I am lucky enough to have Ulff Lehmann author of Shattered Dreams on the blog today. Welcome to my little goblin cave, it is a pleasure to have you here. Before we get started why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself and what Shattered Dreams is about.
Ulff: I’m me. OK, that isn’t much of an answer about me, but it is the truth. Took me long enough to figure out who I am though. Short bio: was born in an age when Pong wasn’t yet released and TV was still black and white, at least the one we had at home initially. Started my love affair with stories early on, and basically read anything I could get my hands on. Loved mythology, and scifi, fantasy came later. Got into RPGs, though I was mostly the GM, which in hindsight should have clued me in on where my interests lay. I didn’t figure out I had to be a writer until my mid 30s, then my life became much more bearable.
What is Shattered Dreams about? It’s the beginning of a series, really, one big-ass story that I have been developing since the early 90s. It’s about redemption, self-discovery, and war. You read it; maybe you have something to add…
Hob. Well it is a hell of a good read and you will find links below to order a copy.
- You had Self-published last year and then you got hooked up with Crossroad Press and you just released Shattered Dreams again under their banner. What if anything has changed about the book? Like any editing or anything like that?
Ulff: Aside from the cover and the cartography, you mean? I finished Shattered Dreams 4 or 5 years ago and after the final edit, I never touched the book again. I corrected a major blunder in the first release, but that was connected to the sequel, nothing within the text. The reason for this was my need to have something completed. Dreams was part of my therapy in a way, as it forced me to come to terms with, amongst other things, finishing things, not allowing myself to go back and obsess about everything. As such I wanted to keep it as is, a snapshot of where I had been.
Were there things I wanted to change? I honestly don’t know… I hadn’t looked at the book since publication. So when I signed with Crossroad, I finally decided to do so. I read the novel with my pencil, and streamlined quite a bit of the stuff that were, at the time, vague concepts which I had refined in the sequels but never corrected in the first one. So there was that. I also tightened the prose a little bit further, and made a specific scene a whole lot more vicious. Also, there was one other scene that had an unintended double meaning which I straightened out as well.
- How did the deal with Crossroad come about?
Ulff: A friend of mine, fellow author Charles Phipps, and I had known each other since our days on the Candlekeep Forums. I asked him to read Dreams. He liked it a lot, and said that Crossroad might be interested in doing an audiobook. He told me they had bought the book and were looking into it, and then tumbleweed. I had kind of forgotten about it because they never got back in touch with me. SPFBO 2017 comes along, I enter Dreams, and again Charles and I talk about this and that and in a btw manner he says that two publishers were interested in working with me. I’m like WTF, staring at the screen, blinking, not quite comprehending what he was saying. I tell him that of the audiobook thingy nothing ever happened, and he said “Oh, they now want the whole package…” or something like it. I just had to get in touch with them. I did and a few days later the deal was signed.
Hob: So is the Audiobook in the works now then?
Ulff: Not yet, it’s in the deal, but for it to become a reality, sales figures need to warrant such an investment. I know the books are good, but so far only Dreams has been released, with the sequels I can prove I’m no one hit wonder.
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Ulff: It was never really a question of wanting to be a writer for me. It was a question of having to be a writer because everything else was killing me. I only realized that I had to be a writer during therapy when I realized that I couldn’t be content any other way.
- Sheep swallop and bloody buttered onions! What FRACKING side are you on of the fictional curse debate? Made up ones, real fucking ones or none. Any good oaths in your books?
Ulff: Oh I like to mix and match so to speak. The real ones are necessary, of course, I like the fucks and shits and cunts, they help drive points and emotions home. I also like contextual curses, things that are unique to a particular world.
“Gods piss on me” is a nice one I use for my stories, another is “Scales!” which came about because Ed Greenwood told me not to use “hell” due to the Judeo-Christian connotations. Since hell is where the asswipes go, and in my world the souls of the dead are weighed on the Scales of Justice, I figured “Bloody Scales” instead of “Bloody hell” would do nicely indeed.
- Have you ever had a side character try to steal the show? Would you like to go back and make a spin off series or something for them? Or is there a theme or idea you’d love to be able to explore in more depth?
