INTERVIEW: Lyda Morehouse on Writing, Pseudonyms, Falling into SF/F and “Archangel Protocol”
Lyda Morehouse is a science fiction and fantasy author living in the Twin Cities. Her debut novel, Archangel Protocol, was recently re-released as an e-book by Wizard’s Tower Press. In more recent years, most of her work has come out under her alter ego pen name, Tate Hallaway, including the Vampire Princess novels and the Garret Lacey series. As a fellow resident of the Twin Cities, Lyda was extremely kind to talk to me about her work.
PW: Who is Lyda Morehouse?
LM: Ugh. It seems very early in the morning to get this existential. Therefore, I’m tempted to be flip and make a reference to Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy and say, “Just this guy, you know.”
I suppose the real answer is that I’m a forty-five year old Minnesotan (although even that gets complicated, since I was born in California–it was the sixties, 1967, the Summer of Love, to be precise–and raised in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.) I guess another salient feature about me is that I’m a lesbian and a mom and, even though my sales don’t entirely warrant it, I stay home and ostensibly keep house and write. And, the writing part is complicated, too, since I’m published both as Lyda Morehouse and Tate Hallaway, as whom I write romances and urban fantasy.
But is that who I am? I’m also a ginormous fan who loves to get excited and yell about ALL THE THINGS. I’ve been known to dabble in fanfic and fan art. I have an exceedingly playful and silly spirit, and, like an otter, I’d rather play than eat. I dance when I’m alone and I sing off-key in public (much to the chagrin of my nine-year old, Mason). I’ve recently discovered a Korean mixed martial arts, which allows me not only to shout and hit things in a socially appropriate way, but also Mason and I get to do it together (though he’s higher-ranked than I am). I’m not very science-minded, but I adore hanging out with people who are a lot smarter than me and listening carefully…and then making stuff up.
I’m also clearly overly fond of the parenthetical.
LM: Where? In the North Side LaCrosse public library, in the alcove in the back with the window seat that’s jammed between the stacks. The North Side public library is this small, but beautiful building designed to look something like an old-fashioned Tudor-style house. At least in the way it remains in my mind, there was a back room that was reminiscent of a dormer in an attic and, at the time, that’s were all the science fiction books were–particularly the short story collections and anthologies. I remember sitting back on that window seat reading some mind-blowing stories collected in Nebula Award anthologies and other such things.
When? When is a much harder question. I suppose in a way it depends on how broad your definition of science fiction and fantasy is. My cousin Laun introduced me to comic books probably as soon as I could read. Which, considering my mild dyslexia, saved me and actually helped me become an avid reader at all. As soon as we could wrap a towel around our shoulders, we played at being superheroes. (Particular favorites were the X-Men, Avengers, and Fantastic Four, though occasionally we strayed over to DC to play Teen Titans and Legion of Superheroes, as I was fond of being Lightning Lad.) But, also around that time, we made a homemade film that still exists somewhere in 8 mm in which we produced our own episode of Star Trek, with my cousin Laun playing both Captain Kirk and the voice of Scotty, cleverly pre-recorded on a tape player stuck onto the arm of the ‘captain’s chair.’ Plus, I grew up in the 70s, which means I got a lot of cheesy-goodness in terms of Saturday Morning cartoon shows like Land of the Lost and Mighty Isis. I also watched Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman, The Six Million Dollar Man and the original Battlestar Galactica. Plus, the late 70s was when Star Wars first came out…so in a lot of ways I was surrounded by science fiction, without even particularly having to seek it out.
I do remember judging a potential boyfriend in high school by the kind of books he read. A guy I thought was kind of a delinquent had a copy of Dragonriders of Pern, and he suddenly became a lot more attractive to me. I also talked friends into playing Dungeons and Dragons and made a habit of trying to date the gamemaster so I would be less likely to die a horrible death. I joined the downtown public library’s science fiction club which was probably my first introduction to ‘fandom’ such as it exited in LaCrosse. My father, a college professor, gave me copies of the Junior Great books series which was where I encountered Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury for the first time….and then I went to the library to find more, particularly of Bradbury. I adored his short story collections a lot, but also Fahrenheit 451. Similarly, I can tell you that my first fantasy book was The Hobbit, which was also the first book I remember reading cover-to-cover (a big deal with my dyslexia) in the sixth grade.
