Urban fantasy author D. Lieber was kind enough to have me responsible for an act of questioning on both her writing and her work on her latest novel, In Search Of A Witch’s Soul. Please join us as we discuss magick, Anime, the controversial instances of perjury in the poetry world, her experiences so far as an independent author, Bollywood, upcoming works, and so much more.
Tristan Drue Rogers: To start off, please tell us about yourself and your upcoming book.
D. Lieber: Hey there! Thanks for having me. I’m D. Lieber, and I write urban fantasy. I have three previous stand-alone publications, mostly with a romantic bent (but not so much that it takes away from the fantasy story line). As for In Search of a Witch’s Soul, I went a completely different way. I love film noir movies and those classic hard-boiled detectives, so I jumped right into creating an urban fantasy noir with a cynical, addicted detective (Anna Caill) in an alternate 1920s where the 18th Amendment prohibits magic instead of alcohol.
D. Lieber has provided an excerpt below:
I stared at the sad, decrepit mansion from outside the gate. The overgrown ivy strangled the paint off in flakes, and only one window at the very top wasn’t cracked.
I shrank back from the thought of entering such a desolate and neglected place.
“We can do something else if you want,” Jack suggested gently, placing a comforting hand on my shoulder.
“Don’t baby her, Jack. She’s brave enough. Or, are you the one who’s scared?” Cy challenged.
“I’m not babying her. I just don’t want her to be uncomfortable,” Jack argued.
“Uncomfortable? That’s the point of going to a haunted house.” Cy laughed.
Their familiar bickering reassured me and gave me the courage to grab the iron gate. The metal burned my hand in the cold November night as I pushed it open.
Stepping onto the broken cobbled path, we tried to avoid the roots and the stones they’d pushed up.
On a creaky, crooked porch, an old woman with tightly-bound, white hair sat in a wicker chair. She didn’t smile as we approached but nodded and stood with effort to meet us.
“On Samhain night, where the sun is fifteen degrees in Scorpio and the veil is thin, the spirits of the dead wander the world of the living. Like the people they once were, some of these spirits are violent and mean. Witches use lures to draw these malevolent spirits to desolate places and wards to keep them from leaving until they return to the Otherworld. This is one of those places. Do you understand the risks and enter of your own free will?” she asked in a tired, raspy voice.
We nodded and paid the entrance fee.
After pulling three tied cords with a metal charm on each from the basket at her feet, she handed them to us individually.
“Place these around your necks. Do not remove them until you come back here. They will protect you so far as no spirit may enter or touch your body.”
She reached down again and handed each of us a lit lantern.
“Enter at your own risk,” she finished, pointing to thick, wooden double doors with iron knockers and tarnished handles.
I looked at Cy, who grinned in anticipation. “Let’s go,” he urged, reaching for the door.
I didn’t want to look like a coward, and I knew Cy had been looking forward to contacting real spirits. Still, my every instinct told me not to go into that house.
As he pushed open the door, it groaned as if it were in pain, shattering the palatable silence. I shivered and backed away, bumping into Jack.
“It’s all right,” he whispered. “I’m here with you, and we can leave any time you want.”
I opened my mouth to say I already wanted to leave. But as Cy stepped into the house and out of sight, I rushed to catch up to him.
The entrance hall could’ve once been called grand. Now, the wallpaper was peeling, the floor was covered in recently disturbed dust, and the staircase was caved in on one side. The high ceiling made me feel exposed, and I looked around frantically for any sign of spirits. All was unnaturally quiet and still.
Are you one of those writers who has an overbearing blueprint to follow without question?
Normally, I am a pantser without question, but not for In Search of a Witch’s Soul. Because it is a detective novel, I had to plot out everything ahead of time to know what exactly had happened and when Anna would get each clue. It sort of took the wind from my sails knowing every detail before it happened.
You have a monthly newsletter also available on your site. How has your experience with that been when compared to blogging or social media in regards to yourself as an author?
My newsletter is my way of sharing what’s been happening with me over the last month and what’s going to happen in the next month. That way subscribers don’t have to check my blog every day. Newsletter subscribers also get access to content nonsubscribers don’t get, such as the occasional short story. In comparison, social media is more a day by day update. I repost my blogs there, but you also get little tid bits about my life and what I’m up to. And yes, there are a few author newsletters I follow. It’s a great way to get all the news at once, and authors put a lot of time and effort into them.
What draws you toward the Urban Fantasy genre?
That’s a fun question. As a child, I tried high fantasy before urban fantasy. I just couldn’t get into it. I just felt like, “yeah, this is good, but it feels like it’s missing something.” But still I kept trying to read fantasy books. Finally, I laid my hands on an urban fantasy and just felt that was what I’d been waiting for. I like that the magic doesn’t feel so far removed because of the more modern settings. And while I do enjoy lyrical prose, I like how accessible urban fantasy language is. It’s not overly descriptive and gives you just enough to make your imagination run wild while not distracting from the storyline.
Is there anything that you’re looking to change or add to urban fantasy as a whole?
Change? No. Enhance? Yes. I think urban fantasy as a genre is pretty well-rounded. It’s great for commenting on society and the problems facing the World while still being entertaining. I just want to add my characters and my worlds, highlighting the subjects I think are important.
With the Me Too movement steadily working to change the world’s playing field for both men and women, what has your reaction been to it so far within the writing world?
