Interview: Graduate Linden A. Lewis

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Linden A. Lewis (she/they) is a queer writer and world wanderer currently living in Madrid with a couple of American cats who have little kitty passports. Tall and tattooed, Linden exists only because society has stopped burning witches.

Linden attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2016, and their short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. They are represented by Alexandra Machinist at ICM Partners in New York City. Their first novel, The First Sister, was released in August 2020.

While there is a 95% chance Linden is a cryptid, they can often be spotted in the wild cosplaying or acting (yes, they appeared in an episode of The Walking Dead). Nowadays, they are most frequently found lurking on both Instagram and Twitter @lindenalewis.


You’re a 2016 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. What made you decide to attend?

In 2015, I wrote and began querying a book, but I knew, even before I started getting rejections, that someone was wrong with it. Something was missing. After a year of hearing the same thing from agents, I decided to apply to the Odyssey Writing Workshop, hoping I’d be able to discover what I lacked. Turned out I was right!


Can you talk about your pre-Odyssey writing process? What kind of writing schedule, if any, did you keep? 

I actually think I had a good writing schedule pre-Odyssey. Much like now, I wrote throughout the week and rested on the weekend, balancing my job and other concerns of life. The problem was in how I approached stories. I’ve never been a pantser, but looking back, I can see obvious pitfalls in my outlines that I now know how to avoid through a combination of character development and worldbuilding.


How do you feel your writing and writing process changed as a result of having attended Odyssey? What insights did you gain into your own work?

Coming to Odyssey was like being handed a roadmap. Suddenly, I could see the pitfalls in my plots and spot the excess that needed to be trimmed. I learned the importance of characters and their arcs, which fuel the plot instead of being an afterthought, and I learned how to write with the reader in mind while staying true to my individual voice.


The first book in your trilogy, The First Sister, came out last year, and the second book, The Second Rebel, comes out in August 2021. What are some of the challenges unique in writing a trilogy? Did you plan out the overall arc of the three books ahead of time, or have the novels developed more organically? 

From the moment I started writing The First Sister, I thought of it as a trilogy—one quite like the original Star Wars movies, in fact. Without spoilers, The Second Rebel is my Empire Strikes Back. I was very lucky in that I didn’t have second-book syndrome, as many authors talk about, because I knew the impression I wanted to leave the reader with. And while I’d planned the overall arc of the three books, giving every character an individual arc that built off of what had happened before while also advancing in a new direction was the hardest part of writing the trilogy.


In addition to being an author, you’re also a cosplayer. Does this lead to a tendency to come up with characters first, or do you tend to come up with ideas or worlds first?

If anything, cosplaying and larping has taught me that characters and worldbuilding go hand in hand. Whatever spark of inspiration starts me off (for instance, “priestesses who can’t speak” or “guy who has to hunt down his former partner”), my second question is, “How does one influence the other?” In The First Sister, you can’t have priestesses who can’t speak without questioning why that organization exists, and you can’t have Lito hunting his former partner without knowing who he is as a person and why he’d be driven to assassinate someone he cares about deeply. From there, it spirals into other questions, and I begin building an entire system around that initial spark.


What’s the biggest weakness in your writing these days, and how do you cope with it?

Nowadays, I think my biggest weakness is coming up with something super cool plot-wise, but then being unable to explain why or how the characters get involved in it. I just want it to happen! Isn’t that enough?! But of course, I can’t shoehorn the ideas in, or it becomes too unbelievable. “The invisible hand of the author” and all that. Luckily, I have an amazing writing partner who beta reads everything for me and tells me when I’m going overboard. I trust his judgment completely, and he helps me smooth out the wrinkles in my plots. That’s definitely my advice to other writers: find someone you trust completely to critique your work.


What’s next on the writing-related horizon? Are you starting any new projects?

I’m currently working on a YA fantasy based on the mythology of Spain. It’s been a lot of fun playing in a world of fantastical beasts and building a Spanish Inquisition that actually hunts monsters. I’d also love to write a prequel to The First Sister set in the Dead Century War focusing on the Synthetics split from humanity, but we’ll see!

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