I can’t necessarily put my finger on what attracted me initially, but I was always drawn to it wherever I found it. I remember laying in my bed one night at my parents house wondering WHY this story I’d just seen on TV (which I wish I could remember what it was, the only detail I remember is hydroponic plants,) affected me so much. I actually thought maybe something was wrong with me that I felt such strong, almost overwhelming connections to fiction–and weird fiction at that.
LM: I actually started with fanfic, though I didn’t know that was what I was doing when I wrote it. There wasn’t an Internet, so all I have to show for those efforts are notebooks full of scrawling attempts to continue and expand on the worlds of Anne McCaffrey , Katherine Kurtz, and Tolkien. Though given the level of writing and my addictive personality traits, it’s probably just as well that the kind of fan communities that exist in fandom now, didn’t then, or I might have never made the switch to writing original stuff. To be fair, however, Archangel Protocol actually started as a reaction to an X-Files episode in which Satan (or some other devil-like creature) is a substitute teacher, “Die Hand Die Verletzt.” At the same time as I was watching that, I’d recently read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, during the Morningstar arc, which is collected, I believe, in “Seasons in Mist.” American Gothic was also on TV, and I was plowing through a five volume set about the history of Lucifer by Jeffery Burton Russell. All of that exploded and conflated in my head in a way that made me want to write about angels and devils
I’m ahead of myself here, because, I’d actually written an entire novel before Archangel Protocol called Sidhe Promised. That book is about a lesbian who falls in love with a half-fairy prince in the Irish Republican Army…but it’s very much a first novel, and, probably a little political and weird. It was the book, however, that got me thinking seriously about this publishing thing. It was the first piece of original fiction that I showed to people other than my partner. It was the book that got people to say to me that I really “ought to do something with that, like, try to get it published or something.” Only, of course, I had no idea how to do that. I saw a class in writing and selling science fiction being offered at the Loft, a local organization devoted to writing and writers. The instructor foolishly encouraged me to keep writing and taught some of the basics of how to submit stories and novels. He also was very big into writers’ critique groups and I ended up, along with Harry LeBlanc, forming Wyrdsmiths. Wyrdsmiths is still going strong decades later, and, when we started none of us had any publishing credentials. Now we’re all professionals. So we brought each other up out of the trenches, and we continue to try to do that for our newer members.
There are more parts to this story, of course, but that’s the main thrust of it.
PW: What draws you to writing primarily in novel-length form as opposed to the smaller body of short stories you have out there?
LM: I’m not sure. I think I just naturally tell a longer story. Also, I may be a lazy writer. I tend to meander when I think and novel writing allows me to do that in my creative thinking, too. You have to be a very skilled, precise and yet expansive thinker to be a good short story writer. I’m just not sure I’ve honed all those skills… at least not all the time. People tell me I’m probably better at short stories than I think, but I’m in a writers’ group with Eleanor Arnason and Naomi Kritzer, both of whom will have short stories collected in year’s bests, so I may have set too high standards for myself….
PW: Archangel Protocol was your first novel, and since that series, you’ve branched out into two iterations, with novels as Tate Hallaway as well as Lyda Morehouse. And you even look different “as Tate”. How did Tate come about, and why?
LM: Tate rose from the ashes of Lyda’s career, like a literary phoenix.
What happened was that I was saved by the kindness of my then-editor, John Morgan. He’d taken me over after Laura Anne Gilman left Roc for her own writing career. By chance, we met at a WorldCon (Boston? Baltimore?) and really, really hit it off. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to, but when I confessed to struggling with the book that was to follow Apocalypse Array, he let me know that he’d been given orders to “shepherd me out the door.” My numbers weren’t fabulous and, despite winning several awards, Roc was feeling that once the contract was done, so were we. No one was super excited about the novel I’d proposed as a stand-alone (it was a historical fantasy that involved the Mafia and St. Paul in the 1930s,) including me. So, he suggested that I think about something we’d talked about at WorldCon late, late at night, which was my guilty pleasure: vampire novels. It was the mid-90s and, as you may know, the vampire romance was just really taking off at that time. He offered that MAYBE if I could write a hot, fun proposal, he could renegotiate my contract and we could re-imagine me as a sassy, debut vampire romance author. I wrote my heart and soul into the proposals for the first three Garnet Lacey books. By chance, he loved them. So, instead of being put out to pasture, I got a second chance. I will be forever eternally grateful to John, and any time someone says, “What do editors really do these days any more?” disparagingly, I quickly answer, “ADVOCATE for their authors, big time!”
