After reading the novella ‘Monster is in the Eye of the Beholder’, I knew I had to interview its author, Lorinda J Taylor. I loved it and I’d never read anything quite like it. Not being a geeky hardcore sci-fi fan, I was worried that I would find it hard-going, but instead I found it highly readable and unputdownable! At 19,300 words long, I devoured it in one sitting. I’d like you to experience a glimpse into Lorinda’s writing too, so we’re giving away three e-book copies of ‘Monster is in the Eye of the Beholder’; one each to three lucky randomly selected people who comment below by 11pm GMT on Monday 8 April (sorry fellow Limebirds, you’re not eligible to enter!). Best known for writing sci-fi about giant intelligent termites (more on that later), Lorinda tells all below…
Hi Lorinda, thank you for coming in to chat. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
Of course. I’m a retired librarian and live in Colorado Springs, USA. As a child, I was always making up imaginary worlds, but I didn’t start writing fantasy until I read “Lord of the Rings” in 1969 and discovered that even serious scholars like J.R.R. Tolkien can continue to create such worlds far into their adult lives. Family considerations forced me to take a hiatus from writing from 1983 until 2000. By that time, my responsibilities had ended and I bought my first computer. Since then, I’ve written a novella and several novels (focusing on first-contact science fiction stories and also what could be called mythic fantasy). I began to self-publish in November of 2011; I decided I couldn’t live long enough to achieve anything by the traditional route!
Great. Now, can you tell us something about you beginning with A, something with B, and something with C?
A: Let me think … Angelic? (definitely not!) Ancient? (getting there!) Artistic? (only if I draw termites!) Archaeologist? (I always wished I could have been one, but I lacked a spirit of adventure.) And Automobiles – that’s on my mind lately since I just got rid of my car!
B: I’m a Bibliophile – I like books! And the fourth volume of series The Labors of Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head will be called Beneath the Mountain of Heavy Fear. Now, what could that mean?
C: This is the easiest! I was born in Colorado Springs, I attended Colorado College, Cornell University, and the University of California at Los Angeles. (Also the University of Texas, but that doesn’t fit the pattern!)
Thank you for those ABCs, which leads me neatly on to this – as a grammarian, which grammar mistake irritates you the most when you see it?
Incorrect use of nominative vs. objective cases of pronouns. My grammar-teaching mother used to wax indignant over this and I inherited her attitude. See my post Ye Olde Grammarian No.2.
Gosh, yes, I couldn’t agree more – incorrect use of nominative vs. objective cases of pronouns is the worst! (*Rushes off to read Lorinda’s post to find out what it is*) Ok, in one sentence, what would you like people to know about your books?
I write intelligent, literary-style science fiction with what I hope people will see as compelling characters (be they human or insectile or avian or lemuriform or monotreme!), absorbing plots, exciting climaxes, and endings that leave you with something to think about.
And now the burning question…why termites?
During my first writing phase, back in the 1970s, I was writing Tolkien-style fantasy and reading a lot of fantasy and some science fiction (Ursula K. LeGuin for one). I happened to see a documentary on the African fungus-growing termite, a wonderful piece called “Mysterious Castles of Clay,” narrated by Orson Welles. It was based on microphotography taken inside the mound, showing the queen and the nursery, with the nymphs begging for food like little puppy dogs – unbelievably cute! – and the huge-headed soldiers, and the flights of alates, and the workers repairing the mound and growing the fungus and caring for the queen. It seemed like such an advanced but bizarre lifestyle, and quite pacific, especially when compared with that of ants. (The mounds actually have their own air-conditioning system, and termites are monogamous!) And I thought, “Termites would be a terrific candidate to evolve on another planet into intelligent beings!” If they got larger and smarter but kept many of the same isopteroid characteristics, what would their culture be like? How would they speak? What if humans discovered the termite people but didn’t realize they were intelligent? How would humans learn to communicate with them? I conceived a female anthropologist who studied a captive worker that has been brought back to Earth and became convinced it was intelligent.
I kept that germ of an idea in the back of my mind for years. When I went back to writing in 2000 and produced “Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder,” I realized that Prf. Kaitrin Oliva in that novella was the perfect candidate for the anthropologist. And so The Termite Queen was born and began to evolve.
TERMITES RULE! (And by the way, I discovered this note in one of my research documents: “From the program “Mysterious Castles of Clay” – Roasted termites taste like a cross between bone marrow and peanut butter!”)
Interesting! And thank you for the snack idea. And finally, something practical – what is the one piece of advice you would give to other writers who are thinking of going the self-publishing route?
Be patient and self-confident, and publish material that you really believe in (I suppose that’s three pieces of advice, actually). You’re not going to be an overnight success and you may spend a lot more money than you ever make. Quick, profitable success is easier if you write simple but well-crafted stories that are trendy, like the current zombie craze, or else write material that appeals to people with a taste for the prurient. If your intent is literary and you’re more interested in critical recognition by educated and intelligent people than you are in mass fame and fortune, write your very best no matter what your genre and then be prepared to work hard at getting yourself noticed. You need to be convinced that what you’ve written is worth preserving for posterity and you need to convince other people of that. You need to demonstrate a little chutzpah – be willing to tell people how great your material is! That doesn’t come naturally to me, I confess, and you don’t want to overdo it because you can turn people off, but you don’t want to be a shrinking violet, either. After almost a year and a half, I’m beginning to have people pay some attention to me, but I’m still not exactly a bestseller. So I say again, Patience, patience, patience! Be confident in what you’re doing, and never give up.
Thank you so much Lorinda!
If you’d like to connect with Lorinda, find out more about her, or buy her books, here are the links…
Remember to leave a comment below to be in with a chance of winning her novella!