|Lauren Sweet, Author||
_My love of the written word began with Go, Dog, Go and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and with a Little Golden Book about a goat that gets a bucket stuck on its head. When I was three and a half and no one would read me the goat book as often as I wanted, I learned to read it myself. I haven’t stopped reading since.
I guess it was inevitable that I would turn to writing, though I’ve gone through a few other jobs on the way—pizza delivery driver, dance instructor, and real estate title searcher, to name a few. After that I spent about fifteen years in business administration before moving to Alaska to get a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage. I’m currently a full-time freelance writer and editor living just outside Portland, Oregon.
_My favorite genres are mystery, sci-fi and fantasy. I especially love mythic fiction: fiction which is inspired by, or uses elements of myth and folklore. Other esoteric skills include astrology, tarot card reading, figure skating, and the ability to do a perfect split.
__What are you writing now?
_I’m working on the second book in the Amber and Jasper series—the Samovar Mysteries. In the first book, Aladdin’s Samovar, Amber Polaski buys an antique brass samovar that turns out to have a seriously hot genie in it. She makes a wish to find her long-lost father, only to find that he’s on the run from the Mafia. People get shot at, shrink wrapped, and pounced on by a pack of Happy Puppies—and Amber is forced to defend herself against Mafia assassins with common household appliances.
_In this next book, I’m developing some of the secondary characters from the first one—primarily Iggy, a homeless midget who’s been secretly living in the warehouse at the plastic bottle manufacturing plant where Amber works. He’s a former carnival performer, and drags Amber, Jasper and Indigo off to help him rescue a friend from his carnie days. There’s a murdered clown, buried treasure, a midget cowboy show, and a very scary ventriloquist’s dummy. Plus a little romance, and hopefully a lot of laughs!
_Do you write other things besides the Amber and Jasper books?
Yup! I’m also working on a novel about a dark angel who comes to earth and falls in love with a diner waitress in Montana. That actually sounds kind of humorous (now that I’m reading over the description) and there is a little humor in it (I can’t stop myself). But it’s darker and more serious than the Amber and Jasper books. I’m also planning some short stories based on the Amber and Jasper series. Stay tuned!_
__Why does Jasper live in a samovar instead of a lamp or a bottle?
_Hell if I know. I don’t even remember how I came up with that idea. But it makes him a little different, which is fun. And I like saying the word. Samovar…samovar…samovar…it just rolls off the tongue.
__What the heck is a samovar, anyway?
_It’s a kind of portable tea urn that was historically used in Russia, the Middle East, and parts of Asia, usually made of brass or copper (there’s a picture of one on the cover of Aladdin’s Samovar). It has a big rounded hot water reservoir with a spigot, with a sort of chimney that goes up through the center of it. People would put coal in the chimney, light it, and it would burn slowly, keeping the water hot for hours. Often they would perch a teapot on top of the chimney, to keep the tea warm after it was brewed. Samovars can be very plain, or extremely ornate. Google some pictures—there are some really beautiful ones.
__How did you get the inspiration for Aladdin’s Samovar?
_When I was getting my Master’s degree in creative writing, I started a short story about Amber finding the genie in her samovar. I never finished it, because in that version she had only one wish (trying to keep the short in short story), and I couldn’t figure out what she wanted most.
_At one point, while trying to revise that story, I had a conversation with a classmate who said that since Amber had never known her father, her greatest wish would be to meet him. (That was a head-smack moment for me; those things always seem so obvious once someone points them out to you.)
_But I still couldn’t figure out how to fit such a big relationship moment into a short story, so I let it drop. Three years later, I pulled the story out again. Suddenly, I wondered what would happen if Amber found her father, but he wasn’t what she expected—if he were, say, on the run from the Mob. I immediately realized that could be the jumping-off point for a novel—or even a series. And Aladdin’s Samovar was born.
__Do any of your characters resemble you in any way?
_Not physically. Amber has a few bits and pieces of my life—she used to do gymnastics (which I did a little bit), and she works in a plastic bottle manufacturing plant, which I once did. But what we mostly have in common is our martyr complex about supposedly being expected to take charge of everything. Only, Amber gets to say all kinds of things that I'm too polite to say out loud.
_Indigo represents my New Age, spiritual side—except magnified by about a thousand. I would love to have her perfect faith in the Universe, and her absolute disregard for what anyone thinks about her. But she can keep the caftans.
_I also have a well-hidden, Gemini-moon-induced desire to mess with people, just for the fun of it. I almost never act on it, because then I would feel bad. So I invented Jasper to do it for me. It’s really fun to write a character who isn’t bound by human conventions, and whose motives aren’t explicable in human terms.
_What do you like to do to relax?
_One of my favorite things to do is kick back on my Hundred-Acre Couch with a cup of Dunkin Donuts hazelnut coffee, a cozy blanket and a pile of novels (or a stocked-up Kindle!). When I’m on vacation, I can easily go through a book a day. I also ice skate—I take figure skating lessons and once in a while I do a competition—jumps, spins, spangly dress and all. And I love to sing Karaoke—mostly cheesy country songs.
_If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?
_Or we could go with world peace, ending hunger, and cleaning up the Texas-sized island of plastic garbage in the middle of the Pacific ocean.