Interview with Leenna Naidoo
Her Writing and Her Latest Work: Quest for the Wholly Pale
CRES: Today we’re interviewing Leenna Naidoo, about her new book, Quest for the Wholly Pale. This was such a fun read. Even though I was engaged I wasn’t stressed (mostly) so I could read it and feel energized and upbeat.
Leenna: So glad you enjoyed it! I love knowing something I wrote helped perk up your day.
CRES: Emrys Lailoken is the young wizard cursed to quest for the Wholly Pale, without knowing what it is, what it does, what it looks like, or even what planet it might be on. What planet? Yes, that is a question, because did we mention, this is part of the Wizards in Space StoryVerse?
Leenna: Yes, it’s one of four current series within the Wizards In Space StoryVerse written in episodic form for Fiction Vortex (FV Press) and appearing in the StoryShop readers app.
CRES: So originally this was a serial for Fiction Vortex. How do stories develop on FV?
Leenna: It’s a collaborate process. The Story Head (in my case, Eugene Morgulis) conceives the StoryVerse — the setting where multiple stories can be written by multiple authors). The Wizards In Space StoryVerse was birthed in the first episode of Voyages Of The Ivory Scepter, Eugene’s current series.
CRES: Just to step in for a moment, we published a really beautiful story of Eugene’s this past January – “The Ice Angel of Leningrad”. I recommend everyone read it! But please continue.
Leenna: Well, writers first pitch stories to Story Heads, who (if they think the pitch and your writing style fit well with their StoryVerse) send it to FV Press. If you’re lucky, your series is accepted, you begin your episodes, and are privy to highly technical discussions on matters indigenous to the StoryVerse, like what kind of rhymes goblins communicate in, ogre gender identification or lack of it, and magitallic containers. Writers share the settings, rules, and elements of the StoryVerse, but not usually characters and series. Generally a writer is free to develop their plot-line and series as they wish within the constraints of thee StoryVerse.
CRES: How does the FV process work for you compared to the more usual methods of writing?
Leenna: It took about half of Season 1 to grow into the FV process, probably because I’d been self-publishing and marching to my own beat prior to signing up with them.
I’m used to making things up as I go along, so being reminded about constraints or differences between how each of us perceives the StoryVerse, and not having others always trust in my writing process sometimes got me feeling like Emrys. I had to adapt and realize everyone involved with Wizards In Space was doing so, too. There was more writerly growth than I’d have had individually, I think, particularly as this is my first series and keeping little but significant facts straight is vital to its coherency.
I love that each episode is peer-reviewed and edited for the StoryShop app, then re-edited for the print edition. I can see my work and the story improving. Having a team support you and point out when you’re veering off-track (or too far off-track, in my case) is a great blessing, and one I grow more grateful for every episode.
I’ve more freedom with the FV Press writing process than most other contracted writers I know. It’s quite similar to my usual process — just more focused and polished.
CRES: You also write short stories. Do you enjoy these as much as longer works?
Leenna: Yes, I do! I began with short stories back in the days when novels seemed too high a word count to achieve. I tend to write flash and shorter works in one sitting whereever possible. I also tend to experiment more with genres and styles in shorter stories. I find them either fun to write, or underlining some emotional or spiritual truth for me. Short stories and flash also bring me instant gratification. It could be worse. I could be cracking my teeth on popcorn or something instead.
CRES: Which would be instant un-gratification. Emrys has an eye color I’ve never seen used before – teal. Is that teal closer to blue or green?
Leenna: Interesting question. I’ve only ever thought of teal as midway between blue and green. It was my nephew’s favorite color when I began writing Quest, so we were in agreement. I only realized there’s a bluer shade of teal just this year! I guess it’s a good thing I’m a better writer than designer. Emrys’ eyes are the kind of teal the Indian Ocean expresses at my favorite beach in Fremantle, Australia — midway between Atlantic Ocean blue and Durban Indian Ocean green.
CRES: Very nice indeed. Emrys has quite a few wands. Do most wizards have a wand collection?
Leenna: Not that I’m aware of. It’s one of the characteristics singling Emrys out.
CRES: Does he make his own wands?
Leenna: Good question. Sometimes he does. Most were made by others, like the Number Two which was a gift. The Inquiritive wand was crafted by Old Lailoken, while others, such as the Number Three or General Purpose wand, Emrys would have had Old Lailoken’s help in making — like a father/son project when Emrys was growing up. This would have been both because of Broceli294’s location and Old Lailoken wanting Emrys to be self-sufficient as a wizard. We should see Emrys crafting a wand or two in Season 2.
CRES: From whence comes Emrys’ sufficiency of funds?
Leenna: When Old Lailoken disappeared, Emrys was his sole heir. The Lailoken’s were a well-to-do and prominent family before Old Lailoken retired to Broceli294. I’m not sure just how much Emrys inherited or what it’s invested in but, except for his trips on the Queen and King Lines, he’s not typically too extravagant, so his inheritance could last him a while still. After all, Dierder’s often feeding him, so he’s saving a fortune in food.
CRES: How did Emrys and former thief Dierder become friends and end up with a relationship via portal pocket? Or is this material for a prequel?
Leenna: This would be material for a prequel. I’ve thought about it often, so I have a few ideas, but I’m not sure yet just which is the right one.
CRES: A few Dierder questions…
Leenna: Yay, for Dierder!
CRES: Where in his kitchen is the portal pocket?
Leenna: I’m guessing it’s somewhere near the chimney — or a false chimney. Naturally, it doesn’t look like a portal pocket from Dierder’s side.
