Interview with EDWARD LAZELLARI

Lazellari-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Ed Lazellari?

Ed Lazellari is a fiction writer who believes he looks like John Lennon, but suspects others think he looks like Ringo. Ed really enjoys speaking of himself in the third person. If Ed was a Seinfeld character, he’d be the guy who makes George look good.

Your Guardians of Aandor is published by Tor Books. The first novel, Awakenings, is out now, with two more on the way. The series looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

What if Bran or Arya Stark, in trying to get away from their enemies came to our world and hid out? And what if those enemies from Westeros got wind of it and came over to get them? Throw in some guardians sworn to protect a boy prince, wizards, amnesia, and you have Awakenings. The Guardians of Aandor is a hodgepodge of the literature I love. It’s a portal fantasy, urban fantasy, adventure, and a mystery. It’s Harry Potter meets Game of Thrones.

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What can fans of the first novel expect from the two sequels?

More! I ratchet up the stakes and the scope in each sequel. The ending of The Lost Prince (TLP) is probably more satisfying than Awakenings, which ends with a cliffhanger. Good news is the paperback for TLP will be out later this year, but if you really can’t wait, there’s always the hardcover or its e-book equivalent.

What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

It started off with my friends. We were into RPG, and my imagination began to wander. What if X was really a knight from an alternate reality, Y was a cleric, and Z was a billionaire industrialist dwarv. In the ’90s, I read Roger Zelazny’s Amber books, so the idea of dysfunctional families posturing for more power and crossing dimensions was in my head. I get inspired by other great artists. Stephen King, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman were huge inspirations as well as Zelazny. Artists too. Alex Ross, Adam Hughes, George Perez.

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How were you introduced to genre fiction?

I loved Lost in Space, Twilight Zone, and Star Trek on TV. Old Jules Verne movies like Mysterious Island or 20,000 Leagues. Star Wars was huge for my generation; I saw it first run in the theater two times in 1977. I started reading comic books, and then the first novels I read were novel tie ins of popular movies like Elliot S. Maggin’s Last Son of Krypton. I made the jump to Stephen King books and read maybe six of his books in a row. I read both books and comic books. This was the 80s, and we didn’t have Harry Potter, Hunger Games, or Game of Thrones yet, so I was able to beef up on classic fare from the 50s and 60s like Asimov’s Foundation, Larry Niven’s Known Universe, Arthur C. Clarke, Frederick Pohl, Tolkien. Neuromancer was the big contemporary book of those years. Have you heard of those…?

How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?

I love being a writer, but it’s tough when you need to have a day job too. I wonder if your readers know that 99% of novelists need to have a second job. Even Kafka worked for an insurance company. The Stephen Kings of the world make their money on the TV and movie deals. That’s when real independence comes and the ability to live off your writing. The rest of us do it because we love to tell stories. It’s like a 1,000-word puzzle we get to invent a piece at a time and put together.

Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

Coffee!

I try to read something good in the morning to wake the words up in my head. Sometimes I’ll watch a recorded genre show, like Walking Dead, Grimm, or even historical action like Vikings, which is closer to the world my characters originally come from–medieval, life is cheap type of world where the strong eat first. I write what I know and since I read a lot I have a lot of useless information to draw from… useless that is until I can put it in a story and give it context. For example, in TLP, they end up using the abandoned rail lines under the Waldorf Astoria… the very same ones they brought President FDR into New York on to prevent people from seeing he was handicapped. For the stuff I don’t know, I research online. The Internet is the greatest resource on Earth. I do keep a Thesaurus and dictionary at hand beside my computer.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? 

My first foray into professional writing was at Marvel Comics. I was breaking into the field as an artist, and an opportunity came up to write a four-part story for Marvel Comics Presents, which I drew as well. I caught the bug. When you write for comics, you’re really writing it as instructions for an artist that will interpret your vision. I realized I liked painting the picture with the words… a direct connection with the reader’s head without the interpreter. I still love comics. It’s just a different set of challenges, which I think I prefer. Every step of the way in the journey to get published, I’ve been told by agents and editors alike that my work is very visual. They can see the scene as I write it. That’s because I don’t fake it. As an illustrator, I’ve drawn the setting in my head and am describing it. I know where the light is coming from, and if there’s an electrical socket in that alleyway I put the characters in. Not all writers are good at this, some prefer to lean on dialogue or melodrama, but most of the best writers can at least scribble a picture of some type. For example, Alan Moore is a cartoonist as well as a wordsmith.

