Lisa Edmonds: Addictive Urban Fantasy with a Kick!

InD: So you just moved to Arkansas?

LE: We moved from Texas to Arkansas. We moved in July from the Fort Worth area to Little Rock. My sister lives in Little Rock. I actually bought the house next door to her.

InD: That must be a good thing because you must get along with your sister.

LE: We do as adults but as kids not so much. You know, two Geminis living in the same house creates a lot of drama. But I fell in love with this house when my sister moved into her house 8 years ago. Then last year it unexpectedly came on the market. My husband and I have been talking about moving here for years, so it was not a spur of the moment kind of thing but on the horizon. I thought, “If I don't make an offer on this house I am going to regret it.” You know, every time I would visit my sister I would be thinking, “Oh, that could have been mine.” So we actually bought it last year but we didn't get to move in until this summer because I had to finish out my contract with the college that went through May. My sister joked that it was the world's slowest move because we bought it in October and moved in July. I could have left in December but I really wanted to finish out the school year.

InD: That is understandable. So do you like the house so far?

LE: Yes, very much, but it feels like every time we turn around there seems to be something else we find needs repair. It’s a Victorian-style house built in 1986, so it is a house that is 40 years old. The flipper who renovated it did a lot of repairs, but definitely not everything that needed to be done.

InD: So you're going to go to New York Comic Con? How much fun is that?

LE: Yes, I'm going to New York for the comic-con. My publisher, City Owl Press, has a booth there so a couple of us are going to go and sign books. I am a little overwhelmed thinking about it because I have never been to a comic-con as big as the one in New York. I have been to a lot of comic-cons but this one is the biggest in North America and I have never been to one that big.

InD: I have never been to comic-con but there was one in San Diego and it seemed like all of the locals moved out. But there were so many people there that I didn't even want to try it because it is so huge.

LE: Comic cons are amazing because there are so many people there and they are your kind of people, like herds of nerds, and everyone is in cosplay or wearing their favorite nerdy shirt and there are all kinds of celebrities. There are a ton of artists. There are so many people who make cool things and vendors. Crowds are definitely not my thing so I have to psych myself up and I only go for one day because it is overwhelming for me as an introvert but I have met and have taken pictures with some incredibly awesome people and actors. So you kind of have to do it and then you go home and as introverts you have to recharge because it had been so people-y. But it is fantastic. I think Chris Evans is going to be there and maybe I can catch sight of him. I went to one a few years ago and met Tim Curry. He was in a wheelchair and I had to kneel to one side of him for a picture. I told him, “It is such an honor to meet you.” And he turned to me super slowly and he said, “No—the honor is mine.” I was like, “Oh my God! Take the picture.” There were about 10 or 15 people backstage afterward and we were all holding hands, strangers, and just bawling. Even my husband was touched. He said, “If I ever have to cry on command, I will think about that.”

InD: That is so cool. What an amazing man. What an amazing experience even though it was exhausting.

LE:  Oh yes and it is top notch people-watching. People-watching is definitely my thing, whether it is at the airport or comic-con. The cosplay is incredible, the nerdiest people, and it is just all of us nerds. These are your people.

InD: In fact, I enjoy people-watching so much that I will forget and my husband will nudge me and say they are going to get uncomfortable if you don't stop staring at everybody. But I am like it is so much fun.

LE: I was at a New Orleans Comic Con a few years ago and I was going to get a picture with David Tennant from Doctor Who. While we were waiting in line for Tennat, this curtain moves aside and out comes Jason Momoa. And he just walked right past us and said “Hello!” A girl standing next to us said, “Oh my god I think I'm pregnant!” I actually got a picture with Jason Momoa at a different comic con and what is funny is that his security guards that he had are like half his size, and you know if I really wanted to climb Jason Momoa like a tree, which is what I wanted to do, I really don't see that you guys could stop me. I'll tell you a cool thing about Jason Momoa is that he goes out and walks the floor and at the booths of the people who make things he will find the most expensive thing that they made and buys it.

InD:  How cool is that!

LE:  He goes round to whatever the people make and finds the most expensive thing and buys it so he is supporting the local makers. So it is not enough that he is devastatingly hot but also an amazing human being and it is just not fair. I mean I don't want him to be a jerk, but he has to be an honest decent human being.

InD: Who have you chatted with that you really enjoyed?

