The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field
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L I Z A B E T H
Y N N :|
A New Spring
(from the October 1997 issue)
Photo by Beth Gwinn
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Elizabeth Lynn published her first genre story, "We All Have to Go", in the 1976 anthology The Berkley Showcase, and her first novel was SF stand-alone A Different Light (1978). Next came fantasy Watchtower (1979), first in the "Tornor" trilogy, followed by its sequels The Dancers of Arun (1979) and The Northern Girl (1980). Both Watchtower and "The Woman Who Loved the Moon" won the World Fantasy Award, the latter in a tie for short fiction. In the early 1980s, Lynn began to suffer from a serious writing block which did not allow her to complete another novel until 1996-96. That book, Dragon's Winter, will appear from Ace next spring.
''I wrote two science fiction novels, three fantasy novels, and a children's book. And then everything stopped. I had not expected that it would. I don't know if one ever does. I had, in fact, started another book, and got to, say, page 70 – and just hit a wall. I couldn't continue. And I didn't know why not..."
''I tried to figure out what to fill the hole in my life with. And what I filled it with was the rest of my life. I went back to martial arts very strongly. I had friends – I didn't lose them. I didn't stop reading books. And discovered that I could live and be a happy person, and never write again."
''I went and worked for five dollars an hour, selling Thai and Balinese objets d'art to rich people in Berkeley, in a shop run by a friend of mine. And I enjoyed it! ... I took the H&R Block course, and then went off on my own and started doing taxes for people."
''Six or seven years ago, something changed, and I wrote two short stories, out of nowhere. Ellen Datlow published them. I didn't know at the time why I was able to do it. And I didn't count on it ever happening again. It made me very happy to do it, mind you. About six months after that, I was at an extended period of zen sitting, and said to my teacher something to the effect that I had written two short stories and it made me happy. He said, 'Oh, that's wonderful!' Because he had been aware of the change. And he said – clever man – 'And what will you do if it goes away again?' I said, purely spontaneously, 'It doesn't matter, sensei; I don't care.' And I realized that I didn't. And it went away again, for another five years!"
"In June of 1995, I started writing again. A story came flying out of the air at me. I had no faith in it, no belief that I was going to be doing it past the moment. But I sat down and wrote, and right in the middle, I had to go away for a week and tend to an extremely intense martial arts event. I went back, plunged in, wrote about 30,000 words – and threw them all away! ... 'Then I started actually writing the book. In previous books, I'd pretty much write chronologically, though every once in a while there'd be a scene I couldn't write, and I knew I would have to just wait and go back for it. But that didn't happen with very many scenes. This was less so. This book has a prolog and a first chapter, neither of which got written until probably halfway through it. The name of the book is Dragon's Winter."
"The central character of this book is a man whose most fundamental ability, the thing he thinks of as most basic to his nature, is stolen from him. Isn't that interesting? And will you believe me when I say that I didn't know that was going to happen, and I didn't realize the connection until about a third of the way through? I got up one day and said, 'My god! What am I doing?' And then I sat and laughed. Well yes, you write about what you know – and I am!"
''Ace has bought the earlier science fiction and fantasy novels, and will reprint them. I'd like to see the fantasy novels back in print, though I probably will do better not to read them. And I have a certain sentimental connection to A Different Light, mostly because it gave its name to a bookstore that's now a chain."