Interview With Sci Fi Author Lindsay Edmunds

by Debra Eve | @DebraEve

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The worst thing about virtual sex in the Middle Machine Age was the bunny suit.

There’s an impressive opening line (for a book I mean). Would you read more?

I did. And it rekindled my passion for speculative fiction. The book is Cel & Anna: A 22nd Century Love Story by late-blooming novelist Lindsay Edmunds.

To set the stage:

You are about to enter the Middle Machine Age, where good citizens of the Reunited States are either Outsiders or denizens of the UnderWorld. Things are in uneasy balance, like a fantastic house of cards that grows ever taller.

Then comes a datastorm called The Emperor Worm. This vortex of electronic garbage smashes everyone’s house of cards. Anna Ringer, a troubled employee of a mysterious company called Lighthorse Magic, finds herself at a hinge in history. If she fails to act, something strange and marvelous will die. If she does act, she may die herself.

The Next Thing is not what you think.

So Lindsay, what more can you tell us without giving it all away?

A very short synopsis of Cel & Anna: A guy and a computer both fall in love with a girl. Interesting times ensue.

In our correspondence you said that you haven’t really read speculative fiction since your 20s. What inspired you to write Cel & Anna?

All of the following played a part:

I have owned Macs for more than 20 years. Something about Macs, especially the earlier models, inspires my imagination.

When I began the novel, I lived in the Washington, DC, area. Over the main interstate from the north, I-270, was a billboard showing the color-coded terrorism alert for the day. I don’t know whether it is still there.

Back in one of my other lives, I wrote my thesis on Emily Dickinson’s use of fantasy in her poetry. Its name is “Emily Dickinson’s Wonderland.”

The first books I loved as a child were fantasies and fairy tales. I continued to read these kinds of stories through my twenties. When I stopped reading them was when I put aside my literary ambitions. This probably was not coincidental.

Since this is Later Bloomer, hope I’m not giving it away by mentioning you published Cel & Anna at 58 :). What other lives have you lived?

Yeesh, seeing in print my age when I published Cel & Anna makes me want a stiff drink. On the other hand, making a dream come true at any age is reason to celebrate. Open the champagne!

But back to your question: I was an English major and for a time worked and academia. It did not take. Also held various jobs in Washington, DC, including the one I still have: self-employed medical/pharmaceutical editor. However, I live a rural/suburban life in southwestern Pennsylvania now.

When I was 45, I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. I had surgery and recovered completely, which makes every day rather lucky when you think about it.

So glad you’re okay and it brought you back to writing. How long did you work on Cel & Anna?

I worked on it in a serious and committed way for 3+ years.

You’re an editor by trade, yet you hired someone to edit Cel & Anna. Why?

Nobody can edit their own work because they are too close to it. Cel & Anna’s brilliant editor, Jill Groce, saw so much that I did not.

You’ve also written a short story collection set in Cel & Anna’s world. Please tell us more.

The lead story in Lighthorse Magic and Other Stories is about Anna Ringer’s employer, a mysterious and somewhat sinister company. “Tamara Klugman Steps Out” is about a character who is not in Cel & Anna at all, but whose actions are very important to the way the novel resolves. “Three Excerpts from the Diary of Joan Holland” is the only story that takes place in the real time of the novel.

Any sequels planned? Do you have a new book in the offing?

I am working on the sequel to Cel & Anna, which is going well when I can give it the hours it demands.

I have an idea for another short story featuring a character in the sequel named Beltzhoover the Vast.

So happy to hear that! I love these characters. Do you keep to a writing schedule?

In a perfect world, I write in the mornings between about 7:30 and 11:30.

However, I often get my best ideas after I stop writing, including some that come at inconvenient times like four in the morning.

Are you a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants) or a plotter?

I try desperately to be a plotter. I write outlines with care and thought. I have a wonderful one written out in longhand for the sequel to Cel & Anna. I will follow some of it. The structure is not classic. I envision where I want a story to end up. Then I figure out how to get there.

But when I sit down to write a story, the pantser takes over. Improvisation rules the day.

In 1938 Brenda Ueland published a book called If You Want To Write, in which she said that the worst sin a writer could commit was to be boring. That is wise counsel. I try to heed it.

If you could invite any five literary personages from any time period to dinner, who would they be?

  • Emily Dickinson, because I think she would be fascinating company at a dinner party.
  • Russell Hoban, author of Turtle Diary, Riddley Walker, the Frances series for children, and many other books. I quoted a line from Turtle Diary in the acknowledgments section of Cel & Anna.
  • Anne Sneller, who published her luminous memoir A Vanished World at age eighty.
  • Shirley Jackson, because I have been a fan since I was nine.
  • Brenda Ueland, author of If You Want to Write, who must have been a great and inspiring teacher.

What are you reading at the moment?

I just finished a terrific new book called Results Not Typical: A Novel by the Irish writer Catherine Ryan Howard. It takes a satirical look at the commercial weight loss industry.

