Today, I’m interviewing Lisa Hofmann, who lives and writes in Germany. I got the surprise of my life this past fall when I read the first two books in her Medieval Fantasy Dies Irae series – Stealing the Light (which won an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Writer’s Digest Self-Published E-Book Awards) and Into the Dark. Surprised because I haven’t read much in this genre and I was truly blown away at Lisa’s story-telling abilities. I’m normally a slow reader and I flew right through both. I can’t wait for book three and after our interview, I’m anxiously looking forward to Trading Darkness.
Lisa, Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m 41 years old and a summer person, who loves traveling, art, music, and cats. I’m an independent writer, which means that I don’t sell my work to a publishing house, but instead market directly to my readers.
I don’t do this because my manuscripts were ever rejected by a publisher. I just never submitted anything to an agent or publisher simply because I don’t believe this would work for me at this point in my life. I’m basically a very stubborn person, and I feel a strong need to retain my independence in my creative expression. Holding all rights to my work and having full control of what I do with it is very important to me, and I love that what was unthinkable twenty years ago is actually possible nowadays with e-books and print-on-demand.
Going it alone is hard work, but luckily, I have a wonderful, supportive family who can live with the fact that I chose to handle it this way. They are the kind of people who will tiptoe around me while I’m editing, and sometimes even throw food at me when I’m sitting at my desk in front of my laptop drafting new material. I sit there a lot because I’ve always been a workaholic, and I treat both of my professions with a lot of dedication.
As an Indie Author myself, I completely understand. Thank you for sharing that with our readers.
You said both professions? So you don’t write full-time? What kind of job do you have, and does it play any role in your stories?
In all honesty, I wish I could write full-time, but I’m afraid I have to work long hours in my day job to ensure my cat can continue to lead her decadent life of luxury…
No, seriously, most independent writers can’t live on what they earn from their books. Many, many authors who write for publishing houses can’t, either, for that matter. But, since I’m my own publisher, I also have costs to cover that non-Indies don’t have, such as editing, cover art, and formatting, and unless I sell a certain number of books, I have to live with the fact that those costs may exceed the earnings from the works I produce. Until I can manage to achieve a steady income from my books, I’ll just have to work in two jobs, really. That can be tough, sometimes, but did I mention I’m a stubborn person…?
Whether or not my day job has ever played a role in my stories, I can’t really say. I don’t think it has, at least not directly. But I work in a social profession, so I’m always around people during the day, and I believe that has some influence on how I look at things and the way I write, as opposed to if I lived in seclusion or worked in an office job as an accountant or whatever with little or no customer contact. I actually worked in an office job in my early twenties for a time, and soon realized that’s not for me. I was bored to death.
Life is about achieving a balance, and although I often find myself having to meticulously organize my days around my family and those two jobs, I also think it makes me go about my writing extremely consciously. I use the time I spend on it well, I think, and I can’t say I’ve ever sat in front a blank screen for hours, wondering what to write – I sit there for just under a minute, wondering what to write first before I start typing like the devil was at my heels.
Why do you write, and how long have you been writing seriously?
I’ve been writing seriously for about three years now. I always dreamed about writing, and I was that kid in school who was always asked to read her essays aloud, but it wasn’t until a friend started encouraging me a few years ago that I considered actually publishing something of mine. It started out as a hobby to help me to cope a little better with the stress of my day job, but I soon found myself communicating with other writers. Somehow, one thing just led to another, and here I am.
I published my first two novels and several short stories in 2016, and my new book is coming out this summer.
Who are your favorite authors? Have they influenced your style?
I read a lot of different things. What and how I read has changed over the years since audio books have become more affordable, e-books are easy to take along anywhere on my phone, and works by Indie authors have become readily available. But I still try not to miss anything new by Dean Koontz, Stephen King… and… here goes: Cornelia Funke. A children’s book author, I hear you say in bewilderment. How does that fit in? Well, it does. She has evolved in the most interesting way as a writer, and I love her most recent YA series. The writing as such is superb, and the story is rich and intriguing.
I’m sure most authors are shaped in some way by the words they read. It would be strange if it were otherwise. However, I think it’s always wise to read a LOT to make sure you’re not influenced too much by the voice of any other individual author. You have to make sure you don’t surrender your own voice to someone else’s style. As a new author, it’s not just important to find your own voice – you have to be able to keep it, and develop it, and listen back to it so you never forget to take what you’re doing to the next level and keep evolving positively.
What are you currently reading?
I have this habit of reading three or four books in parallel. Right now, I’m reading an as yet unpublished work by an Indie writer friend. I’ve got Amanojaku by Damien Lutz on my phone’s Kindle. I’m also revisiting an older book I read years ago, as an audio book version this time, since I spend so many hours a week in my car: Lightening by Dean Koontz.
About your latest work that’s coming in summer, Trading Darkness: What inspired it?
A true story did. Some of the characters in Trading Darkness are loosely based on people who lived during the final wave of the local Witch Trials in the 17th century. While researching a paper for a college class I took twenty years ago, I came across an event that was never explained, and that was when the initial idea to this book started taking shape in my head. The story I spun around this event is purely fictional, of course, but it’s been stewing in me this long, which was why I finally decided to give it priority over the series I’m also working on at the moment. I’ve always been fascinated by local history, myths and legends. I think this is generally what influences and inspires my writing most.
Tell us about the characters who were inspired by real-life.
That would be Agnes Smith, for one, a secondary character inspired by the real-life Agnes Schmidt, who lived near Wildenburg around the year 1650. She was a mother of six who was “tried”, which really means she was tortured, and sentenced to death for being a witch. On the eve of her execution, she was imprisoned in a barn near Friesenhagen, which is the village I modeled Oakwood on. The “witch tower” at Wildenburg Castle was full, so there wasn’t any room for her there. A guard was posted outside that barn to make sure she couldn’t escape. She’d been tortured, so no one really would have assumed she’d actually be in any state to flee. But despite the locked door, and despite the guard, she did. I found that remarkable. She must have been a very strong woman. No one could explain how it happened, and that was what got me thinking. Maybe the guard took pity, or there was another way out of the barn, but again: she’d been tortured, willfully broken, though through it all, she never confessed, so… when they found her a few days later, she was with one of her children. She was asked why she’d fled. Silly question, really, but they did ask, and her response was noted for the record. She said she hadn’t intended to escape her sentence, but that she’d merely wanted to see her children one last time to say goodbye.
Another character who is loosely based on a real person is Hermann Heistermann. He was the bailiff at that time, an exceptionally greedy and cruel man who took great pleasure in having people tortured. He was a real villain, and that’s how I depicted him in the book as well, though something good came from his existence in my story. I won’t say what.
Can you tell us anything about the fictional characters without giving too much away?
Yes, of course! There’s a really dark demon with a deep longing for vengeance. There’s a character I modeled on Ricdin-Ricdon, better known as Rumpelstiltskin, but he doesn’t spin straw into gold. And, we have a heroine, who falls in love with a knight in shining armor. I loved writing all of them. Finishing the final chapter was awful, because I knew I’d miss them.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on the third book of my current series. It’s titled Fair of Souls, and I’m having a lot of fun getting back into that. Lorcan will be traveling to many interesting places, trying to find his son, and later, he will be faced with having to find a way to keep The Fair safe from the dangers that have arisen with Catherine’s ascent to power. We’ll be seeing a very angry, power-hungry Catherine establishing her rule in Trondenburgh and beyond, while Dean is in deep trouble. I’m very excited about writing this.
Where can readers find out more?
Lisa, thank you for your time and for sharing with us. I’m looking forward to both Trading Darkness and Fair of Souls