LE:  I have met LeVar Burton. I grew up watching Reading Rainbow and of course the Next Generation and that I grew up to become an English professor because of watching Reading Rainbow. I have met him twice and chatted with him twice. I have met Wil Wheaton from the Next Generation and Stand by Me. I got to meet Nichelle Nichols who played Lieutenant Uhura on the original Star Trek. She was the first black woman on television to not play a maid and I got to tell her how incredibly grateful I was that she had that role. I got to meet Carrie Fisher about two years before she passed away. I have gotten to meet so many people and it is just so neat to get to talk to and to know they are just people too. So I have been going to comic cons since the mid-2000s and at the time I was going to Texas A&M working on my PhD and Austin holds a really nice comic con and I think that was when I started going. It was a lot of fun meeting actors and other people. I think the first real chat I had was with Peter Mayhew who played Chewbacca, and I met Walter Koenig who played Chekov and I got to chat with him. I realized these actors just want to chat with fans. I don't know why that surprised me but these are just regular people who happened to be famous. After that I was just kind of hooked. I got to see all the awesome cosplay and the vendors who sell some of the nerdiest stuff.

InD:  Has your experience changed now that you sign at these things as compared to when you went as a fan?

LE:  Maybe. You see a little bit more behind the scenes. Where I have my own booth I have to get there and get things set up and you sit at your booth the whole time because you feel like you need to be there especially since I'm an author and I'm trying to meet people. But when I go as a fan I still feel a sense of wonder and you have to take a minute to absorb the scope and I have never been to anything as big as New York Comic Con. Dallas has a really big one and I have been to that a bunch of times and Austin so you have to stand up there and just take it all in for a minute.

InD: Does it ever get to you like when you are at a signing and I think that it would be weird with all of us being fans of books and movies and other things like that to be on the other side with fans of you?

LE:  I know. But what is weird to me is once I went to a book signing of Charlaine Harris a couple of years ago in Texas and it was so funny because this is Charlaine Harris and she's one of the OG's and I asked for a picture and she got kind of goofy and bashful, like “Oh my gosh, I can't believe they wanted picture with me,” and I'm thinking, “You are Charlaine Harris! Of course we want a picture with you!”

InD: Okay. So let's start: You were born and raised in Kansas.

LE: Correct.

InD:  You know my first thought was how many Wizard of Oz jokes that you had to live through growing up?

LE:  A million. You’re right because it is Kansas and that is what we're known for. The Wizard of Oz and tornadoes. It is just tornadoes all the time but you get kind of blasé about it, “Like, oh it's a county over and we are fine.” So I'm from a small town in Kansas.

InD: So what was your childhood like?

LE: My parents were both librarians and this is what happens when they are both librarians. But my sister became an Emmy-winning television producer so you're not automatically going to be a librarian or an English professor and author.

InD:  Your sister that you live next door to?

LE:  Yes, my sister who I live next door to has an Emmy sitting on her mantelpiece and she lets me hold it once in a while.

InD: For what?

LE: She produced a miniseries for CBS about the Little Rock Nine, who were the nine kids who were first integrated in Little Rock Central High School. She's a producer who won an Emmy for that and it sits over on her mantelpiece as if it was a family photo. So I grew up in libraries and that was kind of like my happy place. So of course I was kind of locally famous for being at the library and checking out multiple books and then I would be back next week to turn those in and check out more. I read all of the science fiction and it was difficult to read sci-fi as a young girl because it was really hard to find a female protagonist who wasn't either a space witch or a damsel in distress. It has gotten better since, though. So I started reading mysteries and that was when I found Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone and the “alphabet” series (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc.). and Sarah Paretsky in the hard-boiled detective section with these female private investigators who were everything that I was looking for in a self-rescuing princess, you know, not a space witch or a damsel in distress. Kinsey saves her own skin (Kinsey Millhone from the “alphabet” series). I kept reading science fiction and fantasy but I was super into mysteries and into police procedurals and the Scandinavian psychological crime thrillers. You know, Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo and Stieg Larsson, who wrote The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Maybe 15 years ago or so I was walking through a Barnes & Noble and I still remember the day I was walking through the science fiction/fantasy section and I saw a cover of a book and this woman had red hair and handcuffs tucked into the back of her black leather skirt with charms hanging from it and the name of the book was Dead Witch Walking and I thought, “What is this? Oh, Kim Harrison!” So I read the back and thought this was really interesting so I bought that and The Good, the Bad, and The Undead that day and that was the beginning of what has landed me here. My discovery of urban fantasy. Kim Harrison was the gateway drug for many people and that was the gateway drug for me. I just devoured the Hollows series and still do. Then I continued to read hundreds of urban fantasies. A few years ago I thought well maybe I can write urban fantasy since I love reading them so much. I love stories about private investigators and so I thought of a Sue Grafton-style investigator with magic who solves paranormal or supernatural mysteries and that was sort of the genesis of what became the Alice Worth series. I wrote the first book in 2015 and I started to query it and it got picked up by City Owl and Heart of Malice came out in 2017.

InD: Okay so you are a big reader where you have two librarians for parents so do you have any other brothers and sisters or just that one?

LE: Just the one sister.

InD:  So you finish high school and then you choose criminology for college, how does that work?