I can’t say I’ve really seen a lot of reaction in the writing world specifically. But I always find it important for my characters to have consensual sexual encounters. And when they don’t, it is always addressed. I like to point out in my own writing that both men and women can be victims, both men and women can be perpetrators, and both men and women can be the heroes that help heal the victims.
Have you seen any dramatic changes because of this movement or is there still a lot of growing to do?
Have I seen any dramatic changes? No, not really. The only thing I foresee in the near future in regards to Me Too is that victims may feel more comfortable talking about their experiences. But the system is still against them, so maybe not. I hope that as writers, we will lead the way to change (as writers have always done).
Tell us a little bit about your love of anime, what you’re currently watching, and if it has any effect on your writing.
Oh gods! I do love anime! Usually, it is only an indulgence that I permit myself while I’m not actively writing a book, but…sometimes I treat myself. Right now, I am watching the third season of Seven Deadly Sins. I think everything a writer consumes as far as media affects his or her writing. I don’t foresee Seven Deadly Sins having a large impact on the story I’m working on now. However, I will say that my first novel, Conjuring Zephyr, was very much influenced by anime and Korean drama.
I’ve read that you enjoy Bollywood and Classic films, what do you think draws you to such a diverse subset of filmmaking?
I guess I just like trying new things. Classic movies are part nostalgia. But I suppose I like them both because they are different worldviews. Classic movies, the perspectives they present are completely different than today. And the perspectives in Bollywood are culturally different from what Americans are used to. I was first exposed to Bollywood when I took a class about it in college. I just love it so much! The actors and directors have such a special way of really pulling you in and tugging on your emotions! The music and the dancing are, of course, amazing. And I’ve never seen hugging look so passionate. No joke. I’ve seen Bollywood dancing and hugs look more passionate than American film sex scenes.
Having published three books so far, with one on the way, is there any advice you have for beginning writers as they traverse the publishing world?
Develop a thick skin, she says to herself as much as the reader. Seriously though, you need to take rejection as part of the process. It sucks. There’s no way around it. It’s going to hurt every time. But it is inevitable. Don’t lose hope. And remember, if no one wants to take a chance on your brilliant creation, you have tons of self-publishing options out there. I know, I know. It’s so much better to have someone pay you to publish your book, but it’s better than nothing. Right? And if you do go the self-pub route: for goodness sake! HIRE AN EDITOR! That is the most important thing you can do to ensure the success of your work.
Let’s be honest, how large is your to-be-read pile?
Too big. I unfortunately have a lot less time to read since I started pursuing writing. And I meet a lot of awesome authors, so it only gets worse.
Have you heard about the recent accusation of plagiarism levied by poet Rachel McKibbens to Ailey O’Toole?
I did not hear about this, but I certainly am against blatant plagiarism. It takes so much effort to write. Blood, sweat, and tears is not far from the truth. Many writers, especially poets, never truly reach notoriety. For someone else to get that notoriety from your work? Especially in this situation, where it was the poets’ personal pain. It’s heartbreaking. It’s like someone is stealing your soul.
Why magic, but with a k added on?
Interesting. So magick is the archaic spelling of the word magic. Somewhere along the way, the k was dropped. Then, it was Aleister Crowley, of all people (I believe), who added the k back in order to distinguish fake magic (illusion) and real magic (witchcraft, spellcraft, earth-based magick, etc.) As I’ve said, all of the spells on my site are real, so there you have it.
Have you ever written outside of your comfort zone? What was that like?
In Search of a Witch’s Soul was way outside my comfort zone. I’d never had to plot a story so much, I’d never written a mystery or detective story, I’d never written a tragic ending, and I’d never written a sort of historical setting. It was certainly an experience. Exhausting. I questioned my decisions a lot. But in the end, I’m proud of pushing myself, and I think those who like darker stories will really enjoy it.
As an indie author, whatever that means, have you found it difficult to get your books in physical store locations?
Absolutely, there aren’t many bookstores near me, and most big box stores have strict rules about who they put on their shelves (though I am in their computer systems, so you can still go in and order my books). My local library system is much more accommodating.
What are you currently working on? Can you tell us a little about it?
I am currently working on a “sequel” to my steampunk novel, The Exiled Otherkin. I say sequel in quotes because it’s more like a spin-off. Essentially, a side character from the first book, Sasha, gets his own story. The working title is The Ubyzniki Renegade. The only thing I am willing to say is: everything you think you know about Sasha is wrong.
Do you think social media has really helped you in conjunction with advertising your books? How do you split time between your Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, your Blog and quality writing time?
It’s certainly a balancing act, and I am losing. I spend way too much time on social media when I should be writing! My blog is more my “official news stuff” while my social media is more everyday fun. Still, I think social media is a great way to build relationships with readers. After all, writers are just people, too. We like cat videos just as much as the next Internet user.
D. Lieber’s novel In Search Of A Witch’s Soul is available for preorder here before March 5, 2019.
D. writes stories she wants to read. Her love of the worlds of fiction led her to earn a Bachelor’s in English from Wright State University.
When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, crafting, watching anime, Korean television, Bollywood, or old movies. She may also be getting her geek on while planning her next steampunk cosplay with friends.
She lives in Wisconsin with her husband (John) and cats (Yin and Nox).