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After growing up in Missouri and Ohio and spending many years in North Texas, I've developed a passion for mountains and oceans, particularly the ones in Scotland, which is heaven's front porch and which I visit as often as possible. In my youth I was lucky enough to travel to other parts of Europe, the Middle East, India, and Japan.

While I've worked a few "real" jobs, as an engineering aide, a librarian, a newspaper columnist, and a college history teacher, all along I was writing stories and critiques first for my desk drawer and then for fan magazines. My first professional fiction was published in the Amazons II anthology in 1982.

My husband is a retired geophysicist. Our two adult sons are in advertising and computers respectively. We have a cat, a thirteen-pound tabby, and an assortment of houseplants I view as rentals -- how long can I keep them before they die? Our home is a tract house cleverly disguised as a book-lined cloister.

My hobbies (or what I do when I'm trying to avoid working) include needlepoint and knitting, bread-baking, music (particularly Celtic folk/rock), gardening, public television, walking and yoga, and crossword puzzles.

Unlike more methodical writers, I never sat up one day and said, "I'm going to start writing now". I've always written, just as I've always read. Just as I've always breathed, for that matter. And I've been aided and abetted since the age of twelve by my best friend, science fiction writer Lois McMaster Bujold.

If I could be anything other than a writer (as if!) I'd probably be a librarian.

Over the years I've been inventing my own genre, mystery/romance with supernatural/ historical/ mythological underpinnings. And I've become a firm believer in the odd synchronies of the writing life. Soon after finishing Ashes to Ashes, for example, which is about a woman from Missouri named Rebecca working in a replica of a Scottish castle, I visited the real castle and discovered the tour guide was a woman from Oklahoma named Rebecca.

I am a member or former member of SFWA, MWA, Sisters in Crime, Novelists, Inc., and The Author's Guild.

Interview with LILLIAN STEWART CARL
by Leena Hyat

 
LUCIFER'S CROWN

FIVE STAR
October 2003
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TIME ENOUGH TO DIE

Wildside
October 2002
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Writerspace.com:    Please tell us about your new release, LUCIFER'S CROWN.
 

Lillian Stewart Carl:  Lucifer's Crown begins when a young woman finds a dead body in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in England, on the morning of All Saint's Day. Another body turns up later on in the book, so it's a mystery novel, right? But wait -- both Rose and her older, more cynical teacher, Maggie, each find romance--in very different sorts of ways--so it's a romance novel, too. Also, two characters in Lucifer's Crown are immortal, and Maggie, Rose, and the others encounter paranormal events and places. 

Lucifer's Crown plays out in England and Scotland over the two months between Halloween and New Year's Eve of the year 2000.  The characters must race to achieve a task before the turning of the millennium. Of course it's not easy for them--if it were, I'd have no story. They must make difficult choices, and are often tempted away from their path by their opponents, who are clever and devious enough to play to their weaknesses.  The story is set at real places: Glastonbury, Canterbury, Salisbury in England, the Eildon Hills, Fortingall, Edinburgh in Scotland.  The legends and history the characters encounter are for real. All I do is show how intricately the stories are interwoven.

Writerspace.com:   I have to honestly admit I've never read any other books you've previously written but LUCIFER'S CROWN has me ready to devour your backlist.  What an absolutely fascinating novel!  Please share with us your inspiration behind this story.  How and why did the idea appeal to you so much?
 

Lillian Stewart Carl:  This is the "big" book I always wanted to write. I started it in 1995, and took it through many different versions before publication. I've always been intrigued by the way the past lingers on into the present, how history and fantasy (legend and myth) affect our views of reality. Obviously I mean "fantasy" as a positive force, not in the disparaging meaning of "lies", as though fantasy exists only for immoral purposes! 

All my books explore this tension between past and present, fantasy and reality. It's in Lucifer's Crown I bring out the heavy artillery, the Arthurian legends and the stories of the Holy Grail. The origins of, and the truth behind, these legends have fascinated me since childhood, probably because they're such universal tales of heroism and redemption. 
     

Writerspace.com:    I understand you've worked in a variety of different fields including Librarian, engineering aide and college history teacher.  And while you worked these jobs, you also managed to find time to write your stories.  LUCIFER'S CROWN is your eleventh novel.  Could you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a published author?
 

Lillian Stewart Carl:   I haven't held an actual paying job outside the home for many years. Most of my books were written while I was working as a "domestic engineer" and a mother. Being self-employed gave me the chance to do volunteer work at my kids' schools, such as putting out school newsletters and chaperoning field trips. Many field trips....

I've always written, just as I've always breathed. I didn't start trying to sell my work until well into adulthood, though, and got off to a good start in the f/sf field with several short story sales. It took a while to sell a novel. Sabazel, which came out in (unbelievably, now) 1985, was actually the third novel I wrote. The first two were science fiction. I recently pulled out the second one and beat it into good enough shape for publication (probably in 2005), but the first one will remain forever locked away in my closet -- I don't want anyone to blackmail me with it!

