The Qwillery | category: Lisa Goldstein


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Lisa Goldstein

Please welcome Lisa Goldstein to The Qwillery. Weighing Shadows was published by Night Shade Books on November 3, 2015.

Interview with Lisa Goldstein

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Lisa:  For some reason I always knew I wanted to be a writer, and I started writing pretty much as soon as I could read. When I was about five years old I wrote a story about someone waking up and finding snow on the ground outside -- a story I must have stolen from somewhere, since I grew up in Los Angeles.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Lisa:  Mostly a pantser. I wish I could be a plotter, since making things up as I go along means that I will sometimes end up with dangling plot-threads or an extra character or two, and then I have to go back and unravel entire sections of the manuscript. I did make a fairly complete outline for a book once, but I found that outlining took away a lot of the joy of discovery when I came to write it.

TQDescribe Weighing Shadows in 140 characters or less.

Lisa:  A contemporary woman is recruited into an organization that travels in time, but she becomes suspicious of their motives while visiting the past.

TQTell us something about Weighing Shadows that is not found in the book description.

Lisa:  I recently learned that it’s common in Cuba to give children names starting with “y,” like Yoani or Yasiel. I liked this so much that I gave one of my characters a name like this -- Yaniel -- though I never found a place to mention that he’s of Cuban descent. I guess he’s lucky I didn’t call him Usnavi, which is a Cuban name that comes from people seeing ships in the harbor with “U.S. Navy” on them.

TQWhat inspired you to write Weighing Shadows? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Lisa:  A lot of things all came together with Weighing Shadows. I’ve always wanted to write a book about time travel, because it looked like it would be a lot of fun. Then I came up with the idea of a group of women, goddess worshippers, who had to go undercover when more patriarchal cultures came to power but who survived down to the present day and were still able to influence things from the shadows. I wanted to learn more about matriarchies, especially ancient Crete, and other little-known eras of history. And finally, I came up with a character I really liked, someone who joined a company of time travelers but who was independent enough to make up her own mind, who could realize that the company might not have her best interests, or the best interests of her time period, in mind.

I usually write fantasy, but Weighing Shadows is science fiction. I wanted to see if I could do that science-fiction thing where you take a hypothesis -- in this case that people can travel through time -- and work out some of the permutations. One of the things I came up with was that if people had this ability they would almost certainly use it to get and hold onto power for themselves, no matter what benevolent reasons they had started out with.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Weighing Shadows?

Lisa:  I read a ton of books to research the three main time periods -- ancient Crete, the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, and thirteenth-century troubadours in southern France. In a lot of ways this was the most fun part of writing. Ancient Crete was the hardest because so little is known about it, and also because even historians can’t seem to get their heads around what it would mean to live in a matriarchal society. For example, a lot of historians called a beautiful chair in the palace at Knossos “the throne of King Minos,” but wouldn’t a matriarchy have a queen, not a king? Serendipitously, when I started to research the troubadours my husband became interested in learning how to play the lute, and I got to hear what a lot of the songs would have sounded like.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Lisa:  The main character, Ann, turned out to be very easy to write, though I’m not sure why that is. She’s someone who had a difficult early life and had to become very resourceful to get what she wanted -- which meant that when she started getting suspicious about what the time-traveling corporation was up to she was able to become a double agent and break into the fifth floor, the covert nerve center where all the decisions are made. I enjoyed seeing how she came up with solutions to the various problems that were thrown at her -- in some ways she’s smarter than I am. (I couldn’t hack my way into a computer to save my life, for example, but I had help with that part of the story.)

The hard part was figuring out the people in other eras. They’re so far from our experience, and their mindset would be very different from ours.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Weighing Shadows?

Lisa:  This is a hard one. If I write that a matriarchal society like ancient Crete existed for over a thousand years with almost no wars, that they had a prosperous and vibrant and artistic society, am I making a point about feminism or just writing about a historical epoch? Some people will say it’s the former, but would they even notice if I wrote about a thriving patriarchal culture? If I make women and people of color the main characters in this book, is that a social issue or just a way of including people who have been excluded earlier? Weighing Shadows does reflect things I believe in, just like every novel I ever wrote, just like every novel anyone ever wrote, but my main focus was trying to tell a good story.

TQWhich question about Weighing Shadows do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: What was the most fun part to write?

I really enjoyed visiting various time periods. This is something I’d never get a chance to do in real life, so it was great to do it in my imagination, to describe what it would be like to live in a matriarchy, or a city under siege. And I’d always wanted to save books from the fire at the Library of Alexandria, so I got to do that.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Weighing Shadows.

