Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Dean Lappi Interview
9/17/2011 9:08:49 PM
Dark fantasy author Dean Lappi discusses his debut novel and the writing life!
LTS: If you’re into dark fantasy with a unique twist, then you’ll enjoy reading about today’s guest blogger! I’d like to introduce you to the oh-so talented author, Dean Lappi. I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Dean. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
DL: First I'd like to say thank you Lorna for having me as your guest blogger, it is a pleasure for me to be here. When I am not writing, I enjoy spending time with my wife Erica, kayaking on our lake, and networking via Twitter and Facebook with other authors, actors, musicians, book readers, basically with anyone who enjoys books, movies, and music.
LTS: Has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a life long dream?
DL: Yes, I always knew that I would be a novelist, although it took me a lot longer to write my first novel than I expected. I wrote my first short story when I was 11 years old, which was a 3 or 4 page fantasy about two brothers who wanted a fun adventure that instead ended in tragedy when the younger brother was brutally killed. As I wrote this little story, I realized that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
LTS: Wow! Into dark fantasy at such an early age. I’m impressed! Now, about your book: I understand your debut novel ‘Black Numbers’ is already receiving great reviews and it was only released last month! What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Sid?
DL: I grew up reading fantasy, and still do to this day. Fantasy always took me to new lands where I could experience strange and wonderful adventures. One day, a few years ago, I sat in a coffee shop with my laptop and I started thinking of what the common thread was in the fantasy genre that excites people so much, and I realized it was magic. As soon as I thought this, an idea popped into my head: 'What if you could explain magic mathematically?" I leaned forward and began typing, and after about 2500 words I stopped. Those 2500 words turned out to be my entire first chapter of Black Numbers, and it is mostly unchanged in the final published book. Sid is the main character who has been taught mathematics all his life by his cold and uncaring father. He must learn to control and understand the power of numbers growing inside of him before he is captured by a powerful and sexual creature called the Korpor that works for a secret organization that wants to harness his powers for themselves.
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open ‘Black Numbers’?
DL: I wrote Black Numbers to be both brutal and uplifting. I wanted to write a fantasy novel that was as much horror as fantasy; that would make you feel very uncomfortable at points, to cringe and shudder and feel the pain in some scenes, yet also to experience the joy of the human spirit, of friendship and love. Black Numbers is a journey tale, both physically and psychologically, of a young man who must battle the demons within himself as he battles the forces of evil that surround him.
LTS: Will those who are mathematically challenged like me still enjoy and understand your novel and I’m curious, but are you a math genius to get a handle on this advance math that is the basis of the magic in your novel?
DL: I made the conscious decision, at the very beginning, to not go into any mathematical details. I explain the mathematics without using any mathematics. I did this for two reasons. I didn't want to slow down the pace of the book with complicated mathematical formula. And two, I wanted mathematics to be the center of all magic, but I didn't want readers to have to understand math to understand the magic. So when you read about the character creating a mathematical equation as magic, you will understand exactly what he is doing on an organic level. And absolutely not, I am not a math genius. :) I have a Master of Arts degree in English and avoided math in college.
LTS: That was an excellent strategy on so many levels! Clever! As for making this book available to the masses, we both know the road to publication is difficult at the best of times. Was it difficult for you to land an agent? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with the author struggling to find representation?
DL: I actually don't have an agent. I signed with an Indi publishing house called Fantasy Island Book Publishing. It is a new publishing model where the authors are the foundation of the publishing house. We all work together to make each other successful, using our specific talents like editing, cover design, marketing, web design, SEO, etc., to make the company work. For authors struggling to find representation, I would say that you should try every route possible to get your book 'out there'. But landing an agent or publishing deal with the big six publishing companies is very difficult to do, so don't despair if you are unsuccessful at first, because independent publishing and self-publishing is gaining traction in the publishing industry and you can be very successful on your own.
LTS: Great advice, Dean! What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication?
DL: Never give up! Three simple words, but something that is incredibly difficult to do. There were times when I had received a rejection letter from an agent or publishing house that I wondered why I was even trying. It is a feeling that we all experience at times where we wonder if we are good enough to be published. The key is to have faith in your abilities, in your writing, and in your future. Never give up!
LTS: I’m curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
DL: Every writer has a different way of working. For me, I write when I need to write. I rarely try to push words against the tide. In saying that, I also try to set aside time to write. For example, since I work full-time at a day job, I usually get up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to write. Sometimes I don't write a word, other times I write 5000 words in a morning.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
DL: While both methods are completely valid, I definitely fall into the organic style. I never outline or plot out a story. I have an idea and I sit down and begin writing. The story unfolds as I write. For example, for Black Numbers, I got the initial idea, 'what if mathematics was the basis for magic,' and then I wrote the entire book in sequence from chapter 1 to the end. I was technically the first person to read the book, I just happened to read it as I wrote it. :)
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
DL: I find the rituals that authors perform to be very interesting. For me, I usually like to listen to dark and heavy music in a different language, like Finnish or Swedish metal. I do this for three reasons.
1. The heavy and fast music fits very well with my book topics, which are usually darker in nature.
2. Because the music is in a language that I don't speak, the words do not distract me from my writing. It frees my mind and puts me into my own world.
3. It is my favorite style of music, full of power and energy, which transfers to my writing.
LTS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
DL: This never bothers me because I never force myself to write anyway. I can go a month without writing. But then I will just sit down one weekend and write 10,000 words. That is just how I work. Some writers need to write 500 or 1000 words a day, which is perfectly valid too. We all have to do what works for us.
LTS: Who is your favorite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
DL: I don't have a favorite author; that is like saying I have favorite air molecules that I breathe. But in saying that, J.R.R. Tolkien is an author that shaped my love for fantasy. He created an entirely unique world, multiple languages, races of beings that became the standard by which other writers used in their own books. This affected me because I realized that creating something entirely new is very difficult, but is something you will always be able to call your own. That influenced me to always try and be unique, which is something I hope I have done with Black Numbers.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery you’ve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
DL: This is a difficult question Lorna. :) I think what has really hit me over the past month or two is how many people whom I don't know personally have loved Black Numbers. To know that my writing positively impacted strangers as well as friends/family is something that humbles me.
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
DL: I am reading "The Last Good Knight" by Connie J. Jasperson. It is a fantastic novel written by a fantastic author. I met Connie when I joined Fantasy Island Book Publishing and we quickly became good friends. She is an honest and lovely person, and I really wanted to read her book (I have a number of good friends that have published through our publisher whom I can't wait to read). So I picked it up and started reading it the other day and can't put it down.
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from dark fantasy/horror into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to ‘Black Numbers’ in the near future?
DL: My goal is to get my books more widely read by people all over the world, and my dream would be to have Black Numbers made into a movie. To see one's world come to life on film would be an amazing experience. I am currently writing "Blood Numbers", book two in the Black Numbers series, which I hope to finish in early 2012. Then it is on to book three in the series. I am also writing a novel that takes place in northern Minnesota in the Cyrogenic Dark Matter Search II lab inside the Tower/Sudan underground mine in Tower. It is the story of a scientist who secretly modifies a dark matter experiment to give her the power to phase her body, very similar to teleportation, using dark matter. The experiment accidentally affects a second person, who must stop the scientist and her dark plans.
LTS: Thank you so much for taking the time to share in your works and your writing experiences, Dean! I’ll catch you on Twitter.
For more information about Dean and his novels, check out:
Follow Dean on Twitter: .DeanLappi
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldBnXR6c9Ek
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