Author Spotlight – Keren Landsman
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Keren Landsman!
KEREN LANDSMAN is a mother, a writer, a medical doctor who specializes in Epidemiology and Public health, and a blogger. She is one of the founders of Mida’at, an NGO dedicated to promoting public health in Israel. She works in the Levinski clinic in Tel Aviv. She has won the Geffen Award three times, most recently for the short story collection Broken Skies.
Keren’s latest novel, THE HEART OF THE CIRCLE, will be released tomorrow (August 13th 2019) by Angry Robot Books.
Welcome to the Hive, Keren. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I loved “Too Like the Lightning” by Ada Palmer. It’s incredibly complex utopian future, which includes everything that’s good about hard core science fiction, with wonderful ideas about how politics, society, gender and religion will change in the coming years. I loved how different it was from most of the currently written science fiction, I loved the characters and I loved the plot twists.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’m probably the NPC who dies from a lucky throw by the party’s weakest member. I hope I’ll get a chance to say something meaningful before the DM mimics my dying last breath.
When I was in school I played a thief, but my party was a tight-knit boys club and I just couldn’t fit there. Many years later I was very happy to find out my son’s DM found a way to include my little girl in one of their adventures – she was a mighty sea monster who saved the party.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit?) Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
The most important thing in my writing technique is making sure I have a constant supply of coffee. I rarely plan ahead (except for the coffee supply). I usually start writing when I can feel the main character – know how they look at the world, what are their main concerns and who they care for. I usually like to vaguely know what the story is about. After that, everything else will fall into place eventually.
As for my working environment, recently we adopted three kittens, so my writing is usually type one sentence – look at the cats for three hours – type another sentence – feed the cats, and so on. The challenge is to remember what I was going to write and to keep the bandits away from my coffee.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
I am extremely lucky that the Israeli speculative community is made out of nice people. Most of us are friends in real life, and we meet regularly. I got to work on different projects with a few of my friends, and once even with my life partner who’s a space engineer.
The first fantasy I read, like most of my generation, was Dragonlance. I can’t remember the first urban fantasy I read. Either Good Omens or Discworld. Maybe Amber. I need to note that growing up I read mostly in Hebrew, and I was therefore limited to what was translated.
As an adult the fiction that made me say “I wish I could write like this” are Daryl Gregory’s “Pandemonium” and Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree Jr.)’s “The Women Men Don’t See”. Those two pieces made me feel like someone took my guts and wrote all of the things that pained me in wonderful words.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
Chernobyl! I know it’s everybody’s answer lately, but it is really that good. The writing, the acting, the directing… everything works (for me). I love shows where you can see the writers did their research. I didn’t have anything medical to nitpick, which huge for me. We watched it after a friend recommended it on twitter. I also enjoyed the podcast which talks about the real events, what was changed for the series, and what was kept as is.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
Petting the cats, reading, eating, sleeping, remembering what it’s like to be human again.
Who am I kidding… probably recording notes for the next day, when I’m allowed to write again.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I have three projects, which fight for my attention. The first is a pulp-fiction- fifties-scifi short story. The second is longer, about a lieutenant in the human empire who needs to find a way to save a dying alien race. The third is waiting for the second to be over. I want to try to write a detective story in a Gothic Israel.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
It’s ok to write differently than others.
I try to write every day, and on good days I try to meet a words target. I don’t plan ahead and I never use an outline. But that works FOR ME. It doesn’t necessarily work for anyone else. So the best writing advice should be that’s it’s ok to be different than others.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
It depends on the circumstances. If the block is a result of emotional difficulty I allow myself to take the day off. You are allowed to take a sick day, even from writing. In order to write I need my mind to work, and if it doesn’t then it’s just like a bad case of carpal tunnel which might prevent me from typing. If it’s a matter of an “I don’t wanna work”, I bribe myself. Those are days when every paragraph is a reason for chocolate, coffee or 5 minutes of soduku. The important thing is to avoid Twitter, Facebook or TV, because they are the creativity killers when I’m in that specific mood.
The doomsday weapon is writing on google docs. I post the link to the doc on Facebook and ask people to join and comment. When I see the little icons on the top it’s like having a bunch of people waiting for me to write, and I can’t disappoint them, can I?
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
I want to see the future! Can I get a ride to Luna-central? Or to the floating cities in Venus? Please please can I get a glimpse of the world peace or the galactic empire or just a sneak peek at the post-apocalyptic earth? I promise to be nice and not step on the grass!
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I really hope I’m wrong about that, but I feel that “The second O of sorrow” by Sean Thomas Dougherty didn’t get enough attention. It contains wonderful poetry, most of which I marked and read aloud to whoever was near me. It got me through a few rough weeks, and I’m forever thankful for it.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles!
Well, except the fencing, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, and the miracles. But there is true love! And fighting, and Israeli sorcerers who fight for equality in a country that feels less and less like home.
Brilliant! Thanks for joining us, Keren!
Keren Landsman is the author of THE HEART OF THE CIRCLE, releasing on August 13th 2019.