Q&A: Elaine Isaak

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Q&A: Elaine Isaak
Elaine Isaak

Elaine Isaak would have us believe she dropped out of art school to found Curious Characters (designing original stuffed animals and small-scale sculptures) and to follow her bliss: writing. She is the author of The Singer’s Crown in 2005, and sequels The Eunuch’s Heir in 2006, and The Bastard Queen which came out January 1st. In 2011 she starts a new dark historical fantasy series with DAW books under a pseudonym. I first met her years ago when we were both signing at a convention and readers kept coming up to her asking why she did such horrible things to her hero.

LMS: Why haven’t you tried to get into my good graces by crafting a buffalito using your Curious Characters skills?

EI: I have to admit that Barry [Barry is the adorable plush buffalito who can often be seen riding my shoulder at conventions -LMS] paid me off. He’s worried that he’ll lose his position if a new, more accurate, possibly even cuter buffalito came along. He told me what a lonely life he would lead, no longer allowed to ride upon your shoulder at conventions, no longer receiving free badges and other perks as if he, too, were a priveleged pro. He even hinted that he might feed himself to a puppy if this came about. But don’t tell him I told you—he doesn’t want you to know how important you are to him.

LMS: What do you think is really at the heart of your need to do such brutally painful things to your protagonists? Seriously, what did they ever do to you? Is this a gimmick, an aspect of your voice, or a technique you use to appeal to sadistic readers who are looking to you for a highly specialized niche within the genre?

EI: It’s my belief that a hero cannot be great unless he has been greatly tested. One of the joys of fiction for the reader is to experience the tension of worrying over characters, and the release of having the characters they identify with succeed in spite of great odds. Low odds, low stakes, produce low reader interest. With me, readers know they can’t count on a character surviving intact. It increases their engagement with the text. They like it–really like it.

I’m not sure this qualifies as a specialized niche as authors ranging from Peter S. Beagle to Carole Berg have spoken about this need. As to what they did to me, well, that’s kind of personal. . .

LMS: Your next series is coming out under a pseudonym. Who’s idea was that, you or your publisher’s? Is this purely a marketing decision? Will you be “leaking” the truth to the web so fans of your other fiction can find your new incarnation, or do you want to keep the two identities eternally separate (and if so, why)?

EI: I wanted a pseudonym to create more separation between the two series. The publisher wanted the pseudonym to give them a chance to position the books more effectively in the market. So it works out well for both of us. But I’m not supposed to leak it. Especially on the web. I’ve been told that I can whisper it here and there, but should be careful about how it gets out. I suspect that my twitter followers might work it out if they follow diligently. Eternal separation? Not likely. I think we’re aiming for separation at least up until the first book is established in the market.

LMS: How old will your children have to be before you allow them to read your books? What do you imagine (or hope) their reactions will be?

EI: How old? Oooh. that’s tricky. My oldest has heard me read from the books, and shown a lot of curiousity about them. I’ve said that they are suitable for older YA readers. Maybe 15? My primary concern, once I feel they’re able to deal with the subject matter (castration, promiscuity, possible incest, all those good things) is how the books will reflect on me as their mother. I know they will likely be glowering at me and muttering about me anyway when they reach that age, but hopefully there will be an admiring edge to the glares–as opposed to the “How soon should I get Mom committed?” edge.

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And now that you’ve met Elaine Isaak, it’s time for the commercial: The reason I do these Q&A posts with authors is because all writers need readers. And while I can’t reveal the name Elaine’s new book will be under, I can point you toward some of her past works. Please consider clicking on one or more of the images below and buy a copy. Thanks!

The Singer's Crown The Eunuch's Heir The Bastard Queen


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