Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wellspring by Charlotte Lenox: Interview and Excerpt



What are your hero and heroine of the story like?


Paula and Sean, the heroine and hero of Wellspring, are children who live in a miserable, difficult, and very adult world. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Paula is smarter than her thirteen years would indicate, and Sean is braver than his ten years would indicate. However, much more in keeping with her age, Paula is rebellious and disdainful of adults and believes she’s always right. That, of course, is how she gets into trouble in the first place, and sets of the chain of calamitous events in the village of Leibin. But her fiery demeanor is also what drives her to set things right again, and Sean, her little brother, is there with her to end.


Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?


Yes! I almost feel like I can’t write without it. Just about anything with appropriate mood and/or lyrics will work for me, but I began collecting movie soundtracks and scores first, and those dominate my listening time (I now have 350+). Movie scores are, in my opinion, the perfect accompaniments to books, whether while reading or writing. But I find particular inspiration from them—after all, scores were composed to accompany movie images and evoke emotional overtones and atmosphere, so it makes sense that they can accompany a blossoming story in the writer’s head, and even help pace the action.


I don’t have any one composer I enjoy above all others, but I have found much inspiration from the works of Hans Zimmer (Gladiator), Thomas Newman (The Horse Whisperer), Mark Isham (Crash), Graeme Revell (Red Planet), and many others. Fun fact: Right now, I am listening to Goldeneye, composed by Eric Serra.


What is something people would be surprised to know about you?


West Coasties (such as myself) are much less likely to be surprised by this, but I’ve surprised many East Coasties by telling them I have killed before. Many times, actually. It’s probably not what you’re thinking—I grew up in Alaska as a sport-fisherman, and we naturally killed and ate what we caught (delicious!). I had the honors of doing the cleaning, and have been covered in quite a bit of fish slime and blood during my time (it’s a messy job). These things were part of many Alaskan children’s experiences growing up. To us, it was natural, and fish were cleaned in full view of the neighborhood in our front yard. Most people, when they see me (a small female who wears glasses) can’t picture me in such a “graphic” scenario. As if my hiking books and Carhart’s jeans and complete disregard for makeup don’t already give it away!


If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?


I actually have a series of three novels that I have been struggling with for the past decade. Their working titles are Red Sky at Morning, Day of Raining Pearls, and Evening of the Summer Solstice. All three are fantasy/sci-fi, although Book 1 leans more toward sci-fi, Book 2 toward fantasy, and Book 3 an even combination of both. Together, they comprise the Many Lives Trilogy.


“Many Lives” is a reference to an integral character of the novels, a pearlescent dragon named Rashatan, both demi-god and guardian of mankind. Throughout the trilogy, she lives many different lives with many different faces, under many different names--both willingly, and unwillingly.


Have any of your characters been modeled after yourself?


No, at least not intentionally. Most of my characters do end up sharing some common traits or experiences with me, but that comes more from “writing what I know or think I know,” than honestly trying to put myself into any work of fiction. To me, every character is his or her own person. After all, even if I used someone as a model for a character at the beginning, said character tends to develop out of that model on his or her own, sometimes with a rather nasty attitude or hidden past.


I view putting yourself into any fictional work as a dangerous endeavor. Not only do you risk readers supposing certain things about your life, and focusing on you the author instead of the character on the page, but you also risk creating a Mary Sue. And everyone hates Mary Sue, the most unpopular kid in writing school.


What book are you reading now?


Many! In fiction, I am reading First Snow on Fuji by Yasunari Kawabata, a collection of stories from the Japanese writer of literature; in non-fiction, I am reading 179 Ways to Save a Novel by Peter Selgin; The Art of Being a Lion by Christine and Michel Denis-Huot, a photographic journey into the life of a lion; The Behavior and Ecology of Pacific Salmon and Trout by Thomas Quinn, a scientific text covering the life history of the Pacific salmonids; Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence by Judith Herman; and many others.


My reading list is highly varied. Some of it is merely for fun or self-education, but as a writer, ALL material, no matter the subject, can potentially be used in writing. For example, I have Trauma and Recovery not for myself, but as research for a character who has had a very difficult time with life. It is meant to help me understand why he does the things he does. The biological sciences texts could, if I so chose, inform any stories I write that incorporate science. I’m NEVER without reading material!


Tell us about your favorite restaurant.


Hangar on the Wharf in Juneau, Alaska, hands-down. I was born and raised in Juneau, and my parents were first commercial fishermen, then sport fishermen. My happiest memories were out on the ocean at the start of the mild summer, bobbing on the glassy water waiting for a king salmon or halibut to take the line. Alaska is filthy rich with seafood, and I very quickly learned to love fish. Hangar on the Wharf enters this scene (as well as a scene in one of my novels) because its chefs make the most heavenly deep-fried, panko-encrusted halibut fish and chips I’ve ever eaten. The restaurant itself sits on a float plane wharf (which is, I’m sad to say, slowly sinking into the Gastineau Channel), and has a broad view of the channel, mountains, and landing float planes.