Ulff: Not really, no. The reason for that is simple: I treat every viewpoint character as the center of their own story. In life each of us has their own story, with other people joining for periods and leaving again. While I do have a protagonist, Drangar, and he gets a lion’s share of the story, the other characters’ stories are just as important.
But there are tales that still need to be told, and I will get to them once Light in the Dark is done. The theme? Espionage.
- If you could read any book again for the first-time, what book would it be?
Ulff: A Game of Thrones. It’s the most pivotal book for me. Coming from the D&D worlds of fantastic fiction, I had, until then, never experienced this kind of narration, tight third person limited, and I fell in love with it and knew that’s the way for me to tell my stories.
- You are in your car when you see three magical doors floating in the street in front of you. A golden door, a diamond door and a silver door. Which door do you go through first?
Ulff: Silver, I’m not greedy, I don’t need gold or diamonds. Silver, enough to live without worries is enough for me.
Hob: You may not be greedy but you should go through the car door first.
Ulff: LOL Fair enough.
- English is not your first language. How many languages do you speak? Do you plot in German or English?
Ulff: Just English and German, and the drunk equivalents, of course. I switch back and forth rather easily, my mind usually runs in English, but when I talk to people here I naturally talk in German. As for plotting, all my notes are in English.
- Have you found any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
Ulff: Paper cuts and data loss.
- What is your favorite word? Least Favorite?
Ulff: Favorite: knowledge. Least favorite: believe.
- How many people have you killed over the course of your career? Real people first, then fictional.
Ulff: Killed, none, hospitalized two. Fictional people, hundreds.
- What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? Did it end up helping? Or did we just count that person in the last question?
Ulff: “That’s utter shit, the idea is nice but the execution is complete shit. Be more precise.”
Yep, it sure did help, and no, I ended up getting drunk with the guy who said it.
- What has been the best compliment?
Ulff: I love your story.
- Do you have any advice to give a new writer?
Ulff: Just gonna echo the “write what you know” bit, with a twist. Research can help you with the technical side but not with the emotional. If you’ve never felt the protectiveness concerning a week old toddler, don’t bother writing about such things. If you’ve never felt the rage and adrenalin rush of even a brawl, your combat will always seem flat, avoid it. It’s the emotional knowledge that counts in the saying, the rest can be learned.
Hob. Very well said, I agree.
- What was the last book you read? Was it any good?
Ulff: Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. I enjoyed it greatly.
Hob. Better than the movie?
Ulff: Different. The movie is a satire, the book is much more straightforward. I love what Heinlein did, and while I can see that people may interpret this as fascist, I’m not so sure. Can it be viewed that one way, the perpetuation of military people ruling? Sure. But the narrator, Rico, actually says that before the war people enlisting for federal service were made to scrub latrines and whatnot, doing a civil service. I think it would be tremendously beneficial if those in whatever government actually knew what the people they govern were facing.
- What one question do you think I should have asked you, but didn’t?
Ulff: “Why do you write in English?”
Hob. Why do you write in English? It is a difficult language to master but it can be understood through tough thorough thought though.
Ulff: I started my then rather inept writings in my native German. I became better, of course, but I was never able to fully say what I meant to say. People always say that you need to read, and believe me I read a LOT. Then, on a warm summer’s day, it struck me. Yes, I read a lot, but nothing I read was in German. Everything was in English. Why that was so is a whole other can of worms. Needless to say, I switched to English for a test run. A rather pathetic first run, as an American editor friend of mine noted at GenCon 2000, but it had people laughing, which was exactly what I intended. Thankfully by the time I met that friend, I had already written the first version of what would later become Shattered Dreams. She read an excerpt and told me based on that first sample alone she would have recommended for me to stop writing, now with the novel she revised her opinion.
I’ve been writing in English ever since.
- Do you have any questions for me?
Ulff: What did you think of Shattered Dreams? Will you read the sequels?
Hob. I already said it is a great book but I will add that you write fleshed out characters that for some reason really resonate with me and it hurts to see them go through all the shit you put them through, you heartless bastard! And yes I will definitely read the rest.
Ulff: Mwhahaha. Thank you!
Hob: And thank you for stopping in.