I have yet another Words with an Author post for you guys! Today we're going to talk to Lyndsay Faye, author of the recently released The Fatal Flame. I had the pleasure of meeting her at BEA and she is a fantastic person. Let's get into the interview!
1. How did you get into writing? When did you first start writing?
I always loved the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, so I started writing fanfic cases when I was really little-- like twelve, maybe. I just didn’t want the adventures to end, so I made up my own. Michael Chabon, Pulizter Prize winning author, says all novels are sequels, and what he means by that is that no one would pick up a pen or a laptop if they hadn’t been inspired by something else first. It was Sherlock Holmes for me.
2. Where did you come up with the ideas for your books? Who/ what is your inspiration?
My books are largely based on real historical events mixed with a healthy dose of fiction. Jack the Ripper and the details of the murders he committed in Dust and Shadow were entirely real; the Irish Potato Famine and the birth of the NYPD were real, and actually happened the same summer, in 1845, which is the plot of The Gods of Gotham. So while many of my characters are imaginary, the grander scope of events is historically accurate.
Apart from history, what inspires me most is passionate storytelling--what makes these people tick? Who would they kill for? Who would they die for? That sort of thing. I write about people who are confronted with terrible choices.
3. Are any of your characters based on people you actually know, if so which ones?
That’s a tricky question to ask an author, because the answer is 1) all of them are, and 2) none of them are. Take Timothy Wilde, for instance. He’s a completely made up person. But I borrowed my friend Ian’s face for the character, he’s a bartender and an artist because my husband is a bartender and an artist, and strangers confess things to him without prompting because the same thing happens to me personally. So he’s a combination of completely made up, several loved ones, and autobiography. Nearly all of my characters are like that.
4. If you had to pick only five books from your bookshelf you could keep, what would they be?
Oh my lord. Hmm. That’s impossible, but here are some top picks: the Sherlock Holmes canon, The Lord of the Rings, Lolita, the complete poems of T. S. Eliot, and the complete works of William Shakespeare.
5. How long did the writing process take for each of your books?
They take about ten months a piece. I do six months of research at the Bryant Park branch of the NYPL, mostly reading historical diaries and newspapers, and when I get bored with the research and start itching to write, I know I’m ready. Then I write like the dickens and try to make everything sensible and evocative at the same time.
6. Who are some of your favorite authors?
Tana French is a big favorite of mine--she writes gorgeous, lyrical mysteries. Gillian Flynn ditto, and Gillian I can vouch for as being an utterly fabulous person, because we were nominated for the Edgars the same year and got on swimmingly. Love me some Richard Siken poetry, some Neil Gaiman, some classic Raymond Chandler. I’m an omnivore.
7. What actors/ actresses could you see playing the characters of your book?
That’s very difficult for me, because they live so fully in my head. I could really see Natalie Dormer as Mercy Underhill, though. She would kill it. And John Goodman as Chief George Washington Matsell. And if Steve Buschemi ever played Jakob Piest, my life would be complete.
8. How did you come up with the title and cover of each of your books? Did they morph as you wrote the book, or were they constant?
Well, I have nothing to do with the cover--that’s the cover designer’s job. But the titles do change from time to time because publishers want to go in another direction. For instance, Dust and Shadow used to be called Knife Point. The Fatal Flame was once The War of the Needle. You need to find something that works for the marketing team, a title everyone can really get behind.
9. Are you planning to write any other books?
I already have! Just wait for 2016.
10. What would your advice be to someone who's aspiring to be a writer?
Sit down and write. It’s all about practice. And I don’t care what kind of practice, either--write what you truly enjoy or admire, what makes you feel something. Write fanfiction, or poetry, or personal memoir, or swashbuckling stories with loads of dragons. Write what you love, and sit down long enough to finish it.
11. Finally, just to wrap things up, what's your favorite color and why?
Oh! Royal blue, like really vivid cobalt electric rich blue. I have no idea why, though. I’ve always loved that color.
Connect with Lyndsay Faye here