Do you still look back on it fondly?

Absolutely. The years I spent at Marvel were some of my happiest. This was pre-Disney, pre-UberCorporate Marvel. There was more freedom to be creative. I, like my colleagues, were dumb-as-shit art-school grads who didn’t know anything about the real world except that we loved comic books and going out to get hammered on pitchers of beer at Phoebes’ in the East Village. Friday mornings were tough. Being on staff, I used to do mechanicals on the X-Men, Spider-Man, Punisher. And I’m talking Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Walt Simonson, Mark Texiera… all the greats of that era. I held many of those classic original pages in my hands. I was pasting word balloons on them, filling in blacks, cleaning up the panel boarders. There was a big bottle of black ink on my drafting board right above these classic works. Thank God I never had an accident. I got to talk with all these greats. I have a picture of me with the legendary artist Moebius himself. He was doing a Silver Surfer project for us. I even got to meet Hulk Hogan. Maybe I’ll send you the pictures to post. 😉

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

It’s certainly changed. There’s pressure to make stories more about diversity issues — things like race, gender issues, and women’s equality are huge now. Most of the YA hits feature a female protagonist (Hunger Games, Divergent). That’s the stuff that’s getting the best promotion. As the pending father of a baby girl, I like most of the change and think it’s important for genre properties to be diverse and offer role models and heroes for everyone regardless of sex, race, or orientation. I do wonder if it’s being forced, though. Was it really necessary to make Jimmy Olsen black on the Supergirl TV show? Couldn’t they just have created a black character for the role? They made Wally West on Flash and Shiera (Hawkgirl) on Legends of Tomorrow black, and Lana Lang on Smallville Asian. The DC Cinematic Universe as made it a mission to replace all its gingers with people of color. What’s wrong with red heads?!

Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?

I am finishing the final book of my trilogy for Tor, currently titled Blood of Ten Kings. With a new baby due to arrive this summer, I might need all my wits to learn how to be a good father. Afterward, I have four different ideas that I’m kicking around. I don’t know yet which project I will do. One’s a YA book, the other science fiction space series, and I also have a literary nongenre story that I’d like to write. I would like to take a shot at a movie script or even a TV series. The future is bright, right?

What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

I’m reading the Fifth book in the Outlander series, The Fiery Cross. Diana Gabaldon is an amazing storyteller. Also reading You Know When The Men Are Gone, by Siobhan Fallon. It’s short stories about families having to deal with loved ones who served in the military in Iraq. Both are great and I highly recommend them.

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What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a hopeless romantic at heart.

Also, readers who skew conservative think I’m a liberal when they read my book, and readers who skew liberal think I’m conservative. I’m neither. I’m a passionate moderate. I take it as a compliment that I’ve written characters true enough that readers feel they are vested with my real world beliefs. My novels cover the gamut of human behavior. When you write a villain for example, your job is to make the reader see why he (or she) feels he/she’s right according to his worldview, no matter how evil he/she is. George R.R. Martin is a master of doing this. How many of us hated Jamie Lannister until we got to the third and fourth books in his series. I’ve seen reviews criticizing Cat MacDonnell for being a feminist, and other reviews who don’t like Malcolm Robbe’s take on the world as a privileged, anti-union industrialist. (Fortunately the majority of readers get it.)

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

Being a dad tops the list. Professionally, though, finishing book 3 and promoting the whole Guardians of Aandor series. Hoping to do some speaking and signing engagements. I’m willing to go anywhere that’s within a day’s driving distance (unless someone wants to fly me out and put me up.)

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Awakening and The Lost Prince are out now, published by Tor Books. For more on the author’s writing and novels, be sure to check out his website, and follow him on Twitter and Goodreads.

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