Sabazel started a four-book mutli-generational saga which is set in a fantasy Middle Eastand India and was inspired by stories of Alexander the Great having an Amazon lover. I then went on to write contemporary novels set in today's world, albeit a world where ghosts are real, magic works, and history is far from dead and buried.

Writerspace.com:    I was impressed with the way LUCIFER'S CROWN combines the elements of mystery, fantasy, history and mythology.  It's very unique -- to me at least.  I understand your previous books also weave together different genres and feature various paranormal themes.  Did you deliberately set out to write your stories this way or did it just happen?
 

Lillian Stewart Carl:    I've never written a "straight" novel, although a dozen or so of my twenty-one (so far) short stories have no fantasy element in them. I find it even harder to write a story without some sort of romantic element. I don't do this deliberately, no--I would never choose deliberately to restrict my sales! Marketing departments and booksellers are only now, I think, catching up with those readers who like genre-blending books. And you can see why. If it's your job to get a book into the hands of the public, you have to tell them what it is, you have to find a slot in the bookstore to put it in.

My recent books are more likely to show up as mystery than anything else, although Shadows in Scarlet, for example, is paranormal romance with a mystery element.

As for why I weave together the genres, it's because I like getting the whole picture of a situation, not just a small corner of one. Mystery is a vital part of romance, isn't it? And ghost stories are fun--in fiction, at least. I've had a couple of ghostly experiences that weren't fun at all.

Writerspace:    Are you a plotter?  Do you know the whole story step by step before you sit down to the actual writing?  Or do you basically fly with the bare basics in hand?
 

Lillian Stewart Carl:   I have forced myself to become more of a plotter over the years, simply because it cuts down on the amount of re-writing. It's also easier to sell a book if you can describe what happens in it ahead of time. But I only know so much about the story before it begins -- the main characters, a broad outline of events, the setting. Many of the specific events and minor characters only come to me as I'm actually writing them down.  I'm still trying to learn to trust myself in this, to go ahead and start writing it and know that it will come together in the end.

My muse is a handsome young piper (I wrote about him in a short story titled, oddly enough, "The Muse") and he can be a bit temperamental. Drop-dead gorgeous, though.
 

Writerspace.com:    You must have done a lot of intriguing research for LUCIFER'S CROWN.  Could you tell us one of the most interesting facts you've discovered during the writing/researching of this novel?
 

Lillian Stewart Carl: The background material for Lucifer's Crown is taken from material I've been reading my entire life.  Specifically for the book, I spent hours walking around Canterbury Cathedral, notebook in hand. I bought several books about the archaeology of Glastonbury at the Abbey book shop--and then picked up some "alternative" booklets at a New Age bookstore across the street.

I couldn't begin to pick out one of the thousands of little bits and pieces of information I collected--very few of which actually make it into the book--but I can recommend one book that really got me to thinking. It's Avalonian Quest by Geoffrey Ashe, about Glastonbury and how the legends surrounding it tie in to its reality. His description of the labyrinthine design of the terraces on Glastonbury Tor was invaluable to me for the chapter where the characters actually trace that labyrinth around the Tor.
 

Writerspace.com:      Please tell us more about the characters of Robin Fitzroy and Thomas Beckett.  What drives them to be who they are?
 

Lillian Stewart Carl:  I refer to Robin, the villain, as "a polished devil". In his first, original life he was Robert the Devil, the father of William the Conqueror, who killed his brother for power and wealth. In my story, he then sold his soul to the devil for more. He's  smooth and handsome, a seducer in every sense of the word, who manipulates people to empower himself. He simply cannot see outside his own ego.

Oddly enough, in the first draft of the book, the villain was just a demon named Robin. Then I decided that if I was using one historical character as my protagonist, I should have another as my antagonist--and I literally stumbled over Robert the Devil when I was looking up something else! (Twilight Zone music here)

As for Thomas Becket, known historically as "England's greatest saint", his story fascinates me. He must have been an enormously intelligent and ambitious man. In Lucifer's Crown he isn't murdered in 1170. In a moment of cowardice he allowed another man to take his place. That man was canonized in Thomas's name, something he's kept secret until now. I refer to him as "a tarnished saint", because he's been struggling to atone for his crime and learn humility for 800 years and still wonders if he can ever overcome his own pride and accept forgiveness. I thought it was only fair to let him have an offbeat sort of romance, after all those years of living alone.

Writerspace.com:      What are you working on currently and what can fans look forward to in the near future?
 

Lillian Stewart Carl:  Among other things, I'm working on the second book of a mystery series set in Scotland. Each book will be a complete mystery, but the relationship between the main character, a burned-out American academic, and the police detective she meets in the first book, will play out over several books.

Writerspace.com:    How may readers contact you?

Lillian Stewart Carl:    I love to hear from readers at lillian@lillianstewartcarl.com. Please, though, include one of my book titles or a mention of Writerspace in the subject heading, because I get piles of spam there every day and can easily get carried away with the "delete" key. 

Writerspace.com:    Lillian, thank you so much for your time.  I've really had a great time interviewing you -- and I absolutely loved LUCIFER'S CROWN! 
 

Lillian Stewart Carl: Thank you, Leena. It's been my pleasure!
 
 


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