Today, P.L. Blair joins us in the forum. She’s here to talk about her fabulous Portals fantasy series, in which there are already four books. We've got a lot of ground to cover, so we better get started J
Tim Greaton: It’s great to have you here, P.L. You and I have been hanging around the same writers’ circles for several years, and I know a lot of our common friends have known you even longer than I have. You must have a long background the literary world?
P.L. Blair: I've never really had a non-writing background. I decided early on – around age 7 or 8 – that I wanted to write books when I “grew up” (whenever that will be). Then around junior high school age, I figured I really needed to do something that would earn money, so I started writing for the school newspaper, took journalism classes in high school and college and graduated with associate's and bachelor's degrees in journalism. Then I started writing for newspapers – and still do, occasionally, but it's no longer a full-time job.
Tim Greaton: I have to believe that someone was behind your young literary interest. Am I right?
P.L. Blair: One of the most influential people in my life was my grandfather. I was raised by my grandparents, and Daddy – my maternal grandfather – taught me to read by reading to me. I can still remember sitting in Daddy's lap while he read stories to me about Uncle Wiggly (one of my favorite childhood literary characters) or the Pokey Little Puppy. Besides teaching me to read, those sessions were a wonderful bonding experience, and I really wish more parents had time – or would take the time – to read to their kids.
From Daddy, I learned about the wonderful, awesome worlds that books open. And I guess part of the reason I became a writer was because I loved the stories so much – and could never get enough of them – so it just seemed natural to me that I create my own.
Tim Greaton: What do you do when you’re not creating books?
P.L. Blair: I do have a few interests other than writing. I love history, paleontology, geology. I read every book on those subjects that I can get my hands on. I paint occasionally – nothing spectacular, but I enjoy doing landscapes and seascapes. Probably because I have animals, I prefer acrylics to oils – it's easier to clean up spills.
I'm also horse-crazy – have been since I was a kid. These days, I research American Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred pedigrees as a hobby.
Tim Greaton: You mentioned that you have pets. Could you tell us about them?
P.L. Blair: I love dogs and cats – have three of the former and one of the latter. All are rescues – a basset hound, a dachshund, a part-Jack Russell terrier (aka the jackrabbit terror) and a tortoiseshell cat.
Tim Greaton: When you’re not chasing your furry friends around the house, what genres do you read?
P.L. Blair: I read a lot of fantasy and detective novels (my Portals books are a blend of those two genres). But my reading tends to be eclectic – everything from biographies to romances, depending on what strikes my fancy at any given time.
Tim Greaton: What comment about your novels makes you smile the most?
P.L. Blair: I love when readers from Corpus Christi, Texas – the setting for my books – tell me that they recognize places based on my descriptions.
Tim Greaton: You seem to have gathered an unusual audience for a genre writer. Could you explain what I mean?
P.L. Blair: A lot of my readers say they don't like fantasy or detective novels – then they tell me that they like my books. I think maybe it's because my books are set in modern day, and I try to ground them in as much reality as possible. There is magic, of course, but I've established rules by which it operates. I kind of have a theory that, the more “far out” or impossible something sounds – such as magic – the more it needs to “sound” plausible. I think if I want my tales to be believable, I've got to give my readers a basis for belief.
I also like to make my stories fun. The subject is serious – I write about murderers, after all – but I try to inject humor where I can between my characters. I try to keep them real by giving them little idiosyncrasies … Kat tosses her trash in the back seat of her car, for example, and Tevis won't drive a car because he views them as 2,000-pound projectiles.
Tim Greaton: Do you have a lot of past works stacked up and waiting to be finished?
P.L. Blair: I do have a “couple” of projects that I've put on hold – half-formed ideas … books that I've put aside so I can focus on my Portals books … I don't know if I'll go back to them. They haven't called to me yet.
Tim Greaton: You have a fearless nature about you. Have you always been that way?
P.L. Blair: Well … There was the time I stopped a Rose Parade in my hometown Tyler, Texas. I was 5 years old and crazy about horses – still am, for that matter. Every year, Tyler has a Rose Festival, with a parade as part of the celebration. Mother took me, but we were way back in the crowd – so I slipped away from her.
