Interview with Laila Blake, author of By the Light of the Moon
Today is the release date of By the Light of the Moon, by Laila Blake, one of my very favorite writers. I’ve been given the coveted spot on her blog tour of this special date, and invite you to learn more about this excellent lady and her fantastic first novel—not your average romance!
Disclaimer: Laila is my best friend. I adore her in every way, and I was alongside her throughout the writing of By the Light of the Moon. Indeed, I receive the very best acknowledgement in the published edition! I’m a pretty fair judge of literature, and don’t believe in withholding critique, but find it in most polite interest to inform you all that, really, she’s the bestest and I love her.
Being as Laila and I spend 90% of our day in some kind of contact with one another, I asked her to answer some questions about subjects we’ve discussed both as writers and consumers of books and stories of all stripes. I hope you enjoy reading her answers as much as I did.
I approach them as an intricate part of my character’s emotional journey. I actually find it quite fascinating that as a culture, we manage to do something quite unique to the experience of sex: we simultaneously place a general taboo on the subject and call it bad, dirty, wrong etc. and at the same time place a ridiculously exaggerated amount of importance on it, too. No wonder it is terribly complicated being a teenager.
For me, sex is part of the human experience. In certain circumstances it can be an extraordinary important part – in others, it is something rather ordinary and almost boring. Describing it in either way says a lot of about people or the state of the relationship which otherwise would have been lacking. I am not always a fan of the old adage of show don’t tell, but in sex matters I really feel cheated when it is all tell, or when the sexual component of a relationship is just ignored as something that can easily be omitted. And that after all the taboo and over-excitement drama! The fact is, that we all live in a culture that has made us acutely aware of our sex-life – so much in fact, that most people have some kind of insecurity or worries, secret fantasies and guilty secrets. That is such beautiful material to be explored.
I can easily imagine writing a story without sex in it — but then there is literally no intimate relationship present in this book. Otherwise I feel like I am omitting something. It doesn’t always have to drag on over pages, explicit descriptions can be stunning and hot and incredibly characterizing in just a paragraph or two, but I just disagree with glossing over them.
I would also like to loose some words on the idea gratuitous sex. I find that a difficult idea. Gratuitous seems to mean that it is just there for its own sake, but we only really notice it when it is bad gratuitous sex á la The Room. Or speaking in books, the kind where every 50 pages there is another sex scene that hardly varies from the last and doesn’t do anything for you – either to further the story, the character development or to turn you on. That is bad. Gratuitous sex where it isn’t boring – hell, I’m all for it! I like a multi-sensory reading experience where I’m laughing one moment, crying the next and then suddenly feel a tingling between my legs. All part of the human experience.
2. Many of the issues you approach in the book are viewed as more “contemporary,” such as anxiety and mental illness, self-harm and feminism. What did setting the story in a historical fantasy world do for your relation of these issues?
In a way, it helps to abstract them. You can write about them without a lot of preconceived notions and words that have become laden with prejudice and associations. Moira, for example, is clearly a feminist — but the word feminist is so laden with ideas and sometimes horrifying ideas about man-haters etc. The simple truth is that Moira has this notion that it simply doesn’t seem right that she is considered not intelligent enough to rule. She doesn’t have decades of a woman’s movement to support that notion but it is there. Similar things are true about her mental issues – by giving them names like anxiety, depression, self-harm etc. they are immediately pushed into boxes that we all naturally have. Setting it in a world without these words allowed me to describe them without giving them names, giving the reader the chance to let their compassion guide them. I find this a rather interesting instrument to talk about serious issues.
3. In order to be viewed as a “strong female character,” heroines often have to act MORE like a man (i.e. physical, aggressive, violent, etc). Moira is decidedly none of these things. What kind of efforts did you make to ensure she was both strong, yet uniquely herself at the same time?
It was important to me that Moira has her own mind. She is intelligent but because nobody expects her to be or needs her to be, that trait was never truly nourished. This is why her tutor Brock is so important to her and why they have an interesting relationship. At the same time, a lot of that undervalued potential ends up flowing into an almost petulant anger and frustration, searching for a way to be heard and understood.
The other thing that was important to me is her choosing Owain. For her, something as simple as love is rebellion, is leaving everything she knows for her freedom to choose a life for herself and to choose someone who doesn’t see her as a commodity. And with that one choice, she sets off on a path of empowering herself, which is something really wonderful to write about across this series. I don’t see it as him saving her, they are choosing each other, and the consequences inherent in that decision.