LE: I was an English major, but I started out as international business and Spanish double major because I always wanted to be a writer but a writer has to pay the bills so I thought I will get a good paying job and write on the side. Then I took an accounting class and that was that. So I switched to being an English major and at that point I thought I wanted to be an English professor but I still wanted to be a writer. I have always been fascinated with forensic psychology and the behavioral science studies of what humans do and why they do it, so I started taking all of these criminal justice courses. There would be like 150 criminal justice majors and then there would be me an English major and these courses were taught by practicing or former criminal investigators and they always thought that I accidentally enrolled in these courses and I had to constantly explain this was a hobby for me. I really did want to go into the FBI and be a behavioral profiler but I obviously didn't go that route.

InD: Why did you not go that route?

LE:  I think it was two things. I am a very empathetic person and while I find those kind of behaviors really fascinating and I do want to save lives by understanding the behavior and using that to apprehend perpetrators, but I also thought, “This was suck my soul out to be around this kind of stuff for any amount of time,” because not just the suffering of the victims’ families but you have to interview the families of the victims and so forth. I talked to a lot of my college professors and homicide investigators, and they said it was your job and you compartmentalize.” But I don't know if I could or that I would like the person that I may become. It may be something like the “Doctor Jekyll Mr. Hyde” complex with the person that I may become. I have kept up with it with the reading and the shows that are about it. I'm a total true crime nut and I enjoy watching the shows and trying to solve the crimes and all of that, but I just thought that on a daily basis I don't know that my heart could take it and that was why I didn't go that route and make it a career

InD:  I completely understand that. My husband is in law enforcement and his whole family has been. I have watched him and his brother and his family but his brother mostly they do have to compartmentalize and I don't know how they do it because I don't know that I could but I think it's wonderful that you were cognizant of that time with empathy that you feel in the need to understand that you don't think you could turn that off. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that it takes a specific personality that can do that.

LE:  Absolutely. I would have to agree. FBI agent John Douglas said that you don't want to study the monster so long that you become the monster.

InD: I would think someone that has a very empathetic heart would become very depressed and a miserable person. I think there are personalities that would become monsters but there are personalities that just can't take that weight.

LE: Or someone that is predisposed with depression or struggling with depression or the weight of their own thoughts and so forth. Like the people who can be kindergarten teachers. I can never do it but thank goodness there are people that can and I equate the two things because those are two things that I can't do.

InD: I am laughing. You and I have interesting lives because I used to be a teacher. I was a music teacher and for a period of time I taught in elementary school and I came home with that exact thing. The days that I had to teach the kindergarten students I would come home and crash and I could never do this.

LE: I am so grateful that there are people who can and are willing to teach them. It is a different set of issues than trying to teach high school or middle school.

InD:  I did middle school and high school after elementary and it is totally different. Kindergarteners are so adorable but they have a 10-second attention span. But back to what I was saying: hopefully we are drawn to careers that fit us and I have watched my husband and he is perfect and his brother are perfect for what they do and they can turn it off and it is literally a switch that they turn off the moment they walk in the door and they don't even worry about it but then they go back and deal with it all day. I mean they have seen the most horrific things that you could believe but that's where I've learned that this has got to be a personality because that has just got to be in your makeup.

LE: One of my favorite shows to watch is “The First 48. It is an unscripted show of a real homicide investigations with real suspects and real interrogations and so forth and it always slays me when they have to go and notify the next of kin and that was part of my thinking when I was pondering my decision of which direction to go. Can I be the person that knocks on someone's door at 3:00 in the morning with this horrible, horrible news and I said no I can't. My argument was by going this route you could be saving lives. You can help catch people by better understanding them and help predict behavior, and that is a strong argument for somebody who is empathetic. I do want to help and I value that aspect too but when you weigh it out, I just thought that no, I just don't think I can do it and still be the person that I am.

InD: I totally understand.

LE:  But it contributes greatly with not only having fascinating stories when I teach about the things that I have seen and learned but it also comes into play when I'm writing mysteries. That is what to me Alice is—she is like a Kinsley Milhone with magic as a sidekick with paranormal and supernatural mysteries to solve. The series that I wanted to write was a private investigator solving mysteries by putting clues together. I love to dig into the psychology of Alice, Malcolm, Sean, and Charles and the adversaries they come up against. The psychology for me I think comes back into play and the motivation at the end of the day. Like what is motivating the antagonist or motivating Alice and the other characters to do what they do. When they make choices where are these choices coming from and what are the consequences of them? I just kind of feel like everything that I have studied and read has created this imagination that has become Alice Worth books and the influence of all the different genres and different authors and what I studied in school and taught has just really combined.

InD:  Which goes back to when you had this moment where you don't think you can do this then I'm just really going to stick with English and then you graduate. Did you go right into teaching after? Or did you continue on to your masters and PhD?

