L.J. LaBarthe is a French-Australian woman, who was born during the Witching Hour, just after midnight. From this auspicious beginning, she went on to write a prize-winning short story about Humpty Dumpty wearing an Aussie hat complete with corks dangling from it when she was six years old.
From there, she wrote for her high school yearbook, her university newspaper, and, from her early teens to her twenties, produced a fanzine about the local punk rock music scene. She loves music of all kinds and was once a classical pianist; she loves languages and speaks French and English and a teeny-tiny smattering of Mandarin Chinese, which she hopes to relearn properly very soon. She enjoys TV, film, travel, cooking, eating out, abandoned places, urbex, history, and researching.
L.J. loves to read complicated plots and hopes to do complex plot lines justice in her own writing. She writes paranormal, historical, urban fantasy, and contemporary Australian stories, usually m/m romance and featuring m/m erotica. She has won a Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention and another award for Best Historical Gay Novel.
L.J. lives in the city of Adelaide, and is owned by her cat.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always written something, even as a kid, once I’d learned my ABCs. I don’t know that there was any particular inspiration there, certainly not as a child. I wrote and drew out my daydreams when I was little, and most of the time, those involved me with two pet cheetahs saving the world!
When I was six years old, I wrote a little story and drew accompanying picture of Australian Humpty Dumpty, and that won me a trip to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, which I still remember—travel inspires me a lot, even if it’s armchair travel from the comfort of my living room while on the Internet.
How long have you been writing?
Since I learned how to string a sentence together.
What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
Don’t give up—keep writing, keep sending in submissions, don’t let the rejections discourage you because we’ve all had them, and one day they’ll be acceptances. I keep my rejection letters because they remind me that yes, someone did read the book and take the time to reply, even if it’s a form letter.
And read Stephen King’s “Beyond Writing.”
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I do, definitely. When I do, I go and stand in the bathroom, aka the Room of Wisdom, as I always get an idea in there. I don’t know why, it’s a mystery!
I also suffer from author fatigue, which I characterize as feeling like the well has gone dry—usually this happens for me when I’ve had a particularly long and stressful period in my life or after I’ve done something like have six titles released in a year, as I did in 2015! Then I just need to take some me time and read or watch TV and let things happen organically until I feel more refreshed.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Oh, I hate this question! I don’t have one favourite author, I have a lot of authors I re-read and will buy their books without even reading the blurb, and that’s generally for the same reason as anyone else—I love their writing, I enjoy the narrative, the world building, the story telling. But I really can’t limit my list down to one!
What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
A solid story with likable characters—even the bad guys, because don’t we all love a good villain?
How do you develop your plot and characters?
Generally, I’m what’s called a pantser, in that I have an idea, I sit down to write and it comes to me as I go. So I don’t really plot anything beforehand, it all develops organically as I write. And then I slash and chop and destroy it all when I edit it and fix it up prior to submission.
There have been three times I’ve preplanned in order to develop the plot. One was for “City of Jade,” because that’s a historical and I needed to be very clear what I was writing, where my characters were going and if it was historically accurate. The next was another historical, which I’ve set aside for the moment, for much the same reason. And the last is my current work in progress, which I did so I’d remember all my characters and how they related to each other.
What comes first, the plot or characters?
A bit of both.
Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.
Earth is a paradise for the very rich to do with as they please. Farming is considered an occupation that only the richest of the rich would do. The poor and middle classes of humanity live off-world, in other colonies.
Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell us about?
A couple of things. I’m working on the second co-authored contemporary with Cate Ashwood, this one’s set in Australia and is about a Canadian male nurse who comes to work here and meets and falls for an Australian truck driver. The other is a vampire detective series that may be three or four books, I’m not sure yet.
What are you reading now?
I’m half way through “Lover at Last” by J. R. Ward, book twelve of the “Black Dagger Brotherhood” series.
What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
At first, I was going to say that I honestly don’t know, but then I remembered one author who has had an influence. He writes more than books, though, he writes comics, TV series and movie scripts. His name is J. Michael Straczynski and it was his show, “Babylon 5” that had a great impact on me.
How do you come up with the titles to your books?
I’m terrible at titles. So it’s a bit of a luck of the draw. I get ideas from music, song lyrics, stuff like that, or quotes or something I’ll hear in conversation.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t think I woke up one morning and said, “Good morning, self, today I am a writer.” I don’t think anyone does that. So I don’t think it’s anything that I’ve consciously thought about or considered. I type words into a Word Doc and hope for the best. Sometimes those words are terrible; sometimes they aren’t.
