Acid Ants, Emperor Nero, and Dark Space – interview and giveaway with Lisa Henry!

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Crossposted from kayberrisford.com

I’m thrilled to welcome Lisa Henry, author of m/m smash hits Tribute and The Island. Lisa’s been kind enough to answer some questions about her amazing new books, writing damaged and desperate characters, and the joys and pitfalls of living in the tropics – namely, Brisbane, Aus!

Q. You have two new books out, both of which I can’t wait to HeIsWorthy_600x400read! Please tell us a bit about them.

He Is Worthy is part of Riptide Publishing’s Warriors of Rome series. And here’s the blurb:

Rome, 68 A.D. Novius Senna is one of the most feared men in Rome. He’s part of the emperor’s inner circle at a time when being Nero’s friend is almost as dangerous as being his enemy. Senna knows that better men than he have been sacrificed to Nero’s madness — he’s the one who tells them to fall on their swords. He hates what he’s become to keep his family safe. He hates Nero more.

Aenor is a newly-enslaved Bructeri trader, brutalised and humiliated for Nero’s entertainment. He’s homesick and frightened, but not entirely cowed. He’s also exactly what Senna has been looking for: a slave strong enough to help him assassinate Nero.

It’s suicide, but it’s worth it. Senna yearns to rid Rome of a tyrant, and nothing short of death will bring him peace for his crimes. Aenor hungers for revenge, and dying is his only escape from Rome’s tyranny. They have nothing left to lose, except the one thing they never expected to find–each other.

Straight from the Roman Empire to a space station! My latest release is LH_Dark Space_coverinDark Space, from Loose Id.

Brady Garrett needs to go home. Brady’s a conscripted recruit on Defender Three, one of a network of stations designed to protect the Earth from alien attack. Brady is angry, homesick, and afraid. If he doesn’t get home he’ll lose his family, but there’s no way back except in a body bag.

Cameron Rushton needs a heartbeat. Four years ago Cam was taken by the Faceless — the alien race that almost destroyed Earth. Now he’s back, and when the doctors make a mess of getting him out of stasis, Brady becomes his temporary human pacemaker. Except they’re sharing more than a heartbeat: they’re sharing thoughts, memories, and some very vivid dreams.

Not that Brady’s got time to worry about his growing attraction to another guy, especially the one guy in the universe who can read his mind. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just biochemistry and electrical impulses. It doesn’t change the truth: Brady’s alone in the universe.

Now the Faceless are coming and there’s nothing anyone can do. You can’t stop your nightmares. Cam says everyone will live, but Cam’s probably a traitor and a liar like the military thinks. But that’s okay. Guys like Brady don’t expect happy endings.

Q. Okay, so broadly generalizing, Dark Space is sci-fi, He is Worthy is historical, The Island is contemporary, and Tribute is fantasy. So you’re awesomely flexible – *g*! Which, if any, was your fave genre to write and do any themes unite all Lisa Henry books?

This is like asking me my favourite colour. Or movie. Or song. Give me half an hour and I’ll give you an entirely different answer. Or twelve entirely different answers. That’s the best thing about being a writer. You’re allowed to go wherever your imagination wants.

I love historical, but it’s a challenge to write. There is a lot of research and fact checking involved, so it usually takes longer to get right. Also, with m/m romance there is a very fine line between wanting to stay true to historical attitudes, and wanting your guys to get an HEA. Not in all societies and cultures, certainly, but I’ve read a lot of historical stuff lately where there are public displays of affection that just don’t seem like they would have occurred when there was a risk of arrest, public shame, or even worse.

Fantasy is great because all the world building is your own, and there isn’t much research to do. If you want to have flying cars and dinosaurs in the same story, go for it!

The same goes for sci-fi. I tried to make Dark Space “realistic” in the sense that I don’t think there’s any technology in there that seems that weird. And the stuff that is — the alien stuff — scares the hell out of the humans. Dark Space is not really about pew-pew aliens and space ships. Space was just the perfect setting because it’s vast and claustrophobic at the same time. I would love to write a space opera though, because those seem like fun!

