Debut Author Spotlight: Suzanne Lazear

Name: Suzanne Lazear

Book: Innocent Darkness

Current Home: Los Angeles

Author Icon: Kim Harrison

Number of manuscripts hidden under the bed: Nine. It took me awhile to realize that books needed plots.

What was it like writing Innocent Darkness? What was the easiest part? The most difficult?

I wrote Innocent Darkness in two chunks - the first part was during one of Candace Haven's fast draft classes, the second part during NaNoWriMo of 2009. Writing large amounts of words each day - especially with a job and a family - can be really stressful. I remember having an 8k goal on Thanksgiving, as I desperately tried to finish the book during NaNoWriMo so I could enter it in the Golden Heart awards. Not getting distracted by research was also hard, giving that it's set in a quasi-Victorian alternate version of 1901 Los Angeles and San Francisco and the realm of faerie, I had to do a ton of research as I wrote. The characters were the easy part, Noli, V, and even Kevighn, just sort of leapt onto the page from my imagination.

We are pretty confident that not many readers have read a steampunk story set in Los Angeles. What made this the perfect place for the novel?

I wanted a city that was thriving and would have “society” but wasn’t quite as old and established as the East coast, a place that was wild and creative, yet civilized. Also, I live in Los Angeles. I’ve always loved the beautiful houses from that era which still exist in some parts of the city. I know exactly what hills would have been perfect for them to go hover-boarding in.

In addition to L.A. and San Francisco, your characters also visit the Otherworld that is ruled by an evil queen and her dithering subjects. This magical realm has a definite touch of Alice in Wonderland. Was the Lewis Carroll novel an inspiration for you?

I do love Alice in Wonderland and it was the inspiration for the game Noli and the courtiers play. Noli has also read the books, hence her referencing them. However, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter by Michael Swanwick was a much bigger influence. That was the book that had me thinking “now, what if a girl had to be sacrificed, not because of tradition, but because of necessity.”

Teenage Magnolia Braddock is a formidable heroine. An amateur grease monkey, aspiring botanist and self-proclaimed "hoyden", she doesn't exactly bring to mind a dainty flower. What gave you the idea to name her Magnolia and why have her friends shortened it to Noli?

There was this little girl named Magnolia in the cooking class I was teaching at the time. A spunky, independent girl. One evening, I was sitting in a tree (the tree that inspired Noli’s tree in her backyard), and I thought, I should write a character named “Magnolia.” I don’t think there are many of those. I can call her Noli. And I did. She’s not specifically named after that Magnolia, but I tried to capture the essence of that name (and the girl). Because Magnolias are awesome.

Noli has several decisions to make throughout the story, yet perhaps one of the most important is choosing between the two men in her life. Steven is close to her age, has similar interests and has been her best friend forever. However, there is a new man in Noli's life. Kevighn is an older, debonair man who also happens to be magic. What are three positive attributes you give each man to make them appealing to Noli, and what are three negative aspects of these two characters?

I tend to equate Kevighn with a box of chocolates, you know, that one you shouldn’t eat, but at the same time you’re tempted to eat the whole box (or at least take a bite out of every single one) simply because you know you shouldn’t. This is a man who drowns his sorrows in opium and “fancy women,” gambles (and cheats at cards), and thinks he can get his way because he’s cute and charming. Yeah, Kevighn is the man your mother warned you about. That being said, Kevighn has a few redeeming characteristics. He’s very loyal - it might not seem that way, and sometimes it’s misguided, but it’s very deep-seated. Kevighn is adventurous, willing to try everything and anything. Believe it or not, he also has a very tender heart. A lot of his current behaviors are to hide the hurt he feels at his sister’s death. He blames himself for her death, especially because he was powerless to stop it (and he hates feeling powerless). Kevighn may never forgive himself, though he believes that if he gets his revenge he’ll feel a lot better.

Steven likes philosophy and history, quotes random poems, knows Latin, is a fan of Dutch painters, and writes sonnets. This could be a plus or minus, depending on your own interests. Steven, or “V” as Noli calls him, is honorable, almost to a fault. For example, it was huge decision for him to disobey his father to go after Noli. Steven is a gentleman of two worlds, and where those worlds sometimes clash in norms, he always tries to do what’s best for the situation, it doesn’t always work, but he tries. Honestly, even though Noli calls him a “fussy old bodger” out of love, he really is a fussy old bodger sometimes - he can be a bit of a stuffy, elitist snob. Steven holds grudges. Also, he’s not nearly as good of a swordsman as his brother James.         

Innocent Darkness is the first book of the Aether Chronicles. Can you tell readers what is up next for your characters?

Unlike Book 1, which takes place mostly in the Otherworld (Faerie), a bulk of Book 2 takes place in the mortal realm on air ships. But then Noli's brother *is* an air pirate. Noli, V, Kevighn, and James return for more adventure and excitement.

Interested in trying out this debut work which just recieved a 4 1/2 star rating? Innocent Darkness releases today. And to find more great YA reads, make sure to check out RT's Young Adult Page!