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    Interview with Holly Lisle
Interview by Lee Masterson


**Don't forget to take a look at the two free ebooks Holly has to offer on our "Freebies" page**

Fiction Factor - Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative "spark" alive - both in your work and out of it?

Holly Lisle - I think this is much a factor of who I am as of what I do -- I cannot watch a person walking down the street on a sunny day without imagining him or her as an alien, a serial killer, someone holding one of the major secrets of the universe, someone pursued by ghosts, haunted by demons, or simply running from something that would scare the bejeezus out of the rest of us if we only knew. I am an unabashed restaurant eavesdropper, a constant mall people-watcher, and endless reader of everything in fiction and nonfiction. I get a kick out of putting words on the page. I like scaring myself, making myself laugh, making myself cry. When I do this, I figure I've got that part of the book right.

To really enjoy writing, to really stay fresh with it, I'd recommend reading things you hate as well as things you like, watching people, and possibly hanging out with other writers, which I always find inspirational.

FF - Your site (http://www.hollylisle.com) offers such an amazing array of writing tips, that one has to wonder how you find time to write anything else! What prompted you to create the site?

HL - The short answer -- free blank space and Heinlein's comment that we cannot pay back, we can only pay forward.

The long answer -- the writing part of the site started as an adjunct to a regular reader-oriented site put together for me by my friend Lazette Gifford (
http://www.lazette.net) back before I actually got on the internet. When I joined SFF-Net, my free pro-writer membership included space for a web page. I was intrigued -- knew nothing about HTML, and was a bit afraid to learn -- but the blank canvas offered a temptation that overcame the fear. I saw Zette's page as the equivalent of the newsletter I used to send out to people who sent fan letters, but I saw the sff.net site as perhaps a way to replace the writers' group newsletter I did when I was first getting started.

It grew like Clifford the Big Red Dog -- a page here, a page there, over a period of years. Every time I hit something that just flattened me, and figured out a way to write myself out of it, I wrote an article on that and posted it. After a while, it became a bit of an obsession -- and when the Internet started inventing free community-creation tools, look out. Suddenly I could replace all the other facets of the writers' group I missed so much (I'd moved away).

I eventually moved from the free site to a paid site, still with SFF-Net, because this allowed me to offer more features and to expand all over the place.

FF - Has having an online presence helped or hindered your writing?

HL - Oh, God. That is the question, isn't it? On the one hand, it is a huge time sink. On the other hand, the site writing community is an endless source of inspiration. And on the gripping hand, in writing articles for the site, I've dissected my own methods and helped myself as much as I've helped anyone who has read them.

If I had infinite time, it would be a pure win. As it is, it is winning that I have to pay for. So far, it's been very much worth the price.

FF - What pros and cons surround the e-publishing industry, and how do you envisage the future of e-publishing?

HL- I see two major cons, and a scattering of minor ones. The e-publishing industry is notoriously unselective over all, with the result that writers who e-publish as their sole or first publishing venue get no respect. Beyond that, most e-book readers are clunky and expensive, publishers have so far failed to embrace a single format standard, and formats are all over the place in terms of usability, convenience, and features.

The pros have the air of double-edges swords. Beginners can get published early -- in many cases before they're ready. The idea of instantly available downloadable fiction is gorgeous -- as soon as someone gets the format and platform issue together. I like reading books on my Handspring Visor, but not every book is available in PalmOS format. I wouldn't even consider one of the bulky readers. And as for reading from my computer screen, fageddaboudit. When I read, I want to sack out on the couch with
my feet up, well away from keyboards, mice, and ergonomically correct chairs. (Which is why my next project is to offer MUGGING THE MUSE in PalmOS. When I first did it, I figured people would use the Adobe format to just print the thing out and then hole-punch it and put it in a binder (the way I read e-books before I got my Visor.) Now I've found a better way, and am moving to embrace it.
Slowly, but I am . . .

The e-book industry will get it together. It has the advantages of being able to offer good products with low overhead, high profit margins, and low prices, and when you can do that, you can do damn near anything. It's going to have to discover a format, a sane pricing schedule (I'll pay a few bucks for an e-book, and have paid as much as fifteen for technical nonfiction that I wanted right then -- but e-books are not as satisfying from a tactile sense, don't require the publisher outlay that a physical book requires, and I resent publishers who try to sell e-book bestsellers to me for the same
price as physical books), and figure out how to market the things. Sites on the Internet -- which is the first honestly global market anyone has ever seen -- that only offer e-books for sale in the US, in US dollars, and in a single format are shooting themselves in the head.

FF - We currently offer two of your e-books for free download right here on Fiction Factor. (And I admit Sympathy for the Devil had me in stitches!) With your books being such good sellers, what was your reason for releasing them for free?

HL - Two reasons -- I wanted people to have access to them, and the out of print ones, which I'm very proud of and like a lot, aren't likely to see print again any time soon. And they're good advertising for the other things I write. Sort of the book-pusher mentality -- "The first one's free." (Well, the first several, but you get the idea.)

FF - Your novel, DIPLOMACY OF WOLVES, has gone back for a fourth printing and COURAGE OF FALCONS has sold completely out of the trade paper edition, with a mass-market paperback version due out the first of August. I also hear that your newest novel VINCALIS THE AGITATOR has just been sent in to your editor. Could you tell us a little about VINCALIS?

HL - It's the story of people who are fighting to rescue the immortality of a few from those who are fighting to save civilization for the many. For folks who have already read THE SECRET TEXTS, its also the story of how the world of Matrin got those huge holes in it<g>. For folks who _haven't_ read THE SECRET TEXTS, you can look at a full-size, full color version of the map (whole or in sections) at http://hollylisle.com/tm/matrinmap.html.

I have the first four chapters available for download in either Adobe Acrobat or PalmOS formats on my Free Downloads page -- http://hollylisle.com/community/downloads.html This is a mail-in draft, meaning that while I've edited it, my editor hasn't read it yet -- so it's still subject to some possibly-large changes.

FF - When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?

HL - I used to do conventions, but currently can't. My promotional activities are exclusively on-line at the website. My publisher kindly included the URL and my e-mail address at the end of COURAGE OF FALCONS, and I have ads for some of my books on the borders of the pages, but that's basically it. I don't mail out, I don't buy ads. My objective is to write the best books I can and hope that word of mouth, which is the best form of promotion on the planet, will work for me.

FF - What was the best piece of advice you've received in regard to your writing career?

HL - Writing is a tough business, and survival can get rocky -- persistence is more important than talent.

FF - What piece of parting advice would you give to aspiring authors?

HL - Aside from the hundreds of pages of advice on my site? <g> Just this: Writing is a tough business, and survival can get rocky -- persistence is more important than talent.

FF - Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I appreciate it.

HL - Thanks for giving me the opportunity.

All my best wishes,
Holly Lisle
Dream, Believe ... Then Act


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