4. Gender roles play a large part in your story, as well as most historical fantasy. Many of the female characters in the book (Maeve and Niamh in particular) seem to eschew perceptions of what a woman can and can’t do. How did you approach that in the historical context, without making it seem glaringly contemporary?
Partly, there is that wonderful device in speculative fiction that allows you to simply transcend the historical context. If this was medieval history, characters like them could not exist. However, in By the Light of the Moon, Maeve and Niamh are fae. They come from a distinctly different culture. I have left a lot about the fae nebulous for a reason, letting the characters speak for it more than anything else, but from Maeve and Niamh – and even from Moira’s ancestral memory that something about her assumed subservience is wrong – it is easy to deduce that for Fae the distinction between male and female gender roles is far less stark. They are more fluid, value skills, beauty and knowledge rather than gender and they display the same fluidity in their sexuality. It is interesting to contrast that against such a patriarchal world as the human system.
5. We’ve been writing together! I’m going to make you talk more about it so I don’t look like I’m tooting my own horn. 😉
We have indeed! Quite a lot actually. We have been working on two projects now (two and half-dreamed up one, really). The first was a very sweet, romantic bdsm story. In it’s first draft, that is actually finished. We have to go back to editing soon, and it’s making my heart ache it’s so sweet. And at the moment, we are writing something that we’d call a New Adult zombie post apocalypse novel — because everybody likes a good zombie fighter! … Right? It’s a lot of fun, packed with angst and emotions, and all those drama shenanigans.
We are also planning on putting together a kind of nerd/geek/dork porn anthology – basically porn about people like us and we people we like. Which now sounds a little self-serving come to think of it, but we think this just has to exist.
Withdrawn and with a reputation for her strange, eccentric ways, young Lady Moira Rochmond is old to be unwed. Rumors say she has been seen barefoot in the orchard, is awake all night in moon-struck rambles, and sleeps all day. Some even claim her ghostly pallor and aloof manner are signs of illness, a curse, or insanity.
The hopes of the peaceful succession to her father’s fief lie in an advantageous marriage. Moira, however, has a hard time attracting suitors. When one does show interest, her family pushes for a decision.
Almost resigned to the fact that she has no choice but to play the part she has been given in life, Moira is faced with Owain, a member of the mysterious Blaidyn creatures and a new guard in her father’s castle, specifically tasked to keep her safe. He is different from other people she knows and when one night under the full moon she makes the acquaintance of the wolf who shares Owain’s soul, she starts to trust him and seek his presence. As he becomes one of the few individuals who doesn’t make her want to hide and retreat, she wants to learn more about him and they grow closer until they share a kiss one night under the moon.
Faced with feelings and desires that overthrow everything she thought she knew about herself, Moira knows non-the-less that they have to be kept utterly secret. However much they try, they continue to be drawn to each other until one night, Owain discovers something about Moira that shakes him to his core.
Laila Blake, born in 1985 in Cologne, Germany, is a bilingual author and translator. She has an MA in Specialized Translating and has worked with several research projects in Applied Linguistics and the language acquisition. Teaching English to adults is still paying most of her bills.
Growing up with a love of stories, she started her first epic fantasy story at the age of 13. It didn’t grow past a few chapters and since then, she has gone through a myriad of ideas and beginnings, both in English and German, has learned a lot and lived a lot and dreamed of being a writer.
In 2013, Crimson Romance picked her debut novel for publication and she has been working on its sequel ever since. In the meantime, she has also gotten short-stories into several erotic anthologies to be published later this year, and has been working on other projects and ideas.
“By the Light of the Moon”was released on the 8th of April and constitutes her very first novel. The second book in the Lakeside Series, tentatively titled “A Taste of Winter” will follow later this same year.
You can connect with Laila through the following links (and you really should):
Where to buy:
Contributor at Broad Magazine.
"Invincible" in The Dying Goose: Volume 1, Issue 3, Fall 2013.
"Closing Time" 3rd Place in BetterSex 2013 Erotic Fiction Contest: Female Fantasies.
"Proofing" in I am Subject: Women Awakening: Discovering Our Personal Truths, edited by Diana DeBella, published by Wild Ginger Press, September 2014.