The Hangar did make me angry, once, when it changed from a “restaurant-bar” to a “bar-restaurant.” A seemingly small change, but the Hangar would no longer seat me by myself, when I was still 16 (even though I certainly didn’t drink at that age). However, long after I could legally drink, I couldn’t resist going back. The halibut called out to me, and it was every bit as delicious. It’s safe to say I’ve finally forgiven them.


Charlotte Lenox was born and raised in Southeast Alaska. She received her BA in English and MS in Library and Information Science from Drexel University. Her short stories have appeared (or will appear) in Danse Macabre, 365tomorrows, The Broken Plate, Gone Lawn, Roar and Thunder, Trapeze Magazine, and Subtle Fiction, among others. Her novelette, Wellspring, was published as an e-book by Books to Go Now in 2013. Currently, she is working on her first novel and blogs at

Inside a perpetual fog is the village of Leibin, where nightmares forgotten by morning plague the villagers. None of them knows how they came to this place, and none of them has successfully escaped. At least, not until the arrival of the Gryphon, whose death at the bottom of their well brings the bedraggled villagers hope: memories of a world beyond, and thus a path through the fog out of Leibin. Their hope, however, is short-lived. The source of this blessing, the Wellspring, has run dry. Paula, a girl of thirteen knots, has angered the Gryphon’s spirit, and must now find an answer—before the fog closes in.

“What if its bones are still down there?” Sean asked his sister from where he stood by the Well. He stared at the water far below and watched as rain rippled its shining surface. The ever-present fog condensed on the Well’s stone rim and the dampness coated his fingers.
“Doubt it,” Paula said. “No one has ever seen anything down there.”
“But Nil said its ghost follows and eats kids who drink from here. He said that’s why grown-ups won’t let us, and they dug that whole other well. Isn’t that scary enough?” Nope. Paula’s face set itself into a determined frown, though she caught herself scanning the fog for movement. She sniffed. As if there would be any ghosts out there, in the Well, or anywhere at all.
Fog. The ephemeral body of the Great White and the rotten forest it covered isolated the village of Leibin, cutting off the inhabitants from anything that lay beyond. Anyone who had tried to escape the village—without the Well’s blessing, anyway—returned as half-sunk bones revealed by the fog. No one had ever entered Leibin, either. Except for the Gryphon, of course, whose ghost Sean had mentioned to scare Paula out of her resolve.
Behind them, no one else stirred so early in the morning; not even from the nightmares they couldn’t remember. The villagers had made their hovels, now dark with rain, from packed dirt that often needed repairs; they would wake up soon to make them. The roofs were haphazardly piled with bundles of reeds and alder branches, and whatever else they could scavenge without falling prey to the fog.
The villagers’ numbers had slowly dwindled over the monotonous seasons. They barely managed to eke out a living from their scrawny livestock and resources, and they fertilized their few crops with the powdered bones of the dead. Underbrush often provided berries, one of their dietary staples. Their juices stained Paula’s hands a lovely purple that she wore like a badge of honor—at least until the rain washed it off. Cleaning anything of the omnipresent mud, though, was impossible. She hated digging up their other staple: roots and tubers. The dirt always caked under her fingernails, as it did yesterday. As it would tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, into infinity. The grown-ups never wanted to stoop over and dig, so they picked the berries while the kids dug until their fingers were raw. Paula was tired of it and thought that today was as good a day as any for something else.
“Haven’t I told you not to believe anything Nil says?” Paula said. Sean looked away and flushed. With his toe, he pushed some mud into a pile and mashed it down again. “I don’t believe any of it, not for a second. The grown-ups aren’t telling us something, that’s all. As if they want the Well’s blessing for themselves, or don’t think we can understand it. Aren’t you sick of being told ‘when you’re older’? Don’t you want to know what they’re hiding? It’s about time someone did.”
“But you can’t! We’ll get in trouble,” Sean said. “What if it’s really true? That a ghost will come and eat us?”
“Why would it do that, Sean? And how could it, if it’s a ghost and it even exists? I told you, he’s lying through his teeth. Come on, you’re smart enough to know that. Besides, if we don’t do it, who will? Do you want to be stuck here till you’re a grown-up? I sure don’t. I’m sick of Leibin. I hate it. I want to see the birds and blue skies and real sunlight, like in all of the stories we’ve heard. I want to see them for real. But only the blessing lets us see any of that.”

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