Please welcome the fabulous Lesley Livingston, author of WONDROUS STRANGE and DARKLIGHT to The Hiding Spot!
A Brief Biography (from Lesley’s Website!):
Lesley is a writer and actor living in Toronto, Canada. Captivated at a young age by stories of mythology and folk lore, past civilizations, and legendary heroes, she developed into a full-fledged Celtic Mythology Geek, steeped in stories of the Otherworld, Faeries and King Arthur. Lesley went on to earn a Master’s Degree in English from the University of Toronto specializing in Shakespeare and Arthurian literature.
For almost three years, Lesley hosted weekly late-night movie marathons on the nationally broadcast television show, SPACEBAR, as the Waitron-9000, a sparkly holographic waitress with an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure B-movie trivia. She is also a founding member and principal performer with TEMPEST THEATRE GROUP.
Lesley is an unrepentant egghead – a character-trait that somehow doesn’t interfere with a love of shoes and shiny things. WONDROUS STRANGE is her debut novel, the first in a trilogy published by HarperCollins. The second book in the series, DARKLIGHT, [is out now].
Tell us a bit about your books WONDROUS STRANGE and DARKLIGHT.
Here—my website blurbs are much better at this than I am! (Plot spoiler-y-ness ahead!! BEWARE!)
Kelley Winslow is living her dream. Seventeen years old, she has moved to New York City and started work with a theatre company. Sure, she’s an understudy for the Avalon Players, a third-tier repertory company so far off-Broadway it might as well be in Hoboken, but things are looking up—the lead has broken her ankle and Kelley’s about to step into the role of Titania the Fairy Queen in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Faeries are far more real than Kelley thinks, though, and a chance encounter in Central Park with a handsome young man will plunge her into an adventure she could never have imagined.
For Sonny Flannery, one of the Janus Guards charged by Auberon, the King of Winter, with watching over the gate into the lands of Faerie that lies within Central Park, the pretty young actress presents an enigma. Strong and willful, she sparks against his senses like a firecracker and he can’t get her out of his mind. As Hallowe’en approaches and the Samhain Gate opens, Sonny and Kelley find themselves drawn to each other—and into a terrible plot that could spell disaster for both New York and Faerie alike.
In this sequel to Wondrous Strange, Kelley Winslow finds her NYC acting career blossoming as she takes the lead in Romeo and Juliet. But she also finds herself desperately missing Sonny Flannery—who was forced back to the Faerie Otherworld, charged with a dangerous mission by Kelley’s father, King Auberon.
When Kelley finds herself thrown into the Otherworld following a deadly chase in Central Park, her passionate reunion with Sonny is cut short. Ancient magick is stirring, and a dangerous enemy has Sonny and Kelley caught in a web of Faerie deception that could tear their love apart.
What inspired you to write a books with supernatural/fantasy elements?
I’ve always loved reading about this kind of stuff. I grew up devouring everything I could get my hands on that had anything to do with myths or legends or King Arthur or the Otherworld. Even in Shakespeare, the elements of the supernatural are very present and were always fascinating to me; Macbeth’s witches, Hamlet’s ghost, the fairies in Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest… When it came time for me to write my own stories, it seemed only natural that I should gravitate toward those sorts of subjects.
Are you anything like your main character, Kelley?
Ha! Well… we share a common background that involves a disastrous theatre school experience… and we’re both Shakespearian actors… but I think Kelley’s a little (maybe a lot!) braver than I am. I’m not so sure that I would have been able to handle moving to NYC all by myself to try and catch my big break. Also I’m reasonably certain I’m not a Faerie princess in hiding. Reasonably certain.
How did you choose the titles WONDROUS STRANGE and DARKLIGHT?
The titles are both Shakespearean in nature. “Wondrous Strange” is a phrase the Bard used in both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet – and just seemed to fit the feeling of the book so well. And Darklight refers to both Kelley’s burgeoning power and the situation she and Sonny find themselves in, and also refers to lines from Romeo and Juliet: “Oh now be gone, more light and light it grows.” “More light and light, more dark and dark our woes.”
Did you do any research while writing WS and DARKLIGHT? If yes, please explain.
I did, but it was mostly for the setting of the book and the underlying back-story. Because of my own background in the theatre, I already had an intimate familiarity the inner workings of a theatre company and all of that Shakespeare under my belt. And I have a fairly extensive knowledge of Faerie lore and legend because I’ve been reading that stuff since I was a kid. But I had to really get to know Central Park and New York and—particularly the history behind the Park’s inception, and the story of one of the lesser known historical figures behind the creation of what is now one of the most spectacular green spaces in the world. Because that became a key bit of back-story on which the entire trilogy is based.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing your novels?
