My ALLi author guest this week is Lindsay Mayer, who writes middle-grade fiction defying standard tropes to create unique characters that explore the dark side of imagination. Lindsay was born in the United States but lives in Paris, where she is an IT worker by day and lets her imagination loose as an author by night.
Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast: LN Mayer Interview
For self-publishing advice and news, alongside indie author interviews, subscribe to the ALLi podcast:In this week's Inspirational Indie Authors #podcast, @howard_lovy features L.N. Mayer, an author of middle-grade fiction who is defying the standard tropes to explore the dark side of imagination. Click To Tweet
Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast: About the Host Howard Lovy
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last eight years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a book editor to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast: About the Author L.N. Mayer
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, L.N. Mayer recently put her career in project management on hold to pursue the publication of her first book for young readers, Tell, or the Adventures in Themiddle. When she isn’t writing or editing, she enjoys reading and listening to The New York Times Book Review podcast. Find L.N. Mayer at her website https://sites.google.com/view/lnmayer. And on Facebook and Instagram at @lnmayerofficial.
If you’re a published indie author who would like to be interviewed by Howard for the Inspirational Indie Authors podcast, you need to be a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.
Then contact Howard, including your membership number, explaining why you’re an inspirational indie author and what inspires you.
If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization.
Inspirational Indie Author Podcast: Interview Transcript: L.N. Mayer
Howard Lovy: I'm Howard Lovy and you're listening to Inspirational Indie Authors.
Every week, I feature a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors to find out what inspires them and how they are an inspiration to other authors.
My guest this week is Lindsay Mayer, author of middle-grade fiction, who is defying the standard tropes to create unique characters that explore the dark side of imagination.
Lindsay was born in the United States, but lives in Paris, where she is an IT worker by day, and lets her imagination loose as an author, by night.
Lindsay Mayer: My name is Lindsay Mayer, and I go by the pen name, L. N. Mayer.
I am a PMO by day. So, that's a project management officer for a large corporation based in Paris, France, and a writer at night.
As I'm sure most author, or a lot of authors tell you, it's easier to write rather than to talk about your writing or your writing life. So, if you'll forgive me, I'm not used to it.
Basically, I work in IT, on large IT projects, on the project management side. I didn't start out in that field, I actually got my bachelor's in economics and French, at the University of KU, back in the early 2000's.
I actually have been writing on the side for a long time now, and I published a book earlier this year. So, the name of the book is, Tell, or the Adventures in Themiddle, and it's a young adult novel. Yeah, it was published in January of 2020. So, I'm a newly self-published author or independently published author; starting out on this journey as an author.
Howard Lovy: Lindsay grew up in a family that encouraged the arts, but she really didn't think about writing until college, when she became inspired by the idea of a fantasy trilogy for young adults.
Lindsay Mayer: So, I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and then my family moved to the Kansas City area when I was about 14. Both of my parents encouraged the creative arts; my mom is an art teacher, my dad is a former art teacher, now a ceramicist. My brother was a fantastical classical saxophonist. I have an aunt; she was a jewelry maker and I was just surrounded by a lot of creative people growing up.
I don't think being a writer was necessarily my goal in life, as a child, but it quickly came about when I was a senior at KU. I studied economics and French at KU. I never really took any like official creative writing courses at that level. But I think I kind of, at that point, so I was about 19/20 at the time, I had in mind this idea that I wanted to publish an Epic trilogy, or at least have the goal of trying to publish this epic young adult trilogy, about a fantastical adventure.
And so, the book that I published earlier this year, Tell, or the Adventures in Themiddle, is the culmination, or at least, a partial culmination of that ten-year project.
Howard Lovy: Lindsay said she chose a young adult readership because she wanted to give back to kids who might not have had the same advantages she had when it came to the ability to express her creativity.
One of her early ideas was a story about pigs.
Lindsay Mayer: Yeah, that's a story that my parents still want me to publish to this day. I have a backlog of about five or six children's stories, sort of, you know, running around in my head, but yeah, the family of pigs, maybe someday they'll see light. They ate a lot of cereal, like I did when I was young, and they spent a lot of time in the kitchen, weirdly enough, but that was the gist of this story.
Howard Lovy: But before Lindsay could finish her story of adventure for young adults, she had to embark on an adventure of her own in France.
Lindsay Mayer: After I graduated from the university of Kansas, I decided that I wanted to spend some time abroad, and I had studied French in college and in high school, and I had the opportunity to become a teaching assistant for the Academy of Versailles. So, that lasted for about five or six months, and then I met a Frenchman. So, we moved back to Chicago. I pursued my career as a waitress trying to save up some money to go to grad school, and actually, there's a lot of notes, in this book, so Tell, or the Adventures in Themiddle, a lot of notes that I took are ideas that came about while I was waitressing at Gibson's in Chicago. So, Gibsons is a very famous steak house near the golden triangle.
After that year, I decided to go back to France with my partner, and we settled right outside of Paris.
