Thursday, April 29, 2010

Interview with Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne Gilman, author of Hard Magic, has been kind enough to stop by Reading with Tequila to answer some questions.

Laura Anne Gilman started her professional life as a book editor for a major NYC house, fitting her writing into the remaining available hours. In 2004 she switched that around, becoming a full-time writer and freelance editor for

Laura Anne is the author of the popular Cosa Nostradamus books for Luna (the "Retrievers" and "Paranormal Scene Investigations" urban fantasy series), and the award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy from Pocket. She is a member of the on-line writers' consortium BookVew Cafe, and continues to write and sell short fiction. She also writes paranormal romances as Anna Leonard.

Reading with Tequila: I love the mixing of science and magic in your new Paranormal Scene Investigation series. Has science always been a favorite subject or is it something you spend a lot of time researching?

Laura: In this case, it's not so much science itself as scientific investigation and reasoning. I've always tried to make sure that my magic systems are grounded firmly in something that feels "real," to the point that I established a whole backstory for the Cosa Nostradamus in America, starting with Ben Franklin's well-known but oft-misunderstood "key-and-kite" experiment. If you have effect, you must also have cause... and once the cause is determined, you should be able to determine the how/who. Add in too many CSI and Mythbusters viewings on the part of the author, and you have PUPs, and the idea behind the PSI series!

[both the electricity-based magic system for the Cosa and the wine-based one for The Vineart War were carefully researched -- and then I decided what part of that research I would use, and what I'd throw out the window in deference to the story. There's always going to be someone who will point out what I got wrong, so I don't worry too much about Perfect Accuracy so long as the story-logic is strong.]

In terms of a science background, I was a Liberal Arts major [English and History], but through sheer happenstance [and enjoying the classes], ended up with enough geology credits to qualify for a science minor. Draw your own conclusions.

RWT: The P.S.I. series is set in the same universe as your Retriever series. Can fans expect to see lots of character cross-over or will these series remain mostly separate?

Laura: HARD MAGIC is a stand-alone, but expect to see some familiar names and faces in books 2 (PACK OF LIES) and 3 (title still in flux), and by Book 4, Wren will be playing a significant role in events. This series runs concurrent to the Retrievers series, so careful readers will note a lot of overlap in events going on in the city.

And before anyone asks: I don't know if there will be more Wren & Sergei stand-alone novels. Short stories are always a possibility, though! I just have to wait and find out what they've been up to.

RWT: Bonnie is one of my new favorite characters. I love that she is unapologetic when it comes to her sexuality. Was that planned when you started writing the character?

Laura: Planned? Very little of my characters' personality is ever planned: it rises out of their voice, and how they react on the page. Originally Bonnie was a street-tough kid with a veneer of civilization, but her voice wanted to have more book-smarts to go with the toughness. Then I learned that she could cook (BRING IT ON, I believe), and then that she was not so much a field agent as a lab rat, which was a total surprise to me. And then I wrote the short story "Illumination," and discovered much more about her, including where she got both her book-smarts and her hedonistic impulses. Her sexuality was an outgrowth of those discoveries, more than anything specifically designed or planned: once I knew that much about her, I also knew that she would be the sort to give affection freely, but not fall in love easily, despite what she thought of herself, and that the usual social mores of personal space utterly did not apply.

Knowing many people who successfully manage multi-partner relationships definitely influenced Bonnie's development, both in what she wants/does, and the boundaries she draws in terms of what is acceptable to her. She's not a romantic, but she has very high standards for the people she will let into her life, even on a temporary basis. Her mentor was also a huge influence -- some day I have to write his story, too...

RWT: You were an editor for many years before writing full-time. Having been on both sides of the publishing world, what do you believe is the most important advice you could give to aspiring writers?

Laura: Write with passion and professionalism in equal measure. That means yes, throw yourself into a story heart and soul, but always maintain control of the final product. Study your craft, learn what you want to do, and how to do it, and then internalize that knowledge so it doesn't get in your way. And when someone gives you feedback you don't like -- listen to it anyway. You may choose to disregard it, but that needs to be a conscious decision, not a defensive reflex.

RWT: What has been your most memorable fan encounter so far?

Laura: I tend not to have "fan encounters" as such, but a number of years ago someone I'd known casually via mutual friends literally threw herself down at my feet at a convention to say how much she had loved a book (I think it may have been Staying Dead, actually). I was, um, somewhat taken aback, then laughed myself silly (after helping her up).

The memory still makes me laugh (and wince, because ow! poor knees!)

Laura Anne Gilman's blog
and on Twitter: @LAGilman

Reading with Tequila's review of Hard Magic

About the Book

Welcome to P.U.P.I.—Private, Unaffiliated, Paranormal Investigations

A handpicked team trained to solve crimes the regular police can't touch—crimes of magic.

My name's Bonnie Torres. Recent college grad, magic user and severely unemployed. Until I got a call out of nowhere to interview for a job I hadn't applied for. It smelled fishy, but the brutal truth was I needed the work—so off I went.

Two days later I'm a PUPI—me and Nick, Sharon, Nifty and Pietr. Five twentysomethings, thrown into an entirely new career in forensic magic.

The first job we get is a doozy: proving that the deaths of two Talents were murder, not suicide. Worse, there are high-profile people who want us to close up shop and go away. We're sniffing out things they'd rather keep buried.

Looks as if this job is gonna get interesting. The only problem is, we're making it up as we go along….


  1. That sounds like a great mix of a book!

  2. OH! I likey!!! I have a new author to read!!! Thank you!