Stopping! Seriously… I just finished the third (yet to be named) book in the trilogy and, near the end, I just kept writing and writing and I never seemed to get any closer to being finished! I guess part of me didn’t want it to end, maybe? Or maybe it’s just that there was so much left to tell! I don’t know. But really—I can’t, in good conscience, call any of this “hard”. It’s actually an obscene amount of fun to be able to disappear into your own world and play “what if?” for hours at a time. Even on the days when the words aren’t coming out so easily, I still have the best job on the planet. I’m grateful for that!
Did you always want to be a novelist?
I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller. I guess I sort of fulfilled that ambition in two ways – through both the acting and the writing. I know they are two very different mediums, with very different disciplines but, to me, they’ve always felt connected. I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to develop my ear for language under as great a tutor as Shakespeare.
What jobs did you have on your way to being a writer? Did they help you in any way as a writer?
Well… the acting gig. And, as I mentioned, it has definitely helped! Of course, being an actor and a writer has necessitated that I hold a variety of other jobs over the years (grin), mostly office work. Anything that gave me any kind of time to think has always been a helpful situation to be in. Oddly enough, when I was in University, I didn’t get anywhere near as much work done writing fiction as I did when I graduated. I was always busy thinking… I was just always busy thinking about assignments. Although, that, too provided me with a whole bunch of fodder for stories later on.
When and where do you usually write?
Anytime, anywhere I can! I’m thinking of having one of those whiteboards installed in my shower! Seriously. I do the majority of my work in my office – I call it The Nook – but I always have either my laptop or a pad and pen with me. And I used to have ‘rituals’ to get me into the mood. You know – light a nice candle, brew a cup of herbal tea… now I just grab a quick coffee and try to plow right in. Deadlines don’t really allow you to not be in the mood so I find I get into that state a lot quicker now!
Is there something that is a must have for you to be able to write?
Hee – I guess I kind of just answered that one. But I will add to it and say this; I like to be warm when I write. My fingers get cold really easily and then I find it hard to type. So you’ll often find me with a blanket on my lap. I also do like to have my iPod set to one of my book playlists. But really? Just a writing implement. That’s all I really need. I’ll use a pointed stick and a patch of dirt if I have to!
What author or book most influenced you as a writer or in general?
There isn’t just one author or book, I don’t think. Growing up I was most influenced by mythology, Shakespeare, Guy Gavriel Kay, Tennyson, Parke Godwin, and anything even remotely connected to Arthurian or Celtic legends. I guess I still am. I’ve always influenced by and attracted to a sense of wonder in the things I read. And I also like a sense of humor in the things I read (hence the things I write). Stuff that takes itself too seriously all the time tends to make me a bit itchy.
Can you tell us anything about your next YA novel(s)?
Let’s see… I do have another YA project I’m working on currently—I can’t say much but I can tell you it has elements of the paranormal, and a strong historical bent and there’s also a somewhat complicated romantic angle to it. And maybe time travel. Maybe. But you didn’t hear it from me. Also, there is another project that has become very distracting of late…look—shiny!
How many books do you expect to write about Kelley and Sonny?
I just finished writing the third book in the WONDROUS STRANGE saga… and that is as far as this particular story arc goes with these particular characters. At the end of book three, Sonny and Kelley’s story will be wrapped up. I’m just not going to tell you how! 😉 And, of course, that certainly doesn’t preclude me writing other stories that are companions to this one. I’m certainly open to considering the possibility of another tale set in the WONDROUS universe, you know…..
The Hiding Spot is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Is there a place, activity, or person that is your hiding spot?
My brain! Definitely, that’s where I go when I have the urge to hide. I disappear into whatever story I’m working on (so that you’ll have a good place to hide when I’m done! I think that works out rather nicely!). I go up to The Nook and disappear for hours. When I’m not writing, and weather permitting, I’ll go our and spend a few hours hiding in—and terrorizing—my garden.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
Maybe just how incredible it feels to have a second book hitting the shelves this week. It’s only been a year since WONDROUS STRANGE was released and I’m still riding that roller-coaster. It’s such great fun being able to do blog visits like this one and be able to share all of this with you and your readers and I really just want to say “Thank you”! I feel like I’ve been doing that a lot lately and I mean it every single time.
I can’t wait to read the final installment of Kelley and Sonny’s story! I’m sad that it will be the last book about those particular characters, but I’m extremely excited about Lesley’s upcoming novels that she briefly mentioned!
Thank you for taking the time to chat, Lesley!