In addition to being just plain funny, it has a satisfying conclusion. I appreciated that. A novel’s conclusion is the hardest part to get right.

So true. Thanks for visiting Later Bloomer, Lindsay, and inspiring us with your story!

Lindsay EdmundsYou can find Lindsay at her blog and on Twitter. Cel & Anna has its own website. [Update, July 16, 2014: Lighthorse Magic and Other Storiesis no longer available, but the sequel to Cel & Anna, Warning: Something Else Is Happening can be found here.}

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Dormady Eisenberg

Lindsay Edmunds is my dear friend, but when I read CEL & ANNA in manuscript, I was utterly enthralled NOT because she’s a friend but because she’s a terrific author. I loved the “brave new world” she created, and the warmth of her characters, too. Thanks, Ms. Eve, for your lovely and informative interview.

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Debra Eve

My pleasure, Susan. I too was blown away by Lindsay’s writing. What I said was true — she rekindled my love for speculative fiction. I think we can expect big things from her. I’ll be proud to say, “I knew her when…”!

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Lindsay

Debra, Much thanks and happy Friday! — Lindsay

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Debra Eve

Thank you for the interview!

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David Stevens

Hi Debra,
Thank you for this delightful interview with Lindsay. I have always enjoyed Sci- fi. It’s a type of escapism for me, pushing the boundaries of Imagination…..which I enjoy.
be good to yourself
David
P,S Interesting that Lindsay gets some of her best ideas after finishing writing for the day…….I find some of mine come when I don’t consciously think at all…..

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Debra Eve

Hi David! I’ve actually incorporated walking away from my work-in-progress (sometimes literally, as in talking a walk). I’m like Lindsay. Once I let it go, something comes to me. P.S. I’m really enjoying your series on imagination.

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Dave Doolin

I won a book! I won this one! Thanks Debra, looking forward to reading it. Anyone who can find (and I do mean “find”) a character named, what was it, “Beltzhoover the Vast,” I’m reading every word.

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Debra Eve

You’ll love it. My first thought when I read Lindsay was “Douglas Adams”! Yet some of it is very serious and far-reaching.

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florence fois

Debra, your series continues to intrigue me. Lindsay, that you for your insights and for inviting Emily into your group. Mine would include one who might not be able to work and play well with others … JD Salinger. Yes, plotting or outlining something makes sense, but like you, once I get down to it I can’t stop until it’s finished. Then I sit and do four edits, two more rewrites and by the final/almost finished draft, I am still delighted with the story.

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Debra Eve

Salinger, interesting. I’d throw in Mary Shelley. She wrote Frankenstein at 18, then lived an interesting life. Might do a series on “Who would you invite to dinner?” I think I stole the question from Oprah.

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Lindsay

David — My best ideas ALWAYS come when I walk away from my work. If I am stuck, I have to remember not be hypnotized by failure. I have learned to get up and do something physical — walking, housework, laundry, whatever. When I am not thinking about the problem, the answer comes.

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Lindsay

Dave — Beltzhoover the Vast is a character in the sequel to Cel & Anna, which is in progress. He is called by other names, too: Beltzhoover the Fat, Beltzhoover the Querelous, Beltzhoover the Cement Headed, and Beltzhoover the Unlikely. Some just call him B the V. Mon Big Kludgy is another name. However, no one calls him these things to his face. That would be unwise.

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Lindsay

Florence — If J.D. Salinger were a dinner guest, everyone would ask him why he stopped publishing. I would, anyway. Your writing process sounds similar to mine. There is this sense throughout of a direction you must go in, like a compass that keeps leading you. But you are an explorer.

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Teresa

Love it! Just bought it on Kindle! WooHooo!

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Debra Eve

You’ll absolutely love it, Teresa. It’s such a fun and thought-provoking read I finished it on a long weekend!

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Daniela Gitlin

Brenda Euland’s book, If You Want To Write, is the first of many books I read when late-blooming into writing. It’s THE BEST and remains my favorite. I am so thrilled to see it get a plug. I’ll be checking out Cel & Anna soon because, once again, I’m inspired!

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Lindsay

Teresa: I hope you like Cel & Anna! I like your blog about gratitude.

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Lindsay

Daniela — I am going to buy a copy of IF YOU WANT TO WRITE for my 20-year-old niece, a gifted writer who is dealing with a difficult teacher. Brenda Euland is enthusiastic, unpretentious, and forthright. Her students must have loved her.

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Debra Eve

Hey, Daniela. Lindsay has recommended Brenda Euland to me on more than one occasion. Now I’ll definitely have to get the book — once the relaunch is over! Thanks for stopping by!

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Louise Behiel

Great interview Debra. I’ve never read speculative fiction and never wanted to, but I’m going to take a look at this book. After all with this first line, it can’t be anything other than great.

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Debra Eve

Thanks, Louise. Lindsay’s world is speculative, but it has that oh-so-familiar feel. I think you’ll love the book!

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