Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Writers on the Couch: Lisa J Yarde

"Never stop. 

If I could give one piece of advice 

in my whole life, that would be it." - Lisa J Yarde

Undaunted by new ground, she has penned a six-part series set in Moorish Spain, her favorite place to travel is Spain, and she has devoted 20 years of research into Spain's history - she is, the pioneering and fearless, Lisa J. Yarde.

I am thrilled to have this talented writer on the Writers Couch today. Based in New York City, Lisa is a writing and publishing powerhouse, with work translated in four languages. A member of the Historical Novel Society, she was a presenter at its 2015 Denver conference and serves as the co-chair of the Historical Novel Society – New York City chapter. Lisa is also an avid blogger and moderates at Unusual Historicals. She is also a contributor at Great Historicals and History & Women.


To break the ice, Yarde warns me that her worst sin is that she curses too @#$%&*@% much. I am delighted that we are in for an honest and passionate discussion - a real treat. But before we begin, I need to say how excited I am about Yarde's upcoming novel. I have been a huge fan of the Sultana series and am very much looking forward to the final book, Sultana: The White Mountains, out this Spring.

The exact release date has not yet been disclosed...hopefully it will be soon. For those not familiar with these artfully crafted novels, the Sultana books bring to life multiple generations of Spain's powerful ruling dynasty, the Nasrids. Sultana: The White Mountains is set during and after the fall of Granada and follows the exiled ruling family into Spain's Sierra Nevada.

Having read a number of books set in Spain that delve into Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon's conquest of the Alhambra fortress, I always wondered what became of the Moors who had built and ruled this beautiful place for centuries. Where did they go? What happened to them? Well, Sultana: The White Mountains will paint this story. And judging from Yarde's solid efforts in the past, it will be a story well told.

Now for those who are asking, YES, there will be a 'Dracula' novel, likely a couple. Yarde's Order of the Dragon which is slated for release in 2018, will focus on the 15th century Wallachian ruler, Vlad Dracul, and his sons. This is one subject I suspect will enthrall fans of  Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, and though Yarde has offered to say no more, we may have some scoop... When asked about a travel scene or landscape she admired in a novel, Lisa J. Yarde mentions "the dark almost mystical descriptions of 15th century Wallachia in C.C. Humphrey’s Vlad: The Last Confession". Is this anything to go by for the upcoming Vlad books? We can only hold our breath in suspense...

Vlad Tepes

For now, enjoy this exclusive interview with the amazing Lisa J. Yarde.

Lisa J Yarde on the Writers Couch

Your memorial. What is it, where is it located, and what is it you are remembered for?

It’s at a floral garden alongside a beach in my birthplace of Barbados. There’s a small, flat marker that reads, “She loved with her whole heart and learned from a lifetime of encounters. But she didn’t pass any of the lessons on to you because life is a unique experience for all. Go live it and make it count!”

 A strong childhood memory

It isn’t from childhood, but rather my early twenties. One night, just spontaneously, my mother and I sat up talking until 4 am the next day. Although I had to go to work in the morning. We spoke about everything imaginable. She was a vital, energetic force in my life and I’ve missed our conversations every day since she died. I inherited my mother’s personality and I think she would be equal parts amused and horrified, like me, at the current state of the world.

Who is your favorite literary villain and why?

Less of a villain in the classic sense of the word and more an antagonist, it’s Inspector Javert in Les Misérables. Not only is he utterly relentless in the pursuit of Jean Valjean, but Javert’s dogged efforts remain well-intentioned, even if his methods are flawed. I prefer to read and write about determined villains in the mold of Javert, with a set of principles or a “code” for living. My ideal villain must, like him, have a purpose and never lose interest in their goal, regardless of the consequences.

Inspector Javert, Les Miserables

A Hollywood studio is all over one of your books. Which is it and tell me about the director and/or cast.

I can’t say which of the Sultana series would be best suited for adaptation, but I’d like Bernardo Bertolucci or Ang Lee to direct and Oded Fehr or Amr Waked should get the lead. Bernardo Bertolucci has directed some of my favorite films; The Last Emperor, Little Buddha and Besieged among them. His films are a sumptuous visual feast. The film wouldn’t be complete without Ashraf Barhom and Said Taghmaoui playing some important roles.
[Ok, we have just Googled Oded Fehr and, wow, we completely approve. You know what to do, Bertolucci.]

A writer who has moved you

That’s like picking a favorite child! So many fellow writers have stirred the strongest emotions in me over the years. To the point where I’ve thought, okay, I may as well give up right now because I will never craft anything as evocative as this. If I had to narrow it down to an author I’ve read in the last six months… Taylor Brown is debut author with an incredible novel, Fallen Land. Events occur during the Civil War. His descriptions are amazing; I smelled Atlanta burning as I read the scene.

If you could rewrite the ending of any book of film, which would it be and how?

Book: I’m going to cheat here and say, none, strictly as a professional courtesy to other authors. I can’t place myself in their heads to understand why they chose certain endings.

Film: Titanic, of course! I don’t care what the director James Cameron has said about the ending of the film. There was enough room on that wood for Jack AND Rose. I would have found a way for the lovers to survive and have their happily ever after, especially after they’d sold that huge diamond. Despite evidence to the contrary, I’m a hopeless romantic at heart.

How do you deal with dark/emotional scenes in your writing?

I love them and embrace the process of writing them wholeheartedly. I prefer deep point-of-view, to immerse myself and readers in characters and the events surrounding them. There have been times where I’ve looked up from my computer keyboard and reminded myself that I’m not in Moorish Spain and medieval England. For me, dark or emotional scenes should provoke corresponding feelings in readers. If they don’t then I haven’t done my job as a writer.

"They are often women or those marginalized in history, 

so I write to give them a voice 

and reflect on their experiences." - Lisa J. Yarde

Recurring themes in your writing

Survival against almost insurmountable odds and the importance of family, two values I hold in high regard in my personal life as well. My protagonists aren’t the victors ultimately; they are often historical figures who lost the great battle, as in the Sultana series or On Falcon’s Wings. They are often women or those marginalized in history, so I write to give them a voice and reflect on their experiences.

Self-published vs traditional. What was your experience?

I’ve sought traditional publishing; established relationships with editors, but nothing came of it. Self-publishing was an option I ignored for too long; I should have pursued it two years earlier than I did in 2010.

Your advice to new writers

Never stop. If I could give one piece of advice in my whole life, that would be it. Writing is hard, publication is harder, marketing is the hardest of all. But the personal rewards are so satisfying. If I could give another piece of advice, I’d add, set realistic goals so you are never mired by defeat and can celebrate easy victories. Whether that is the act of writing each day, reaching a certain word count, getting your first sale, responding to your first piece of fan mail, or speaking engagements and signing books at an event. Just give yourself the time and tools to accomplish those goals. Above all, stop comparing yourself to other writers, whether it’s their output, fan base or sales.

This is precious advice, thank you, Lisa J. Yarde. It has been an honour to have you drop by our Writers Couch. From Andalucia to Wallachia, we wish you a wonderful journey.