Friday, July 2, 2010

Louise Marley on Mozart's Blood and writing

Louise Marley draws on her background in music in many of her works. She writes strong, female protagonists who don't wilt when a man shows up. I admire that. I met Louise at a convention. I asked her for an interview when I saw her again at World Fantasy Convention in San Jose last year. Since her latest book just launched yesterday, it seemed the perfect time to interview her. Learn more about her and her writing at

AW: What originally drew you to science fiction?

LM: Like so many of us who love the genre, I read it as a child, then as a girl, and as a young woman. I read all the Oz books when I was in third grade, all eight of them or whatever there were. As a teenager, I devoured the Darkover series, and of course when we were assigned books like 1984 and Brave New World I was in heaven. I read everything else Huxley and Orwell wrote, and probably didn’t understand much, but no doubt the reading helped my writing later.

AW: When did you start writing? Was it always science fiction?

LM: I started writing one summer when the musical season was over (I was a professional singer.) I thought I wanted to write children’s books, but then this idea came to me of singers with special powers . . . I was off and running. I never really considered writing anything else, so now that a lot of my books have historical elements, that’s something of a surprise. I think my stories will always be speculative, though, because I love that feeling of wonder and mystery—never knowing what might happen.

AW: Congratulations on the launch of Mozart’s Blood. Can you tell my readers about it?

LM: I have always been fascinated by the phenomenon of very long life. The career of an opera singer, as I can attest, is relatively short, limited by age and strength and, frankly, competition. I wanted to write about an opera singer who gets extra chances. Unfortunately, becoming a reluctant vampire was the way to do that for her, and so Mozart’s Blood came to be. My protagonist is based on a real-life singer, Teresa Saporiti, who was the first Donna Anna in Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. The book is loosely based on the story of that opera, but it covers about four hundred years of musical history as well.

AW: I loved your protagonist in Maquisarde. Were you surrounded by good examples of strong women growing up?

LM: I loved Ebriel, too! And as you’ve noticed, I do love to write about strong women. Yes, both my mother and my grandmother were very strong, even tough, though in different ways. My grandmother was a painter with a studio in San Francisco. We all used to say she was the first hippie—wore slacks, hung out with bohemians, and refused to stay married even during the Depression. My mother was a child of the Depression, and had a seriously hard life. I never heard her complain once, and I still don’t, although old age can be hard to bear. She’s the most amazing 89-year-old you could ever hope to meet, and I still turn to her for advice and guidance. She’s also been the first reader for a number of my novels.

AW: What other genres do you write in? Which is your favorite to write? To read?

LM: I read in all genres, really, including literary novels. I’m impatient with some, because as a genre reader I like plot and substance, but there are some literary books that provide those. I write fantasy, science fiction, and historical with a paranormal element. I just love the weird! I haven’t written a “straight” historical yet, but that may happen. As to my favorite, I have to say that whatever I’ve just finished is usually my favorite. The book I’m working on always seems lame to me while I’m in the process. This would be scary, except that my family reminds me every time that I have the same anxiety with every book.

AW: What would you say your ratio of writing vs. rewriting is? Do you outline?

LM: I do outline, rather loosely, but I like to know where I’m going and have some idea of how I might get there. Rewriting is my favorite part of the process; I love playing with text, tightening, enriching, listening to the poetry of prose. Writing first drafts is so hard! It takes me a lot longer to write that first draft than it does to polish the second and third drafts of a book or a story.

AW: What was your most memorable book signing or convention experience?

LM: I did a signing in Spokane, Washington at a lovely independent bookstore called Auntie’s. The Glass Harmonica had just come out, and my collaborator, a glass armonicist, joined me there. We had more than a hundred people at that event, and it was grand. Book signings have fallen out of favor for the most part. Now I do launch events, and the occasional signing, but not nearly so many as in the past.

I love conventions. I didn’t discover them until I attended Clarion West in 1993. I’ve had some wonderful experiences at conventions, but perhaps the best was in a restroom at Readercon, outside of Boston. A charming young woman accosted me, apologizing for the “fan girl” moment, but having nice things to say about The Terrorists of Irustan. It was delightful. Such things make me want to paraphrase Dorothy Parker: I hate almost all famous (Parker said rich) people, but I think I’d be darling at it!

AW: Do you write character driven or plot driven stories? Or both?

LM: I suspect we all like to think we’re writing both, but I’m aware that character development is my strength. It’s all that time with the opera! I struggle with plot, but I suspect everyone does. When I get it right—when the pace and the build-up of tension are in the right places—it’s such a huge relief.

AW: What are you working on now?

LM: I just received a two-book contract with Kensington, I’m happy to say. They’re both follow-ons to Mozart’s Blood. The first is The Brahms Deception. The second doesn’t have a name yet, but it will be either Puccini or Verdi. I have to do some research so I can decide! It should be fun, because I love doing books based on real people, and then adding some sort of strangeness to their lives. I’ve done Mozart twice now (The Glass Harmonica features him as a child) and it’s time to get to know some of the other big names!

vote it up!

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