Total Pageviews

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Between the lines with Erin Lale, Science Fiction/Fantasy Author and Film Maker

I am a universal genius. That is what it says on my business card, anyway.  That is kind of a pun, actually, meaning that I am the person who thought of the Time Yarns shared world universe. Time Yarns is kind of a pun, too. A yarn is a story, and it also refers to string theory.  Time Yarns is the universe in which my new book series Punch is set. 
I live in the Green Valley area of Henderson, Nevada, with my mom, Meta, my Bengal, Beni-Wan Cat-Obi, two drums named Grandmother Elk and Mr. Hairy Goat, a Chevy Silverado named the Warhoop Wagon, and a garden gnome who prefers not to be named.  At various times in my life, in no particular order, I have worked as a farmer, alarm service dispatcher, techsupport floorwalker, and spy (aka mystery shopper). I was was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police in a political campaign while running on a platform that included ending marijuana prohibition, taught Russian at a university, invented technical processes in iDEN and CDMA wireless communications technology and I won the Double Ruby Award from the National Forensic League.
I have conducted religious services, owned and operated The Science Fiction Store in Las Vegas, sang and played drum in a Celtic folk-rock band, founded City Lights Artists’ Co-op in Henderson, danced at powwows and served on the Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Advisory Board. I have competed in martial arts tournaments, became the world’s most prominent contemporary sunprint artist, bred a new variety of creeping phlox flower, and directed the magical realist short art film Rain Dance.
Tell us about the genre of your work. 
The Punch series is science fiction, and beyond that, there are a number of different subgenres that apply.  It is based on a hard science fiction idea, an examination of the consequences of an alien psychiatric drug used on human POWs. It is written as space opera, with lots of internal cliffhangers and really evil villains and plenty of action, but most people who have read it classify it as military science fiction.
Why did you choose this genre?
I love science fiction and fantasy. I am a born fan; if I had been born a boy; my parents were going to name me DeForrest, after DeForrest Kelley, the actor who played Dr. McCoy on Star Trek.  Moreover, science fiction and fantasy are where you can talk about the big issues out of their befuddling real-world contexts. There is a long tradition of that in science fiction and fantasy. For example, there is the dystopian fiction like Yevgenie Zamyatin’s We and the books that followed in its wake, like 1984 and Brave New World, which were warnings about what the future could be like.  
Lots of writers translated their personal issues into science fiction and fantasy to deal with them. No one can read Slaughterhouse-5 and not realize it is about the author’s war experiences.  
There is a huge amount of transposed war experience in Lord of the Rings, too.  If you have ever seen any footage of the Battle of the Somme, where Tolkien fought in the trenches in World War One, there is this vast army rushing through the darkness while flashes of light from bombs go off in the sky, which is an eerie parallel to the orc army fighting under the darkness of the smoke of Mount Doom while flashes of light from the volcano go off above them.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
Universal Genius is also the title of my book of collected short fiction. I also have a book of collected nonfiction, Polymath, and a book of collected art and poetry, Renaissance Woman. Sounds like I must have an ego bigger than a giant swarm of space locusts, doesn’t it? Actually, that is my reaction to people always telling me I have to have just one simple message to get across who I am and what I do.  That is my way of saying, OK, here is a simple message: I do everything! I’m interested in everything (except curling.) Having a lot of disparate interests, skills, and talents is the legacy of how I fit the puzzle pieces of my mind and life together to become whole, as I detailed in my memoir Greater Than the Sum of My Parts: My Triumph Over Dissociative Identity Disorder.  
The Punch series deals with many of the same issues that I dealt with in my nonfiction memoir: recovery from psychological trauma, career and identity, sexuality and gender identity issues, and religious conversion experiences.  I have also published a book about my 2010 campaign for Nevada State Assembly: How to Lose at Politics, Or, Not Bad for a Libertarian. And a cookbook, The Las Vegas Locavore Cookbook, and a guide to saving money, Skinflint Hints. I published all those books this year and the seven book Punch series will also be published this year. My first book was Asatru For Beginners, about the Viking religion. I have also published a vast amount of stuff other than books. I used to write the “Outdoors” column for the sports page of the Sonoma Index-Tribune, for example.
Tell us where we can find your books.
My books are available on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and direct from me on eBay.  Just search for my name; there is no other Erin Lale in the world. My first book, Asatru For Beginners, is available to wholesale customers through Baker & Taylor.
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?

Some of them just came to me. But, most of the Nigerian names are named after people I worked with at Sprint-Nextel. That is actually how I came up with the idea of having Earth be ruled in the future by the Nigerian Empire, because they seemed like the up-and-comers of the future, the next India.

How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?