Howard Lovy: But it was at the restaurant, during downtimes, when she would look out the window and imagine what kind of adventures the little boy in her story would embark upon.
Once she was finished, she had a story in which imagination itself is a character, and not always a pleasant one. In that way, she departed from a kind of sacred trope in middle-grade readers, where imagination is usually thought of as something positive.
Lindsay Mayer: The book is about a young boy named William Teller, or Tell who, in a world where imagination no longer exists, lo and behold, he discovers that he has one, that he has an imagination. And so, the adventures that he goes on are a subsequent series of adventures, where he discovers his imagination and then quickly loses it, and actually thinks that it is stolen by a group of men, namely a gentleman named Herman in the novel.
I think, and probably the most important way that it's different is, I experimented with a sacred trope, and that trope is that, you know, in so many young adult novels, middle-grade novels, you see a sort of a theme of imagination being revered and respected, and I wanted to experiment with, well, what if we consider the opposite, that imagination is actually an evil element, or people see it as something bad, you know, what would be the consequences of that?
So, in that way, it sort of departs from traditional middle-grade literature, in presenting that imaginations are something to be feared and something to be suppressed. I would say the second way is through plot structure. So, in this book, I experimented with plot structure. I didn't necessarily follow, even though it's there, I didn't necessarily follow the template of, the protagonist knows what objective he is out to pursue and then pursues it, you know, despite multiple challenges ends up succeeding that objective or achieving his goal. I think a lot of people who don't get to the end of the book don't necessarily see the difference until the end, because there is quite a bit of a twist. In a nutshell, the enemy the entire time, is the protagonist himself. So, plot spoiler is for people who, you know, are not necessarily interested in reading this type of literature but are interested for the purposes of this discussion.
The ending is basically this little boy, he imagines, or conveys that his imagination was stolen, and it's sort of the idea that, because he was so convinced that someone had stolen it, it became true. So, he suppressed himself, the idea that his imagination, what he comes to call The Pat, was gone. And it's a lesson, I think, for young adult readers and, even adult readers, that, you know, be careful of the power that you give to your imagination.
Howard Lovy: I asked Lindsay what kind of real-world lesson this teaches kids, what could make their imaginations their enemies?
Lindsay Mayer: One way that this book departs from, sort of, the tried and true template from upper middle-grade literature is through the fact that, if I go back to the idea of achieving an objective, I think as adults we forget that a lot of times children don't have objectives. They are led by their curiosity and they want to understand the nonsensical. And in this book, this is what Tell ends up doing, he ends up following his curiosity, trying to understand what's happening to him, trying to make sense of the nonsensical.
And I think a lot of readers who were expecting that middle-grade template, walked away either frustrated or disappointed by the seemingly nonsensical part or plot of Tell, or the Adventures in Themiddle.
So, going back to the question that you just asked me about, what kind of lessons can readers glean from this book? I would say, yeah, the major one is, be careful of the power that you give to your imagination and be careful of what you convince yourself to be true, because our imaginations are so extremely powerful. That theme, I think, is central to so many stories, especially young adult stories and so much literature that's also targeted to adults, but, yeah, I would say that's definitely the main message. Because look at so many people who, you know, they'll say to themselves, oh, you know, I just can't do it, or it's not in me, or I'm not good enough or insert any type of reasoning or any type of conviction that we can create for ourselves.
For me, I sort of group that under the word, or within the word, imagination. So, there's sort of a mix between conviction and imagination in the story.
Howard Lovy: And while this is a fantasy world she's created, there's the fear of imagination that she sees in herself.
Lindsay Mayer: Oh, for sure. Because, even sometimes I have to, and I'm actually surprised by this, so many times I've had to remind myself of the lessons that I'm trying to impart with this trilogy, because this is the first book in a planned trilogy, I have to tell myself, you know, take a step back, wait a minute; this is actually possible, I can do this, I can get through this moment.
Howard Lovy: Lindsay is working on the second book of her planned trilogy, where she will experiment with her protagonist making, what she called, wrong choices, and breaking down the differences between what is right and wrong.
Meanwhile, Lindsey's advice to other authors is the importance of self-editing.
Lindsay Mayer: You should never stop editing, but edit until your desire to edit another story becomes stronger than your desire to keep editing the first, that's sort of how I think about it.
And my process of writing is primarily editing, which I've, I think, only recognized only recently. I think it continually surprises me and it, shouldn't, but, yeah, I'll go through at least 10 to 20 revisions of each chapter, and I'll still find things that can be improved or don't make sense or need to be, you know, maybe fleshed out.
So, what's torture for most people in that sense, that's really something that I truly enjoy, and I think sometimes that, if I wasn't a PMO, I might've been an editor or done something in editing. Either that or become a songwriter or a sketch writer for SNL, those are my two other dream jobs.
If you're a published indie author who would like to be interviewed by Howard for the Inspirational Indie Authors podcast, you need to be a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.
Then contact Howard, including your membership number, explaining why you're an inspirational indie author and what inspires you.
If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization.