Today, we have the privilege of talking with the diversely talented Lorna Suzuki, the author of the ten-volume Imago Chronicles and co-author of a series with her teenaged daughter, Nia Suzuki-White, called The Dream Merchant Saga. She is also an accomplished martial artist and instructor. The Imago Chronicles have been optioned for film and the first of the proposed major motion picture trilogy, based on A Warrior’s Tale, is now in pre-production!
TalP: Thank you for joining us, Lorna. Before we start, please take a moment to introduce yourself. Is there anything particular you’d like our readers to know right off the bat?
LS: Hello! And thank you for having me here, Heather! There’s not much to say that would be considered interesting about me. I was the scriptwriter/researcher for an adventure/travel series called West Coast Adventures that has now gone international with over 12 million viewers in Asia alone. Overall, I spend a big chunk of the day running around with imaginary friends and seeing just how diabolical I can be by what kind of trouble I can entrench my characters in, but this is a common thing shared by most writers.
TalP: How did you come to writing as a career choice? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do or did you come to it later?
LS: I used to write educational material that dealt with zoological and botanical information, so if you told me in 2000 that in the future I’d be a fulltime fiction author and I’d have novels optioned for a major motion picture trilogy for worldwide theatrical release, I probably would have been rolling around on the floor laughing! I regard myself as an accidental author. One day I had a job I loved, the next day, the entire management team was let go. I started writing the very next day and wrote the first in the movie-optioned series in one month. I thought I’d write one, three novels tops, but fans kept asking for more. I figured if they want more and if each novel is as good or better than the last, then I’d keep writing for them.
TalP: With regard to the Imago Chronicles, Nayla is half-elven and the Elves in this world are definitely not what most people would think of when you say “Elf”. What influenced your decision to go so far outside the established trope? Did you draw from any real world cultures when creating those of the races that inhabit your world?
LS: Definitely with the Elves, I think Peter Jackson’s Elves in LoTR and The Hobbit have set the standard of lithe, elegant looking woodland beings. This is the image that comes to mind when theatregoers are asked to conjure up an image of what an Elf is supposed to look like.
In Imago, my male Elves have evolved and were shaped by centuries of warfare. They are not spritely, delicate looking beings that are deadly with the bow and arrow, my Elves look more like the Spartans in 300. When I was discussing armor with the conceptual artist, telling him the Elves do not wear armor to protect their backs, he thought it was very odd. When he asked why not, I explained these beings never retreat and they never turn their backs on the enemy. He loved that! He also understood how and why my version of Elves would look like warriors fit to be recruited by the Spartan troops of old.
I was also told by female readers they love the fact there will be lots of eye-candy for them in this high adventure, action packed, character-driven series! Another thing that is noteworthy is the Elves in LoTR are logical and they tend not to let their emotions dictate their actions. My Elves run the gamut of emotions. From jealousy and hatred to loneliness and love, they have a very cool veneer, appearing to be the very epitome of self-control, but on the inside, they are ruled by their emotions. This can make for some very sticky and dangerous situations.
As for real world culture… I modeled the female protagonist’s fighting style after the style of martial arts I study and teach, but yes, there are certain parallels when you see racism raising it’s ugly head or when you see characters using religion as an excuse for genocide, and so on.
TalP: I’ve heard that collaborations can be tricky. What made you decide to work on a series with your daughter? Would you work on a project with her again?
LS: With three novels already published in The Dream Merchant Saga, we’re now working on the fourth story in the series! This was a mother/daughter bonding opportunity if there ever was one! The best part of collaborating with Nia is that being a teenager, she shoots straight from the hip when it comes to critiquing the work. She is an avid reader and knows exactly what teenagers can relate to and what they find funny. This is especially helpful as it’s been a very long time since I was a teenager, so what may have resonated with teens in my age, may not with those of her generation. She keeps me humble and on track!
TalP: Can you give us some insight into your writing process? Many writers have little “rituals” that they adhere to in order to get themselves into the proper mindset; for some, that’s listening to certain music, others read for a certain amount of time before they write, and for still others, it’s being in their preferred writing location. Do you have any rituals you’d like to share?
LS: As soon as Nia is off to school, I get dressed, my hair is done, my make-up is on, etc. Until I get my own office, I occupy a bright and sunny corner of the kitchen. I treat writing no differently than if I was going off to a regular job. I have my daily dose of Mocha Latte, and then I try to write from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. I have music playing in the background, as I can’t work in absolute silence.
TalP: Writers frequently list influences or “role models”; whether they aspire to reach a similar proficiency in the craft or attain a comparable level of success. Who are your influences when it comes to your writing? Is there anyone that you would particularly like the opportunity to sit down and discuss the craft with?
LS: Terry Brooks used to be a regular at the Surrey International Writers Conference and he has been a wonderful teacher, sharing some of the best advice that still holds true for me. We basically follow the same writing process, where we write one draft and work from that, rather than doing rewrite after rewrite. Another bestselling author I consider a mentor is Jack Whyte, best known for his Knights Templar series and his novels rooted in Arthurian legend. I have been learning from Jack since I first met him in 2003 and he critiqued one of the novels in my movie-optioned series! He has been incredibly supportive and I look forward to seeing him each October when we talk books, writing and catch up on what’s happening in our careers!
TalP: Let’s talk specifically about the Imago Chronicles being optioned for film for a moment. What has been your favorite part of the process? Have you had any particular frustrations with the process you’d be willing to discuss?
LS: Most writers option rights to a production company and have little or nothing to do in collaborating on the creative process of the book-to-film adaptation. If you are part of the process I think anyone entering into a film project will soon discover you need an incredible amount of patience or you’d go insane! Some Hollywood producers I met at a writers’ con said on average it takes about 10 years to secure financing or to get studio backing. These producers told me that 3 years from the day of optioning to securing financing for Imago is remarkably fast. As for the favorite part of the process, I think it’s been having a say in recommending the conceptual artist, the screenwriter and even being asked for a shortlist of my top pick of actors for the principle roles in the first film in the trilogy. Or should I say; my teenaged daughter enjoyed helping me with the process of narrowing the selection of about 1000 actors’ photos/resumes of some very hot-looking actors for the various roles! lol
TalP: With the Imago Chronicles wrapped up and the fourth in The Dream Merchant Saga underway, do you have any new projects on the horizon?
LS: With pre-production going into full swing, finding time could be difficult. If I do write another novel after the final one in The Dream Merchant Saga is done, I’d love to tackle a historical fiction set in Kyoto, Japan about one of the most famous female samurai in history.
TalP: To close, let’s pose a hypothetical: Let’s say you were asked to provide an item and a message of greeting that would be sent off into space to serve as a precursor to first contact with an alien race. What would you send and what would your message say?
LS: Dear Infinitely Superior Life Form: Please do not come to this polluted, withering planet full of warring, crazy beings that think they are so enlightened, so superior, they feel a need to engage in chemical warfare, nuclear threats and other means of annihilating those that oppose them. Until we learn to exist in peace, you’re better off to stay in a galaxy far, far away or you may become the next object of human scorn and loathing. Until we learn to care for this planet and treat it with respect, and once we learn to truly live in peace than to merely tolerate our differences, it would serve you well to steer clear. We will not be worth assimilating…
As for an item to send off, I would leave them the Blu-Ray DVD of “Independence Day” starring Will Smith, just in case they have nefarious designs on earth and the human race as a whole.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. We’re very much looking forward to your next projects and will likely be among the first in line for when A Warrior’s Tale makes its big screen debut!
Thank you so much, Heather! See you at the Emerald City Comicon!