Mother said just about the time she noticed I was missing, she heard people in front of her laughing. She worked her way up until she could ask someone what was going on. And the woman she asked said there was this little blond-haired girl running out and stopping the mounted units by petting the horses.
Sure enough … That was me (she grins).
Tim Greaton: What books have you read that truly impacted your life?
P.L. Blair: A couple of books, actually. I read The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was around 9 or 10, and immediately fell in love with Sherlock Holmes and – from there – the mystery/detective genre. I devoured every Sherlock Holmes book I could find, then went on to books by Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout, Agatha Christie …
The other book, of course – actually, books – is the Lord of the Rings, which I discovered in high school. I'd been reading fantasy and science fiction since childhood, but Tolkien's epic cemented my love of the genre. More than that, it made me want to write stories about elves and wizards and magic.
Tim Greaton: So what does your final manuscript preparation process look like?
P.L. Blair: I rely to some degree on my own instincts – but I do have beta readers, including my publisher – who was a friend and a reader before she asked to publish my books. One of my sisters, who still lives in Texas (in Rockport, a little city just north of Corpus Christi), also reads my manuscripts, not only for content but to “fact-check” the locations I mention in the series. (As in, “You can't have that happen on Everhart Street, because Everhart doesn't intersect with that street.”)
Tim Greaton: Everyone should have one of those sisters, P.L.! Now that we’re talking about your books, is there one or more authors who you try to model your work after?
P.L. Blair: It's kind of funny. I can't think offhand of anyone in particular. But a while back, I submitted a sample from Sister Hoods, my most recent Portals novel, to an online site that compares your writing to that of famous writers. The answer came back that I write like Ernest Hemingway. I honestly don't see it, but it's very flattering.
Tim Greaton: I tried the same site I think, P.L. Do you remember an author by the name of Elmer Fudd? No. Neither did I. Hmmm.
So, if you had to put a label on your writing, what would it be?
P.L. Blair: At heart, I'm really a storyteller. It's just that I tell my stories in writing. I love words – I think most writers do; that's part of why we become writers – but what I really love is using words to shape my tales. I want my writers to forget about me, the author, while they're reading. I write from third-person POV, and my goal is to stay “in character” while I'm writing. I try to not have an “author's voice,” but rather to speak through the voice of my POV character.
Tim Greaton: I also prefer a tight point-of-view, P.L., and obviously your fans do as well.
Speaking of your fans, I’m sure they’re waiting to hear us talk about your series Portals. I especially love the evil eyes in the backdrop of your Deathtalker cover.
P.L. Blair: Deathtalker is book 3 in my Portals series. The plot pits my main characters (Corpus Christi, Texas, police detectives Kat Morales and Tevis Mac Leod) against a serial killer like none they've met before: a creature who uses magic to convince his victims – young, beautiful women with a noticeable resemblance to Kat – to kill themselves so he can absorb their life force into his own.
Tim Greaton: What led you to move in this direction with your series?
P.L. Blair: All of my Portals tales are based on the premise that the creatures of our mythology and legends actually exist in the parallel world – the Realms of Magic – that exists on the other side of the gateways (the “Portals” of my series title) that separate our two worlds.
My concept is that the Portals were open from earliest times, so our ancestors actually encountered wizards, elves, ogres, trolls, dragons … all of these beings. Then, maybe a thousand or so years ago, the Portals were closed – but now they're open again, and the Realms' inhabitants are returning to our world and bringing their magic with them – for good and bad. (Tevis, for example, is an elf, and his and Kat's allies include a wizard.)
As part of my “research,” I often read (or reread) collections of folk and fairy tales and mythology, and one of my favorite books is a compilation by W.B. Yates of Irish folktales. This time, the story of the lovetalker grabbed my attention. The lovetalker was a handsome youth – related to the leprechaun – who wandered the Irish countryside seducing young women. After spending some time with a girl, the lovetalker would leave her – and she inevitably would pine away and die of a broken heart.
