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The nice thing about the indie fantasy story bundle is that it's got so many different kinds of stories. sartorias's Lhind the Thief, for instance, is a straight-up great adventure story of the sort that lets you forget, oh, say, approaching blizzards and the like. We talked a bit about it:

In addition to being light-fingered and light-footed, Lhind, the protagonist of Lhind the Thief, has certain powers dear to my heart--like the ability to communicate with animals. How did your own daydreams about special abilities figure into her creation?

This story first boiled up in my head during the mid-to-late seventies, when my life totally shipwrecked. I lost everything. Even my car was stolen. Had to start over as an unpaid housekeeper governess, but at least I had a roof over my head, because I’d had nowhere else to go.

So I started writing a sheer wish fulfillment story. And talking to animals just seemed to arise naturally, I guess because it’s something I’ve wanted to do my entire life.

I loved the interactions between Lhind and the clever and supremely dangerous mage-emperor Dhes-Andis. Can you say a little about what makes a good villain?

How much is a little? *g*

I think that depends on what sort of a story the writer wants to tell (and the reader wants to read.) For example, there’s a whole lot of serial killer villains out there. That is an automatic villain, right? And a lot of readers love that.

But I don’t. When I hit serial killers or rapists in fiction, I want to skip to the end to make sure they’re caught, or preferably dead. I don’t want to read about anything they do.

Maybe that has something to do with the tension-to-anxiety axis. Lots of readers love tension in their reading; it gets the adrenaline going, they know it’s just a story, they feel safe.

I had never thought about this until I was around thirteen or fourteen, and had checked out Rosemary’s Baby from the library. I chanced to begin reading it on a night that my parents left me home alone with my baby brother.

Not only did the story scare the snot out of me, but breaking the fourth wall (which has always been difficult: I like to immerse in my reading) didn’t help! Every shadow creeped me out, every creak of the wood frame of the house, every whisper of leaves against the windows. I turned on every light in the house, though I knew it would get me into trouble, and sat in the living room with my back to a wall through the endless hours until the parents came home.

So. Going back to villains. I like villains with complexity. If they always kill, maim, or torture, they are predictable, especially if they have no reason for doing that stuff unless they want to.

I like to know why villains do what they do—especially if their actions, and their reasoning, is unpredictable. I also like villains with a sense of humor, but then I like everybody with a sense of humor.

Yes! Sense of humor! Dhes-Andis definitely has one--or at least, he sees the humor in Lhind’s failure to realize just how powerful he is. He’s also very seductive--I won’t spoil things by saying how. This makes him very different from the other two notable threats in the story: Prince Geric Lendan and Duchess Morith. Can you share a little about their particular brands of villainy?

Morith is a sociopath. Nobody else is real to her, and she uses people as tools, and her interest is confined to how much they serve her quest for power.

Prince Geric is more problematical. He was raised to privilege, just to see it taken away. The expectation that the world owes you rank and wealth because of your birth is likely to find sympathizers only in those with a similar outlook (which is not any of us!), but in his own way, he’s scrambling as hard as Lhind, and with some surprisingly parallel moral dilemmas.

In the second book, he along with the others have a lot to learn about relationships, trust, truth . . . while dealing headlong with events getting away from them.

I know what my favorite types of peril are, but there are so many to choose from. What dangers are most fun (if that’s the right word!) for you to write about, and which ones would you say pose the greatest threats, in Lhind the Thief?

The bottom line for me is helplessness. I loathe helplessness in real life and in fiction. I enjoy peril only if the threatened characters have a glimmer of agency. In a wish fulfillment story, the agency balances with the threat, more or less, so my tension doesn’t tip over into anxiety.

I picked up and put down this story over several decades, always at really rotten moments of my life, so the wish-fulfillment aspect was foremost. It was my escapism when my own sense of agency was at a low ebb, I turned to Lhind, who always had a way out. Even if it wasn’t an easy one.

Maybe Lhind helped give *you* a way out.

Absolutely. I am a firm believer in the therapeutic efficacy of unrepentant escapism!

Do you think you’ll ever write any sequels? I see all sorts of additional stories that could be told—for instance, more about the detective-like escapades of Lhind’s friends Hlanan and Thianra, prior to this story’s start.

I’m halfway through the sequel now. Hope to publish it in June. If readers like it, yeah, there are always more stories to tell! ☺


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 26th, 2015 07:07 pm (UTC)
What a totally wonderful interview!

