Interview with L.T. Getty

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Leia Getty, author of the upcoming historical/fantasy novel Tower of Obsidian.  The interview is as follows:
 
What is Tower of Obsidian basically about, and can you describe a few of its characters for us?
I pitched Tower of Obsidian as the story of a young man being sent to a tower to kill a witch. It is set in the end of the Viking Era mostly in Ireland and the Nordic colonies of Greenland, and it’s my first attempt at historical fantasy. Here’ the main Irish cast:
Kale is a young man-at-arms who is betrothed to Aoife early in the novel, though he calls off the engagement when his father insists he marries another woman to help them secure their duchy. It’s his capture that sets the plot into motion. His captors are attacked by warriors bound to the aforementioned tower – and so Kale and the other survivors are sent to kill an ancient witch who lives inside it. Before he can piece together what is at stake Kale hears the tale of the witch again and again, until he becomes bound to the tower and part of the curse.
Aoife is the first person who sets out to find Kale after he is captured, and she’s the one who discovers that Kale’s captors have themselves been taken captive and learns that the ships of the draugr take them past the Nordic colonies of Greenland.  
Aaron is a man-at-arms who always loved Aoife, and hopes that by his dutifully rescuing Kale, Aoife figures out he’s the better man. Although Kale and Aaron are best friends before Aoife came along, Aaron came from lower birth stations then either Kale or Aoife, becoming a man-at-arms because of his uncle’s bravery in service and lack of male heir.  
They make up our first love-triangle. And then it starts getting complicated.
 
Is it character driven, plot driven or both?
This is when I scrunch my face and say, “It’s kind of both”. I’m usually way more plot-focused when I write – I like to read character driven stories, but I find when I write character-driven stories, the danger becomes “What if someone doesn’t like this character?” mostly because I find characters that are obviously flawed (jerks, really) more fun to write about then ones that are noble and just. That’s probably why I like making my villains complicated…
 
Who is it written (audience) for and was there a specific reason for writing it?
I think when I write, I write stories I would have wanted to read. There are a few exceptions – a few years ago, I wrote a YA novel for my niece, but she was just born so in a way I wrote it as a YA story I would have wanted to read as a teenager. She’s five now, so she’s a years away from being able to read the story.  
 
What I like about some fantasies is readers can be made do feel a kinship with mythological or made-up characters.  Is there any of that in Tower of Obsidian?
  I initially wrote two paragraphs discussing escapism and how we bring our cultural legacy with us to stories. Here’s a good quote that essentially summed up what I said:
Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be slain. 
~G.K. Chesterton.    
 
How did you come up with the title?
I came up with it fairly quickly – well, it took about three months, but often times I just call whatever I’m working on, “Unnamed Fantasy Novel #3” or whatever – (I had a novel fully written, edited, and left alone for about six months before I came up with a proper name). My second-choice for a title was, “Hath No Fury” which only makes sense once Kale and Aoife reunite.
Anyway, I use the theme of ascending and descending throughout the novel, and once I figured out how the tower was made, it stuck. 
 
When is it due to be published?
We had a few hiccups, but it looks like the release date will be February 4.
 
What other writing projects do you have in the works?
I have a short story coming out with Champagne called The Twelve Dancing Priestesses which was my take on music as magic. It’s due out in this coming May.
Other than that – I’ve been planning to self-publish a science-fantasy series of mine that I’ve been working on for what seems like ever – I made the decision to self-publish years ago, but I also decided to wait until I felt my writing was strong enough – I’m almost there, now I’m working on my digital art skills. I have two unrelated YA novels and a character-driven cyberpunk novel that I’m putting the finishing touches on. We’ll see what happens or if I’m a one-trick pony.
 
