I’ve know Leslie for many years and I’ve been a big fan of her previous fantasy trilogy. When I learned she had a new steampunk series coming out, I asked her to come here and share more about it with us here on No Wasted Ink.
When my mother was pregnant with me, one of her favorite singers at the time was Leslie Uggams, which is why I’m Leslie Ann Moore. I’m a doctor of veterinary medicine by profession, but I’m a writer by passion.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been blessed since childhood with a vivid imagination, and a penchant for inventing stories out of the ferment of creativity which resulted from that. At age twelve, the very first thing I ever committed to paper, and yes, back then, it had to be paper, was a poem about a horse. I showed it to my mother, who, of course, told me it was the most wonderful poem she’d ever read. Really, what else was she going to say? So, I took her at her word and submitted it to a national horse enthusiast magazine, and lo and behold, it got published!! I haven’t written much poetry since.
I didn’t do much writing at all throughout my late childhood and teen years. I was at the stage in my life where I needed to read, voraciously, in order to study and absorb how great writers did what they did. I devoured all the classics of sci-fi and fantasy, essentially training my own artistic mind in the techniques of story structure and style, against the day when I was finally ready to produce something of my own.
In high school, I created my own newspaper for a history class assignment. Rather than write a standard report on the defeat of the Spanish Armada by Elizabeth I of England and her scrappy little navy, I wrote it as a series of articles from imaginary reporters on the scene, and laid it out in newspaper format, complete with drawings I did myself in place of photos. I got an A+ on it! My mom still has that project, lovingly preserved.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In 2001, when I began work on my first novel, Griffin’s Daughter. Until then, I really didn’t think of myself as a serious writer–I was more of a dabbler. I’d written some short stories for a creative writing class during my undergrad days, but that was it.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
A Tangle of Fates is the first installment of a new trilogy, the overall title of which is Vox Machina. Genre-wise, it’s soft sci-fi, with steampunk flavorings, a lot of politics, adventure, some mysticism, and a dash of romance. For those familiar with screenwriting terms, the log-line would be ‘Snow White as revolutionary.’ Another log-line could be ‘Snow White meets The Terminator’. Both of those should give you a good idea about the general plot. This series is very different from my Griffin’s Daughter trilogy, which was a romantic fantasy.
The book has already gotten glowing reviews from, among others, Howard Hendrix, a Hugo and Nebula Award nominee, and Emma Bull, one of the inventors of the urban fantasy genre back in the ’80’s.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write a story based on a traditional fairy tale, but turn it on its head. In so many fairy tales, the female is passive. She’s there only as a prop for the male hero to rescue. Or, if she is the center of the tale, she’s the victim of manipulative, malign forces, and still ends up needing a male savior. The Vox Machina Trilogy, of which ATOF is the first book, takes the story of Snow White and transforms it from a tale of a helpless girl needing rescue by not one, but eight (the seven dwarves, plus the Prince) men, to one of a girl rising up from the ashes of her former life to become the savior of not one, but two nations.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I’ve modeled my style after two wonderful fantasy writers–Janny Wurts, and Kate Elliot. I like to think of it as Neo Victorian. It’s a lush, complex style, full of beautiful similes and uncommon word choices. Some would call it ‘purple’ or ‘flowery’. It’s definitely not in fashion these days, particularly with American editors, critics, and other ‘gatekeepers’ of the literary world. The common wisdom is that modern readers lack the patience for long, complex sentences and lush imagery. Everything is supposed to be short and unembellished. I don’t buy that. Both Janny and Kate have vast fan bases, and continue to sell lots of books.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
My fianceé and I were having dinner at Marie Callendar’s, and we were brainstorming ideas. He pointed out how all of the character’s fates were intertwined. I imagined a big ball of string, all tangled up, thus, the title was born.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
All my books have overt political themes. The Vox Machina Trilogy deals with political repression and racial injustice, and how a small group of committed individuals can overthrow an entrenched regime. The main message is that it’s not impossible to effect radical change in a society. It just needs brave people to stand up and fight for what’s right.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Only insofar as I’m alive in these times, and angry about the many injustices I see in our society and others around the world.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
James Herriott, who wrote All Creatures Great And Small, about his life as a country vet in England during the 1920‘s and 30‘s. He made the veterinary profession come alive for me and inspired me to become a vet myself. Strange, though, I didn’t read those books, thinking, hey, I can also be a writer as well as a vet. I never connected the two. I think I was too young.
Much later, in 2001, I went to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and attended a panel about writing fantasy fiction. Terry Brooks, the author of the best-selling Sword of Shannara series was one of the panelists. I’ve read a lot of his work. He talked about how he’d been a lawyer, and it had taken him many years to transition from full-time lawyer to full-time writer. He’d had years in between where he wrote books and practiced law. When I heard how he’d persevered until he achieved his goal of quitting law to support himself on his writings, I knew I could do the same. I’m not there yet, but soon.
There are other authors who’ve influenced my writing life. I’ve already mentioned Janny Wurts and Kate Elliott, both of whom helped me to develop my voice.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
There isn’t anyone I know personally that I can say has been a mentor, but of the many writers I admire, Janny Wurts is the closest. I study how she puts together sentences, and her breathtaking imagery, as if I’m in a master class and she’s the teacher.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write every day, if possible, even if it’s only a few paragraphs. Study writers you admire, learn how they do things, then emulate them. Know proper grammar, in whatever language(s) you write in. Then, when you break the rules, you’re doing it as a stylistic choice and not out of ignorance. Learn how to critically analyze other people’s criticism of your work. Everyone has an opinion, but not everyone who reads your stuff will have the necessary insight and abilities to offer useful advice. It’s OK to reject suggestions as crap, even if it’s from someone you trust. In the end, you are the boss. Write what you want to write.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks for coming along on this wonderful journey with me. There are many more stories I want to share, and I hope I can bring the best of them to all of you.
Leslie Ann Moore
Los Angeles, CA
A TANGLE OF FATES