Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pantomime Blog Tour: interview & review

This tour is hosted by Strange Chemistry

Pantomime by Laura Lam
YA fantasy*Paperback & e-book, 392 pages
Expected publication: February 5th 2013 by
Strange Chemistry

R. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass—remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone—are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimaera is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.

But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

with Laura Lam

1) Can you share some of your writing process with us? When did you want to be a writer? How did Pantomime come about? Why a circus setting? How did you go about your worldbuilding?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I started daydreaming about it a lot when I was 14. When I was 15, I started an absolutely terrible fantasy with cat people and fairies. I went back and read it a few months ago, and found it cringe worthy yet oddly encouraging. Even then I saw the beginnings of my voice and some of the themes I still like to investigate now, even if it was all done rather terribly. I put aside writing and focused on reading everything I could get my hands on until university, where I studied creative writing in the form of poems and short stories. It helped me learn the beginnings of craft and be all right with showing strangers my short work. I placed in a few university competitions.

At university I came up with the character of Micah Grey and started a book with him as an adult, but I kept stumbling over it. His voice was hard for me, as he was 27 and I was 18. So I decided to look at his back story and wrote a story about him as a teenager joining the circus. I found his younger voice instantly and what I thought would be a short story turned into a novel. I chose the circus initially because it would be good training for his later career, which I won’t say. It gives him strength, stamina, and theatrical skills. So it was a bit of a lucky accident, as there aren’t all that many fantasy circuses floating around so it’s a gap in the market. Another aspect of the book makes it unusual in YA, and that combined helped it stand out.

I started dreaming up the world of Ellada and the Archipelago in 2007, so it’s had a long time to percolate. I took a lot of my pet interests and then wove them into the world. With religion, I’ve always been intrigued by the dual nature gods seem have—good yet vengeful, war and love. So the world worships a Lord of the Sun and a Lady of the Moon, but each country has different religious holidays and prayer methods.

I love the concept of a dying earth and a decaying empire. I wanted to look at colonization, but through the threat of weapons of mass destruction rather than outright slavery and domination. The islands came under Elladan rule because they had the biggest guns in the form of Vestige, artefacts left behind by an advanced civilisation. The other islands also help round out the world with many different cultures. I’ve been developing these other colonies in more detail lately, and have been using a personal wiki for this. I love world-building, even if much of what I make up doesn’t make on the page, I know it and that should hopefully bring the world to life.

2) What was the first scene you wrote? The very last?
The first scene I wrote is what is now the start of chapter 5. The last were the ending scenes.

2) Was anything about writing difficult for you? Any characters surprise you?
Getting the plot to fit together was the biggest challenge for me. I initially wrote it chronologically and then in an edit decided on the split narrative, which works much better. Most characters surprised me, but the ones to surprise me most were Bil Ragona, the ringmaster, and Aenea, the aerialist who works with Micah.

3) How long did it take to complete the book?
15 months for the first draft, but I was working on the adult Micah book and short stories at the same time. 3 months of very hefty revisions after editorial comments from Strange Chemistry prior to the deal. Plus more edits afterwards! I wrote the first word of Pantomime in December 2009, so from start to finish it was about 3 years with plenty of breaks.

4) What drew you to YA fantasy?
I’ve always been a fantasy buff, no matter what. Funnily enough, though, I initially subbed this book as adult science fiction, as I wasn’t sure if it was magic or advanced tech in the world. Either way, it reads much more fantasy. I also didn’t know if it was YA or not when I wrote it, as it seemed it could go either way.

5) What was your journey to publication like?
Backwards. I subbed to a publisher first (in Angry Robot’s Open Door month), had a revision request, revised, and then returned the manuscript to Strange Chemistry (as they thought YA fitted better), and then received an offer from my agent two days before the publication offer. It was a lot of luck, and I made some silly errors on the way, so avoid my mistakes if you’re pursuing publication and research and then research some more!

6) What are you working on now?
I’ll be starting edits for the sequel to Pantomime shortly, plus drafting a YA gothic fantasy with a twist (I guess I like twists).

Thank you for having me!

About the author:

Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams.

She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.

Pantomime is unlike anything I've read in YA literature. Anything. The story of Micah intrigues, grabs, makes one wonder, questions, and more. There is love, heartbreak, all amidst the wonder and spectacle of the circus. I can't reveal anything more about this story simply because I do not want to spoil any one's reading experience. Laura Lam paints a distinctly dynamic world with her prose, populating it with such striking characters and situations, R. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic seems real and surreal. 

This is such a great time to read YA for the sheer amount of talented authors bringing their works to the masses to enjoy. Pantomime has refused to leave my mind and I'm happy the author is working on a sequel.


Cover comment: This image fits in perfectly with the story's ambiance and mystery.

Book source: I received a copy from the publisher in return for my honest review.

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