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14 April 2010 @ 12:13 am
Interview with author R.L. LaFevers  

Today I’m thrilled to present an interview with R.L. LaFevers, a fellow Inkie whose THEODOSIA AND THE EYES OF HORUS was released on Monday. This is the third in the Theodosia series, which has been described as “a suspenseful, satisfying fantasy” by Booklist. Read more to find out about research for the books, the choosing of names, and how R.L. manages to juggle Theodosia with her other ongoing fantasy series, the Nathaniel Fludd books.  Also, be sure to check out the details about her library giveaway!

 

In a very sideways manner, your books remind of Elizabeth Peters. (I said very sideways, didn’t I?) Are you by any chance a fan?

You know, oddly enough, I hadn’t read an Elizabeth Peters book until after I’d written Theodosia. A couple of people mentioned that same sideways similarity, so of course I had to go check it out. I loved the one I read immensely. However, because there are a number of similarities, I thought it best not to read more until after I’d wrapped up the Theodosia books. It would be too easy too lose track of what I’d read where and let some of the indomitable Peabody slip into my world.

I know you actually live in
California, but allow me to indulge in my writerly fantasies for a moment: Did you write any portion of this book (or the earlier books) in the Museum of London?

Alas, I did not write any portion of these books whilst sitting in the BritishMuseum! Would that I had been so lucky! I did however, do tons of research, and it is surprising just how much one can Google these days. I was able to find lots of interior photos of the BritishMuseum circa 1907, and earlier, as well as floor plans, etc. so I was able to recreate the fictional Museum of Legends and Antiquities to my satisfaction.

 

Wow… that sounds equal parts fascinating and difficult! What other types of research did the books require?

I did tons of research for this series. In fact, my husband teases me that I write books so I have an excuse to do research. And while that is not (quite) accurate, I do adore the research stage. In addition to researching the BritishMuseum, I poured over antique street maps of London, pictures of buildings, studied the Edwardian period and its differences from the Victorian period, London street life, clothing, funeral customs. Plus, for all of my secondary characters such as Grandmother Throckmorton and the Head of the Brotherhood of the Chosen Keepers, etc., I had to fully understand their histories, so I researched how they would have been brought up and what their life/career paths would have been in the late 19th century. Then of course there was the research on Ancient Egypt and all its marvels. One of the trickier aspects was trying to be sure and utilize the thoughts and views on archaeology from 1907 rather than those we have today. To try and separate what we’ve learned since then from what we knew at that time. There are huge differences in our levels of understanding and our attitudes. It’s hard though, because we also know now how incorrect some of those attitudes were. I compromise by having Theo’s slightly more evolved attitudes come from her youthful naiveté and general fair mindedness.

In addition to Theodosia, you also write the Nathaniel Fludd series. I can’t imagine writing (let alone research and promoting!) two series at once. How do you manage/survive/excel at it?

Well, the jury is still out on the excel part,   but the survival part hasn’t been too difficult. At least not until this last month when I had two deadlines three weeks apart. That required some sophisticated survival skills!
 
But generally I find that the two series feed each other creatively. I seem constitutionally unable to NOT write, so even my “down” time usually involves writing. That was how I wrote the first Nathaniel Fludd book, as a short creative vacation from the Theo books, and I found my muse loved having different projects to switch between.
 
It helps that my children are grown now, and I do this full time. When I was younger, I used to be able to work on two books at a time, but I find that isn’t the case any more. It’s harder for me to do that, so I do short bursts of concentrated time on each separate book.
 
I would like to claim that I am highly disciplined and keep my butt in the chair eight hours a day, but that would be a big fat fib. Rather than disciplined, I am devoted to my work. I love what I do and there are very few things I would rather be doing, so it requires very little discipline on my part.
 
The promotion part of it is a little more difficult. In fact, coming to terms with promotion has been a bit of a journey for me. One of the steps on this journey was co-creating a blog with my friend, Mary Hershey, which is a support group for introverted authors trying to grapple with the very extroverted demands of book promotion. (
shrinkingvioletpromotions.blogspot.com) That has helped a lot, being able to simply acknowledge that it is not my natural skill set.
 