CRES: Does he sit in his kitchen and eat pretzels with his beer?
Leenna: You’d think so, wouldn’t you? You’re right about the beer, but he’s more of a pork crackling or salted peanuts kind of guy.
CRES: On which planet does he live??
Leenna: It’s a planet quite like Broceli294 and may be in the same system. More details in Season 2.
CRES: Why did Dierder leave thieving?
Leenna: Ah, yes. He still hasn’t revealed that to me, but I’ve been uncovering some hints from Episode Six and while preparing for Season 2. Again, more to be revealed at a later stage.
CRES:: When you say that a character hasn’t yet revealed something to you, is that somewhat literal? Do your characters take on a life of their own, go in unexpected directions, give you ideas? And do you let them have their head and it works out for the best and if you fight them back on track the story goes off?
Leenna: When developing a story, I often don’t know that much about a character beyond how they’ll fit in, their main characteristics and the way they speak. During the writing process, getting to know a character is like getting to know a person. Sometimes they reveal more about themselves in unexpected ways—in their reaction to another character or a certain situation. This gets me thinking.
Some characters do sometimes take the reins in a scene or twist the story into a new direction much like an actor makes a character iconic by adding an element the director hadn’t imagined. This usually reveals a fact about the character that I’ve been wondering about for a while or because the main character in the scene is having an off-day. It’s not that they’re taking over the story, cutting me out of the creative process, but more like they’re collaborating with me to tell their story in a way which is more meaningful (at least to us!). I love this because they don’t often allow ‘just happen so’s’ in our stories. Instead, they hint and make remarks that take on a new meaning later. I’ve been surprised and delighted by them, and the depth they add to my storytelling.
CRES: It’s wonderful to have that as part of your writing experience. I think also when you let them ‘live’ characters become more appealing to readers. About the ‘character’ Parchment – does he know what’s written on him?
Leenna: Not yet.
CRES: Is this a universe that includes Earth?
Leenna: Yes. The StoryVerse devolved from our Earth during a chaos magic cataclysm, or Magiclysm, in the time of the Great Wizard Merlin. The Magiclysm rendered Earth uninhabitable, brought into existence beings from our magical tales and made magic accessible to everyone.
CRES: Wizards in space – so this world is a mix of science and magic. We don’t see any scientists – what role do they play in this world?
Leenna: Vivian Belenky explores the scientists and scientific observations in her series, Chaos Magic. The only beings currently investigating the universe and employing science as we know it are the dwarves. They aren’t generally understood by other beings, and vice versa. In Chaos Magic, Margot, a dwarf fascinated by magic, is searching for a unified theory, or at least a reason why magic works.
There had been a war between the dwarves and wizards — possibly for ideological reasons. Eugene Morgulis and Vivian Belenky explore those story lines more.
CRES: Might we get an audiobook version of Quest? And if so who might do the narrating? One person? A team?
Leenna:There are no plans for an audiobook version, but I wouldn’t rule it out for the future. My wish would be that someone like Sir Partick Stuart of Tellus narrates it but that’s just me channeling Emrys.
CRES: The ending is satisfying but leaves open many avenues for sequels. Any hints on future events?
Leenna: Season 2 will have more on Silverbirch and her herbal adventures. I’d like to explore some of Dierder’s story, too, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to do him justice that way… Emrys has a lot to reconcile and prepare for, but what may happen as they all grow and search is something even I don’t truly know yet. But I’ll keep them traveling light and we’ll see what’s illuminated next.
CRES: You have an online event for Quest starting this morning and running through this weekend don’t you?
Leenna: Yes. The Quest For More Wonder Tales event is on Facebook from 9 am 23 August to 25 August 2019. And there’lll be more besides Quest For The Wholly Pale. You’ll be introduced some other light-hearted and uplifting science and fantasy fiction including some posts you might have missed on CRES.
CRES: You’ll be having some special guests for the event.
Leenna: That’s right. There’s S. Shane Thomas, creator of Rob Rogers; you can find him at his Science Fantasy Hub There’s also rocket scientist and writer Stephanie Barr.
If you miss the event, you’re always welcome to explore more about Quest For The Wholly Pale on the episode guide webpage.
CRES: And one last question — where can we find our own copy and join those wizards out in space?
CRES: Okay Leenna. Thanks for joining us. Good luck to you and the wild goings-on and beguiling characters of Quest for the Wholly Pale.
Leenna: Thank you! And may your quests always bring you joy and good friends!
Leenna writes cross-genre suspense and romance, and dabbles in sci-fi/fantasy. She also reads the tarot. Her short stories have appeared in Mad Scientist Journal, SciPhi Journal, and Cosmic Roots And Eldritch Shores where she also serves as assistant editor in the Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales department. Her most recent attempts to channel Terry Pratchett-style fiction can be found in Quest For The Wholly Pale. When not writing, she often tries her hand at anything vaguely artistic.
Leenna’s most unnerving experiences include: looking a red kangaroo in the eye, flipping pancakes for the first time ever in front of her class, interviewing Alan Dean Foster (even though it was via email), and teaching a hellhound how to share a biscuit. Sometimes she writes about these and other less nerve-wracking things; sometimes she doesn’t.
She blogs and shares updates on www.leennanaidoo.wordpress.com. Her tarot resources and videos are shared on her Patreon and her YouTube channel as Writerstarot With Leenna.
Otherwise, she wanders aimlessly down rabbit-holes on social media, and even the real world occasionally, looking for her next story idea.