Contemporary is much lighter on the research than historical. Also, I like that it gives me a chance to be a bit patriotic and throw some Aussie boys into the mix which I hadn’t been able to do before The Island. And, I have to say, the thing I loved best about The Island was that my editor let me keep this exchange between my Australian and my American, despite that fact that I bet a huge chunk of people didn’t get the cricket reference:

“At least when we have a world series, we’re not the only country in it.”

“The World Series was named after a newspaper. At least we don’t play for ashes!”

If anything unites all my books, I guess it’s that I love writing about damaged and desperate characters. If they’re not damaged and desperate at the start of one of my books, they sure as hell will be by the end. I think that to really understand what a character is made of, you have to tear him apart first.

Hmm. That seemed less brutal in my head. But I promise I’m a nice person in real life.

Q. You once told me you’re a history nerd – yay! Did you have LH_Tribute_coverlgfun with the research for He is Worthy – oh, and how about Tribute? When I was reading and loving that one, I had some pretty vivid images from various ancient civilizations in my mind. Were any particularly inspiring?

I didn’t have to do too much research for He Is Worthy actually, since I absolutely love Ancient Rome and devour anything I can read on the subject. When I found out that Riptide wanted Roman stories it was like Christmas for me. Holy hell! Yes, I must do that!

Nero has always fascinated me. He was an absolute monster, but in some respects he’s like a child star. Surrounded by sycophants, spoiled rotten since childhood, a pushy stage mother, nobody ever tells him no…you know it’s going to end badly. I think it’s sometimes tempting to feel sorry for Nero, before you remember that a lot of innocent people died in a lot of hideous ways because of him. Everything that happens in He Is Worthy — the dressing up like a wild animal to attack slaves, the human torches, the castration of his “favourite” — comes from historical accounts.

With He Is Worthy, I had to do a quick refresher on dates and places and historical characters, but I think my knowledge of the period is fairly solid. I hope it is. At least nobody’s pointed out any clangers yet.

With Tribute I worked off a late Roman Empire vibe for Segasa, the warlord’s city. And Kynon was very much from the fantasy stock-standard feudal system. I wanted to mix it up a bit and have a clash of cultures. Also, it was fun to invent a society that was all high and mighty about political freedoms and philosophy on one hand, and horribly cruel on the other hand. Which I guess brings us back to the Roman influence again.

I think the main lesson from history is that it’s cruel. You don’t have to look very far back at all to see how inhumane most of humanity has been. The Romans had a saying: homo homini lupus. Man is a wolf to man. I don’t think much has changed.

Lisa's resident possum!

Lisa’s resident possum!

Q. You live in Australia! I love Australia with a passion and hope to go back next year, but I’m still going to ask the stock question first: what’s the weather like today, and do you have any giant spiders that eat people?

Oh my god. This heat is killing me! My house is like an oven at the moment, and the air conditioning is not even helping. My house used to be cooler than this, but two years ago Cyclone Yasi knocked down a bunch of trees — it’s okay, they landed on my neighbour’s roof, not mine — and now that side of the house cops the full sun in the afternoon. It is currently 1.30 pm, and 32 desires Celsius — that’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit according to my iPhone. Which would be okay if it got cooler at night. But tonight the temperate will drop to all of 26 degrees. That’s 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually the wet season has started by now, but so far we’ve had no rain at all to cool us down. On the plus side, that means no mosquitos.

I am not aware of any giant spiders that eat people. However, when I go to the beach I do swim in a net because of the danger of marine stingers. Those’ll kill you. And there are crocodiles. Those’ll kill you as well. And one of the most deadly snakes in the world — the taipan — is from this corner of the world. And, you guessed it, those’ll kill you. On a slightly less deadly note, when I first moved to North Queensland as a teenager, we had this lovely tree in our front yard that was just begging to be climbed…

Have you ever heard of green ants? They are also known as weaver ants, and they swarm you in seconds and start biting. With acid. They bite you with acid. So there I was on the footpath, screaming and frantically taking my clothes off when the postman arrived… Welcome to the tropics.

Q. According to your Loose Id bio you live in a house with too many pets. I’m going to pout and sulk now, because I live in cramped, wet England in a tiny flat that cost the earth, with room for only mould and moths as pets (my beloved moggy lives at my parents.) Make me even more jealous by tell us all about your animal friends, please!

I have an old yellow lab called Cleo, and three cats: Simba, Sam and Grub, all rescue animals. The plan for next year is to get chickens, not so much for the eggs, but just because chickens seem like fun!