Describe your writing space.
Laptop on a very cluttered laptop table, which is beside a very cluttered coffee table. Bottle of water close to hand, comfortable chair to sit on.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
Lately, I do blocks of one-hour sprints. I can usually bang out a chapter in that time, around 3000 words. Some days, it’s one of those sprints, some days it’s more, it depends on how I’m feeling and what commitments I have for that day.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I tend to tap my right foot to the beat of a song no one can hear while I’m writing.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Ooh, this will be a long list! I like to weave, I can’t knit or crochet to save my life, but weaving, I love. Photography, I’ve always loved doing that and I’ve had a camera since I was a child. (Getting a picture of what I was like as a kid? LOL!) I have certain TV shows I love, like “Doctor Who,” (Peter Capaldi is amazing), “Homeland,” “Supernatural.” I’ve got a pile of TV shows to catch up on, too, so that’s my Christmas holiday break plan, series binge. I like to read, travel, cook, movies… there’s a lot.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?
That all my invented minerals end in –ium. Rhenium, Endrium, that sort of thing. I don’t know why, either.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
A lot! Seventeen, including novellas. I think “City of Jade” is my favorite, because it’s set in my favorite period in history and was a labor of love for me to write and research.
Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?
Sometimes. It’s always wonderful to hear from readers, I love getting emails and messages from them. One reader told me that he and his husband loved “The Archangel Chronicles” and read them together, which was a wonderful compliment, and another reader told me that he was sad that they were coming to an end, he’d enjoyed them so much, another wonderful compliment. I had a great conversation with a reader about the history of 1920s Adelaide from my novella, “The Body on The Beach.” Another reader told me she loved “City of Jade” because it was so lush and vividly written that she could see everywhere they were going in her mind’s eye as she was reading it. So I’ve gotten some incredibly wonderful feedback from readers, which is the best thing ever.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A vet! I’ve always loved animals.
How do you do research for your books?
I hit the books, basically. Hit up Google, then if necessary, go to the library and hit the reference sections. I take a lot of notes, save a lot of files. And I keep a list of my sources for when I’m writing a historical as I always include a bibliography at the back.
An excerpt from Song of Song (due out January 18th)
Dex glanced at the giant billboard that was rearing up in front of them. It was another one with Song’s image on it, the text demanding to know, “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN?” followed by, “DO NOT APPROACH, ARMED AND DANGEROUS. ALERT AUTHORITIES AT ONCE.” The words were written in red and yellow, just the right colors to inspire fear, but Dex ignored that, focusing instead on the photo as they drew closer.
This was a new one, he thought. He hadn’t seen this particular photograph of Song before. In this one, he was wearing a white laboratory coat over his black clothes, and a pair of plas-glass lab goggles were pushed up onto his forehead. His dark hair, slightly longer than in the other shots, stuck out in spikes at all angles, and his eyebrows were knit tightly together as he stared at something. His lips were pursed, made thin by doing so, and his expression was one of intense concentration. He was leaning forward slightly, and Dex wondered if this had been taken from a company brochure, something advertising how good they were at making deep-space ships, particularly ones with high levels of organic matter and sentience.
He was still handsome, though, and Dex felt his cheeks heat up as he stared at the image. He wasn’t too concerned about not keeping his eyes on the road, because there was no other traffic and the lightcycle systems would alert him to imminent collision anyway. So he stared at the photograph, his eyes running over every line of Song’s features, and taking in the long, almost delicate fingers that held something that had been cut out of the shot. It was a good photo, Dex thought; it showed off Song’s intensity far more than the smug, self-satisfied (and very sexy, to Dex’s mind) photos that had been circulating in the press and local Sydney Authority billboards. This one showed that Song was not just an Authority-classified Bad Man, but he was an intelligent one as well.
The sign lit up as the lightcycle got close enough, and new words appeared on it. Dex read them, frowning a little. They didn’t say much, reiterating that Song was dangerous and was to be avoided at all costs and that the Authorities should be called if he was sighted, but also, most interestingly, that he was no longer alone. Dex wished he had the time to stop and do a quick search about that on his fold-top computer, but he didn’t. He had an appointment in Shanghai and a spaceship to catch.
“I’ll look it up on board,” Dex said to himself. “Plenty of time for reading then.”
With that, Dex increased the speed of the bike and it roared on, past the billboard sign and over the sea, toward Java.
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