LE:  I taught while I was getting my Master’s degree and PhD. I was a graduate teaching assistant but in my department we taught. I graduated with my bachelor's in May 2003 and in August of 2003 I started teaching at the college level while I was working on my Master’s. So I finished my Bachelor’s degree 3 months later I started teaching. I remember thinking that I didn't know enough to teach but then I did know more than the freshmen. So I taught for two years working on my Master’s and then I taught for 6 years as I was getting my PhD. I got my PhD in 2013 and then I got my job at Weatherford College in Texas as a professor of English. So I did that for 10 years and with writing books and teaching that I wasn’t going to be able to do both very much longer. I taught at a community college, which I loved doing and I believe in 100% in the mission of community college. My parents taught at a community colleges at different points in their careers. Both my sister and I attended community college and it was very important to me as a teacher that I felt like I was making a difference and the vast majority of my students were first generation college students. Many of the children were of immigrants and I felt like on a daily basis that I could make a difference. One of the downsides of teaching at a community college is that you teach five classes a semester, whereas at a university most professors teach only three so I was very busy with teaching. You are teaching primarily Comp I and Comp II and some literature classes, but it is a very heavy grading load as you can imagine. The comp classes are generally capped at 25 but if you have five classes of 25 students each and they write four or five papers a semester so every time papers come in that's 125 papers and multiplying that by five classes that's a lot of grading. A good friend of mine started a business and she and I went to high school together and we were talking about how long do you stay with your first career before you move on to your “side hustle” and she said you do it until you can't do both and I hit that last year. I felt like I was getting to the point where I wasn't able to give all that I wanted to give my to my teaching and to my writing and that was starting to be a strain and stressful for sure to try and do both, and it felt sometimes that I was short-shifting one over the other. And then this house came up for sale next door to my sister and it was like the universe was making it very clear that this was the time for a change and to go full time as an author. It is really hard to bet on yourself.

InD:  It is really scary.

LE: And I felt like I was not done teaching and I felt like I had so much more to give and so many more students out there to help. I loved being a teacher and I love creating that community of learning in the classroom especially teaching English where you have 25 different students and 25 different perspectives. It is not like a math class, and I'm not criticizing math because I'm glad there are math people out there, but when you solve an equation you're solving it for “x.” In English you're reading this text or article or an essay or speech and now let's analyze it and figure out what it means and you can have 24 perspectives on that text and everybody analyzes it differently and we can look at the same text but see it in different ways. But I loved it. The grading was the worst but sort of the daily stuff. I just felt like that I still wanted to do this but ever since I was 6 years old I wanted to be a writer and it just felt like everything was falling into place and in this house went on the market. So I talked it over with the hubby. Hubby is a Libra and I'm not into horoscopes but there’s something to the Zodiac signs because I'm a Gemini and I'm a little crazy and there are two of us in here and you don't know which one you're going to get. But he was a math major and he ended up getting a degree in psychology which requires three semesters of statistics which would make me want to walk in front of a bus but the good news is we matched up really well. I am artsy and creative and kind of crazy and he is over here like numbers and logic and so we talked about it and he said, “Yes, the numbers are there. You are doing this well and as long as you keep writing we will be fine so let's do it.”

InD: That is cool that he's so supportive.

LE:  Yeah I guess it helps. It really helped that from his very logical perspective that it made sense. The numbers made sense. The timing made sense. He had to move too. He moved within the same company but he still had to move. But yeah I think you're at the point where we can do this and so full-time author I am.

InD:  That is awesome. It is cool and weird that I understand because the things that we are talking about I not only sympathize with but empathize with because you have got two teachers sitting here talking who made a switch in their careers and I know it is hard because I love teaching. I emphasize with that because I know that feeling so well. You did it with English I did it with music and I agree. But it is like you say you also have this love too. I love this area of my life so I totally understand.

LE:  You know what is funny—my realtor who helped us buy this house, Madeline Balgavy. She did the same thing. She was a teacher. She was a middle school teacher. God bless her. She left teaching to become a real estate agent and you know it is a very similar thing to give up the known factor. The thing that you worked for. To take a huge gamble because real estate you can slay or you can fail. I actually know her through my sister. So when we were talking it was sort of the same situation and that I totally understand that you are taking a gamble on yourself and there is probably no more difficult gamble to take. There is this wonderful gal that I follow on Instagram. She has a company called Pseudo Force Studio and she is a graphic designer and she left a six-figure job to start her own apparel design company. She is one of my inspirations because she had done something really similar because she was making really good money and she's says “I'm an artist and I want to create this company for myself” and so she did it. She took the gamble and she's been really successful. She did this one post and I started bawling. She had drawn this picture of her 12-year-old self and her current self and made it look like they were having a conversation and her little 12-year-old self says, “Do you mean we're making a living off of our art?” and her adult self said, “Yes we are.” I started bawling because I was thinking about all of my dreams. I started writing when I was six and then I started doing short stories all through my teens and teenage years and the idea of being a full-time author, that was the dream, but never in a million years did I think it would actually happen.

