Author | Editor | Designer
USA Today Bestselling Author Cheri Lasota is a freelance author, editor, designer, and founder of AudaVoxx.com. Her bestselling debut novel, Artemis Rising, is a 2013 Cygnus Awards First Place Winner and a 2012 finalist in the Next Generation Indie Books Awards. Cheri also helped found the Paradisi Chronicles, a massive open-source Sci-Fi universe set on the fictional planet, New Eden. Her Paradisi Exodus series focuses on the early years of the human exodus from Earth to the new planet. Cheri’s most recent project is her ambitious Historical Fantasy series, Immortal Codex, which explores the lives of immortals throughout history.
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Author Q&A: On Artemis Rising
Q: What’s your writing regimen?
A: I suppose some writers have a daily regimen. Er, does it actually work like that? Ha! Okay, I confess: I’m a cheater. I generally kick-start another round of editing or writing every November for National Novel Writing Month. Yes, I know. I’m supposed to be starting a brand new novel for NaNoWriMo, but I can’t help it. I find that sitting down with my friends in cozy coffeeshops during the bitter cold days of November to be one of the most inspiring literary endeavorings (yes, I just made up that word) I can think of doing. And if I really need to get a WIP finished, then why not?
So I’m one of those writers who is an occasional obsessive. If I’m on a deadline–self-imposed or otherwise–I work like mad until it is done, and every other thing in my life takes a backseat. Is this healthy? I have no idea. But it certainly works for me. But there are two things I cannot live without as I write: coffeeshops and film scores. Nigh impossible to concentrate in my apartment with my laundry, Xbox (oh, yes, I’m a HUGE fan of gaming–bet you didn’t guess that, huh?), and vast movie collection to distract me.
And film scores . . . *sigh* I NEVER write better prose than when I’m swept along to the soundtracks of Mansfield Park, Lord of the Rings, and Atonement. Absolute silence makes me slightly insane, so I always have to have some noise in the background. But I can’t listen to Top 40 radio, because then I’ll just sing along. You see the dilemma . . . But being obsessed with movies since I was in the womb and subsequently majoring in film at university, I have a special little space in my heart for film–and most especially for scores and soundtracks. And since now, I’ve gotten into scoring piano music for local indie films, including my book trailer, I’m just that much more interested in the topic. I would go so far as to say I can’t write without a score in my ear.
Q: How did you conceive of Artemis Rising?
A: This is a difficult question. How does anyone come up with a creative idea? I generally don’t understand the mechanism which allows me to breathe life into characters and weave plots and develop universal themes within the context of a historical setting. I am truly only grateful that I’m paying attention long enough to write it all down. Some days it comes easily, some days I think and think and nothing comes to me. But Artemis Rising? Wow, it is a mish-mash of all my longings and fears. It is an amalgam of all my hopes for the future and my memories in the pleasures of the past. It is a laundry list of my most treasured interests and passions. It is also complete and utter fiction. Does that answer your question?
Okay, something a bit more specific. I used to live in the Azores Islands, a profound privilege that went by far too quickly. But the place and its people have stayed with me some fifteen years later, and I knew that no matter what my book would eventually be about, I would set it on Terceira Island, one of the great loves of my life. The setting being carved in stone, I wondered what to write about for the plot. No answer forthcoming, I played on the Internet (what else is a writer to do?). I remember looking up the meaning of my favorite name in all the world, Tristan. That’s when I stumbled upon the Arthurian legend of Tristan and Isolde. Ooh, did I revel in this delicious story! Mad love and longing, knights and ladies, treachery and tragedy—what’s not to love? And then another day, perhaps months later, I was researching mythology. Can’t recall why. I came across the story of Alpheus and Arethusa and noticed strange similarities to the Tristan and Isolde myth. Something just clicked in my mind. I thought, what would happen if I squished those two myths together? What if they became the subtext to my own story. . .? And my mind went racing on with the possibilities.
Q: How long did it take you to write Artemis Rising?
