Mercedes Lackey is a well known author of more than fifty fantasy novels. Her works set in the Valdemar universe are particularly well known. For a complete list of her works, please see her website or her wikipedia page.
Spherical Time: Where do you prefer to work, and how do you like to write? Do you write longhand and then type that into a computer, or do you type directly into a computer? What setting do you prefer when you are writing?
ML: I work in my office, in a zero-gravity chair, often with a parrot competing for attention. The office is full of my doll collection, so it doesn't exactly look like an "office." I usually have classical music or soundtracks playing, and often have scented candles going. I type directly into the computer as no one can read my handwriting, including me.
Spherical Time: Can you describe your process when writing a book? How much planning and research does a single work require before you start writing it? Aside from the 40-80 page outline that you've previously mentioned on your website, are there any other patterns that you follow when you write?
ML: The amount of research that is required by a book depends on the book. If it is a period piece I can spend months working up to it, getting the feel for the period I need. If it is made up out of whole cloth, as it were, notably high fantasy or contemporary urban fantasy, very little is usually needed. And occasionally I write a book without an outline just to keep my hand in.
Spherical Time: What differs in your method when you write a collaboration?
ML: I don't have to write the stuff I'm not good at, like cast'o'millions battles. And if for some reason I get stuck, I can pass it back to the other person. If something isn't working, there's another head on it.
Spherical Time: How do you create and develop the inspiration or ideas for a new novel?
ML: Inspiration is overrated. Ideas are all around you. The trick is to find the ones that will interest me and sustain me through a whole book. If they interest me they'll probably interest an audience.
Spherical Time: Characterization is a challenge for many beginning writers. As a master of characterization, do you have any advice for aspiring authors on how to create interesting and believable characters?
ML: Create people that are like the ones around you, like them, love them even, empathize with them, cry when terrible thing happen to them, but don't make life easy on them. And don't make them perfect. Not even perfectly evil. The villain, in his own mind, is always the hero of his own story.
Spherical Time: When you published your first novel did you use a literary agent, or did you submit directly to the publisher? At the time, how extensive were your writing credits?
ML: I submitted directly to the publisher; as a beginning writer any agent you can get, barring astonishing good luck, is not going to be able to do anything you can't, and he'll charge you 15% to do it. And you are far more motivated than he is to get your work out there. You can do the market research to find out which publisher is best for the book, you can submit it, and so forth. And you don't have a desk full of other books and authors demanding your attention. At the time I submitted that first book, I had a handful of short stories published.
Spherical Time: Normally I would ask if you've read any good books recently that you'd like to recommend, but your website makes it clear that you don't read fiction unless you are reading it for research. Have you seen any movies recently that you'd like to recommend?
ML: Well that's not entirely true, I do make time for a few authors I really like, Charles de Lint, or Patricia McKillip for example. As for movies, I recently saw two, both about turn-of-century stage magicians, both marvelous with fantastic scripts and great casts, both with the theme of love and obsession, and very different from each other. The first, The Illusionist, was just marvelous, and I can't say much more than that without pulling a spoiler. The second, The Prestige, is also possibly the creepiest movie I have seen in a very, very long time. Both kept me guessing and both had plot twists I could never have foreseen.
Spherical Time: As one of the most prolific writers in the publishing world, how do you keep yourself from burning out? Have you ever struggled with writer's block?
ML: Writer's block, no. Getting tired of writing a particular subject yes; that was why I took a hiatus from Valdemar, before I started setting up targets in the back yard of blue eyed white horses....
Spherical Time: What do you think the role of a writer in the modern world is? Have you ever experienced disdain or ridicule due to your status as a genre writer?
ML: I don't think the modern world in the US knows what to do with a writer. We don't fit into any neat category. Europe and the Far East give a certain respect to a writer, but people in the US are not sure about anyone that does that sort of thing for a living. I think a writer's job, however, is to be honest with himself and his audience, to set out to entertain them if an entertaining book is what he is purporting to deliver, and to offer a reflection of the real world in his work in such a way that it causes people to think. So much these days is sound-bites and sloganeering that making people think is becoming more and more important.
As for ridicule because I am a genre writer, I haven't actually experienced that first-hand, but I also don't spend a lot of time around non-genre writers.
Spherical Time: What is your favorite word or phrase?
ML: "There will be parrot pot-pie!" My threat when my birds get too loud. They never believe me.
Spherical Time: Do you have any final advice for aspiring writers?
ML: Don't angst about writing, don't talk about it, don't spend endless hours telling all your friends about it. Glue your rump to your chair and write. Writers write. Poseurs talk about writing.