InD: Like so many of us have thought that this would be a hobby because it would not pay the bills and to be fortunate enough that it can actually pay the bills is huge.

LE:  I know I pinched myself all the time until I'm black and blue because I'm living in my Storybook House next door to my sister.

InD: You are living the dream, girl.

LE:  I am living the dream. Like it is a bumpy ride but I will say that I am absolutely living the dream but I do feel a lot of additional pressure because now it went from the side hustle to the thing that will keep a roof over my head.

InD: But you have built up a big enough following with me included recently that I think and hopefully it can only go up from here. When you are small and writing your little stories what were you writing?

LE:  When I was little it was science fiction but because that's what I was reading. I was reading a lot of science fiction. I wrote a lot of Star Trek fanfiction before that was ever called fanfiction when I was a teen. One of my favorite characters was Deanna Troi from the Next Generation. I always felt that they gave her such crappy storylines so I wrote where she would get to save the day and she would be the action hero. During my teens I was writing science fiction but also that was when I started getting into mysteries and criminal procedures so I have some mystery novels around the house that I hope never ever see the light of day. Some were of a female homicide detective because that was the sort of era that I was in.

InD: Did you actually write the entire novels at that age?

LE:  I do have a lot that are unfinished for sure but I do have four or five that were finished but I am sure they are gone because they were on a three and a half floppy disk.

InD:  So where were you when you actually decided to sit down and write Alice story?

LE: That was in 2014, 2015. I had my full-time professor job for a full year so I had settled into that routine and I told myself that I was tired of telling myself that I was going to be a writer “someday” and “someday I am going to publish a book,” and now I'm going to make this happen no matter what. That was when I made it my priority other than teaching. If I was not in the classroom or reading I was writing. So one day I'm sitting on my porch and drinking a cup of coffee and out of nowhere this line dropped into my head: “The first time Moses Murphy's granddaughter killed on his orders she was 6 years old.”

InD: That popped in your head?

LE:  I was sitting on the porch thinking of what I might write and it was urban fantasy and it just popped into my head. I was like “I don't know who Moses Murphy is but the story is about his granddaughter and he made her kill when she was six. So who is he and who is she?” So figuring this out I was like well he has to be some kind of crime lord and so she's the granddaughter so her parents have got to be out of the picture and her name is Alice. Some people say it is a muse who just came to me. I don't know if I would personify it that way but I do feel like being a voracious reader of hundreds and thousands of books of all different genres but particularly urban fantasy and mystery. All of that was in my well and something sparked for me and it was Moses Murphy.

InD: And to go on from that and with anybody who has read your books that her persona all developed from that statement and I can see now that like you said all the criminology and forensics came into that because a child at 6 that kills by the time they become an adult has some serious issues.

LE: And she does.

InD:  Yeah you built that into a character so well but it all makes sense. It really makes sense

LE:  I was thinking that building the character in that world is like who is this person and what kind of world does she inhabit. I am really big on character-driven world-building and I imagine who is she in the beginning of the series. She’s rude and feisty and hard to like because she says and does things that are pretty s***** but that is who she is and that's who you want to be. You have her backstory. She's maybe four or five years out of having escaped and she is super isolated and she won't allow herself to have friends. She allows herself lovers but never anything emotional. It is purely physical and the second that it goes emotional she's out the door. That is the kind of person that you would be after what she's been through.

InD: That's exactly how it comes across and that's what I remember thinking. Someone recommended me the book so I read it and I'm realizing that I don't like her but I understand her and that's a huge thing and one of my pet peeves that I need to understand why the characters are doing what they're doing because stupid if you don't understand why they're doing it and you do that incredibly well throughout the series. Usually if you don't like the character you're probably not going to pick up the next book but with her character she was so compelling because you totally understood the way she was the way she was and that makes all the difference. It is like you say you have imbued her the reason that makes us understand and makes her such a rich character. I can see that through the books she learns, and she grows and we get to follow that path which is an absolute joy.

LE: I think the character should sustain and grow and in the books. Now I'm working on nine and we're going up to 12 and some of the characters will get a spin-off, like federal agent Trent Lake has a book.

InD:  Oh that's great! I love Trent.

LE:  I tell you what, I got some angry messages when I sent him off at the end of the book where he went off to Seattle. There was a lot of Team Trent versus Sean.

InD:  I totally understood and I don't know if because I'm like you I had read so many books especially in mystery but I totally understand this that this was needed for the further progression of the story that you are telling but at the same time the minute that happened I thought that you have to do a standalone for Trent.

