Jaime Lee Moyer lives in San Antonio, land of cowboys, cactus, and rhinestones. She writes books about murder, betrayal, friendship, magic, and kissing, an activity her cats approve of (even the kissing).
Her first novel, Delia’s Shadow, was published by Tor Books September 17, 2013. The second book in the series, A Barricade In Hell, comes out June 3, 2014, and the third book, Against A Brightening Sky, in 2015.
Jaime’s short fiction has appeared in Lone Star Stories, Daily Science Fiction, and the Triangulations: End of the Rainbow, and Triangulations: Last Contact anthologies. She was poetry editor for Ideomancer Speculative Fiction for five years and edited the 2010 Rhysling Award Anthology for the Science Fiction Poetry Association. A poet in her own right, she’s sold more than her share of poetry.
She writes a lot. She reads as much as she can.
Let’s get to the interview!
Andrea Johnson: Congrats on your new novel, AGAINST A BRIGHTENING SKY! This is the third book in your Delia Martin historical fantasy series. What can you tell us about the new book?
Jaime Lee Moyer: Against A Brightening Sky is my personal favorite in the series. The book takes place in 1919, after The Great War is over. Delia, Gabe and Dora find themselves up to their necks in trying to keep a young woman alive and help her regain her memories. The only thing Alina remembers about her life is her name, but it’s clear from the beginning that someone wants her dead, and that this person will stop at nothing to reach that goal.
The story involves a mysterious ghost princess, labor unions, revolutions and more. I had a lot of fun with this book. Most important, at least to me, Against A Brightening Sky ends with hope for the future.
AJ: Without giving us any spoilers, what was your favorite scene to write in AGAINST A BRIGHTENING SKY?
JLM: That’s a tough question. So many scenes were great to write, and they were my favorites while I was writing them–until I got to the next favorite scene.
But if I have to choose, I’ll point at the scene where Delia has to face her first dead body. She’s dealt with ghosts for years, but never a fresh corpse. Lots of things about how she coped, Dora scolding Gabe, and the whole set up made me happy. That’s all I can say without spoilers.
AJ: I imagine you did a lot of research to get the details in these books just right. Tell us about your experiences researching, and if you discovered anything completely unexpected.
JLM: I did a metric ton of research for each one of the books in this series. The era of the 1910s was a completely different world, both in terms of social standard and expectations, and in technical advances. I researched clothing styles, furniture, movies, car models, dime novels, and magazines. I read countless newspaper articles written during the 1910s to get a feel for what was important to people living then.
The plot for each book required that I research specialized subjects as well. I learned far more about serial killers than I ever wanted to know. What I learned about WWI was pretty horrifying as well.
Probably the most unexpected thing I discovered is that there are bits of history I wish I’d never learned about. Coming face to face with just how cruel humans can be to each other is hard.
AJ: Is this the end for Delia, or do you have more adventures planned for her?
JLM: For now, this is the end. I have a long short story or novella planned for Dora, and the odd short story might pop up, but there probably won’t be another Gabe and Delia book for a long time. I’m not going to say never, because I do have more ideas for these characters. Right now it’s time to move on to other projects.
AJ: You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you are fascinated by the time period leading up and surrounding The Great War, and early female evangelists like Mary Baker Eddy and Aimee Semple McPherson. What is it about that time period, and these particular people that makes them so interesting for you?
JLM: The 1910s were fascinating because they were in many ways a transition period between what most of us think of as an “old fashioned” society and world, with old fashioned technology and values, and the modern age. Cars replaced horse drawn buggies and wagons, telephones became somewhat common, huge advances were made in airplane design – so many things changed. Attitudes toward women changed, and after a long struggle, women won the vote. Labor unions got their start, and although it would take years to reach their goal, the first serious steps toward banning child labor were taken.
Not all the changes were positive. The Great War was the first modern war, with all the myriad horrors of modern warfare being introduced for the first time. Trench warfare, chemical weapons, long range shelling on the men trapped in the trenches – millions of men died. That level of slaughter had never been seen before.
Mary Baker Eddy and Aimee Semple McPherson interested me because they were pretty unique for their time, and their lives were one huge contradiction. Women evangelists were very rare during the time these women lived their lives. And Eddy and McPherson were magnets for scandals, not shining examples of Christian virtue.
