We are pleased to bring you a special interview with Sandy Lender as part of her Problems on Eldora Prime Virtual Book Tour. Problems on Eldora Prime is Sandy's first YA book and she wrote it as part of the 2009 International 3-Day Novel Contest.
"I only had 72 hours to get the whole book written and edited. That meant I had to be ultra-efficient. The administrators of the competition encouraged having an outline, so I schmooshed one together before the weekend and found myself following it pretty closely. It helped on the last day as I neared the end of the manuscript. I don’t typically use an outline so it was a new experience for me, but a good experience. I recommend it."
Unlike a lot of authors, Sandy doesn't have any special process she goes through to start writing. And, especially for Problems on Eldora Prime, there wasn't time to do any special preparations.
"I set up a working area on the guest bed in my den with some alarm clocks, reference books, and the laptop. After I’d let myself have an hour nap, I’d jump back into writing—no process to it. My life overall is haphazard enough right now that my writing times are similar to that experience. Just jump in—no process to it."
In addition to her YA book, Sandy also has her Choices series from ArcheBooks Publishing. Of the three books in the series, she is most proud of the second book, Choices Meant for Kings.
"That book didn’t take very long to write, but it took total concentration and attention to the characters and what they were doing," she told me. "As a second book in a trilogy, it forced me to accomplish specific goals with characters. Certain people had to achieve certain goals. Everybody had to get to certain stages in their development and had to get 'physically' to certain places in the action to set up what happens in the third book, Choices Meant for All, which I’m finishing now."
Sandy told me that she has always wanted to be a writer.
"My great grandmother would share little stories I wrote about mice and squeaky spiders with the people in her apartment building when I was in grade school," she said. "My mother recently told a friend of mine that I wrote a story about beagles for my uncle when he was in the hospital when I was a child. For some reason, I still have a class newsletter from first grade where I have a one-sentence news story. In junior high, I wrote a sequel for To Kill a Mockingbird and won first place in the school’s competition with it. It’s definitely a passion l nurtured from a young age!"
For young writers, Sandy advises, "Practice writing often, but practice it with new techniques. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received, which could also be construed as one of the most damaging pieces of advice I ever received, was 'real writers write.' A workshop leader was telling those of us in the audience that if we didn’t sit down and write every single day, we weren’t real writers. It put an amazing amount of pressure on me! I mean, I have a day job in which I write and edit. I put in hours upon hours every week for marketing and promoting my books. The time in which I can sit down and write creatively for the fiction books is limited. Does that mean I’m not a writer anymore? Of course not.
"And just because a young writer has 2,700 homework assignments and 5 after-school 'ractices for 3 different activities competing with writing time this week doesn’t make that person 'no longer' a writer either. It just means that person will have to make time to write on the weekend or next week. But here’s where my advice comes in: Use that writing time as wisely as possible. Try something new. Participate in an online writing course with your writing time next week. Do a writing challenge from a writing group instead of your typical ideas from your mind. By stretching your writing muscles, you’re forcing yourself to grow as a writer, whether you get to do it every single day or not."
"If you weren't a writer, what would you be?" I asked.
"Severely depressed. Or a marine biologist. I work with a sea turtle conservation group called Turtle Time here in Florida, and the desire to learn more about conservation is stuck in me. If I wasn’t a magazine editor by day and a fiction writer by night, I’d be in college to get a marine biology degree so I could solve the crisis of fibropapilloma tumors in our sea turtle population."
Between her day job and her writing career, Sandy admits she doesn't have a lot of hours left for extra stuff. She has four companion parrots that demand her attention (and rule her home). You can see pictures of them on Sandy's Facebook page under the "I Have Birds" album.
"They’re adorable. The orange one, Petri, has his own Facebook page at “Petri the Parrot” and has been with me for 11 years. He’s sort of the flock leader—very smart. The lock broke on his cage (which I’m sure he had a role in) so he just lets himself in and out when he wishes now."
She also has a water turtle that's 22 years old, a pancake tortoise, and a gecko.
"I bought the gecko when I lived in this horrible apartment that had roaches," she said. "The lizard ran around and ate the roaches. Now we live in a much better place and I have to buy crickets for the lizard to eat."
Finally, I asked Sandy to tell us about Problems on Eldora Prime.
"Problems on Eldora Prime is a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. There aren’t any magic-wielding wizards or things like that in it, but it has dragons in outer space. That was surprisingly easy to do and keep it realistic. The main character, Khiry, is a 17-year-old spaceship pilot who finds the dragons after her captain basically kidnaps the beasts and sneaks them onboard his ship. There’s more to how she finds them than that, but, to be brief, she finds them and has to figure out what to do with them while solving a couple other crises with the ship and stuff that’s happening.
"The story is non-stop action from start to finish. I tried to write in a few scenes of 'calm time' where the reader could kind of relax with the characters for a minute or two, but there’s too much danger and stress on Eldora Prime to sit around relaxing. The planet has an indigenous population that created zombies out of the people who landed there 20 years before, so both the original inhabitants and the bulk of the terraformers are 'bad news' for the crew of the spaceship. The good news is Khiry’s not alone. She obviously has to take on a leadership role—and fast!—but she’s got this totally gorgeous marksman from the ship named Kor who’s able to help her out without getting in her way. The sweet romance is understated in the book because this isn’t a romance novel. It’s a fast-paced sci-fi/fantasy adventure.
"Here’s the info from the back cover: When 17-year-old pilot Khiry Okerson crashes on Eldora Prime, alarms still ring in her ears. She might have solved one problem, but she courts more danger than she realizes when she liberates some unexpected hostages on a foreign planet. Will the dragons she releases become her allies? It’s more likely they’ll join the inhabitants of this unforgiving world to hunt terraformers and the Instigator’s dwindling crew. Khiry must find a way off this rock and into the United Society for Peace and Strength’s good graces. She’s got a capable marksman on her team in the handsome and renown Kor, but Khiry still wonders how her people can escape with a captain’s treason on her hands and a political leader’s sister in her care—care she can’t guarantee."
Sandy is also a sea turtle conservationist and obsessive music fan. She got rid of an unnecessary husband and beat cancer a couple years ago so she now gives her pet parrots and fantasy characters free reign in her life. She has mastered dragon whispering and remains unaddicted but “strongly attracted” to all forms of chocolate.