LE: I know. I love Trent so much but you can't have someone whose entire existence is a secret of who they are when someone is pathologically incapable of stopping asking questions. As much as Trent was falling in love with Alice and she was a little bit with him, it would never work. “Heart of Fire” really illustrates that because he was always asking “Why are you doing this?” and “Where were you?” Whereas Sean just says, “You just walked out of a burning building. That was amazing.” I don't know but I love Trent and I'm happy that he's going to get his own standalone.

InD: That’s exciting. What will happen with him?

LE: He’ll get his own perfect match. He's not going to be able to stay away from weird women with magic. I will say that.

InD: That is another realization as I was reading your books that I was surprised at how well you have done with the secondary characters that you could take off and do a book with because people really follow those characters because they were so well developed when you fleshed out with her even though they are secondary characters. Of course is one that I would really love if you start a serious with but you could do it with Arkady and Charles is one that you haven't given us the motivations behind but he is so intriguing that you could do one on him. That is a gift in and of itself. You have invested in so many secondary characters that there is enough that you want to learn more.

LE: I get a lot of requests for books about Malcolm and Carly. I actually have the beginnings of a Carly book so that will happen. The Carly one I'm excited about because she's going to go back and live in New Orleans and there is a second chance romance for her in that one. Trent deserves his happiness. I love Trent so much and I knew so much about him from the very beginning but the really was not a way to work it in. So for instance he is the only person in his family who is not a convicted felon. There was no place for me to work that in so he has to get his own book or two. Like why is Trent a human lie detector? How can he tell when Alice is always lying when no one else can? Part of it is he is the black sheep of the family. He's the only one who is not a felon so growing up in that type of environment he had to develop his own sense of truth and lies to survive. I love him and actually honestly I like him better than Sean. But I couldn't have Alice with Trent; it just wouldn't make any sense.

InD: And Sean is perfect for Alice. It fits that storyline.

LE:  One of the things that I was thinking about with Alice when I was developing her as a character and having read so much urban fantasy is that I didn't want Alice to be too perfect and too powerful. One of my favorite series that I read my main complaint about it is that main character is a little too perfect. When terrible things happen to her it kind of rolls off and she keeps going. I realize that she had a tough childhood and actually worse than Alice but keep in mind that it is one of my favorite series and I am being nitpicky but I really don't know that there really is a lot of character development between the books. So as much as I love that series that's not who Alice is and that is not who I want her to be. Someone with her background would not be like that. So at the end of “Heart of Malice” You know where Amelia kills people to get the blood for the sacrifice and Alice is tied up and she can't do anything about it. She takes it really, really hard and at the beginning of “Heart of Fire" she has developed a little bit of a drinking problem. It is more of a coping problem because you can't figure out how to cope with this terrible thing that has happened to her. I did catch some flak for that.  I don't read reviews but you do run across them and there were some people that did not like the fact that she was drinking a little bit and really struggling in the “Heart of Fire.” But if you had gone through what she went through, anyone coming out of that would not just come out of it like okay that's okay and especially since it was so reminiscent of how her life was before where she felt helpless when terrible things were happening and here it happens to her again. Just when some things were starting to look up for her. Yes there are some things I would change about in the “Heart of Malice” but your first book should be your worst. Right? There are some things that I wish I would have done differently.

InD: So “Heart of Malice” is your first book?

LE: Yes it is the first book that I have published.

InD:  Wow! You did a good job because usually the first book isn't. But I read that one and then I plowed through the rest of them in a couple weeks.

LE:  Now with me when I go back through the Heart of Malice I'm like “Jeez.” People say “Hey I'm reading your first book” and my instinct is to say, “It gets better!” One thing though that I will stand by is that she did make some mistakes in that book and I hope that I did a decent job at explaining why she does what she did. I think sometimes I could have done a better job of explaining why she made the choices that she did. Again I don't read reviews but I know there's a lot of why did she believe Charles when Charles told her Sean was only dating her because she was a mage. Because she has zero self-esteem and so the only thing that would make sense to her is “Because I have power. He couldn't possibly want me for me.” Because she has no self-esteem, zero.

InD: She thinks of herself as absolutely nothing.

LE:  But it must not have come through well enough in the book because there is quite a lot of that out there that they don't understand why she would believe Charles or not even give Sean a chance to explain. Well I know why she did that but I don't think I expressed it well enough in the book. That's one of the things in the subsequent books that Alice is going to do something that will be difficult for the readers to understand why she does it. So I'm a bit clearer on her motivation of her doing what she is doing.

InD:  I can see what you're saying and I remember being frustrated with her but I did understand that she did not have any self-esteem but it is totally understandable because of where she came from.

LE: Again I don't read reviews but I have heard quite a bit that “I don't understand why she would believe Charles.”

InD:  I don't know if I agree but I can see not reading every review. I've always sat by don't read the twos and the ones but the threes and the fours are you usually pretty good. It shows you where you didn't hit your mark and it shows you what you did well.

