What inspired you to become an author?
L.C. Spoering: I’ve always written. From a young age, it was my favorite thing to do, put to paper the stories in my head. I don’t think there was a specific time or event that really cemented my desire to be a writer or author-- I had great teachers along the way that urged me on, and family that kept telling me I was awesome.
Laila Blake: I’m from a family of artists, and so the notion that a creative outlet is an existential part of life, more so perhaps than money or career, was instilled in me from a very early age. I was the girl who wrote secret poems about her crushes in primary school, who got a bad grade because a boring essay about an experience with your pet turned into an adventure story about a girl riding on the back of a dolphin. Our first family computer and its word processor was the best thing I’d ever seen and I wrote oddly political fantasy stories before I knew what fantasy was. It was my family who will tell you they always knew I would become a writer, even when I doubted myself.
Do you write in different genres?
LCS: On my own, I write a lot of lit fic and upmarket fiction, as well as magical realism and some spec fic.
LB: I like to mix and match. I have written fantasy, erotica and YA so far, and I have my eyes on others, especially upmarket fiction and more sci-fi/dystopian. I think the notion that writers should stick to one field is outdated and patronising to readers and writers alike. Different genres inform each other, grow stronger by being mixed with other influences.
If yes which is your favorite genre to write?
LCS: I love lit fic, if just because a large part of the story in the composition, structure, and telling, sometimes even more than it is in the plot.
LB: It’s the variety that I love. The ability to move from a very intense, realistic story on to writing about fairies and witches and werewolves is a kind of freedom that inspires me and keeps me motivated.
Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?
LCS: We both have a terrible time coming up with titles. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to title a book before or during writing (though I desperately want to name a book Tanya and the Ravishing Radishes).
LB: When it comes to series, I often come up with subsequent titles before the books are actually written. But when it comes to first books in a series or stand-alones I get lost and scramble for one towards the end. That’s why I now scramble up front, so that by the time the book is finished, I was able to discard several bad ideas already.
What books/authors have influenced your life?
LCS: I have a love/hate affair with Michael Chabon. I think he has an amazing skill with creating flawed characters that are still compelling, and weaving a believable story around them. Wonder Boys is a great example of this.
Jane Eyre, even as I read it as an adult, really opened my eyes to the notion of a woman who is somewhat weak physically, and powerless by circumstance, can be a stronger than your big badass characters in an action novel. It’s relevant even today.
LB: At this point in my life, I am convinced that the greatest influence - not just on my writing itself, but on the way I read and see the world in general - comes from the magical realism of European post-war books written for children, which I read when I was young - From Michael Ende to Astrid Lindgren and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I am also always highly inspired by any lit-fic treatment of genre themes, like in the books of Margaret Atwood, to name just one.
What book are you reading now?
LCS: The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta. It’s about something like the Rapture that takes a huge portion of the population, but not the people you might think-- and leaves behind their families and friends to cope with the aftermath.
LB: Laurie Penny’s “Unspeakable Things - Sex, Lies and Revolution” - gotta love me some passionate anarcho-feminism. In term of fiction, I’m also reading “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides.
What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?
LCS: There’s always something! On my own, I’m working on a novel that is ostensibly about several different women, but I’m working to interlace and overlap their stories in a way that all influence one another. I have the lofty ambition to make every chapter pass the Bechdel Test.
Together, now that After Life Lessons is wrapped up, we’re working our paranormal romance/urban fantasy series, centering on a young Fae and her werewolf charge.
LB: Like Lorrie, there’s always so much. As a first priority, I’m working on the last and final installment of my “Lakeside Series”, a fantasy trilogy that mixes paranormal romance influences with classic fantasy lore. I’m also working on a final draft of a YA story about a young bi-racial girl that doesn’t fit in anywhere and has retreated into her own fantasy world until someone takes notice of her. There’s is a story about love, drugs and music, of being in your late 20s and realizing you really don’t want to grow up yet. It’s mostly written, and I have to decide on a format and what I want to do with it. And if that wasn’t enough, I’m also working on a new erotic series set in a secret society, for all those wonderful readers who have loved and supported my literary bdsm series “Breaking in Waves”.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
LCS: Letting it out into the world! I was sure that was just the part I was lacking but, I’m doing to admit, the first rejections hurt, a lot. It’s hard, sometimes, to allow others to read my work with just the hope that I’ve done a good enough job for them to understand what I intended.
LB: Self-doubt. It’s a natural part of the creative process: the better you get the harder you are on yourself, and the faster you see that something is going wrong early on. And then what do you do? I definitely struggle with that, much more than I would like to.
After Life Lessons
Laila Blake and L.C. Spoering
Genre: post apocalyptic
Publisher: Lilt Literary
Date of Publication: April 28, 2015
Number of pages: 350
Word Count: 95.000
Cover Artist: Laila Blake
Years after the end of the world, the scattered survivors have begun to reconcile with their fate and are starting to build communities from the rubble. Life has been kind to Aaron and Emily, and maybe it is that infusion of hope that leads them on a winter trip to search for Aaron’s family. But the world outside their little haven has grown harsher, the conditions rough and dangerous.
Not everybody they meet on their journey allowed the grim realities to harden their hearts, however. Malachi and Kenzie - an easy-going drifter with a bum leg and amnesia, and a teenage girl who has lost everyone and everything - are on an ill-conceived mission to Mexico, while Iago and his band of nomads work to forge trading connections between the small settlements of the south.
All of them will discover new nightmares on the road, far surpassing the threat of the last rotting zombies still roaming the countryside. And now they must come together to fight for peace and justice in the world they trying to rebuild.
