Today I am interviewing Lee French, co-editor of the new fantasy anthology, Swords, Sorcery, and Self-Rescuing Damsels.
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DJ: Hi Lee! Thanks for stopping by again to do another interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Lee: Hello! I’m an indie fantasy and science fiction author, a member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), and a co-founder of Clockwork Dragon, a small press based in Olympia, Washington. Some of what I write is Young Adult, but not all of ig. I also write cyberpunk full of sex, drugs, swearing, terrible people, and violence under the name L.E. French.
DJ: What is Swords, Sorcery, and Self-Rescuing Damsels about?
Lee: The anthology is collection of stories about women and girls who can save themselves from whatever peril they’ve fallen into without needing a ”traditional” (male) hero to ride to their rescue. Some are too young, others are past their prime. There are also a few with disabilities.
DJ: What were some of the inspirations behind Swords, Sorcery, and Self-Rescuing Damsels?
Lee: The process of editing an anthology has interested me for many years. How do they pick the stories? Why those people? What is the secret? I assumed there had to be some secret to the whole process, because otherwise everyone would do it. Since no one would tell me that secret, I did the thing I do, which is to try it and see what happens. Thankfully, I’m part of a regional writing group, Norwest Independent Writers Association, which was already producing an annual charity anthology. I volunteered to take over the editor position and got to work.
It turns out, that’s the secret: work. There’s no magic formula or anything. Like anything else, if you’re willing to put in the work, you can produce an anthology of quality. Once I’d done it, I knew I could handle doing it professionally, so I set to work on this premise. Other people have provided plenty of help along the way, including Sarah Craft, who’s done this before–many times–and arguably did more of the work than I. Jeffrey Cook was also particularly helpful in coming up with the title and parameters.
DJ: What kinds of stories should readers expect in the anthology?
Lee: Each story is about defying limits and expectations. The protagonists are non-typical heroines in worlds where people expect the typical. Women and girls perceived as too weak, too young, or too old rise up and do the thing.
DJ: Being an editor, what do you believe makes a good story?
Lee: Heart. You can always tell when a writer doesn’t feel any attachment to a story. It might be dashed off, or it might get revised to sterility, but there’s just no sense the writer enjoyed writing it or has any investment in it. I’ll take gleeful, joyous prose over perfect, empty prose any day of the week.
DJ: This may… this will be a difficult question to answer, but what are some of your favorite stories in Swords, Sorcery, and Self-Rescuing Damsels? I don’t mean what you believe is the best, but perhaps some stories has a particular setting, theme, message, or character that you stood out to you?
Lee: Surprise! This one is easy. Every time I read “Thorn Girl” by Connie J. Jasperson, I cry. To be clear, I’ve probably read it fifty times, including the first concept that Sarah never saw and was wildly different from the final, through to the final proofing. The story is about compassion and the strength derived from it. Connie poured her heart into the story and I’m so honored to have it in the book.
DJ: What was your favorite part about editing Swords, Sorcery, and Self-Rescuing Damsels?
Lee: Everyone I have ever talked to about this project immediately gets excited when they hear the title. It’s such a positive idea, and something people want to be involved with. Their excitement feeds mine, which has kept things rolling even when it got hard or boring.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it this one?
Lee: I hope everyone finds a favorite story in the volume and takes that as a cue to go read more by the author. Every author in the book is amazing in a different way, and their stories are too.
DJ: When it comes to getting stories for these anthologies, how does that process work? Do you send requests to certain authors, asking them to write a story? Or do you get stories from authors asking for consideration to be included?
Lee: For this particular volume, I had a feeling interest would be high, so I didn’t want to put up an open call and get inundated. The gender identity of the authors was also important to me, to an extent. I wanted to make sure I had a significant number of female or nonbinary authors. To ensure that, I asked a variety of people I know whose work I respect. Expecting that not to be enough in the end, I also posted a call in a single, closed group of authors I’m part of, which rounded out the collection. For projects like this, the best way to get into them is to get out and meet other authors. Huge slush piles full of strangers’ work aren’t attractive or fun to deal with.
DJ: Now that Swords, Sorcery, and Self-Rescuing Damsels is released, what is next for you?
Lee: I have plenty of my own books coming. Right now, I have books in two multi-author box sets, both currently in pre-order: Cursed Lands and Rogue Skies. May 28th is release day for Crawlspace, the second book in a YA space opera portal fantasy series. In July, the first of a trilogy co-authored with Jeffrey Cook releases–Dragoncaller is space opera with dragons. With luck, three more will come out this fall. Time permitting, I’m hoping to put together another anthology for 2020, titled Self-Rescuing Damsels in Space, of space-based science fiction.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lee-French/e/B00DPJ3CPI
Author Newsletter: https://authorleefrench.com/become-a-fan/
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Swords, Sorcery, and Self-Rescuing Damsels that we haven’t talked about yet?
Lee: The idea for this collection didn’t come from MeToo and has nothing to do with that movement, though the timing turned out well. It began as a seed many years ago, long before I had a clue that anthologies could be anything other than “Best of” or single-author collections. As a newbie writer many years ago, I had a rather slow-motion awakening to the fact that the media I consumed mostly pushed the white male savior hero narrative at me, and it affected my own work. Breaking free of that took a lot of soul-searching and reflection, part of which involved this crazy idea that gosh darnit, women should save their own dang selves. Like one of my favorite heroes, Ripley in Aliens. (I prefer the second movie to all the others, including the first.)
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Lee: This collection has not only an ebook and print version, but also an audio version from the fine, award-winning folks at Skyboat Media. They did an incredible job with the reading.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Lee: Thank you for having me!
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*** Swords, Sorcery, and Self-Rescuing Damsels is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
THESE LADIES AREN’T WAITING.
Twenty bestselling and award-winning authors offer enchanting tales of women and girls forging paths through darkness and peril. Cleverness, curiosity, and determinations make worthy heroines in fantastical new worlds.
Featuring stories by:
Jody Lynn Nye
Frog and Esther Jones
Connie J. Jasperson
Edward J. Knight
Robert J. McCarter
Lou J Berger
About the Author:
Lee French lives in Olympia, WA with two kids, two bicycles, and too much stuff. She is an avid gamer and active member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she is known for her fondness for Angry Ninja Squirrels of Doom. In addition to spending too much time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with one dragon and absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don’t get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.
She is an active member of SFWA (www.sfwa.org) and the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association (NIWAwriters.net), and one of two Municipal Liaisons for her NaNoWriMo region.