I recently joined the Sunday Street Team, and I’m so excited to be aboard this fantastic team! Now with that said, it’s time to get down to business. I was lucky enough to interview the fabulous Lindsay Smith about her latest novel Dreamstrider, and anything else my heart desired.
Author: Lindsay Smith
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication date: October 6, 2015
Summary (via Goodreads): A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.
Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject’s body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.
A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.
Was there anything specific in your life that made you want to write?
I’ve always been making up stories in my head as answers to random “What if?” questions. Trying to write them down was a great way to pass the time in class when I was kid! As an adult, writing became a creative outlet for me, a way to de-stress after work rather than lie motionless on the couch watching television. Now I get to lie motionless on the couch while typing about fantasy worlds and kissing and spies. 😉
Do you have a favorite background character in Dreamstrider?
I really love Vera, one of Livia’s teammates at the Ministry of Affairs. She’s feisty, fierce, and unafraid to state her mind–all things that Livia is fearful or too conditioned not to be. I wouldn’t say Vera is a good role model for Livia–she’s pretty rude and rash, too–but she definitely brings a different viewpoint to the team. I got to explore Vera’s story a little more in a short story I wrote for Tor.com, “Kingmaker.”
If you were on a deserted island, what’s one book that you’d want to have with you?
I only get one? Oh, dear. I’d probably choose a massive omnibus of fantasy novels to pass the time, like maybe Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series. Or maybe the complete works of Dostoevsky. Something epic and juicy that I can devour slowly to keep me occupied until I’m (hopefully) rescued!
Have you read any good books lately?
I recently read and adored Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, a wonderful fantasy book about a girl forced to serve as an apprentice to a sorcerer. It starts out very simply, but the story is vast and rich and delightful. I also really enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I’m hesitant to read “fantasy” stories that are actually post-post-apocalyptic, because I often find the references to our modern era a little too nudge-wink, but I thought it was beautifully done, and Kelsea’s struggles as she takes the throne are so vivid and genuine.
Did you have a playlist that you listened to while writing Dreamstrider?
Music plays a major role in the Sekret books, but not as much in Dreamstrider. Still, I’m a sucker for great classical music, so I listened to a lot of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky while drafting. Dreamstrider was a big book for symphonic metal and its sweeping melodies–Nightwish, Leaves’ Eyes, Lacuna Coil, and so on.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I write first drafts fairly quickly, often in just four to five weeks. Unfortunately, I used to be a “pantser” writer (meaning I wrote without a solid outline, or “by the seat of my pants”). I’d have about eight to ten plot points I knew I needed to hit in the story, but no idea how to connect them. Dreamstrider was the book that broke me of that! I ended up significantly rewriting it a good five times because the plot was too complicated to rework. Now I write from much more detailed outlines, which improves my drafting speed even more, but also results in much cleaner first drafts that don’t start out as one book and end as another.
Where did you get the idea for Dreamstrider?
Dreamstrider was initially called Skinwalkers in my head, which sounds super gross. I’m glad I changed it! I knew I wanted to write a fantasy spy adventure, and the element of taking over other people through their dreams really intrigued me. I ended up building a whole religion and culture around dreams and their hidden messages, and the rest of the story grew organically out of that.
Do you have any advice for writers looking to be published?
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your writing process, or anything else! Changing to an outliner really worked for me, but maybe you’d write better if you let go of your outlines. Try a variety of genres to find your most authentic voice. And never let the blank page get the better of you. You have to put words on it in order to have written. The quality of those words is something you can fix later.
Do you have a favorite book out of all the ones you’ve written so far? If so, why is it your favorite?
Now, now, I love all my children equally. 😉 Honestly, my favorite book is always the one I’ve just finished or the one I can’t wait to write next, and my least favorite is the one I’m currently struggling through. The books change but that rule doesn’t. I always take comfort in knowing that whatever I’ve finished was the best work that I could do at that point in time. And I’m always excited for the unsoiled potential of the next new idea.
What are some of your hobbies?
I’m a huge board game fan. My husband and I spend way too much money at our local game shop, and we enjoy hosting regular board game nights with our friends (and tons of food and beer–another hobby of mine). I also enjoy video games. Right now, I’m hooked on Heroes of the Storm, and this wonderful little British murder mystery game called Contradiction. Outside of that, I’m usually found either watching Russian TV serials, reading, or plotting my next story idea.
Lindsay Smith: Author of YA historical thrillers SEKRET and SKANDAL and the YA fantasy DREAMSTRIDER (all from Macmillan Children’s). Russophile, foreign affairs junkie, nerd.