Carla Punch is an amalgam of a lot of my personal issues plus some of my lifelong wish-fulfillment fantasies.  I could not join the military because of disability, and Carla gets to. But she doesn’t get something else I always wanted and could never have, children; instead she gets my issues with that. Like ex-Imperial Marine Carla Punch, I too struggled to recover from PTSD; in her case, she survived a war, in my case, I survived childhood sexual abuse and rape. War veterans and survivors of rape and childhood abuse are the two biggest categories of people diagnosed with PTSD, and although the details of the experiences are very different, there is a lot of similarity in the emotional experience and in the psychological fallout.  When I read Faith of My Fathers, John McCain’s autobiography in which he wrote about his experiences as a POW, on just about every page I was thinking, yeah, that is how I felt. Except that I was six.  Therefore, Carla gets the same problems I had, except she is not only an adult, she’s a sci-fi action hero, and she can deal with her problems by shooting the bad guys.  So, that is a big wish fulfillment thing for me.

What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?

Carla’s nemesis is Carla. There is a succession of villains for her to foil, but the real struggle is with herself.  When I was a kid, there was a framed motto on the wall in the martial arts dojo where I grew up: “He who conquers fear conquers himself. He who conquers himself is the greatest of warriors. Never again walk in fear.” In my life, I have struggled to live up to that, and so does Carla.  One of my cognitive tasks in overcoming PTSD was to learn to live in a world full of men.  Carla has to learn to live with aliens.  The expression “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” is a crock; men are from Earth, women are from Earth, and we all have to learn to get past the surface differences and relate as minds and souls, not bodies.  So alien hermaphrodites take the place of men in this story.

What is your favorite thing about your book?
Can’t tell you that; it would give away the ending of Book 6.  You will have to read it and find out!
What is your writing schedule?
I just write when I feel like it. Obviously, as you can tell by the fact that I have published seven books this year besides the seven books in the Punch series, I feel like it a lot.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future? 

Punch isn’t the only story in the Time Yarns universe. There is the three book Magi series, plus two stand-alone novels, plus the Time Yarns movie, plus I am editing two short story anthologies of other authors’ works in the Time Yarns universe that will be published next year, in 2012.  So far the other Time Yarns authors are the poet Gordon Yaswen, whose work I published before in my print magazine Berserkrgangr in the 90s, and a group of distinguished scientists writing hard science fiction: Ian Miller, from New Zealand, inventor of algal bio-fuel; Humberto Sachs, from Brazil, co-designer of the International Space Station; Ralph Ewig, from Europe, a rocket scientist at SpaceX; and Tony Thorne MBE, an Englishman in the Canary Islands, who was awarded a chivalric order by the Queen of England for advances in cryosurgery tools and carbon fiber furnaces.
The anthology covers above go with books Anarachy Time Zone and Cassandra's Time Yarns for which I am still accepting submissions. The submission deadline is the end of this year, and the anthologies will be published next year.

What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published?
Writing and publishing are two different animals.  Once you decide to publish your work, you have to decide if you want to hand over your work to the experts in a traditional publishing company or remain in control of it by self-publishing. If you self-publish it will entail an awful lot of work you will either learn to do things like marketing and graphic design, or paying someone to do it for you.  I didn’t even submit the Punch series anywhere; Carla Punch is too close to my heart to let control of her pass out of my hands. I would be heartbroken if my character got locked up in a contract and then all seven books didn’t come out and she never got to finish her story arc. And I’d be furious if the same thing happened to Punch that happened to my first book, Asatru For Beginners—the publisher to whom I sent it to first was convinced by my marketing presentation of the market for such a book and contracted a big name to write a similar book, which has forever overshadowed mine because theirs got shelf space while I was selling mine as an ebook in the days before there were any such things as eBook readers and online eBook stores.  The time of the eBook has come at last, and I’m not letting Carla Punch pass out of my hands.  But that’s an entirely personal decision, and most writers would probably do well to submit their books to traditional print publishers.

What do you do when you are not writing? 
Shamelessly promote my books all over the internet and hand out my Time Yarns business card to total strangers at the local art house movie theater, The Underground Screening Room, trying to recruit film crew, and build props and dye fabric for costumes for the Time Yarns movie. Who has time to write?

The Weird Sister: 
A production still from the Time Yarns movie, which is currently being filmed and is scheduled to go into post-production next. The Weird Sisters are shown spinning yarn, a mythological reference to the nature of causality and a third level of the Time Yarns pun in which yarn = story and story = string theory.

 I am self-published, I spend all my time on marketing.  Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about the stigma of self-pub because I am also an indie filmmaker, and for some reason the prestige factor goes the other way in the medium of film.
Actually, I also spend of a lot of time gardening, cooking, sewing clothes and quilts, fixing my truck, and stuff like that, but who doesn’t? That’s just life. My only real “hobby,” as in something I do that’s not related to either making money or saving money with do-it-yourselfing, is swimming.  Come to think of it, that’s related to trying to save money on healthcare by trying to lose weight.  Sometimes I sleep, too. I don’t recommend it, though; it’s a waste of time.  My Alarm Cat must think so too, because he has decreed the proper time for the human to get up is one hour before dawn.  And Beni-Wan Cat-Obi always gets his way, because he has really sharp claws.
Want to know about this author, then check her out on these pages:
My author page is: where you can get free downloads of my writing.
I am also on Facebook and LinkedIn.

No comments: