Welcome, one and all, to another author interview! Today, I’m welcoming E.M. Hamill to the site!
Before we get going with the bookish stuff, can you do a quick introduction for any readers that may not be familiar with your work?
Hey! I’m Lisa, and I write under the pen names Elisabeth Hamill and E.M. Hamill. I write all flavors of fantasy and science fiction.
Your current title, Dali, is a space opera tale about a gender shifting person named Dali Tamareia. This is a change from your previous series, Songmaker, which was young adult fantasy. What sparked this shift in genre for you? Was there a specific thing that made you want to write something more sci-fi based, or was it something had always been planned?
I’ve been a lifelong fan of sci fi and fantasy, from the time I was small. I’ve always written both but hadn’t done anything that I felt was worthy of pursuing publishing in terms of adult science fiction. When the character of Dalí started developing in my head, I immediately knew I had to write their story and attempt to do it justice.
I absolutely loved Dali as a lead in the book. Everything from their tragic past to their emotional journey throughout the tale was beautifully realised, and they really come across as a very real entity in the fantastical universe. I was curious as to how did Dail come into your writing life? Did they appear before you started writing, or evolve naturally as you planned the story?
Dalí started with one inspired paragraph, almost like they were talking to me. In that paragraph, I knew who they were, what had happened to them, and that they were a gender-fluid, intersex human being. Everything evolved from there. Dalí is a broken person because of their loss, but very specifically not because of their anatomy, sexuality, or how others perceive them. They are completely comfortable with who they are.
Silly question, but how do you pronounce Dali’s surname? I think I must have had three different ways of saying it in my head as I was reading!
Tah-mah-RAY-ah is how I pronounce it. It’s derived from a Maori name, as Dalí’s father is a spacefaring descendant of the Maori. I apologize sincerely if I’m butchering the pronounciation myself.
The main story arc in Dali touches on a lot of different things, ranging from alien races to intergalactic politics. Did that take a lot of planning, and is there more background information that didn’t make it into the book?
There’s a huge amount of politics, genetics research, and faster than light theory I brainstormed and researched that didn’t make it into the book, but definitely helped make a stronger background. I knew it was there and could build on it without dumping all of it into the story. Some of it that did make it into the first draft was cut in favor of pacing.
Dali is available now through NineStar Press, who also published your short story All That Entails in their Beneath The Layers anthology. How did you end up working with NSP, and how have you found the experience thus far?
One of my critique partners, James Stryker, is published with NSP as well. He challenged me to enter an open call for short stories for Beneath the Layers, and my story was accepted. Shortly before that, NSP had requested my manuscript for Dalí in one of the Twitter pitching contests. The short story was accepted before the manuscript. My editor, BJ, was incredible to work with on both projects and I learned a great deal from her. Plus, they have possibly the best cover artist in the business in Natasha Snow.
I’ll admit that I’ve not yet read the Beneath The Layers anthology, but from the synopsis, your story there features a Gender-Fluid prince. This character type fits thematically with Dali and their ability to switch genders. Is Gender Fluid awareness an important issue for you? Are there any good resources for those that want to know more about it?
The story “All That Entails” actually came about wondering how a transgendered man would have coped in the 1700s, when women had no say in who they married, how they lived, and what they were allowed to do. I had just finished another round of edits with Dalí and I think the concept of gender fluidity was still prevalent in my subconscious. There are actually two points of view in the story. My prince character, Darian, is bisexual and gender-fluid, while his intended bride, Henry, is himself a transgendered man. They find unexpected allies in each other despite a hastily arranged marriage of convenience.
It’s something that I did research, with my best resources being individuals who personally identify as gender-fluid. In terms of gender and sexuality, I believe that for many people (myself included), these identities flow and change throughout our lives. People are becoming more open to that idea as time goes on. Early cultures accepted it far more readily than ours does. I hope these concepts cease to matter in time and people realize human beings are far more than the sum of their anatomy.
Moving onto your previous books, what can you tell us about the Songmaker series? And what made you choose to release this series under the name Elisabeth Hamill, but your NSP titles under E.M. Hamill?
The Songmaker series revolves around a young bard, Telyn, whose song magic can create entirely different moods and control the thoughts and actions of others. She’s a strong heroine who can hold her own in a sword fight and play any instrument she picks up, which is a talent I wish I had! The story arc deals with the return of magic, in which Telyn plays a pivotal part. It seems like a wonderful idea, but there are unanticipated consequences that must be dealt with through the series.
The pen name Elisabeth Hamill is an anagram of my real name. I have a cousin who shares the same birth name, and it’s been a point of confusion, LOL. I was advised by a few different people to separate my pen names in terms of branding, because the Songmaker books are young adult-oriented, rather innocent and fade to black in terms of romance, and quite different from my adult work as E.M. Hamill. E.M contains lots of swearing, more graphic violence, and sex.