Also the fact that more and more promotional work takes place through the internet helps make promoting two series much more doable. For example, to celebrate the launch of THEODOSIA AND THE EYES OF HORUS, I'm running a weeklong library giveaway through my blog. All readers have to do is enter a public or school library of their choice, and those libraries' names will be entered in the drawing for some free Theodosia books. It's a great way to reach beyond my geographical area and also help out poor, suffering libraries. (Details for the giveaway can be found here on my blog. <
http://rllafevers.blogspot.com/ > )

As for actual events, the two series thing actually works out pretty well because a lot of times when I do signings or school visits, with books for two distinctly different age groups, I can reach a wider age range of kids. Before, I’d have second and third graders who wanted to buy a book, but they were too young for Theo, and I had nothing to offer them. Now I do. 

I love the name “Theodosia Throckmorten”! Any story behind how you came up with that?

The name Theodosia came to me with the character, so there is no real story behind that. I did have a great aunt Theodora, so perhaps that was a subconscious influence. I did fiddle around with the last name a bit. It was originally going to be Wicketts, Theodosia Wicketts, but then I stumbled across the name Throckmorton, and that clicked. (A great place to find period names is in the index and bibliography of reference books of the period you are researching.) 

That’s useful information! :) Thank you.

You can learn more about RL LaFevers and her books at http://www.rllafevers.com.

 
 
 
ext_231523 on April 14th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
Awesome!
This books sounds really cool and right up my alley! I love the title and the cover art! I have to check out the series. How did I miss this - yikes! Great interview.
mike_jung on April 14th, 2010 08:11 pm (UTC)
Fabulous books
I recently read THEODOSIA & THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS and loved it. It's a stellar example of a book that clearly involved a ton of research, yet uses all that research in a fluid, light, seemingly effortless way, and I have the next two books on order. Theo should have a standing reservation at the Restaurant of All-Time Great Middle Grade Protagonists.

Also, speaking as another introvert, Shrinking Violet Promotions is a really useful (and maybe even capital I "Important") blog.
annastanannastan on April 14th, 2010 10:01 pm (UTC)
I've been wondering how Robin juggles both series, so this was great to read. I still suspect she might be a robot, or at least magical. :-)
A Deserving Porcupinerockinlibrarian on April 14th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
I WONDERED what kind of location-based research went into the Theodosia books! Time and place are both so detailed and real-seeming. I would have asked "Come on, you KNOW you were THERE in 1907 London when you wrote that, right?" too!

I just ordered-- well, told someone else who was putting together an order that they really ought to order-- the Nathaniel Fludd books for this library. We have a LOT of kids looking for early middle grade and they'd LOVE something like this. I can't wait to see what they think...
natalieag on April 15th, 2010 12:21 am (UTC)
Robin, I can't wait to read your books. Wow, I didn't realize how much research you had to do. I love your Shrinking Violet blog. I'm an introvert too and am trying to figure out the public aspect of being an author. Your blog really helps.
amarisglassstirlingbennett on April 15th, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
Wow, your research skills are awe-inspiring, Robin! You should do a post on that sometime. With lots of tips. And resources.

Also, can't wait to actually *need* to be an unshrunk violet. Must start practicing NOW!

Great interview, Leah!
kjankowski on April 15th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
Interesting interview. Thanks.
If you're ever in northern California, R.L., I think you'd enjoy the Egyptian museum in San Jose.
;-)
ebooraem on April 17th, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
Great interview--thanks to both of you. I don't care what you say, I'm still in awe of anyone who can write two series at once--especially with two deadlines in close proximity! Gah!

I'm also interested in the challenge of juggling the modern-day mindset with the Edwardian one re: archaeology. Especially when it comes to details and attitudes--that's quite an accomplishment. The solution of using Theodosia's youth and unique personality is a good one.
jen_wrote_this on April 19th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC)
Excellent Interview
Great interview! This will be another home run book for Ms. LaFevers!
kikihamiltonkikihamilton on April 20th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)
Great interview Robin and Leah! I always LOVE to hear the story behind the story - how characters come to life and where the author finds them.

The internet does provide a fountain of information and I always find myself going off on completely different tangents of other interesting topics I'd never dreamed of, while doing 'research'.

Thanks for sharing your story Robin!