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Guest Blogger: Meet LARISSA N. NIEC!

LARISSA N. NIEC is the author of the fantasy novel, SHORN, book one of The Sky Seekers.
Originally from Chicago, Larissa currently lives in Michigan, where she teaches psychology and directs a clinic for young children with emotional and behavioral problems. SHORN is Larissa’s first novel. Jacqueline Carey called it “a striking debut, filled with skilled world-building, complex psychological tension and a fine sense of nuance too seldom seen in fantasy.” CAEL’S SHADOW, book two of The Sky Seekers, will be released in spring 2011.

Would you share where we can find you on the web? And, how do you pronounce your last name?

My last name is a challenge! Here’s a good pronunciation aid: “Knee-etch”

Website: www.larissaniec.com
Blog: www.larissaniec.com/main
Facebook: Larissa Niec
Twitter: LarissaNiec

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I showed all the symptoms of a budding writer very early. I think my parents must have known it the day I got into trouble in first grade for hording the lovely stack of smooth white paper the teacher had set out for everyone to color. I needed that paper to write a story!

Of course, I didn’t figure it out for myself until much later. I began what I thought would be my first novel in high school. If I’d had more confidence, I might actually have finished it. I knew then that writing was something I enjoyed, but I didn’t come to understand how important it was to me until after graduate school

Tell us about Shorn and the Sky Seekers series.

Shorn begins the story of a young soldier, Jhared Denaban, trying to survive in a society that believes he is evil. Although he swears to pay the bloody debt earned by his ancestors, the legacy of their betrayals still shadows him. When deadly magic sweeps across the country, heightening political unrest, Jhared must spy out conspirators among his comrades. Soon, he’s battling not only an unholy power but people who believe his death is the only way the debt can be paid. As his fate grows more uncertain, he discovers that truth is malleable, deceitfulness comes easy, and corruption is something that runs in the blood.

Shorn is the first of The Sky Seekers. I’m working hard to put the finishing touches on Cael’s Shadow, which will be released next spring.

What does a writing day look like for you? Music? Isolation booth? Noisy cafe?

The best writing day starts at dawn with tea in hand. I like to fool myself that I can work with music playing, if it’s something familiar enough I can tune it out, but for the most productive days, I need quiet, a cat in the room, lots of natural light, and a good view.

E.L. Doctorow once wrote that writing a novel is like driving at night; you can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole journey that way. This defines my writing process quite nicely. Do you have a quote or philosophy that describes your process?

For me, the process is similar to unearthing a tremendous fossil: when I see the first gleam of bone, I don’t know what the entire creature will look like, but I’m compelled to keep digging through the dirt until I find out.

If you could hug one writer, who would it be, and why?

Salman Rushdie! Not only is he a brilliant writer with the ability to draw simultaneously upon ancient mythologies and modern cultures to tell profoundly meaningful stories, he’s also a courageous, genuine human. Not many other people could possibly understand the power of narrative to change lives as deeply as he does.

As a psychologist, you work with troubled families and children. Does this influence your work?

It does very much, but maybe not in the way most people would expect. My characters are never drawn from the families that come to me. Instead, the types of mental health problems I treat shape some of the questions I explore in my fiction: How does society impact our parenting? What happens when child abuse is socially accepted? How do children survive when they’re raised to believe they’re bad people?

At CoyoteCon, this month's online convention, you are leading a discussion on how to depict mental illness correctly. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Mental illness is generally poorly understood. Many stereotypes about people who experience mental illness show up repeatedly in literature and film. For example, how often is mental illness the primary explanation for an antagonist’s cruelty? Using mental illness as shorthand to communicate that a character is evil not only results in a dull, uni-dimensional character, it perpetuates a harmful and inaccurate perception.

Another common writing error is neglecting the impact of time and culture on characters’ psyches. How mental illness is explained and treated, and even the symptoms people display, change drastically across place and period.

On Saturday, May 15 at Coyote Con, I’ll be discussing these and other important elements for writers to consider when developing their characters. I’m really looking forward to talking with people about it. I hope you’ll come with questions!

People always ask writers where we get our ideas. Stephen King once replied that he found his in a box in an alley behind a local pawn shop. I give credit to what I call the Great Cosmic Compost Heap—the subconscious. What about you?

My ideas usually follow me home like strays. They trot up behind me and nip at my ankles. The best ones are persistent; they’ve been known to trip me if I’m not paying enough attention to them.

What do you do to unwind? I see on your website that you are a fellow knitter.

Oddly enough, writing is my down time! Digging into my fiction is how I let go of the stress of my academic duties. I adore knitting, but I typically only have the chance to knit in meetings and when I’m traveling. This unfortunate situation has resulted in many baskets of lovely yarn decorating most of the rooms of my house.

Thank you! I look forward to reading your work!


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 12th, 2010 02:05 am (UTC)
Great interview. That sounds like really interesting work, I'll look for it.
Oct. 20th, 2011 04:12 pm (UTC)
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Nov. 1st, 2011 03:40 pm (UTC)
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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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