My house is also infested with geckoes that live behind picture frames and come out at night to eat mosquitos, and possums who keep breaking in through the shutters to steal things, You’d think with a dog and three cats in the house that they’d be cautious, but apparently not. I’ve taken to keeping my bread and bananas in the microwave. I got home from night work the other night to find one perched above my bedroom door. People always tell you not to pick wild animals up. I think the fact that they hardly struggle anymore just goes to show that whether I like it or not they’re almost domesticated.

Oh, and there is a green tree frog who lives in the toilet. His name is Fidel Bonaventure Jumping-Castle . The second. We’ve reached an understanding now: I don’t scream when I see him, and he doesn’t try to get away when I relocate him to the windowsill every day.

Q. I was recently chatting with another LI author, and we agreed LH_Island_coverinthat in some ways writing has got harder since we got published. In other words, I wrote Bound for the Forest for myself, and it was great fun. Ever since then, I’ve been fretting about what the world thinks and wants. Is this experience familiar to you – and either way, any tips on keeping calm and carrying on?

Wait, we were supposed to keep calm? I’ve been freaking out this whole time.

This is absolutely true though. Your first book is your “I wonder if I can write a book” book. But then you get this thing called an audience, and that’s when the stage fright kicks in. Although I panicked most after The Island, which was my second book. So many people loved it so much for the twist, that I spent a long time worrying that I wouldn’t be able to live up to that again.

I think the solution is to keep doing what got us here in the first place — write what you would want to read. That’s all you can do, I think. Unless someone’s told you something different. Have they? Because I want to know the secret as well

Q. What can we forward to from the pen of Lisa Henry in 2013?

At the moment I’m co-writing a book with the awesome J.A. Rock. It’s been fun co-writing with someone. We got that first draft written in four weeks — we absolutely powered our way through it — and then it took another six to think up a title. And I wish I could tell you I was kidding about that. But we’re editing away now, and hopefully something will come of it.

I’m also working on an untitled (of course, because we know I suck at titles) contemporary set in Australia — yay! — about a Samoan-Australian police officer who is in love with the very damaged guy he rescued from a bad situation when the guy was still a teenager. Now, after years have passed and just when they might be at a place where they can act on their feelings, the past is going to come back and bite them in a big way. Except, being a total pantser, I haven’t figured any actual plot points yet…

There might also be another historical on the horizon, set in Wyoming in 1870. Cowboys, and bondage! Not that the two have to go together, but isn’t it so much fun when they do?

And I mentioned space opera, right? Because I have a very persistent plot bunny bouncing around in my brain going: “They’d be like the Borgias! But in space!” And you know I can’t ignore that forever! :)

Giveaway time!

To say thanks to Kay for hosting me on her blog, I’ll be giving away a copy of my latest ebook Dark Space. All you need to do is leave a comment, and in a week I will have a monkey draw a name out of a hat. The monkey is my eight-year-old nephew. His name is Tom. Last week he ate a gecko egg because he thought it was a lolly. He gets embarrassed whenever I tell that story, so of course I repeat it wherever I can.

You can buy He Is Worthy at Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or ARe.

You can buy Dark Space at Loose Id, Amazon, or ARe.And you can find my blog here. Or catch up with me on Twitter, or Goodreads.

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Thanks so much Lisa, I LOVE reading about damaged and desperate characters so no complaints here, and as a Brit, I even got the Ashes joke–honest! I’m glad I’m not the only one with a wildlife infested flat, but your frogs and possums win hands down over my moths, harvester spiders, and the occasional woodmouse! And ours don’t have such cool names.

So excited for ALL your WIPs!

Thanks to everyone who dropped by, and don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the draw to win Dark Space. Tom might pick you! :)

4 responses

  1. Borgias in spaaaaaaace? Oh wow!

    Lovely interview ladies. He Is Worthy is already on my ‘to read’ list but I’ll add some of these others too. They sounds scrummy.

  2. I’m so reassured by your genre hopping :) I do the same thing, and I’ve been worried I’m shooting myself in the foot with it. I just can’t help it – I want to write everything!

    • You have to write what you love, and as far as I’m concerned, the more variety the better. If I love a writer, I’ll definitely follow them between genres :)