My debut novel, The Feather and the Lamp, is a comic fantasy which should appeal to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams fans. It’s the tale of Imperceptibility Happenstance who gets caught up in a series of escapades when she picks up a magic lamp. Published by Three Ravens Publishing.
L.N. Hunter’s comic fantasy novel, The Feather and the Lamp, sits alongside works in anthologies such as War (which also turns up in Best of British Science Fiction 2022) and Trickster’s Treats 3 as well as Short Édition’s Short Circuit and the Horrifying Tales of Wonder podcast. There have also been papers in the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks, which are probably somewhat less relevant and definitely less fun. When not writing, L.N. unwinds in a disorganised home in rural Cambridgeshire, UK, along with two cats and a soulmate.
Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?
While trying out some comedy styles, I wrote a short story about a magic lamp where wishes were maliciously interpreted (hey, no one said I had to be original). Someone commented that they’d like to see more of Imperceptibility’s adventures – while the roots of the book where in that story, I think that one comment was the real trigger for the novel.
A lot of random comic ideas turn up in the book, almost all inspired by something in the real world, but I can’t explain any of them without giving away spoilers!
What came first the characters or the world?
When I started the short story, all I knew was there was going to be a tricksy genie and a loquacious dragon, and my main character had her name. However, after that, the world came together more quickly than the characters fleshed themslves out.
How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?
Harder, and more painful, than writing it. Even harder, though, is getting it noticed, especially with my allergy to social media.
How long did it take to write?
It took about a year of occasional evenings to complete the first rather scrappy draft, then a couple more years of evenings and weekends of beating it into shape before I started to look for agents.
Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?
I find music just too distracting to work with.
How many publishers turned you down?
All of them bar one…
I began by schlepping The Feather and the Lamp around agents, a few at a time, up until I reached somewhere in the region of sixty. The majority of them ghosted me, but the few that replied were rejections. About a year into that process, I started to look at independent publishers too, again a few at a time; and as before, most ghosted me, and all of the replies I did get were rejections, until two requests for the full manuscript came in within a week of each other. Three Ravens Publishing were more enthusiastic and engaged than the other, so here I am.
What kind of reactions have you had to your book?
All favourable, but that probably means I haven’t got enough people looking at it yet!
What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?
I particularly liked ‘The Feather and the Lamp is an absolute joy to read and packed to the gills with belly laughs, subtle barbs, and the occasional guffaw throughout this tale of wonder and accidental adventure.’
What can you tell us about your next book?
Imperceptibility’s adventures continue – this time into space. (Who says fantasy books can’t have spaceships?)
Do you take notice of online reviews?
Oh, if only I had enough reviews to bother paying much attention.
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
I don’t think I know what my genre is. The Feather and the Lamp is comic fantasy, but my short stories are a mix of horror, sci-fi and fantasy, sometimes with a sprinkling of thriller or humour. I’ve got a half-baked techno-thriller novel and a middle-grade comic horror waiting to be finished, and a bunch of other genre mixes waiting to be started.
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I spent many years as a software engineer before realising that writing for humans is much more fun than for computers. The software I write affects more people than my fiction, for sure, but I’m working on changing that.
Which author(s) inspire you?
Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams are at the top of my list. I rediscovered a pile of Tom Sharpe books recently, and think that he’s been an subconscious influence too, treating his characters badly in so many ridiculously over the top situations.
Which genres do you read yourself?
I used to tuck myself away with a fat fantasy book, but these days it tends to be something shorter and quick to read, but a mix of genres: speculative mainly, but also the occasional thriller. I’m keen on comic books (or ‘graphic novels’ for the pretentious among us) too, though more of the independents than the Marvels and DCs of the world.
What is your biggest motivator?
I would say money, except that my writing hasn’t had much of an impact on my finances, at least not in the direction I want it to. In lieu of that, the buzz of a positive review or having a short story accepted somewhere.
What will always distract you?
Life, the universe and everything.
How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?
Three Ravens is very flexible, and in fact, I brought this cover with me.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Not until I was maybe eleven or twelve. Even then, it was probably more comic book than novels.
What were your favourite childhood books?
Nothing springs to mind.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
I think I’ve moved around too much to form an attachment to any, and on the internet, they all look the same (sorry).
What books can you not resist buying?
While he was alive and churning them out, I’d buy every Terry Pratchett as soon as they came out (and then plant myself in a comfy chair and read them in one sitting). Similar with Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes) – it’ll be interesting to see what The Mysteries turns out to be…
Do you have any rituals when writing?
At least a hour’s worth of procrastinating before I start – I really need to improve that.
How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?
Only about three new ones and half a dozen Tom Sharpes – it’s all electronic these days, and that pile is too high. While paper is nicer, digital is so much more convenient.
What is your current or latest read?
I’m currently working my way through the Tom Sharpes I found: The Wilt Alternative at the moment.
Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?
At the moment, nothing really grabs me. I’m intrigued by the new Watterson, but not to the same extent as I was about upcoming Discworld novels.
Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?
There’s the sequel to The Feather and the Lamp that I’ve already mentioned, and I intend to keep working on short stories.
Any events in the near future?
World Con is coming to Glasgow next year – close enough geographically that I can’t really not go…
and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?
I think my answer here is a mix of ‘see above’ and ‘I don’t know.’