It's Monday again, so we're back with another interview!
Today's guest is Ulff Lehmann, a fantasy author who...well, keep reading!
German born but English writing author, Ulff Lehmann, was raised reading, almost any and everything, from the classic Greek to Roman to Germanic myths to more appropriate fiction for children his age. Initially devouring books in his native language, he switched to reading English books during a year long stay in the USA as a foreign exchange student.
In the years since, he has lost count of the books he has read, unwilling to dig into the depths of his collection. An avid fantasy reader, he grew dissatisfied with the constant lack of technological evolution in many a fantasy world, and finally, when push came to shove, he began to realize not only his potential as a story teller but also his vision of a mythical yet realistic world in which to settle the tale in he had been developing for 20 years.
Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Wars
Reboots – a great idea or a lack of creativity? Lack of creativity
Coffee, tea, or cacao? Tea
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? During behavior therapy, when I finally realized who I was.
Where do you get your ideas for your books? Everywhere, nowhere, it can be the most banal of things, really. A snippet of news or a homeless person on the street. The ultimate question is always “Why?” Why does something happen? The answer is usually where reality meets idea meets story. It’s always why. Sometimes the spark comes from elsewhere, and there is no recipe for how to get this spark, it just happens.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? I write when I feel like it. Sometimes it’s tough, but since I needed to change up my schedule, I have more trouble adjusting. That and depression…
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? I try to begin each sentence differently from the one before. The same beginning “He…” “He…” “He…” reminds me of Michael Jackson, and it’s boring. Sometimes I break that rule, to emphasize something.
Where do you get your information for your books? Realism and historicity are very important to me, verisimilitude, if you will. So in order for me to present believable cultures, I have to delve into history. My elves are “like Imperial Rome,” that was my shorthand for the process, and that was okay on the surface. Until it wasn’t anymore, and I needed to learn how Legions functioned. So I’ve been reading more and more history books to “get things right.”
When did you write your first book and how old were you? I wrote my first (nonfiction) book in college, I think I was 28 or somewhere around that age. A small publisher asked me if I wanted to write a book on hobby gaming, specifically RPGs. Not a pleasant experience.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Reading, movies and such, listening to music.
Is there a trope you find yourself going back to in multiple works? Or one you avoid? I loathe tropes, and try to take every one and ravage it, twist it. Not sure if it works all the time, but I try. hehe
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? How my mind works, how I take seemingly different topics and combine them to create something plausible.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? Four, so far. But favorite, no, they’re all my children, and I don’t play favorites.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they? Read everything, not just your favorite genre but everything. Understand what works (for you) and why, and then learn how to discern good writing from bad. I know that’s subjective, but if you want to improve your writing, you need to know whether what you’re writing is good or not. Do not ask friends, do not ask family, they rarely want to be critical, and you need criticism to grow. Praise does not get the trick done. Music, drawing, you can tell whether something is in tune/key or not, and whether colors clash, but writing is different in that people rarely pay attention to that. And since most people can’t tell apart good writing from bad, and your friends and family want to encourage you, they will never tell you what you need to hear.
Do you like to create books for adults? Yes!
What do you think makes a good story? Characters, believable characters. The adventures are secondary, it’s the people who make a compelling story. Again it comes back to “why”.
What is the first book that made you cry? Dragonlance Chronicles, when Flint died.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry? Replacing editors with managers.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Both.
What are common traps for aspiring writers? Perception. Most new authors don’t understand it. They vomit all kinds of details onto the page, hundreds of words of useless information they think is relevant but really is not. Readers, by and large, do not need to know the color of someone’s blouse or dress or trousers. You don’t stand before a mirror and think to yourself you’re brushing your long blonde hair, you just brush your hair.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I write what I want to read. If you look at most genre fiction, it’s always the hero saving the damsel or kingdom or something. It’s almost always the same. That’s boring. Catering to the audience might be lucrative, sure, but I’d rather be original.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book? This is a five book series, it’s virtually impossible to understand what’s going on in book 4 if you haven’t read 1, 2, and 3.
Who shot first, Han or Greebo? He’s spelled Greedo, but that’s beside the point. First shooting implies a second shot, there was none. Han shot.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Gary Gygax’s Extraordinary Book of Names. Thousands of names from all sorts of cultures.
What is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything? 42
What’s the best way to market your books? Find readers who love the books and recommend them to friends.
What do you have coming next?
I need to get started on book 5. After that, who knows?