Lisa:  I liked some of the descriptions, like this one of Knossos in Crete:

“Carts passed them, carrying grapes, olives, pottery, and men and women on horses rode by, and even a chariot. The houses on either side were open, their wares stacked in the doorways: patterned cloth, bronze figurines, double axes.”

And, maybe presumptuously, I made up a more goddess-centered version of the myth of Persephone, or Kore (some scholars think that this was an earlier form of the story):

“But Kore said, ‘If I go with you, who will judge the dead, and tell them when it is their time to go? And I have taken the bull as my consort, and cannot go back to your house.’ Then Demeter saw how it was, that her daughter was a woman grown, and had taken a consort.”

TQWhat's next?

Lisa:  I just sold two short stories, “Sawing” to Nightmare and “The Catastrophe of Cities” to Asimov’s Science Fiction, and I’m gearing up to write another novel.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Weighing Shadows
Night Shade Books, November 3, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 328 pages

Interview with Lisa Goldstein
Ann Decker fixes computers for a living, and in the evenings she passes the time sharpening her hacking skills. It’s not a very interesting life, but she gets by—until one day she’s contacted with a job offer for a company called Transformations Incorporated. None of her coworkers have ever heard of it before, and when Ann is finally told what the company does, she can hardly believe it: TI has invented technology to travel in time.

Soon Ann is visiting a matriarchy in ancient Crete, and then a woman mathematician at the Library of Alexandria. But Transformations Incorporated remains shrouded in mystery, and when Ann finally catches her breath, there are too many troubling questions still unanswered. Who are Transformations Incorporated, and what will they use this technology to gain? What ill effects might going back in time have on the present day? Is it really as harmless as TI says?

When a coworker turns up dead, Ann’s superiors warn her about a covert group called Core out to sabotage the company. Something just isn’t right, but before she has time to investigate, Ann is sent to a castle in the south of France, nearly a thousand years in the past. As the armies of the Crusade arrive to lay siege, and intrigue grows among the viscount’s family, Ann will discover the startling truth—not just about the company that sent her there, but also about her own past.

About Lisa

Lisa Goldstein is the National Book Award-winning fantasy author of The Red Magician. Her stories have appeared in Ms., Asimov’s Science Fiction, and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and her novels and short stories have been finalists for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. Her novel, The Uncertain Places, won the Mythopoeic Award and her short story “Paradise Is a Walled Garden” won the Sidewise Award.


Melanie's Week in Review - December 21, 2014

Melanie's Week in Review  - December 21, 2014

In the run up to the Christmas holiday I have had lots of extra commuting time which means extra time to get through a few books. Even with the extra time I only managed to read 2 books and a short story. I am hoping Santa brings back my reading mojo and leaves it in my stocking as I would like to get a bit closer to hitting my Goodreads reading challenge. So what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review  - December 21, 2014
I started the week with a nice short, short story. The Lightning God's Wife by Grace Draven is a story within a story and starts with Martise from Draven's Master of Crows series. Martise recounts the tale of Revida, an outcast rain priestess, a long drought and what happens when Revida rescues a man and his young children. I don't want to say too much as this story is very brief and I could easily give the whole plot away in a few sentences. What I can say is that I enjoy reading more of the characters from Master of Crows even if only in a few paragraphs.

Melanie's Week in Review  - December 21, 2014The first full length book I read this week has turned out to be one of the best books I have read this year. If you haven't heard of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North then I urge you to get to your local book story or find it online, post haste! Harry is the orphan of a young woman who had the misfortune of being the servant of a wealthy, damaged and violent man. His mother dies during his birth and Harry is adopted by the gardener of his natural father. His life turns out quite uneventful as a series of events keep him poor and relatively uneducated. Well...that was his first life anyway. Harry is a 'kalachakra'  - someone who is re-born, time and time again, in the same place, in the same year and all his memories intact. The story actually starts in Harry's 11th life when a young girl is waiting by his death bed with an urgent message that the world is ending and its up to Harry to save it. North takes us back and forth through Harry's lives as he tries to solve the puzzle of who and what he is and what he needs to do to stop the destruction of not just the world but of his timeline (think Back to the Future).