Tell us about a novel by another author you enjoyed reading.  How about two?
Wildseed by Octavia E. Butler. It’s the story of two immortals – Doro, a skin-changing spirit who cannot die, but must take over a new body periodically, and Ayanwu – a shape-changing centuries-old-woman, presumed immortal, who becomes his wife out of fear, because Doro is looking for those like him – he is breeding individuals with strange talents and potential for talents, in hopes that he can create a super-race of immortals. Ayanwu goes with him to protect her children and it is the story of their power-struggle – how he demands that she submit and do as he will, whereas Ayanwu is all about survival and protecting her children, both present and future. Ayanwu hopes Doro is correct in his method so she stops outliving the ones she loves, but in the end, all things die away, except for them – Doro is horrifying and evil in his actions, and Ayanwu knows she cannot kill him, because he’ll be forced to take over another body – potentially hers – if his current body dies. Doro rages against Ayanwu’s defiance and wants to kill her many times, but her ability is so precious to him, she’s the only one like him, that he stays his hand. It’s also heavily allegorical about the nature of slavery, and for me, I liked the theme of exploring dominance of will.
Right now, I’m also currently reading The Warrior’s Soul, the second book in The Year of the Dragon series by James Calbraith. This is an alternative history set in 18th century Japan, about a young man who had his soul-infused with an ancient warrior – I don’t want to give away too much, but the world-building blew me away in the first book of the series. If you like steampunk and dragons, give it a try.
 
Do you have a favorite genre?
I’m really split between science-fiction and fantasy. If we have to go into subgenres and get really specific, I’d say adventure-style sword-and-sorcery is my absolute favorite.
 
I'm told Tower of Obsidian is a historical fantasy.  Can you explain?
I based it on the end of the Viking era because of the nature of perspective on mythology. The main mythological sources in the novel are Celtic and Nordic, the stories of which we know were altered greatly by the time scholars got around to recording them because of Christian influences. Norse gods like Loki became a devil-like character and the gods of the Celtic pantheon became ancient kings. To me, this time period fit perfectly with the story – it was about old powers dying away to be replaced by the era we think we know.
 
Do you like history and, if so, any era in particular?
I wouldn’t say I have a particular favorite time. As a whole, I’d rather learn about contemporary cultures.
 
Is your writing schedule catch-as-catch-can or do you have a set time for everything?
When I was starting to write in junior high I had to watch my sisters after school, so I fit everything in until I started to make dinner. It gave me a good schedule. However, when I got to high school and got afterschool jobs, it became a ‘when you have time’ thing. Right now, I’m a paramedic so there is no ‘writing time’ – when I’m on call or we have downtime, that’s great, but my career comes first. I write when I can and, for the most part, this works out great for me. 
 
What is your favorite movie of 2012 or thus far in 2013?
Wreck-it-Ralph – I was born in the 80’s, this was wave after wave of pure nostalgia aimed at me. Loved it! I hardly play video games anymore, but I did when I was younger.
 
What, in your estimation, makes a novel stand out among its peers?
I think there’s numerous ways to go about telling a satisfying story. I think at the base route, though, it’s about both respect and challenging your readers. 
I can dress something up with pretty writing, but I think the reader, even if they’re going in for some fluffy escapism and don’t want to have a serious discussion on it, they need to have something that resonates with them on a personal level. Good writing, plot, characters who aren’t too dumb to live – those are all good components, but my reader is taking time to read something I came up with – the least I can do is learn my craft and tell to the best of my ability, and while I can’t make everyone happy, I can try to write something I would have liked to have read myself. I can’t promise I’m always going to be successful, but as an artist I want to try different story-telling techniques that will hopefully engage the reader on the second part of what I said: Challenging the reader.
Maybe this is just my bias towards how the science-fiction I like to read tends to play out – there needs to be something that makes a demand on the reader – whether this is a critique of society or a theme, or raising the stakes, if I want to write something good I can’t take them where they’ve been before - while it’s nice to see ‘Happily Ever After’  we don’t have to serve up the ending that both the readers and characters thought they wanted at the beginning of the novel. This means I have to come up with endings that are both satisfying and unexpected, which is easier said then done. 
 
Which is more important, good writing or good characterization?  Not a fair question, I know.
If I have to pick one or the other, good writing. I don’t think it’s enough to have something just written well though – I think you need to figure out what your story is, then figure out the best (or at least, a good) way of telling it. I sometimes like to use open characterization as a device and one of my favorite devices are unreliable narrators. In the novel format, you can let the reader use their imaginations to fill in the blanks about a character; in a movie, there’s a lot more concrete, you can’t get away with doing the same things.
 
Which of your characters in Tower of Obsidian did you like best and why?
If I had to just pick one, it would be Niyati – minor spoiler, but she is the second warrior Kale meets in the Tower and she straddles the line between being his ally and enemy – honestly, she’s one of the few true neutral characters I’ve ever pulled off. I use her to reiterate the idea of you can’t infer an individual’s story by what other people say about them, but she doesn’t volunteer anything, either.

"Tower of Obsidian" by L.T. Getty