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Member Spotlight: Mercedes R Lackey

author Mercedes Lackey and her book Valdemar

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? I can’t “not write.” I wrote fanfiction long before I was a published writer. The only thing that slows me down these days is age. I wish I had the energy I had back when I was “only” 50 and could put out four books a year. I tend not to think about “importance” or “messages” when I write. My goal is to entertain and give people a break. I’ve been called a hack, and I wear that name proudly–because what those critics forget is the actual definition of “hack”–a good, sound, reliable horse that gets you where you want to go.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? There is no such thing as “writer’s block.” What is actually happening is that the writer has, or is about to, written themselves into a corner. Completely without realizing it, they’ve done something that is illogical, out of character, or will require “hanging disbelief by the neck until dead.” And their subconscious, which understands that plot and those characters far better than the conscious does, has put the brakes on, full stop. The cure for that is always to go back to the point where writing was flowing freely, then, instead of plowing doggedly ahead, ask the very important question, “Well, what ELSE could happen here instead of what I planned?” You know you’ve found the right answer when the writing starts flowing again. I have never seen this tactic fail, even when it means destroying, or at least, temporarily derailing, an outline. Outlines are just a suggestion anyway.

What is your favorite time to write? Night. I am a nightowl, and nighttime means no one is calling me on the phone.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Probably Theodore Sturgeon’s advice on plotting, “Ask the next question.” You never assume the answer to your previous question is “the end.” Instead, you look at that answer and ask the next question, “Well–what if–what then–what about–” The second would be Ray Bradbury’s adage that “Every writer has a million terrible words in them, and you just have to write until they are all gone.” No one ever expects a kid to pick up a violin and play like Perlman, strap on a pair of figure skates and do a quad loop, grab a basketball and immediately become the next Shaq, or belt out a song like Beyonce. So why should you assume you can be a great writer as soon as you sit down at a keyboard?

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? For someone who writes in what used to be a reviled genre (fantasy and science fiction) it’s incredibly exciting to see that we are now considered on a par with “mainstream.”

Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar is out now with DAW.