Interview with J. Ardian Lee aka Julianne Lee

J. Ardian wrote the book "The son of the sword", which is the first part of a very exciting fantasy series

Karin M.: Could you please tell us something about yourself and your life?

J. Ardian Lee: I was born in California, but now live in Tennessee with my husband and two kids. My son graduated high school last week, and will be attending university next year, and my daughter will finish high school next year. My husband drives a bus for rock and roll bands. I’ve been writing for fun since I was twelve, and began to take it seriously when I was thirty. I turned professional seven years later as a reporter for the local newspaper. SON OF THE SWORD is my first published novel, but my thirteenth completed manuscript.

Karin M.: Could you describe one of your typical work days?

J. Ardian Lee: When working on a specific book, I sort of obsess. When I get up in the morning I’ll rush through the daily chores to get to the good part, which is spending time with my characters. Sometimes I’ll spend as long as 16 hours at the writing, then go to bed only when I’m too tired to think any more. But when I’m between books I mostly read, and catch up on things that don’t get done when I’m working. I’m not very organized, I’m afraid. Right now I’ve just finished the third book in the series, but I’m thinking about the plot of the fourth book. In addition, I have ideas for two more books that are not part of the series. It’s sometimes hard to think with all those characters wanting their stories to be told!

Karin M.: I read you have been an actress? Would you like to tell us something about this period in your life? What characters did you play?

J. Ardian Lee: I started acting when I was eight, as one of Fagin’s boys in a local production of the stage musical “Oliver!” When I was fourteen or so, I wrote, directed and acted in an amateur film called “Operation Cowabunga.” It was very short and something of a spoof, but it was a lot of fun. It wasn’t until after high school, though, that I had another opportunity to act. That was in the network TV show called “One Day At A Time.” A walk-on, but it was my first professional job. I attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts near Los Angeles, California, where I earned a degree in theatre art. I was in a few student films, then had a two-day job in a film called “At Close Range” with Christopher Walken and Sean Penn. It wasn’t a speaking part, but Mr. Walken was incredible to work with. It was like being paid to take an acting lesson. Unfortunately, that was the last time I was in front of a camera. I live in Tennessee now, and acting jobs are even harder to find here than in California. I turned to writing, and find that all my training as an actor helps me tell stories in novels. I love it; it’s like being able to play ALL the parts. I still go onstage sometimes with a local amateur group called The Steeple Players. These days I do mostly comedies, but a few years ago I was cast in “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” Just before that was “Children of a Lesser God,” which was a wonderful experience in which I learned some sign language.

Karin M.: And you also worked as a reporter. That must be very exciting?

J. Ardian Lee: I wrote features as well as hard news for the local paper. It was an interesting job, and taught me a lot about writing, but my heart was always in fiction. It tended to be very depressing to have to ask people questions about events that were usually the worst thing to ever happen to them. For instance, I once was assigned to cover a case where a man was convicted of hiring someone to have his wife killed. I had to phone the wife and ask her how she felt about that. I felt very deeply for her. Many of the victims I spoke to were afraid to talk to me, lest the criminal, who was sometimes still at large, should return to hurt them for it. Reporting crime was very hard for me. I was glad to move on to the actor interviews for Starlog.

Karin M.: I also understand that you interviewed stars for the "Starlog Magazine"? Could you please name some of these stars?

J. Ardian Lee: Indeed. I wrote seven articles for Starlog, many of which were about the actors on “The X-Files.” Several were published in Germany. I spoke to most of the people on the show at one time or another, including creator Chris Carter, writer Jim Wong, several of the guest creatures, and I was fortunate to talk to Gillian Anderson (Agent Dana Scully) twice. My last interview with her was only a few weeks after her daughter was born, and though she was an exhausted new mother she was as sweet as could be. Nevertheless, my favorite interview was with David Duchovny, who plays Agent Fox Mulder on the show. He spent quite a bit of time in the interview, and was very funny and entertaining. That article, titled “X-Symbol,” was published in the German edition of Starlog in January 1996.

Karin M.: I read that you published a number of short stories. On which topics? Are they to be acquired in Germany? Which awards did you receive for them?

J. Ardian Lee: I haven’t written very many short stories, because I prefer the long form of the novel. I like to live with my characters for a long time. However, I had one short story published in the now-defunct “Cosmic Unicorn,” titled “Culture Control.” It was about censorship and how creative people must resist it. Another story, titled “As Ye Believe,” won the President’s Prize from the Green River Writers here in the US. It also had a censorship theme, and was very dark. My work was much closer to horror back then. I’ve lightened up a little now.

Karin M.: What gave you the idea to write an entire series and why a Fantasy series? And how did the series emerge? And could you please tell the German readers a little bit more about this series?

J. Ardian Lee: Because my grandmother was a Ross and my maiden name is Bedford, I am a lifelong Anglophile. I’ve always identified myself as being of English and Scottish descent, so the culture of Britain was always of interest to me. A few years ago it was pointed out to me that Scottish historical novels with time travel were popular. I adore time travel stories, and enjoy reading fantasy. I’m a big fan of the “Highlander” TV series, and have a special fascination with swords and sword fighting. So I decided to try my hand at this sort of story. It was as if something clicked inside me, and I knew I had come up with something special. SON OF THE SWORD isn’t exactly like anything I’d read or written before. I had intended for it to be just one book, but the story developed as an extremely long one. Rather than try to get it published in one big piece, I divided it out to a series.