I bought the indie fantasy storybundle and can't wait to read all the books. I just finished reading Hostage and have one more book I must read before I tear into any new ones.
Jan. 26th, 2015 08:36 pm (UTC)
I know that feeling of SO MANY BOOKS. I'm reading blairmacg's one now, then haikujaguar's, but meanwhile I promised a friend I'd review their nonfiction book, and my sister-in-law sent me a book i've wanted to read for a while, and ....

so many books.
Jan. 26th, 2015 10:59 pm (UTC)
Best problem! [grin]

(I have a stack on the corner of my desk of unread books; I can't shelve it until I've read it unless it's a reference book. This leads to a weird haunted feeling of being stared at by any book that's been there too long. If the stack gets up to the leaf on the wall above it, I can't buy any new books until I've read down to under the leaf again. It has been weird trying to figure out how to integrate ebooks into this system.)
Jan. 27th, 2015 02:37 pm (UTC)
Do you have things that sometimes jump the queue, for one reason or another? (I do!)
Jan. 27th, 2015 05:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, absolutely! It's by no means a fixed queue, it's more of a parallel-processing-by-topic. Weighty and difficult books, or books about difficult subject material, often languish there for months. (I do feel bad if something is there for years, though. "The Lucifer Effect" has definitely been there, and partially read, for years. My friend who recommended it swore it was a fast and fascinating read; I have found that I can only go a chapter or so at a time before becoming downcast about human wiring and group tendency to dehumanizing atrocity, and then back in the queue it goes until I can face some more awful again.) Books of poetry that require translation also take longer; I've got two of Scottish Gaelic at the moment and I have since August. Gaeilge I would have had done by now... I've been told that they're so close that I should be able to read one from the other, but I guess I'm just not good enough at Gaeilge to make that leap easily. But, say, Cora Harrison's "Laws in Conflict" (a mystery set in a time period I know a lot about) will be done in two hours whenever I pick it up, and I know that, so it'll get read pretty quickly the next time I want to give myself a nice treat. The poetry will go the next time I want to work my butt off and feel satisfied (with a small percentage outcome chance of puzzled or annoyed or maybe baffled, hah). "The Lucifer Effect" is basically going to wait around until I have the cope for heavy emotional lifting and philosophy/politics.

So, I guess I order my queue with an eye towards expected emotional outcomes, really. And there's some kind of internal discipline that won't allow me to read only pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows forever, though if I'm sick or super stressed I let myself. (Thought I had cancer again for two weeks? BOOKS ABOUT UNICORNS. Found out I didn't? Picked up the work book I'd been putting off, heh.)

What about you? Are you mostly ordered? What makes you queue jump?
Jan. 28th, 2015 01:00 pm (UTC)
My to-read list is basically a list of everything I *want* to read or think might be interesting, and it's more or less chronologically ordered, but I have a mental to-read list that's a subset of that, and it's based mostly on what I think I *need* to read for one reason or another, with things I *want* to read mixed in there too. (There's a lot of overlap between need and want, but not 100 percent.) Things jump the queue if some time constraint comes up, or some sudden opportunity (like my sister-in-law sending me that one book). ... It's kind of haphazard.

Your way of balancing out weighty or emotionally draining books against lighter, easier books makes good sense to me! (And VERY glad you didn't have cancer--maybe you need to continue reading unicorn books as a celebration.)
Jan. 26th, 2015 07:19 pm (UTC)
Lhind the Thief: a conversation with Sherwood Smith


asakiyume, you ask good questions.
Jan. 26th, 2015 08:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I try!

I want to find questions that lead to answers that people will find interesting at whatever level of familiarity or engagement they have with the book or the author.
Jan. 26th, 2015 11:24 pm (UTC)
If readers like it... I LOVED IT. Lhind was fun and refreshing and I loved that (spoiler spoiler spoiler AND spoiler, OH MY). LOL.

Jan. 26th, 2015 11:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Jan. 27th, 2015 02:38 pm (UTC)
OMG I especially liked any parts having to do with a certain WHISTLE.
Jan. 27th, 2015 02:51 pm (UTC)
I totally agree with this. :)
Jan. 27th, 2015 06:44 am (UTC)
What a splendid conversation!

Jan. 27th, 2015 01:49 pm (UTC)
Jan. 27th, 2015 02:39 pm (UTC)
Sherwood is *always* fun to talk to on these topics. Over the years I realize that I really, really love her villains!
Jan. 27th, 2015 01:04 pm (UTC)
Great interview, with some really thought-sparking ideas about tension and villainy and agency. Thank you both! :)
Jan. 27th, 2015 01:48 pm (UTC)
Jan. 27th, 2015 02:40 pm (UTC)
They're such interesting and important concepts--I could talk about them all afternoon.
Jan. 28th, 2015 03:50 am (UTC)
Thank you both for the fun and informative interview! (And I really enjoyed Lhind the Thief, as well.)
Jan. 28th, 2015 04:11 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Jan. 28th, 2015 01:35 pm (UTC)
That did it for me: I had to buy the bundle.
Jan. 28th, 2015 03:06 pm (UTC)
I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the books!
Jan. 30th, 2015 09:49 pm (UTC)
I just started reading this last night! What fun. :)
Jan. 30th, 2015 10:03 pm (UTC)
Hope you enjoy it!
Jan. 31st, 2015 05:17 am (UTC)
I am. Very much so.
Jan. 31st, 2015 03:00 am (UTC)
Jan. 31st, 2015 05:19 am (UTC)
It was such fun being able to buy the set, knowing that it included novels by so many of my friends who write wonderful stories.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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