Many fantasy authors see their fan base falling clearly along gender lines. Your work though, attracts male and female
readers. What aspects of your work, do you think, account for your widespread popularity?
I like to think my work appeals to male and female readers because I give equal time and attention to my male and
female characters. Fisher is just as important to me, and as interesting, as Hawk. And there's always been strong romantic,
if not Romantic, elements to everything I write. Action scenes and general weird shit are always fun, but it's the character
interactions that bring my work alive.
For all my strict morality and stern trouncing of the bad guys, I guess I'm just a sloppy sentimentalist at heart. I keep
threatening to write a soft pink bunny wabbit type story, just to show I can. My editors have been resisting this furiously.
Some readers express delight at finding a return to honour and loyalty -- good versus bad -- without the ambiguous motives of
some modern fantasy. Was this a deliberate return to the values of early fantasy?
I've always taken such things as honour and loyalty very seriously in my work, and I'm always looking for new ways to work
out what I really feel about them, by exploring them through new characters and new situations. The joy of SF and fantasy is
that you get to play with archetypes and extreme characters, that you couldn't use anywhere else. Which means you can say
things much more directly. I've always had an interest in politics, which shows up regularly in my work, and just lately
I've been including religion as well, to show the implications of morality when tested under extreme conditions. For
example, The Walking Man, the wrath of God in the world of men, from Beyond The Blue Moon. The ultimate good guy? Or
a really scary guy?
If you look back to early fantasy, particularly with Robert E. Howard, the good guys were very extreme; my favourite
was the Puritan Solomon Kane, who never once questioned his own motivations, or those of his opponents. In my books,
I always make an effort to get into the heads of my villains, to show how they are who and what they are.
The concept of husband-and-wife investigators is not unique, but no one will ever confuse Hawk and Fisher
for Nick and Nora Charles. The warrior-princess ideal has gained popularity in the media, but you'd have to admit that
Fisher could annihilate any of the current vixens. Did you have a model for the lovely and lethal Princess Julia?
Julia came about as a deliberate reaction to the kind of female characters I was used to seeing in F&SF when I was
starting out. Prizes to be rescued or fought over, sex kittens or femmes fatales. Just images, with no reality to
them. Boring. I wanted to see some real women, just for a change. And since I've always been attracted to strong women
who know their own mind... Sexy. My female idols as a youngster included Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) in the TV show
The Avengers, and Sarah Kingdom, a black leather clad take no prisoners cop in an old
Dr Who series (played by Jean Marsh). They made a hell of an impression on me.
The current crop of vixens don't interest me much. That whole Bad Girls crap in comics bored the tits off
me. "Breastula, Queen of the Amazons" In 3D! Comics to read with one hand...
Julia/Fisher was the first of my heroines to really come alive on the page, and in many ways is still my favourite. None
of my characters are based on any real individual people; I tend to take a bit from this person, a bit from that, and
so on... However, the relationships between characters are often based on real relationships I've had. In particular, a
large amount of Blue Moon Rising is actually autobiographical, though expressed in fantasy terms.
Deathstalker is one of the most successful characters in modern fantasy, spawning a five-volume, bestselling
series. He's a fighter, a lover, a hero, and a smart-ass. Which qualities have made him a stand-out and differentiated him
from the usual dashing hero?
I'm delighted that Owen Deathstalker has become so popular. I think he works because he's so clearly a reluctant hero. He
doesn't want to go out and fight the good fight, he knows heroes and legends don't have happy endings; but having seen how
bad things really are, he can't look away. He has to go out and do something about it. He's a good man in bad times, who
has faults and weaknesses but struggles to rise above them. And it helps that he doesn't take himself too seriously. There's
a certain amount of me in Owen, and in Rupert, which helps in the writing.
One thing that distinguishes your work is a feeling of uncertainty: it is set in no particular time, in no specific
place. The speech patterns of the characters make it impossible to pin the setting down. Was this intended to keep readers
slightly off-balance? Or, to create a universe of your own to play in?
The tone of my books is a deliberate choice. A mixture of past, present and future, to keep the reader off balance. I live
in fear that my work will become predictable; it's always been my proud boast that my reader hasn't got a clue where the
hell I'm going next. Basically, I write fantasies. Sometimes I set them in the future, and they're SF; sometimes I set
them in the past, and they're sword & sorcery. With the latter, I always try and avoid that quasi-medieval setting
and voice that's been done to death down the years. I have no problems with anachronisms, if it helps to make a
point. Or if it's funny. Whatever else you can say about my stuff, it has an instantly identifiable voice. No-one else
sounds like me.
Anyone reading a Hawk and Fisher novel or a Deathstalker adventure for the first time is going to
be knocked off their feet by the dry, wry wit. The characters crack wise -- especially when the heat is on -- sometimes
bawdy, sometimes crude, and always irreverent. Is that a little peak of you showing through the lines?
Just because I take some things seriously, it doesn't mean I have to take them too seriously. I firmly believe it does people
and institutions good to have the piss taken out of them at regular intervals. And yes, I am a smartass.
So, what is next on your schedule? A new adventure for your established characters, or a new hero for your established universe?
What's up next: Coming this Summer from Millennium/Orion in the UK and Penguin/ROC in the US, a fantasy comedy romance
called Drinking Midnight Wine. This is set in my home town of Bradford-on-Avon, a small country town in Southwest
England. It's a very old town (the last Celtic town to fall to the invading Saxons in 504 AD), with far too much history for
its own good, and I've used real settings and real history to ground a Very Strange fantasy. Featuring Jimmy Thunder,
God For Hire, The Waking Beauty, The Serpent In The Sun, and Angel. A real angel fallen into the material world. Though whether
from Above or Below is worrying a lot of people. Definitely a Romance, and lots of fun.
I'm currently working on a new Deathstalker book. I know, I said I'd never write another, but they found my
weak spot. They offered me money. And... I had this one niggling plot thread left over. I know what The Terror is. And there
was no way I could tell people in Book Five. And when people find out what The Terror really is, it's going to mess with
their heads big time. So basically I'm writing this new book, Deathstalker Legacy, just to explain that. I say one book;
it'll probably be two. And if you're wondering how there can be another Deathstalker book when Owen died in
Book Five... Heh heh heh.
Copyright © 2001 Lisa DuMond
In between reviews and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. DARKERS, her latest novel,
will be published in early 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She has also written for BOOKPAGE and
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Her articles and short stories are all over the map. You can check out Lisa and her
work at her website hikeeba!.