A: I think I ought to be embarrassed to answer this question. In some ways I am, because for many years, I was actually terrified of writing. I would start a bit, confuse myself with the complex plot elements, and then give up, slinking away into the dark of night (or rather, into the TV room, where all my favorite already-written stories played out beautifully on screen). My goal was to take a universally well-loved story and turn it on its head, using multiple layers and characters who played not one role but three. This sounded all very well in my head, but it was another thing altogether to coax it out of my over-confident imagination and have it make sense on the page. It was like one of those giant puzzles of some scenic place with tiny, confusing pieces that rather frustrate you before you bother to finish it. I knew the pieces would fit, I just knew it. But how? And what would it all mean once I got the puzzle together? I began the research for Artemis Rising in earnest when I was 22 years old. I am now 31, and am only just now feeling confident in the puzzle. It was, I confess, the most difficult endeavor I’ve ever undertaken. But I wouldn’t give it up for the world.
Q: Who is your favorite character?
A: A simple question and a simple answer: Tristan. Must I elaborate? He is my ideal, you see. Flawed, yes, but his intentions are honest. He has a good soul, and I treasure him for that. And Eva needs kindness, given what she’s been through. He is her perfect match.
Q: How did you approach your research?
A: With trepidation . . .? There is so little research available about the Azores Islands in the 1890s. Education had been abolished by the freemasons for decades, so much of what daily life was like has been lost to oral histories only. I did my utmost to create a world as authentic as possible while remaining true to my vision of the story. A great resource I must mention: James H. Guill’s A History of the Azores Islands.
Q: Who are your writing influences?
A: Ooh, this is a fun one. The classics were my teachers, first and foremost. Some of the novels that have had a most profound effect on me in one way or another: Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities; Bryce Courtenay’s The Power of One; Tennyson and Wordsworth’s poetry; Herman Mellville’s Moby Dick; J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings; Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening; Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’urbervilles . . .
Q: Who are your favorite writers today?
A: M.M. Bennetts is my favorite historical author writing today–melding matters of the heart and authentic history with exquisite prose. Diana Gabaldon has also been a great influence on me, I think. It’s her ability to write with unflinching honesty about the harshness and details of life that I admire. And my God, that woman can spin a beautiful tale well-told! More writers who have enchanted me: Jenn Crowell, Bryce Courtenay, Rosalind Miles, and Judith Lindbergh.
Q. Who is your favorite literary character? Why?
A. Sydney Carton. Why? Because he gives all with no thought for himself. He is flawed, surely, but in the end, his self-sacrifice is a test of courage we all secretly hope to pass in the struggle of life. His final act never fails to bring tears to my eyes. After all, what is fiction if is does not elevate and mirror our greatest hopes in this life?
Q. Which of your characters do you relate to best?
A. Arethusa, beyond doubt. She is very much fully fictional now, but she started as a reflection of the struggles I went through as a girl, blundering about in the darkness of my confusions and fear. She’s since become her own person, with her own hopes and desires and fears. I am glad that she is both me and not me. It makes her journey that much more profound for me.
Q. Do you secretly harbor a love for Diogo?
A. Doesn’t everyone? *wink* Diogo represents the darker side of love—lust, jealousy, and the pursuit of power. But there is some part of him that truly loves this girl, despite his obsessive attempts to control her. I will say this, he was a dream to write. He fell effortlessly onto the page, and I rather enjoyed the ease with which he wreaked havoc in Tristan and Eva’s lives. Ooh, does that make me sadistic? *evil grin* Well, I think all writers are sadistic to some extent (whether we admit it or not).
Q. Why did you pick the Azores Islands as the location of this story?
A. I answered this best here, I think.
Q. There’s a spiritual, religious, and mythological theme in this story. Is this on purpose, or did it just develop on it’s own accord?
A. The mythology was definitely there from the beginning of this particular version of the novel. And the paranormal/spiritual elements were a direct development from that. But the religious aspects of the novel evolved during the writing process. I didn’t realize the story was so much about Eva’s struggle with faith. It is so intertwined with her struggle for love, though, that it cannot be separated. One directly effects the other to her mind, and the consequences of the wrong choice are very grave indeed.