and then contemplate if it works or not. Sometimes freeform works great, sometimes it goes wrong. Once, I intended my characters to go to a camp and explore what that looks like, but while writing it, the plot took a completely different direction. I stalled out because it wasn’t what should have happened and after contemplating why it felt wrong, I ended up trashing 3 chapters.
Which of your characters are easiest to write and why?
Hank is the easiest for me. I just love the way he thinks, it’s like his thought pattern is something I can jump into at any time. I also have the most fun writing his voice. I love that gritty noir feel. It’s my favourite aspect of this book and I think I will always want to write something similar.
Which character most resembles yourself?
Great question! I think there is a little of me in each of my characters (Hank’s tendency to get caught up in his thoughts, Jeza’s desire to prove herself). When I first started writing I really struggled with creating unique female characters. I think this was because I defaulted to my own thoughts and behaviours when trying to write them. Jeza was my first good attempt to step out of myself and into a new female character, her story was rewritten multiple times until she finally had a voice of her own.
When you write your villains, do you think of them as evil? Why or why not?
I see them as the provokers, someone that my protagonist will eventually have to overcome. I don’t necessarily see them as evil. I have a good idea of what made them who they are, so it’s hard to declare them evil based on where they came from. They are definitely not good people, but they are a lot of fun to write. I also like to play with the idea that opinions can change. I try to make my villains as human as possible. They have flaws, redeemable qualities, vulnerabilities. I like the idea that maybe they could have been good people if things had been different.
I feel your characters the Warden and Pope are representatives of certain world views. Am I reading too much into them?
I found it a lot easier to create realistic worlds when it included pieces of the corrupt side of society. Neither of them is necessarily meant to represent anyone or any ideal directly, but they do show the dangers of extreme viewpoints and too much power. I would love to hear your take on them!
My take on them? Hmmmmm. I actually feel Pope has great depth. For me he is the Darth Vader of the story. I feel that there is something there. He intrigues me. A capable fanatic.
What stories (be they in book, film, or television) most attract you?
I’m a big fan of scifi and fantasy. I grew up watching StarTrek TNG alongside my father, and fell in love with the genre from there. I love reading or watching a story with dynamic characters, an adventurous plot, and something out of the ordinary (scifi/fantasy twist). My favourite is when the creator can alter my opinion about a character throughout the series in a subtle way. Currently, I’m watching Upload and reading Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton.
From your bio on your web site it appears that you are quite the traveler. Do you think any of your future novels will be influenced by your travels? If so, then which locations?
Oddly enough, Prism City has been influenced by my travels. Not specific places in my book, but how they look and feel. For example, Eedy has the look and feel of Jaipur India (reddish buildings and crowded streets), whereas OQ’s location and landscape have the feel of Vancouver Island, and the markets in North Eedy remind me of the markets in Marrakesh. Overall, there are lots of soft influences that make it into my novel, and I love drawing from those experiences.
Do you expect to show us new locations in and about Prism city in the sequel?
Absolutely! The story will likely stay in the 4 primary areas (Prism City, Old Quarter, Eedy, and Camp) but I will explore these areas more, to show additional details of the landscape. From what I have written so far, the world is already opening up. It’s a lot of fun discovering what else exists in these places.
So what is your writing tool of choice? (Word, Scrivener, etc)
For Part 1 I primarily used Google Docs. This was because I travelled so much for work, it made it possible to work on my novel from anywhere at any time. I’ve added pieces on the train in London, going to and from work on a two-hour commute. I’ve edited during lunch breaks, or while flying to an assignment. I needed mobility, which is why it was the best option for me. I needed my novel to be in the forefront of my mind because I was pushing to finish it. I found that if I didn’t have the option to work on it whenever I had time, it would sit untouched for months. Also, I always backed up my work. I frequently sent an email copy of it to my account and occasionally downloaded a new version to my desktop.
I had to split the novel into four parts in Google Docs, it seemed to freeze once I hit 150 pages (small inconvenience). Once I had a good draft, I assembled it into a full version in Word and did my read through/edits. I haven’t tried any other platforms, but I think what I found worked well for my scenario. Currently, I am writing Part II in a Word document that uploads a copy to Google Docs every time I save. I don’t have a commute right now and can use the same laptop every day.
What aspects of your professional accounting life do you bring to a) your writing habits b) your stories?
Spreadsheets! I use them to plot out my timelines and make sense of which character is where. It helps me organize the histories of all the characters and how they got to where they are. I was inspired by a data analytics course I attended a few years back. I found the topic fascinating and it bled a bit into Prism City. Mostly the mass tracking of data and how it can be used in the future for sales and marketing. I also think my exposure to the corporate world and corporate events played a role in Jeza’s storyline. It’s a world I am familiar with, so it was fun to make action scenes around it.
Has your writing ever caused you to see aspects of the world in a new light?
Mostly in the details. I find it useful and fascinating to sense more of my surroundings. For example, in the London underground when a train approaches, you can feel the wind before you see the train. It tastes sooty and has a dry warmth to it. Used well, this detail could add a sensory element to a story and immerse the reader fully into the world.
Wow, I think I grilled you pretty hard then and I was delighted by your responses. Thank you so much for agreeing to let me interview you. I really look forward to the sequel. I crave it.