LE:  I guess I shouldn't say I don't read reviews but I'm human and I will use the filter and read the five stars if I have a bad writing day and I have a hard time remembering why do what I do but when I look at my reviews and I have 15,000 5-Star reviews—a number I know because I'm not conceited at all—but there are some one and two star reviews and guess which ones live in my head?

InD: Don't look at the ones or the twos.

LE: But if you accidentally see one. I spent eight years in grad school. I can take criticism. Right? I sat across from the desk of professors that absolutely made me cry so I'm not going to sit here and say I can't take criticism or how dare you criticize me because I have read through the criticism of “Heart of Malice” and pretty much down the line I am like “that's fair.”

InD: Sometimes I think reading reviews helps because when I hear some authors say they don't read reviews they just do what they do and in my head I'm thinking that you need to read a few because it would help.

LE: Yes, there are a few, as my mom would say have gotten too big for their britches, and they really need to listen to their reviewers and editors. I am not a New York Times bestselling author so I'm talking out of my ass here but I just really feel there are some people that may have lost touch a little bit but you know what? If their books continue to sell what they sell then why would they start doing anything different?

InD: Oh Lisa, that is one of my pet peeves too. All the readers, the authors that get so huge they don't try as hard anymore don't write as well anymore and their fans still give them five stars. It drives me nuts. Your characters grow. Alice starts out kind of unlikable and you slowly watch her grow which is what we want and this is what we hope people do in real life to learn from their mistakes and each other.

LE: It is really hard to sustain character growth for multiple books and that was the approach that I took because in “Heart of Malice” she is a hot mess so in the other books I try and fix or sort of fix the ways that she is a hot mess. In the first book she's getting better, in the second book she's learning that she can work as a team and in book three she learns a lesson in sacrifice. That the one where she dies and Sean is mad at her and they sort of break up for a while and she's like oh I didn't think about how he would react to that.

InD: I can see where that would be hard to keep her growing. But that is what makes it good.

LE:  In some of the series that I've read they start off as a hot mess but by the end of book one or two they're fine and I’m thinking that is not realistic. I get a lot of DMs from people thanking me for a realistic portrayal of trauma and the process of healing. Carly is the voice of a therapist saying “There is no magic word for this. I can't wave a wand and fix your hurt but here is what we can do to begin that process.” As I get messages from fans who say they had a terrible childhood, and “it is amazing when I read your books because I feel like there's somebody that understands what that process is.” My childhood was just fine and having that deep psychological understanding helps me and I certainly would not want somebody to say this is a totally unrealistic picture of trauma and PTSD because that would make me feel ashamed. I tried to be realistic and show characters who feel like real people and how they would react to this very real situation. So with Alice she finds out that her biological father is still around, Daniel, and he comes back into her life and she doesn't know how to feel about it. I caught some flak for that book where she was pushing him away and maybe being a little unkind toward him. That showed up in a number of reviews. “I don't understand why Alice is acting like that.”

InD: But reading reviews helps you improve yourself where you take the common thread and make your following books better. When you went to publish your first book, how was that experience? Was it really hard to get published? Did it do well right off?

LE: Heart of Malice was actually called Magic City. That was its original title. I started querying it and you know how that goes. I have a spreadsheet whenever I need to feel humble but I don't need to feel humble because that is just how I come but I can go back to that spreadsheet. A couple of months into the querying process I ran across the City Owl Press and I sent them the summary and the first two chapters. And two days later I got an email from Heather McCorkle, who was an acquisitions editor at the time, saying she likes what she sees and could she read the whole thing. She was only the second or third person to ask for the whole thing and so I sent it in. A week later they offered me a contract for the book and the rest of the series. Now City Owl is a small press but it has grown and it is insane and how much it has grown since I signed on. One of the things that I loved when I decided on City Owl is that it is a woman-owned press and they actually cultivate their authors. We do a retreat and you would not believe these retreats. There are about 20 to 30 of us in this giant house who all mutual support each other and love and there's no backstabbing. We don't look at each other as competitors; we all promote each other. I talk to a lot of authors who published with other companies and they are like this doesn't happen at rather places. Of course there are downsides to being with a small press. You have to do your own marketing hustle for sure and there are growing pains with City Owl. As they grow they add on more people. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

InD:  I kind of got that feeling working with City Owl through the magazine and it is good to hear from an author's point of view that they are really good to their authors.

LE:  They truly are and I have always gotten support from editors. I remember posting a question on the COP Facebook group before I was published in the City Owl and the other authors were all coming to help me and I thought, “This is what it is all about—what a great community.” It has been really good watching them grow. After Alice is done I have another series that's ready.

InD:  Is it another urban fantasy series?

LE:  Do you remember in book 7 where Alice goes over the Broken World? It’s going to be with Lucy.

InD: Tell us about your own love story. How did you meet your husband?