Warning: This novel contains language some might find offensive, some gore and situations of a sexual nature. Reader's discretion is advised.
Excerpt 3: Kenzie & Malachi - 966 words
“Is that a house over there?” Mali asked, and Kenzie looked where he pointed, ahead down the tracks. She felt a momentary sense of annoyance that he’d seen it first while she’d had her nose on the ground, looking for more loot. But then she shrugged.
“Kinda small for a house.”
“What kind of house did you live in?” he asked, poking her in the side before picking up his pace. Given his bum leg and the fact that he was eight hundred years old and falling apart, it just meant he moved with a more acceptable speed.
“It’s skinny, I mean,” she grumbled, stomping just a little. “Like, no bed could be in there. It’s not like I lived in a mansion...”
He grinned a sweet, winsome smile, but Kenzie ignored the quip and squinted into the distance. It was hard to see because of the sun, but she tilted her head this way and that, biting at her lower lip. Finally, she laughed.
“It’s a train, doofus.” But she looked far too delighted for the insult to sting.
“Really?” He shaded his eyes despite the hat on his head actually doing the job. There was a sort of impressed tone to his voice that made Kenzie straighten her back in pride.
“See? Told you if we followed the tracks we’d find something.”
This time, she couldn’t help it. She tried to keep his pace, but before she knew it, she was skipping ahead, pressing her nose against the dusty windows. They made her sneeze, but she looked with longing at the cushioned seats. They looked like heaven to her hurting ankle.
Malachi finally arrived next to her, a little out of breath. He pushed his hat back on his head to look through another window, more easily than she with his height.
“Huh,” he breathed, tipping his forehead against the glass, making an instant sort of mud with his sweat. “I wonder when they stopped using this.”
“Who cares?” she asked with the kind of childlike glee she usually hid far better. “It’s ours now.” And she whooped, once and happy, until a sound washed every hint joy from her face.
Something banged against the wall of the compartment. Kenzie jumped back, Mali on her heels. The next came muffled against the window. One rotted hand stood out quite clearly against the gloom, leaving a trace of brown slime on the glass.
They both stood still. The zombie was old, clearly, and locked safely inside the train car—the doors were shut and latches firmly in place, if a little rusted.
“Oh.” Mali looked at Kenzie with a small smile. “So that’s why this is just sitting here.”
She huffed. “Okay, maybe it’s his.” Pouting a little, she banged back against the window with a stick she’d used to swipe at the tall grass with. The zombie growled, threw itself harder against the window. It didn’t even quiver in its frame, and Kenzie couldn’t help but chuckle. “Sucks for you,” she said, eyes on the dead thing.
Mali, for his part, backed a bit further away with each new advance. “Maybe we should just let him have it,” he suggested.
“No way,” she protested, smashing the stick against the window again. “I bet he just stank up that one compartment. And where else are we gonna sleep?”
She glared at the thing as it hurled itself against the window once more, like a stupid dog when the postman was in the yard. Her smile turned something dangerous then, a cool, distant thing.
“I bet I can take it.”
Mali opened his mouth, but couldn’t speak. After a second or two, he closed it, lifted his hands, and tried again. “Are you kidding?”
“No.” And it was as though she’d only just realized that herself. She squinted her eyes at the window, watched it move like a tiger in a cage. “I’m serious. Fuckers have taken enough from me. I want that train.”
He lowered his hands very slowly. There was an expression on his face that Kenzie couldn’t quite puzzle out, but she was already so busy planning, she didn’t bother to think about it for more than a beat.
“All we have to do is be ready and lure it out,” she informed him, setting her pack on the ground in front of them. “I mean, it’s all in the surprise, right? If we’re ready, then it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”
“Fish don’t generally try to kill you though,” Mali pointed out, but his voice petered away almost immediately.
“Sharks do,” Kenzie pointed out, “and, like, piranhas.” It was a silly argument, but she didn’t put any effort into it, as she rifled through her things. She found the thickest sweater she could find, then wrapped a scarf around her hands and grabbed her knife.
“Kenzie, wait a second,” Mali said. He had his arms crossed in front of his chest. He looked green.
“No.” She was louder than she had intended to be, looked angrier, too. “We have to stop just… letting them have everything. It’s just one. Look how rotted he is.” A few more of her things went flying, scattering across the ground until she found a piece of rope, and grinned, nodding to herself before she focused on Mali again. “If we want to become more… like, proactive, we gotta train somewhere, don’t we?”
The man was silent again, and she could see something like a fight on his face, like he wanted to agree with her but couldn’t, not without a struggle. She waited, hopping from foot to foot, before she sighed heavily.
“I don’t want to be scared all the time,” she told him, and, finally, Mali nodded. Like she knew he would.
About the Authors:
Laila Blake is an author, linguist and translator. She writes character-driven love stories and blogs about writing, feminism and society. Her work has been featured in numerous anthologies. Keeping a balance between her different interests, Laila Blake’s body of work encompasses literary erotica, romance, and various fields in speculative fiction (dystopian/post-apocalypse, fantasy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy) and she adores finding ways to mix and match.
A self-proclaimed nerd, she lives in Cologne/Germany with her cat Liene, harbors a deep fondness for obscure folk singers and plays the guitar badly. She loves photography, science documentaries and classic literature as well as a number of popular TV-Shows.
L.C. Spoering has a degree in English writing from University of Colorado, and a lesser degree in sarcasm earned from the days of yore on AOL. A storyteller since she started talking, she now spends her days writing, reading and contemplating the universe through various pop culture lenses.