The first three books in the series are a trilogy. They tell the story of Dylan Matheson and his struggle to learn about himself and to help the people who have become his clan. With Cait, he continues to experience heartbreak and healing. The fourth book tells the story of Ciaran Matheson in the next generation at the Battle of Culloden, as he also struggles to find his place in history. Sinann, of course, will be there as well. I can’t tell you more, or the next book will be spoiled for you.

Karin M.: Did you have any difficulties to find a publisher and did you have influence on the appearance of the Cover or the book title?

J. Ardian Lee: SON OF THE SWORD was bought by the first editor I sent it to in the US. My agent then was able to sell the German rights, and we are very pleased to have the entire series scheduled for release in Germany. The response from German readers has been very pleasing.

Your question about the cover and the title would be answered in multiple parts. For the US edition, the title had originally been the Gaelic for “son of the sword.” Those who have read the book know that’s “Mac a’Chlaidheimh.” However, that didn’t work out very well as a title, so we went with the English instead. The German title, “Vogelfrei: Das Schwert Der Zeit,” was invented entirely by the editor at Heyne. I speak a little German, but not nearly enough to invent a proper book title, so I’m happy with this arrangement.

Ordinarily authors aren’t allowed to give much input on cover art. That’s just not how it works. I was fortunate enough to be asked by my US editor about my cover, though. My only wish was that the sword in the picture be a true claymore. Sometimes the basket-hilt Scottish broadsword is mistakenly called a claymore, and I didn’t want that confusion. So I was asked to send pictures of the claymore sword, and of the Matheson tartan described in the book. I am quite pleased with the resulting art. Paul Robinson did a wonderful job of bringing to visual the castle and Glen Ciorram. As for the German cover, I’ve not yet seen it.

Karin M.: I noticed that in your novel "Son of the sword" you give many details about life in the time in which the novel is settled. That was what I liked very much. How do you research for your novels?

J. Ardian Lee: Thank you. I began the research on this project by reading. I bought any book I could find about Scottish history, taking care to not assume “British” also meant “Scottish,” but nevertheless realizing that England and Scotland share an awful lot of history and not a little culture. I feel it is important to understand the differences between the English and Scottish people, in order to understand why their history was so troubled. I also read books of Celtic mythology, including the Fenian Cycle and the Ulster Cycle in which the great Cuchulain appears. I talked to martial arts experts, and was fortunate enough to interview F. Braun McAsh, the swordmaster for the “Highlander” TV series, specifically for this project. I read about the history of warfare and the history of British political theory, as well as books about farm life of the period. As I wrote the book, I also developed a fascination with the Gaelic language. I took some lessons, and though I’m far from fluent I do have a basic grounding in vocabulary and grammar. Next year I hope to take a week-long immersion course for it in Scotland, just for fun. I’ve gone to local Scottish festivals put on by the descendants of Scottish immigrants to America, and am a member of the Middle Tennessee Scottish Society.

Karin M.: Have you ever been to Scotland?

J. Ardian Lee: I made a research trip in October of ’99. I spent a few days in Edinburgh, walking around, up and down, through the wyndes and closes, touring the castle and some of the museums, and trying out the food. I decided I like haggis, but it’s very rich. I couldn’t eat it often. Oatmeal without sugar, and soft drinks without ice were also intriguing new experiences. Then I drove to Glenfinnan to get a good look around Ft. William and parts of the Highlands. Even in October, the mountains were breathtakingly beautiful. I got a good look at the ruins of the garrison at Ft. William. It was quite moving, actually. The local library also had a book that contained some drawings of the garrison as it had been before it was torn down. The portcullis now graces the local cemetery, so I was able to photograph it. The hotel where I stayed in Glenfinnan had a glorious view of the glen, and on a clear day one could see Ben Nevis. I finished SON OF THE SWORD while I was there, gazing across Loch Shiel at the hill where Bonnie Prince Charlie had raised the standard of his father, James Stewart, in 1745.

Karin M.: Is there a reason why the German edition of your book was published under the name ‘Julianne Lee’ and not under ‘J. Ardian Lee’ as the original version?

J. Ardian Lee: It’s simply the preference of each editor. My full, real name is Julianne Ardian Lee, and so each edition has the version preferred by its editor. I don’t mind. It’s all my name.

Karin M.: I’ m not sure if I may ask you this, but have your series ever been compared to Diana Gabaldon’s series and what do you think about this comparison?

J. Ardian Lee: I find it flattering. She has a way with words I envy somewhat. My writing is more event and action-oriented, which I also like. We are very different writers who approach similar material from different directions.

Karin M.: Have your novels also been published in other countries besides the US and Germany?

J. Ardian Lee: Not yet. In fact, as I write this, the US edition is not yet released. It’s due out in July.

Karin M.: Which are your favorite authors or books?

J. Ardian Lee: Oh, I could talk all day about books! My favorite author is Stephen King. He’s a very dark writer, but he’s a fabulous storyteller. I also like Michael Crichton because of the variety of stories he tells. Jennifer Roberson’s fantasy is very good, I think, and Melanie Rawn’s. I also like many older works such as “Lord of the Rings” and “Dune.” I’ve always liked Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, and I loved “Le Morte D’Arthur” by Sir Thomas Mallory. There are so many wonderful books. Every time I get to talking with friends about books, I end up saying, “Oh, yeah! That one! Loved it!”

Karin M.: What are your plans for the future? Can we look forward to more books?

J. Ardian Lee: Absolutely. I think I have the best job in the world. I’m very much looking forward to them myself.

Karin M.: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.!

J. Ardian Lee: My pleasure. Thank you for asking.

© Isolde Wehr und Karin Mundorf, Juni 2001, Die romantische Bücherecke

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Dieses Interview entstand im Juni 2001 zwischen Karin M. und Julianna Lee für:



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