LE: I met him in college. We were both playing college trivia. Just a couple of nerds who met on the college trivia team. So I knew him for about 18 months. He was the president of the club. And we started chatting and within we discovered we had so much in common with each other and that was in 1999. So we started dating and the rest is history.

InD: Well that was easy.

LE:  I know I wish there was something more dramatic but it was just a couple of nerds.

InD:  I think that's wonderful. So let's do some favorites because I think favors really do tell us a lot about you. What is your favorite food?

LE:   You know I have to give it to tacos

InD:  Hard sell or soft shell?

LE: Soft. True story…my little nephew when he was about three he started to call them comfy tacos and so we just kind of run with that in the family now. It's like a warm tortilla hug. I am not going to turn down any kind of taco. Literally. It's like when little pieces of the taco fall out so you have like a little bit of taco salad there. So tacos fall apart and we still love them.

InD: Who could ask for anything more.

LE:  A case of margaritas and some tacos that is a happy place for me. 

InD: There you go.

LE:  What about you? What is your favorite?

InD: You know what? Lisa, no one has ever asked me that. My gosh, I have to think about it. I love all kinds of food, there's very few foods I don't like. I can tell you I don't like sushi. Favorite dessert? 

LE:  That's a harder one.

InD:  That is me on favorite food, but for dessert it is pie. Any kind of pie.

LE:  Okay I have one. A doberge cake from New Orleans. It is a New Orleans thing. It is a layer cake and they come in a couple of different flavors. Usually there's chocolate, caramel, or lemon. If you get a chance you should get one. You can get them shipped.

InD:  Doberge cake. Faith Hunter said the same thing.

LE:  She's from New Orleans.

InD:  Yeah she said that and hummingbird cake, and I have never heard of that in my life and I still have to try one of those too. Your favorite color?

LE: Purple.

InD: Why?

LE:  I don't know why. I just loved purple as early as I can remember. I just think purple is great.

InD: What is your favorite time of day?

LE: Not morning. I hate mornings and I always have. I would say early evening as the moon comes up above the trees. Alice got that from me. There is a lot of me in Alice.  The love of coffee and good food. But she loves scotch and I despise scotch. And when I met her she said she loved scotch and I said “Really? Because I hate it.” So much of her is me. The long, dark hair of course mine is shorter now than it was.  

InD: When you travel where is your favorite place to go?

LE:  New Orleans.

InD: Where is your favorite place to be if you could just be some place?

LE:  If I'm going someplace to relax I would like to be in the mountains like in a hammock and a cabin or on the beach in a hammock. I will say someplace out in nature. We went to Alaska a couple of years ago and that was freaking amazing. But if I could snap my fingers and go anywhere right now it would be New Orleans. I love New Orleans and we used to go there a couple times a year. Now it's down to about once a year or less.

InD: Where is your favorite place in New Orleans when you go?

LE:  You have to go down Bourbon Street, but you only go there for one night. On Frenchmen Street there is a ton of great food and a ton of great music but a fifth of the people so there's way less drunken people. But I love to go to the French Quarter to listen to music and eat and I can gain about 10 pounds just going from across the bridge. When I go to New Orleans I feel like I am home even though I didn't go there until 2017. You know that feeling when you get in the hot tub? Just so relaxed and at peace? That's how I feel when I get in New Orleans. I don't know why, maybe it's the music and the food. The people that live there just love their city more than any place I have ever been.

InD: What is the best advice that you have ever been given? It can be professional or personal?

LE: Don't give up I know that can be so trite but it is so hard to go in on your dream and to go in on yourself to chase your dream. Especially if you're creative because the world tells us constantly “What value is it? What do you make on your books? How many books have you sold? How much time did you spend doing this?” Everything is so monetized and quantified. And now we've got to deal with AI, which should be used to take care of the mundane things in life but instead is being used for creativity which is what we would like to be doing. There are so many voices out there telling you not to dream about creating. “How are you going to support yourself?” I mean I was a teacher, right, but I kept working toward my dream. Okay, so true story: right before Heart of Malice came out I emailed one of the editors and I asked how much should I sit aside for taxes. I was told to do 30% to be safe, “but don't be surprised if you don't  make enough on this first book to have to file taxes on it.” So it is so hard not to give up on that dream but I would have rather kept trying than to have not ever tried. So I never gave up even after probably the 60th rejection or whatever from the different agents or publishers or whatever because if I had I would not be sitting here in my Storybook House talking about being a full-time writer. Just write your story, because somebody out there wants to read your story and you might not believe that but it is absolutely true and if you're a writer and you know it in your heart and you feel it, don't give up. You owe it to yourself to write that story and however it comes out into the world there are those people out there who want to read your story so don't give up on that dream. Chase that dream. I am proof that you can chase a crazy dream and have it come true.

InD: That is awesome!