This is a 'can't put down' book and engaging from the first page. North manages to make Harry likeable even when he has to do some of the most unlikeable things. As the story moves back and forth through his lives you are never too sure what will happen next, or what could happen next. I felt quite sorry for Harry in many ways for having to re-live his life over and over even though he was able to make use of his mnemonic memory to make money, learn a variety of languages and have several different careers from mechanic to doctor. This is a great book and a must read which I can't do justice to in this mini review. I hope you find out for yourself.

Melanie's Week in Review  - December 21, 2014
The final book I have to tell you about this week is Walking the Labyrinth by Lisa Goldstein. I received this book from the publisher (via NetGalley) following my review of The Red Magician which I really enjoyed. Goldstein tells the story of Molly who was orphaned (another orphan) at a young age and raised by her eccentric aunt Fentrice. Its not until a private investigator tracks her down that she discovers she comes from a magical family who used to travel across the States as a vaudeville act. It's not long before she uncovers a number of skeletons in a number of closets and the extent of her family's magical powers.

I was looking forward to this book and after the first few chapters I thought it showed real promise. Midway through I was however, a tad disappointed. During the first few chapters I thought this book was going to be a bit of a cross between The Night Circus and The Troupe and perhaps this was why I found it disappointing. I didn't feel that Goldstein adequately developed her lead characters - specifically Molly. I didn't engage with her and therefore, didn't emphasize with her or her situation. I liked the idea of the labyrinth but I didn't feel the other magical elements were constructed sufficiently. The magical abilities of certain characters started out as straightforward mind reading and ended up being able to create complex illusions including manipulating people and events. There didn't seem to be an explanation for how or why this happened which made this novel feel like the development of the plot had been rushed. Overall disappointing but it wouldn't put me off reading other books by this author.

That is it for me this week. I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas have a great holiday and that Santa leaves you some fantastic books under the tree. Until next week Happy Reading and Happy Christmas.

Melanie's Week in Review - November 9, 2014

Melanie's Week in Review - November 9, 2014

Hello! I hope you have had a great week. I have been marginally frustrated with my reading progress this week. I felt like I was reading really quickly but not getting through very many books. So what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - November 9, 2014

I started the week with The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein which I received from the good people at NetGalley. As you can see from the cover this novel is an award winner. Winning an award isn't always an indicator of palatable book but in the case of The Red Magician it is a must read. I can't candy coat it and say that this is an easy read as that wouldn't be doing justice to either the book or the author.

The Red Magician tells the story of Kicsi, a teenager living in a small town in rural Hungary. Her life completely changes when her father invites a a wanderer home for dinner. Voros, the red headed magician irrevocably changes Kisci's life. Voros tries to warn the village of the impending destruction of their way of life. The one person in his way is the local rabbi who is determined to silence Voros one way or another. Events take their toll not just on Kisci but everyone she knows and loves. World War 2 finds Kisci's village captured by the German army and most of her family are brutally murdered in the holocaust. She survives in an internment camp but is a shadow of her former self. Once again Voros comes into her life just when she thought hers was at an end. Faith and the power of friendship play an important part in the life of the teenage Kisci. 

This is a lovely story, a story of friendship, faith, belief in the impossible/improbable and new beginnings. Goldstein creates a story with a fairytale like feel and characters who are believable and realistic. This is a quick read but beware as its quite 'sniffy' at the end so if like me you read predominantly on public transport you may need to keep some tissues on hand.

Melanie's Week in Review - November 9, 2014
Book 2 of the week was less intense  - Pack of Lies by Annie Bellet which is the third in the Twenty-Sided Sorceress series. I started this series a few months ago and haven't really found the story challenging but it is a quick and easy read. This instalment starts a few months after the events of book 2 where Jade is still recovering for her part in the death of her father and abandonment by the hunky Justice, Alex. Trouble seems to follow Jade when a century old peace treaty amongst the wolf shifters is threatened when both shifters and human's are found murdered. Jade and her friends try to solve the murders and try not to get killed in the process. Yet again, this was an easy read but I wasn't especially challenged. I will keep reading only for the moderately big cliff-hanger at the end of this instalment.

Melanie's Week in Review - November 9, 2014
I then turned to another book from NetGalley - City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. Qwill reviewed this book back in September. I am only partway through the novel but so far I am gripped! I shouldn't be surprised though as any book Qwill likes then I am sure to agree. In fact most of my favourite books have been recommended by Qwill so don't miss out.

That is it for me folks for this week. I hope to find some good books next week and I hope you do too. Until then Happy Reading.

Interview with Lisa GoldsteinMelanie's Week in Review  - December 21, 2014Melanie's Week in Review - November 9, 2014

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