Random questions and answers with the monkey at the keyboard.
Q: So, who is L.C. Blackwell?
A: A not-yet-published author from the Midwest, who otherwise spends her time taking nature photographs and arguing with the rabbits over whose flower bed it really is. She does not actually have simian characteristics, but will admit to liking bananas.
Q: What do monkeys have to do with historical fiction?
A: About as much as they have to do with typewriters and Shakespeare, which is to say the last time a monkey was seated in front of a keyboard–yes, the University of Plymouth tried this–he hit it with a rock and then used it for a toilet.
Q: How did you become a writer?
A: Hitting keyboards with rocks. Seriously, I’ve always been a writer: I can’t remember the first story or play I intentionally wrote, but I think I was probably about twelve. The germ was there from the beginning. I wrote some cringeworthy stuff through my teens–kids do–and then drafted my first novel in my early twenties–a while ago.
Q: Isn’t there a children’s book author….?
A: Who writes as L.C. Blackwell. There is. However, since I’ve used the name for many years as a writer, and it’s the name by which I’m best known, I’m continuing to use it. Luckily we don’t write in the same genre, and I wish her the best of sales! Also, she’s Lori, and I’m Lucy.
Q: What have you written so far?
A: We’re not talking trunk novels, right? *grin* Because there are a lot of those. The manuscript I’m shopping right now—looking to land with an agent—is the story of a KGB officer who, in a moment of conscious blackout, a fugue, makes a near-suicide dash in front of an FBI agent’s car to save an injured bird, and is driven back to a past he can’t remember to find the reason why. For the book I’m writing now, I wanted to do something completely different after all that intense research on the Cold War and the Soviet Union. And mid-eighteenth century England, with smugglers and Scottish refugees and a learning-disabled hero is wonderfully different!
Q: Why write about history and other cultures?
A: There’s an exotic effect that goes with distance. A situation is almost automatically more interesting when a setting changes to the unfamiliar. For instance, the history of smuggling sounds risky and exciting to many people now, but in the south of England during the mid-eighteenth century, it was a common activity. It wasn’t that much more exciting to hear ponies go shuffling by your cottage at midnight than it is to hear the clatter of a garbage truck outside your window. Mostly, you’d pull the covers over your head, figure it was no business of yours, and go back to sleep.
Q: What’s your biggest surprise from research?
A: There have been some doozies. Being legally able to sue somebody in court and get an order for them to marry you (England, 18th century); people going through a fake marriage ceremony with an imposter and then sueing to obtain conjugal rights with the real person whose name had been used…. Also, there seems to have been a sort of stylized theatrical courtship employed by some Englishmen in the mid-eighteenth century that involved weeping on their knees and imploring the cruel fair for her favor—can’t you just imagine trying to fake all that up? But the best story I can remember, from research on my first novel, was the story of an East German base commander who wanted to defect to the Americans. So he called the entire base population onto the parade ground and ordered them to attention. And walked away, and drove out the back gate. And they were all still standing there….
Q: Who’s your favorite historical novel hero?
A: If favorite means the guy you’d bring home to your mother…. “Jolly” Roger McKay, from James Oliver Curwood’s A Country Beyond. I don’t care for all of Curwood’s books, but that one is a keeper.
Q: Last question: “Most people don’t know that I….”
A: Make a seriously awesome whole-grain homemade pizza crust.