Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Author Interview: Sullivan Lee

I'm excited to introduce you all to the wonderful Sullivan Lee (aka Laura L. Sullivan) who will go down in Nylon Admiral history as the first author to be interviewed on this bloggy-wog! Sullivan Lee has just self-published her "criminal love story" Brightwing this year but she's no stranger to the world of writing. Under her real name she's released novels aimed at children and YA audiences through Macmillan/Holt and has several more books under her belt just waiting to be written. In order to whet your appetites for my review of Brightwing which will be posted on Thursday I give you my interview with Sullivan Lee, aka Laura L. Sullivan, where she discusses her new book, self-publishing and her writing process. There is some Brightwing related talk which may confuse those of you who haven't read the book or heard of it, so if you'd like you acquaint yourself with it check out the synopsis on Goodreads. Enjoy!

K: You’ve written books for a wide range of audiences (children, YA historical, adult etc) what draws you to such variety?

SL: I write a wide variety of books because I read a wide variety of books. I'll jump from reading historicals to fantasy to the Victorians, and though I'm probably not going to try to emulate Dickens any time soon, I think I'll eventually try my hand at every genre. I'm kind of a dilettante, and I like to dabble.

K: Are there any genres you’d like to try in the future?

SL: I have an idea for a great horror story, with a bad-guy I don't think anyone has used before, so I'm really anxious to start that after I finish a couple of other projects. And one day I'd like to write a true romance with an unequivocally happy ending. I usually have at least a little ambiguity in my finales, so I'd love to leave a couple at the altar and know I didn't have to worry about them any more.

K: What is your writing routine?

SL: Right now, I'm only guaranteed about two hours a day to write – during my Little Guy's nap time – and I feel like I have at least ten hours of work to do! Still, I get at least a thousand words in almost every day. I'm curious to see how my productivity will increase when he starts school next year. They say work expands to fill the time allotted for it, so it might just end up taking me eight hours to write the same thousand words!

K: You decided to self publish Brightwing. What were you reasons for stepping away from a traditional publisher?

SL: Let me first say I'll always write for a traditional publisher as long as they'll have me! But people shouldn't have to limit themselves, and I was excited to be able to explore a parallel career on my own.

Self publishing is particularly well-suited to Brightwing, I think, because it is in many ways a non-traditional book. Where would a bookstore shelve it? That's the first thing publishers ask, and if there isn't a clear-cut answer, they usually pass. Is Brightwing a love story for women, or an adventure for men? (There shouldn't be gender reading divisions, but when publishers market they consider those things.) It resembles a romance in many ways, except for the ending. And what about Mallory, the sociopath? I was told I had to either make him a clear-cut villain who gets his just desserts, or make him more sympathetic. But I knew there was room on the virtual bookshelves for Brightwing's kind of moral ambiguity. Brightwing is gradually finding its audience – which would be impossible on the narrow, contained bookshelves of a traditional store, but is highly likely in the very fluid world of self publishing and e-books.

K: In Australia there is a certain anxiety that plagues authors trying to write an Indigenous character. Your main character is a Native American, did you feel a similar anxiety or that you had a responsibility to present this character as accurately (in terms of history, lifestyle, voice) as possible?

SL: Oh, I was chock-full of anxiety! I cheated a little bit, because though Lucy Brightwing's tribe, the Tequesta, really existed, they've been gone for three hundred years, and very little is known about them outside of scant archaeological evidence. That gave me a lot of creative freedom, and made it less likely I'll offend any existant Native American.

I did tons of research, though, and (short of killing a raging wild pig with a knife) I've done, or attempted to do, a lot of the things Lucy does to survive in the Everglades. The legends of her people are fictional, but I created them after reading as many other Native American myths as I could, so they are realistic.

Several decisions caused me some anxiety, though. I decided to use the word “Indian” throughout the novel. In public I, for a variety of reasons, would always use the term “Native American” but every Native American I've known, every Native American I've eavesdropped on, every Native American in a book written by a Native American author, uses the word “Indian” almost all the time. (Except when trying to make a political point.) So when seeing the world through Lucy's eyes, I felt justified.

Names were another matter, and for the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes (both alive and well in South Florida) I did take some liberties with the names of the crime bosses, Lazarus Nighteyes and Billie Bald Cypress. They aren't entirely authentic, but since the characters are parallels with Mafia dons, I decided if a mobster can be Sammy the Bull or Baby Fat Larry, I could have a bit of leeway with my Native American criminals.

I could go on about the problem some people seem to have with authors writing outside of their race (or ethnic group, or gender, or orientation, or religion) but I won't use your blog as a soapbox! Suffice it to say that authors need characters who struggle, and I think anyone, or any group, with something to overcome is fair game. Stories need to be told, and it doesn't matter who tells them. The world is big, and we should be too. There – off soapbox.

K: Mallory is such a terrible person, did you feel dirty after writing some of his more shocking scenes?

SL: And how! Lots of cleansing bubble baths after writing Mallory's scenes! It was particularly difficult, coming from a law enforcement background. The cop in me wanted to hunt him down. The writer in me needed him to live. I felt so bad about it I wrote an apology to my law enforcement friends for his character.

The number one comment I get about Brightwing is, “I despise Mallory! How could you let him live?” The number two comment I get is, “I'm ashamed to admit it, but I found myself almost liking Mallory sometimes.” Readers were finding that they felt sympathy for him – if only for a second – and then felt absolutely disgusted with themselves.

Now that's the kind of reaction a writer wants to hear!

K: When can we expect the sequel to Brightwing and can you give us any hints about what it’ll contain?

SL: I have a ton of commitments over the next months, so it will be a while before I can really dig into it. It will be called Swamp Bordello, and though I'm still playing with ideas, I know there will be a whorehouse in the swamp, and Lucy will take in orphans – making her territory a candy store for someone with Mallory's tendencies! Lucy will be tempted by another man, and then betrayed by him. Edgar will salvage his masculinity in book 2, and by the end he and Lucy will truly be equals, and even more deeply in love.

K: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these!

SL: And thank you so much for having me on Nylon Admiral, Kayleigh!

If you want to get to know Sullivan Lee a little better you can visit her blogs, The Omniscient Third Person and Sullivan Lee Writes. Oh and keep your eyes peeled for the review due up on Thursday!


  1. Very cool interview! Looking forward to your review of Brightwing because it sounds like an entertaining and badass story. Love the cover-art too.

  2. Thanks Jason! It was a really solid read but it definitely made me realise I really need to buy an e-reader, at least I do if I intend to keep reading self-pub work. It was so frustrating how long it took me to read this book because I couldn't take it on the bus with me (where I do the majority of my reading) and even reading in my bed on my laptop was a little cumbersome! Review's up tomorrow

  3. Call me old-fashioned but it's going to take me a while before I convert to e-readers and PDF. There's something special about having the physical book in your hands.



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