I started to think about the lovetalker in terms of a serial killer – not a careless youth who didn't care about the results of his dalliance, but a deliberate murderer whose goal was to steal the life of his victim, to take it for himself. I got to thinking about the lovetalker as a kind of psychic vampire – a “deathtalker” – which is the name Tevis gives him in the book.
Tim Greaton: You have four books out now (at least I can see four listed at Amazon). Will the Portals series be growing any further?
P.L. Blair: Sister Hoods is the fourth book in the series. Beyond that, I'm always playing with new story ideas. I have a couple of older manuscripts that my publisher's interested in, so we’ll see which makes it to market next. Either way, Portals will continue because …
Well, there are so many creatures out there in our myths and folk tales – and I do enjoy pulling them into my stories and giving a little bit of a tweak to what we think we know about them. In Shadow Path, for example, I introduce pixies – and they're nothing like Tinker Bell!
The villain in Stormcaller – book 2 in my series – is Tlaloc, a creature worshiped by the Aztecs as a god of storms and virulent diseases (such as tuberculosis and leprosy). Tlaloc has returned to the human world – our world – with an impossible demand: Restore his worship as in times past, complete with human sacrifice, or he will send a hurricane to wipe out the Texas coast. Stormcaller also gave me the chance to poke around on the other side of the Portals, since Kat, Tevis and their allies discover they can only defeat Tlaloc in the Realms of Magic.
Sister Hoods, book 4, starts with a band of nymphs (from Greek mythology) and satyrs robbing a bank in Rockport, Texas – a small town north of Corpus Christi. But Kat and Tevis soon learn they're dealing with more than a simple bank robbery – and there are a conclave of evil wizards and a wyvern involved ...
In book 5, which is currently in the works, I go back to Ireland for a story involving leprechauns – and they're not the cute greeting-card little men in green either …
The supply of potential villains and plots seems endless, and lately I've been thinking it would be fun to plunk a dragon onto Cloud Peak, a mountain in the Bighorns near Sheridan, Wyoming, where I'm currently living.
Tim Greaton: Having written a couple of series myself, I know that sometimes it would be nice to be able to go back and tweak a few details to better suit the new stories. How do you handle that?
P.L. Blair: I always want to change something but all we can do is make each book as deep as possible, allowing for future stories to be told. That’s one of the reasons that, when I revised Sister Hoods, I delved a bit more into the relationship between Kat and Tevis.
Tim Greaton: I often joke that authors here on the forum will live past 125 years. What’s your answer to that?
P.L. Blair: I don't intend to go out until I'm at least 130 – and I will be found face-down on my keyboard having typed “the end” to my most recent book!
Tim Greaton: And what would your epitaph read?
P.L. Blair: She Enjoyed Dancing in the Rain.
That's taken from a line I found – seriously, though incredibly – on a plaque on the wall of Dairy Queen in Rockport, Texas: Life isn't about waiting out the storm. It's about learning to dance in the rain.
On the other hand, given me, what's most likely to be on my tombstone – because these are the words I most frequently mutter under my breath these days – is: It's Too Soon to Panic.
I'm not sure that could be called my motto. It's more like my daily mantra.
Tim Greaton: It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly communicate with you and purchase your stories.
P.L. Blair: My website is http://www.plblairportals.com and you can access my blog by clicking above the photo of me and my gorgeous basset hound, Shilo. There's a link there to my publisher's site – or you can go directly to http://www.studiosee.com – and read samples from (and buy) my books.
I'm also on Twitter @plblairportals … and on Facebook as Pat Blair (with an author's page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/PL-Blair/170370356378877?sk=wall ).
I also have an author's page on Amazon.
On a more personal level, I love to hear from readers, so anyone who wants to visit with me – feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also view trailers for all four of my books on YouTube. The trailers, by the way, were done by a very talented lady named Su Halfwerk. I think she did a great job!
Tim Greaton: P.L., thanks for taking the time with us. I’m guessing keyboards are already clicking in search of some great Portals books.
P.L. Blair: Tim, I am delighted to have had this opportunity to visit with you and everyone on your forum. You all have my thanks and appreciation for letting me “ramble” on about the fantasy stories I love so much. I hope you'll visit my website and blog as well.