So that’s it in a nutshell.
PW: That second chance has become the writer most people know, and you’ve definitely taken up residence in urban fantasy with the Lacey novels and with the Vampire Princess ones, too. What can you tell our readers about your newest book, Precinct 13, especially because it’s the only urban fantasy ever set in South Dakota (near as I can figure)?
LM:I can tell you several things about Precinct 13. One, I absolutely had a blast writing it. I think that, in fact, I had as much fun writing Precinct 13 as I did writing some of the Angel books. Don’t get me wrong. I had a great deal of fun with the Garnet and Vampire Princess books, too, but there’s something distinctly Morehouse-ian (Hallaway-ish?) quirky about Precinct 13. In a nutshell, our story follows Alex Conner, the accidental coroner of Hughes County, as she uncovers the magical underground of Pierre, South Dakota, and becomes part of a team of paranormal investigators known as Precinct 13.
And, yes, it really is set in South Dakota. It’s part of my capitol city run as Tate. I’ve done Madison(for the Garnet Lacey series), St. Paul (for the Vampire Princess of St. Paul series), and now Pierre.
I learned some startling things about Pierre while doing research about it. It has an astounding number of coincidences involving the number 13 which I did not know until after Precinct 13 was titled. There are just over 13,000 people living in Pierre. It is approximately 13 square miles. It’s elevation over sea level is quite close to 1300 miles.
Precinct 13 also includes one of my absolute favorite characters ever, a hottie shape-shifting dragon. Also, I think I may have written the best line of my life in this book and it goes something like, “The last thing I wanted was the zombie’s pity.”
So. Much. Fun.
Which is why I am completely and utterly bummed that Penguin isn’t interested in any more books in that series. I’m seriously considering (and have started on) writing a self-published e-book sequel. I got derailed from that though, by a couple of other projects that need attention first. Once those are done and out the door, I intend to go back to it. After all, I just invented an awesome red-haired, tattooed biker dude, who also happens to be a werewolf, specifically he turns into the Mexican red wolf… and whom I think may be turning out to be the half-brother of the vampire/werewolf character from the previous book, Devon Fletcher.
As much fun as all that is for me, we may be seeing the end of my Tate Hallway period, too. I’ve been without a contract now for over a year, despite the fact that Tall, Dark & Dead has gone into paperback and those books have just gotten an audiobook deal. At least, happily, like I mentioned above, I have some other things in the cooker. So, fingers crossed.
LM:If you dare, indeed! This year I’m attending at least two cons as a fan. Both will be in the Twin Cities: Anime Detour (in which I will be cross-playing and everything,) and CONvergence. I’ll be an attending pro at least at MarsCon this year, with possible other ones, depending on funds and timing (though Jack McDevitt is coming to DiversiCon so I might have to make that one.) Plus, I’d really like to get to WisCon as I’m a huge fan of Jo Walton’s Small Changes series, and she’s going to be the guest there this year.
So, unfortunately, I’m not making it too far from home this year. I’ve been known to do Worldons every once and a while, but probably not this year.
But, you can keep up with my life in a number of different places on the Internet. I’m on Twitter as @tatehallaway. You can find Lyda on Facebook. We each have blogs, though the best maintained one, ironically perhaps, is my LiveJournal. But I also contribute to Wyrdsmiths’ group blog. Tate has had less news lately, but some of the archives of her blog are full of a lot of my writing reflections, particularly when I was teaching in-person at the Loft , which I’ll be doing again this summer, so that one will probably pick up again.
Of course I have a static website and a similar one for Tate (but you can get to both through this address.) And, hopefully, people will be inspired to check out Wizard’s Tower Press for news about upcoming e-book releases.
I’m probably lurking elsewhere. After all, we all know that the Internet is the shiny for most writers, and I spend far too much time on it!
Well, this was lovely. Thank you!
PW: Thank *you*, Lyda.
Filed under: Interviews
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