Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed author Lee Hunt, a geophysicist on Carbon Capture and Sequestration projects, a writer for BIG-Media.ca. and author of Last Worst Hope an exhilarting standalone fantasy, set in the world of his Dynamicist Trilogy. (Read the review here.)
Born with only one working lung, and having had the last rites read to him as he lay dying of an influenza-related viral pneumonia, 25-year-old geophysicist Lee Hunt experienced several near-death dreams. The power of communication and the need to both understand and be understood was at the heart of each. He had already found that nothing was more important than being able to cross the distance between people.
Lee’s interests are eclectic. He is an Ironman Triathlete, hiker, traveler, and an enthusiastic sport rock climber. Lee also continues to work as a geophysicist on Carbon Capture and Sequestration projects, and is a writer for BIG-Media.ca.
The dream of understanding and being understood has never left his mind, and Lee continues that quest in his works of fiction through metaphor. His works include The Dynamicist Trilogy, Last Worst Hopes and Bed of Rose and Thorns.
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/DynamicistAuthor
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
So many ways, so early and so often I have found that language is more powerful than it gets credit for. But probably the first time I got into an unnecessary fight as a child. I knew that if I could have communicated better—not been tongue-tied and mute—that an enemy of the moment could have instead been made a friend forever.
And later in life?
My career as a geophysicist has been immensely served by the power of language. It is not enough to do good work, one must communicate it, and communicate it in a way that others can appreciate and evaluate.
How often do you base your characters on real people?
Some of the characters in each book I have been written are inspired by real people, though mostly a character will be built from a collection of characteristics from more than one person. Sometimes a woman (or man) will say something surprising to me, and I will breathe life into that statement and build a character. Doog and Louis are quite lovely characters, though cantankerous, and often call Roland a “Potlicker.” That appellation was inspired by an old man I met during field school in a small town in Saskatchewan. He was quite skeptical of us fledgeling geophysicist conducting seismic, gravity and magnetic surveys around his hometown.
I doubt any of us forgot that fellow, and his strange insult was used to help flesh out a tiny part of how Doog and Louis might speak.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I often draw on my background as a geophysicist. In the Dynamicist Trilogy, this was quite overt in the use of dynamics (the style of wizardry of the time). In LWH, thermodynamics plays a big part, though it is a background element that forms part of the richness of the magical system. Additionally, I researched cognitive development and cognitive impairment with age. This included reading university level textbooks on the subject. I also consulted with a psychology professor regarding the older characters in the story.
Do you find writing therapeutic?
Sometimes it can be cathartic or even fun. The most emotional writing can cause emotional pain. I often think that if I didn’t hurt a little bit writing the book, then it is unlikely to touch the reader. In the end, both writer and reader should emerge having travelled on an emotional journey with a rewarding destination. And that could be therapeutic.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I believe this is what is called a false dichotomy. The best writing is original and gives the reader something that they want—though they may not have known they wanted it until they read the story. I do often stop myself and ask if I have given a story element enough thought. I ask if what happens is original enough, should it take off in an unexpected direction, can I use a quirk of a character to take the story somewhere that even I haven’t planned.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Perhaps, but not me. I have written plenty of non-fiction as a geophysicist, which would include journal articles. That style of writing is carefully scrubbed of feeling and subjectivity; it is scientific. But fiction? There must be feeling, especially if the story has strong thematic elements and character development. I don’t know how to write a character’s difficult emotional transformation without feeling their pain. Or their triumph.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Sometimes the sound and feel of a name that I hear in real life appeals to me, and I keep it. Most often though, I research the various names, mythic, and otherwise that belong to a culture. For example, the people of Vercors have names with a Welsh influence (despite the French name, “Vercors”), and the people of Engevelen have names influenced by the French. This is important so that the names have a correct correspondence and congruity. And sometimes I think about what name a person has and what they might be called by their friends. But always there must be the feel of the name. It must fit the character.
What are your favorite books?
Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, Red Sister by Mark Lawrence, Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie.
What inspired the premise of your book?
My grandma said to me on several occasions, “What good am I?” She was old, had become diabetic and physically weak. Others have said the same thing. I wanted to write about people that get dismissed as being non-heroic, lacking capacity or with a flaw that would make them get overlooked. The main characters in Last Worts Hopes are: an old man with dementia, a young woman that no one believes, and woman full of doubt and a man with what is essentially a learning disability. They each have a kind of magic about them, but also a real problem to be overcome. Their struggles as doubting people—people who doubt their own purpose and capabilities and who others doubt seemed pretty interesting to me. In the end, they all learn that they matter.
Categories: BookView Review Interview
Thank you for a fun interview. Let’s do it again.