At various times Eddy was accused of plagiarism, of being a trance channeler, and of holding seances for money. She was married several times, and one marriage ended in divorce. Any divorce was a scandal at the time, and she claimed her husband committed adultery. Later in life she maintained that not only could mental powers heal illness, but that mental attacks – that she classified as “malicious animal magnetism” – could cause harm. She even went to far as to claim that her last husband died of “mental assassination.”
Not the rhetoric you expect from someone who maintained she’d founded her church on Christian teachings. Despite the controversy surrounding her, Eddy attracted a large following and her church thrived. That alone set her apart from the majority of women at the time.
Aimee Semple McPherson was a media superstar in the 1920s and attracted larger crowds than any other traveling evangelist. Her sermons weren’t just sermons, but staged performances with custom sets, and professional actors. Rumors of affairs and sexual exploits followed her around the country, and stories appeared of her receiving blackmail notes to keep nude pictures of her from being published.
But the biggest scandal and controversy surrounding McPherson revolved around a mysterious five week disappearance form a beach in Venice, California. Family, friends and followers had given her up for dead. McPherson suddenly reappeared in a small Arizona town, telling a story of being kidnapped, escaping from a small shack in Mexico, and walking for hours in the desert sun before finding help. She was almost immediately accused of making the story up and charges were filed.
The writer in me finds their stories endlessly fascinating. Did these two women really do all the scandalous things they were accused of? Or was this a case of a woman becoming too successful and being made to suffer for that success?
AJ: I hear you’ve got a new book in the works, A PARLIAMENT OF QUEENS. What can you tell us about this new project?
JLM: The book is about halfway finished, maybe a little less. A lot of the story sitting in my head hasn’t made it onto the page yet.
A Parliament Of Queens is set in a secondary world where airships occupy the same place that airplanes hold in the real world, and railroad trains have never been invented. It’s a world where alchemy is science, and only women are born with the ability to do magic.
Three women who were never supposed to rule–Rosalind, Queen of Kenor, Maryam, Radiance of Alsmeria, and Sofija, Empress of Dalmatia – find themselves being forced to take the throne under tragic circumstances. Their fathers and brothers have all suffered fatal accidents within weeks of each other. They band together in order to survive attempts to draw their nations into war, discover who murdered their families, and keep husbands, children and lovers alive. Along the way they become fast friends as well as allies.
This book is a lot of fun to write. Mixing alchemy and magic in a 1930s art deco style world is a blast.
AJ: You were the poetry editor for Ideomancer Speculative Fiction, and edited the 2010 Rhysling Award Anthology for the Science Fiction Poetry Association. How is writing poetry a different mental activity from writing prose? When you get an idea in your head, how do you know if it would work better as a poem, or as short story or novel?
JLM: I think of poetry as another form of storytelling, and in many ways, poetry is harder for me to write than prose. I’ve said many times that 30 lines of good poetry is as difficult to write as 30,000 words of strong, prose. Having done both, I stand by that.
Novels are a big sprawling canvas that allows you a look into one point in a character’s life. Short stories do that as well, but the time they cover is much shorter. A poem is focused on a moment, an instant. It is much more concise and constrained.
The way I string words together is different in a poem, or the way one line flows into another, or the way images are tailored to worm their way into a readers brain. All those things happen when I write prose too, but the unscientific answer is that poetry feels different.
And because poetry feels different, the ideas or inspirations feel different too. I usually know from the start of that tickle at the back of my brain is a poem or a novel. Part of that is the scope of the idea, part of it is experience. Another part is an indefinable writer’s instinct.
AJ: This past summer you were at ArmadilloCon. You were involved in panels, readings, and doing autographs. Favorite Con memory, from this con or others?
JLM: All my favorite con memories involve conversations with friends, both old friends and new ones I’m just getting to know. Most of my daily interactions with other SFF writers take place online, which is great and wonderful. I wouldn’t miss that for anything.
But I get so little face to face time with other writers. SFF writers are thin on the ground in the area where I live. That isolates me, and I crave that personal interaction, the laughter, and the conversations. For me, those conversations are the best con memories.