So, in true super-fan fashion, I convinced Lanning to do an interview to help promote this incredible book.
Desdemona Wren: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
C.M Lanning: I’d say in middle school. My uncle Bob actually got me interested in writing because he was a writer himself. He was working to get a historical novel that centered on an Scottish farm girl published, and he’d ask me to read it for him and give him my thoughts when I was in middle school and high school. I was honored and decided to give writing a go. Sadly my uncle died without his novel being published, but he inspired me to keep on keeping on with my own writing.
DW: That is an incredible story. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your uncle sounded like a great person and his book sounds incredible. Thank you for sharing.
DW: What inspired you to write Ragtag Gamblers, an epic space opera?
CM: I was in kind of a frustrated place. I’d already had over 100 rejections from agents and publishers for The Last Fire Mage (which thankfully now is under a publishing contract). So, I decided to try something different. I love the space opera genre, and I thought having a young adult novel would endear it more to publishers or agents. So far, that hasn’t been the case. But my beta readers have been extremely positive about the story and crew. I really do love the crew, and I really want to] continue the story to see what’d happen to them.
DW: Tell us a little about your process for writing Ragtag Gamblers
CM: I actually wanted to get the book done quickly. So as opposed to The Last Fire Mage, which had 150,000 words, I decided to keep this one at 70,000 words. And I just sort of flew through the first seven chapters, one or two every weekend for about six weeks. Then I hit crash burnout and didn’t touch it for a couple months. Finally, I got around to finishing it.
It got hard to finish because I knew it’d end on a cliffhanger, and my brain just didn’t want to do it, ya know? Plus, I write for a newspaper at my day job, and it’s just hard to output at a crazy pace without crashing like I did.
DW: Well at least I have that to look forward to. Thanks for ending your book on a cliffhanger. I’m literally going to be bugging you every single day until you finish the next one. (Also don’t hate me for ending Marjorie Book 2 on a cliffhanger as well).
DW: Describe the lead character in Ragtag Gamblers, Captain Selena Karmen, in 5 words.
CM: Tough one. But I’d say: Dry, damaged, loyal, scheming, and self-reliant (am I cheating with a hyphenated word?)
DW: Ha. Probably? But I’ll give it to you.
DW: Your book covers are always excellent, what is your process for working with your cover artists and designers?
CM: Oh thanks! My secret is coincidentally being friends with great artists. My lovely wife, Meghan, drew the art for Starlight Taxi. A friend of mine named Bee at Cat Scratches Art did The Last Fire Mage cover. And a friend of mine named Robb O’Nale did the cover for Ragtag Gamblers.
My secret is giving them money and then patiently waiting for their beautiful art.
DW: Is Ragtag Gamblers a series or will it stand alone? If it’s a stand alone book, tell us what else you’re working on or hoping to release in 2018.
CM: It’s a trilogy. Like I said earlier, the first book ends on a giant cliffhanger I’m sure readers will hate me for (probably even Desdemona—DW: Can’t hate you have I just did it myself…and yet…).
As for what else I’m working on. . . I’m about four chapters into a new epistolary superhero novel I’m calling Extraordinary People. It’s about people developing super powers in a very realistic sense, but it’s told entirely from documents, like diary entries of survivors, court documents, police reports, etc. It’s nowhere near being done, but I’ll shop it around when it’s finished.
DW: Do you have a favorite character from the book or, at least, one you connected with on a deep level?
CM: There’s a nonbinary shapeshifter named Flora that joins the crew. His appearance is quite androgynous, and he uses he/his pronouns. He’s spent a good deal of his life in an all-female household and being hated by his mother and sisters for being born a “boy” but not being a big strong man like his father who works in the factories.
I think there’s something in children that longs to please their parents. All Flora wanted was affection from his mother, so he pushed his shapeshifting abilities further and further as a result of psychological abuse, trying to look like his sisters for as long as he could. He’s unique among his species because none of the Almary can change their entire body. Most can just change pieces of their appearance.
But because Flora was so desperate, he pushed and pushed his abilities to the point he did the impossible, and even that wasn’t enough to please his family.
I came out as a transwoman to my family not long ago, and they’re still. . . processing. It’s hard for a conservative southern family to really understand what I’m going through. And I’m torn between what I clearly am and the person I feel like I need to be to make my family happy. So, I connect with Flora a little more.
Shapeshifting is the superpower I feel most transgender people would choose so they can have the body that matches their brain. I kind of envy Flora’s abilities, but I sure don’t envy the pain he endured to develop them!
DW: Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m really excited to read Ragtag Gamblers when it comes out April 8th!
Where to Preorder / Official synopsis
From the synopsis:
“Firefly may have been your first space opera love, but this story will be your next!
Ragtag Gamblers kicks off the Ragtag trilogy, a new young adult space opera that follows Captain Selena Karmen, a budding crew leader with an eye that can see the future.
Her oddball crew travels the galaxy aboard the Gamble, searching for their next big payday. As they soar between planets and other celestial bodies, Selena and her crew will take on odd jobs, dodge the Galactic Federation, and maybe even save the galaxy from a swarm of planet-eating insectoids.
Before the end of this book you will fall in love with this crew, laugh with them, cry with them, and root for them to win it all. “
About CM Lanning & where to find them online
C. M. Lanning is an Arkansas journalist and author. They spend most of their time daydreaming about finally becoming a published author. And in their spare time they like to write and actually fulfill that dream.
They have written books “Starlight Taxi” and “The Last Fire Mage.” Lanning’s newest book is the first in a new science fiction young adult series called “Ragtag Gamblers.”
When they aren’t writing, Lanning is probably playing video games, watching a movie, or reading a book. Yeah, they’re just that exciting.
If you seek to summon them, an appropriate sacrifice of Pepsi must first be made. Then you must speak the words “Miss Chenandler Bong.”
For the latest updates on Lanning’s writing, check out their website.