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Interview with Judith Moffitt

There were several formative experiences from her childhood that made Judy into the writer she is today. As a child, she was too smart for a girl and got ostracized and bullied at school. She got no support at home either because her father was emotionally and then sexually abusive. It took decades before she was able to say that out loud. As a result, she never married or had children (unless you count her dogs). But she lived in sin with a man for 26 years until his death in 2008.

Most of Judy’s jobs were analytical in nature, and her work has themes about the aftermath because so much of her life has revolved around dealing with the aftermath of abuse, bullying, death, rape, sexual assault, and harassment. However, that doesn't mean everything she writes is dark; there are beautiful moments of love, humor, and joy in the aftermath.

As an adult, she spent years learning to live with depression and anxiety. Then, in 2003, she wrote fanfic for a little-known show called Firefly. She thought it had the beginning of an idea for a novel. She couldn't publish in that universe, so she took her idea to her own universe and developed her own characters. But life and work got in the way. Judy published that novel on Amazon in September 2020.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I have fractal art on permanent display in the Math Department of Longwood University.

Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?
The next book is coming soon. I am currently doing the final major edit and then a couple of polishing rounds, and it will be ready to publish. It’s the story of an old woman Mage who is called on to save the world one more time. Only this time, she has arthritis in her hips, her knees hurt, she is oh so tired, and she is out of practice with magic. So, along with her three dragon bandmates (who hide in plain sight as dogs) and members of the King’s Guard, she sets off to take care of the Dark Mage, who wants to conquer the world.

Q.3 What made you write Unwanted?
I come from a family of teachers, so naturally, I wanted to write a book about a school. And I wanted to show that there is much more going on at a school than the students are aware of. And I wanted to show how the various unwanteds were capable of doing much more than their society expects out of orphans, disabled children, gang members, former slaves, and just plain unwanted children. So many had had times in their lives when they were told they weren’t good enough or that their dreams were not possible. This book is for them.

Unwanted is the story of a school for unwanted children. It is told through the eyes of Lydi, a student at the school, and Tessaline, the blind Headmistress who once attended the school herself. To complicate the school year, a group known as the Council of Freedom is creating incidents in an effort to close the school down to prevent the rise of the middle class that the school is partially responsible for and the nobles resent.

Q.4 Do you feel any competitive pressure from fantasy films? If not, why?
Not at all. I’m not writing the kind of books that make big splashy movies.

Q.5 What is one stereotype about fantasy writers is absolutely wrong? What one stereotype is dead on?
Fantasy writing must be easy because you can just make stuff up. Oh please. It’s hard to develop a consistent magical system or design history for your world or invent a religion or any of a million details you need in writing fantasies.

On the other hand, the idea that a fantasy author doesn’t live in the real world is entirely true. We live in the worlds in our heads. Imagined worlds become more real than the real world.

Q.6 Do you ever research real events, legends, or myths to get ideas?
Well, sure. And sometimes, even a simple news story will give you an idea. One book I’m working on right now is inspired by both Downton Abbey and My Fair Lady with magic thrown in. Another has elements of late 19th century Egypt. I recently read a story about some guy in Finland or Norway who painted his reindeer's antlers with bioluminescent paint to make them easy to find. Very soon now, a creature with magically glowing antlers is going to appear in one of my stories.

Q.7 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
People are people. I don’t think men are all that hard to write. It is hard to remember that most of them aren’t five foot one inch tall and that they can reach things that I just can’t and that they can use their arm and hand strength more effectively because not only do they have more muscle mass, but they have better leverage. On the other hand, I’ve lived my whole life in a world designed for people taller than I am and people with larger hands.

Q.8 Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?
Gory - not in the slightest bit interested in that.

Erotic - I’m not a prude; I might find that more acceptable, but, alas, when I write an erotic scene, it never feels authentic. Of course, my boyfriend died in 2008, and I haven’t had a date since then, so that might be part of it. And I was never a romantic, and I think well-written erotic scenes probably need an element of romanticism unless you are writing straight-up porn.

Q.9 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
Four published and one almost ready to be published. My favorite is Rising from the Ashes. It is the last book of a space opera trilogy, and it is entirely about the aftermath of a war. The big climax of my trilogy actually happens in book 2, To the Bitter End, instead of in Rising. I wanted to do that because most stories never tell enough of the aftermath. In real life, the aftermath takes up far more of the story than the events leading up to it. How did these events or this event change the characters? How do they cope with those changes? Did the events change the politics of the governments? How do the governments deal with the number of disabled and dead coming out of a war? I find those types of questions terribly interesting, and I wanted a chance to explore those ideas.

Q.10 How do you select the name of your characters?
Mostly, I just make them up or use the fantasy name generator or the name generator in Scrivener. The name generators are particularly helpful when I want a particular ethnic background for a character.

Q.11 What fantasy realm would you choose to live in and why?
I’m currently writing a book about a magical butler in a land called Albi. I want to live there. If I have to pick a well-known universe, I lean toward being a Hobbit, so Middle Earth.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
I write multiple books simultaneously. If I get stuck, I shift to a different story. What is important is to consistently write daily. Sure, I miss some days due to other obligations, because I don’t feel well, or because I’m busy editing, but almost never because I can’t think of what to write. But I am currently working on three fantasies, a new science fiction series, and a book of short stories about Swords. And I have over 30 other ideas I haven’t had a chance to work on yet. So I’m never stuck for something I can write.

Q.13 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
You can’t learn anything from a review you didn’t read. I may or may not agree, but I need to know how readers view what I write.

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
If I really want to push through a difficult spot in a book, I put on the Hu and listen to Mongolian hard rock while I write. That driving beat always makes me write more words.

Q.15 Outside of your family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author?
Amazon? Actually, I really want to thank the Muse Writer’s Center in Norfolk, Virginia. I take workshops there and have learned so much.

Q.16 Who designed your book covers? How do you select him/her?
I’m retired, so my income for getting covers is extremely limited. I used Someone in one of my writing groups recommended them, and I’ve been happy with their work. And their price is very reasonable.

Q.17 What three things should readers expect from your books?
A. 1. 
Representation. I was in my thirties before I ran across a fictional character that reminded me of me. I want people of all kinds to feel that they exist in stories. After all, they exist in the real world. I see no reason why a story should be mainly about white men. They are a minority. And they have had way too much representation.

2. Strong emotions. A story has to touch the heart.

3. Politics (not US politics). Every workplace, every school, every government, every society has politics. They affect the stories you can tell.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
A. Admiral Grace Hopper
. She’s been a hero for a long time, and I’d love to compare notes with her on working with the Navy.

Q.19 What is your favorite book by other authors and why?
A. Cyteen
by C J Cherryh. Lots of interesting ideas not only on cloning bodies but personalities and how personality is affected by upbringing, genetics, and physical environment.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
When I started writing my first book, I never thought I would actually finish it, let alone publish it. It seemed like an impossibility. And here I am, less than a year after publishing my first book, with four published and more in the pipeline. I’ve had so much help along the way, and that is much appreciated. So thank you to my teachers and fellow students at The Muse Writers Center, the members of my online writing groups, my friend and best editor, my Browncoat buddies who encouraged me to write fanfic, and my sister.

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