Are you working on any other titles at the moment? And if so, are they continuations of your current titles or new works?
I have an urban mythical fantasy coming out this fall, my first foray into self-publishing. It’s called Nectar and Ambrosia. It’s a snarky, irreverent book about a new reality show that threatens a two thousand year old peace treaty between Zeus and God. It has a lot of swearing, too (fuck, yeah!), but no sex, lol. I’m working on another Dalí story, the third and final Songmaker book, and some other stuff that’s running around in my head. Unfortunately my writing time will be seriously compromised for the next couple of years as I pursue an advanced degree. I’m working as fast as I can!
Do you find it difficult juggling writing with a day job? Both in terms of creating novels and taking part in advertising before and after a release?
See above lament regarding writing time! Yes. Being a nurse, when I worked three twelve hour days a week, I had a lot more writing time but was exhausted for a good part of my off time. Now I work in a clinic on a normal week-day schedule, and I only have time to write early in the mornings, lunch breaks, or on weekends. It’s terribly difficult for me to concentrate and get in “the zone” unless I have silence and solitude, and everybody else is home when I am now. It’s something I’m working on. I often get up at 4:00 AM to write for a couple of hours before everybody else has to get up for work or school. Marketing is a real challenge. I schedule tweets and blog posts in advance if I can. I feel like I’m doing a lot more marketing than writing right now, but it will swing back the other way eventually.
I am of the view that there’s always more to learn, especially when it comes to creative ventures. That being the case, is there any advice that you’d give to upcoming authors trying to get a footing in the industry?
Hire a professional editor. Seriously. Developmental editors have been the best investment I ever made in terms of my storytelling. A really good one is not cheap, but they spotted issues in my work that I could no longer see.
Moving away from writing for a moment, you are a self-professed, unabashed geek. What are your favourite geeky pass times, and do you have any geeky recommendations for readers (in any form of media)?
We go to Planet Comicon here in the midwest every year, sometimes in cosplay, but most of the time just to be among Our People! We binge watch Doctor Who, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica (the most recent incarnation that ROCKS, and sometimes the early one). For science fiction fans, even ones who don’t normally read comics, you MUST read the Saga graphic novels. They’re beyond amazing in terms of storytelling.
You’re also a chocoholic, right? I love chocolate myself. Did you have any favourite type, and what is the oddest type of chocolate that you’ve tried?
There’s a chocolatier here called Christopher Elbow, and his lemon curd chocolates are the most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted. I’m totally hooked on the little sugar-shelled Cadbury Eggs, though. I buy them by the case in the spring. Right now Caramel M&Ms are filling the egg-less void.
I noticed on your site that you have both a dog and a cat. I know from watching mine that dogs and cats aren’t necessarily the enemies that you see on TV, though I must say, my cat has a habit of sneaking up on the dog and launching playful attacks without warning. Do you find that your fuzzy companions get along well, or are they in a constant battle for in-house dominance?
They’re like siblings. They pretend to hate each other but we find them snuggling on the couch. It’s the funniest thing ever to see them wrestle. Ashes, the cat, usually starts it and Percy, the fifty-pound dog, dishes it back, but the cat gives up first. Ashes wages a constant competition with my laptop for occupation rights.
You live in suburban Kansas. Now, during my travels through the web, I’ve seen a lot of paranormal groups based in the area, as well as the odd tale of cryptozoological creatures popping up. Pop star Ariana Grande even reported having encountered demons in Kansas back in 2013. I wouldn’t ask you to commit to saying whether you’re a believer in the paranormal, but have you had any strange encounters during your time there? Even ones that were eventually explained but sent chills down your spine first?
We have what’s known as the most haunted house in Kansas about an hour north of here: the Sallie House in Atchison, Kansas. My daughter is a huge sceptic, but she had an experience there in broad daylight that terrified her. She won’t go back. Personally, I seem to be a ghost null. I don’t think I’ve ever had any experiences, though not for lack of trying.
If you had to pick, what would be your top five musical albums of all time and why?
I like so much music that it’s difficult to choose full albums! I have a huge iPod playlist. My favorite albums are ridiculously eclectic in taste and scope, but these are the ones I rotate through in full lately:
Operation: Mindcrime by Queensryche. Rock opera at its best.
Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor is a certified genius.
Brave New World by Iron Maiden. I love everything on this album. They tell stories in every song.
Live at The Gem: The Elders. Irish rock via Kansas City. Local boys who put on a live show like no one else.
The Hamilton Soundtrack. My daughter and I sing together in the car to this, which is why I love it.
Finally, I wanted to thank you for putting up with my prying. Whereabouts on the web can everyone find you if they want to contact you or know more? Feel free to link to anything you want.