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November 16, 2019 November 16, 2019

Local writers make a dynamic duo

Posted on August 7, 2019 by Richard Amery

Local writers Megan Fennell and Leslie Van Zwol are excited to have their story “Earthbound” included in a new anthology, “Earth: Giants, Golems and Gargoyles,” which is to be released at the When Words Collide festival Aug. 9-11 in Calgary.
“Our story, ‘Earthbound’, will be appearing in the upcoming anthology ‘Earth: Giants, Golems, & Gargoyles,’ edited by the terrific Rhonda Parrish, who is also an Alberta-based author. (This follows the fire-themed anthology ‘Fire: Demons, Dragons & Djinns,’ in which we also have a story.) Our tale revolves around a dragon-less dragon-rider in a grubby urban world who teams up with an iron dragon currently dwelling and sulking in an underground parkade for a good old-fashioned treasure heist. It’s been lovingly referred to as ‘Dragon Indiana Jones,’ which is completely accurate,” they write in an email.
Van Zwol and Fennell met as co-workers and have been writing together five years write under the pen name V.F. LeSann.
“We originally met as co-workers and bonded through a love of literature. We’ve been co-writing for about five years but have both been writing independently prior to that as well. The name ‘V.F. LeSann’ is a mash-up of both of our names, although we like to joke that it stands for Victor Frankenstein, and was probably the toughest thing we’ve jointly produced,” they continued, adding a co-write begins with a concept.
“Typically, one of us will come up with a concept that we verbally hash out before one of us starts writing. Then we’ll throw it over to the other author, who’ll edit and re-write the parts already on paper and continue the story from that point, and so on back and forth until the draft is finished. Editing takes place side by side in the same room and, perhaps surprisingly, hasn’t resulted in bloodshed so far,” they add.
In addition to releasing their new story this month, they will also be speaking at the festival.
“We’ll be on panel for the publisher of the ‘Earth’ anthology, Tyche books, called ‘Tyche Presents,’ with other authors published by Tyche (a Calgary-based publishing house!). The anthology will also be launching at When Words Collide — last year the ‘Fire’ anthology sold out, so we’re hoping for a repeat! We are also doing a panel with our wonderful friend, Cat McDonald (another Alberta-authoress) about RPG’s. We try to get to as many writing conventions as we can, including Pure Spec in Edmonton and Creative Ink out in Burnaby, British Columbia,” they noted.
They are fans of science fiction authors Neil Gaiman, Lara Elena Donnelly, Cat Valentine, Kelly Sue DeConnick, V.E. Schwab, Chuck Wendig, Victor LaValle, Tamora Pierce, Joe Hill and Sarah Rees Brennan. They have been published through Tyche Books, World Weaver Press and Edge Publishing, but have never self-published their works.
“No, we’ve never self-published, though props to those who’ve got the stomach for it,” they noted.
Fennell is also an actor, drummer and artist, though she doesn’t do the cover art for the books.
“Luckily, being traditionally published, the publishing houses take care of cover art, formatting, binding, and all that good stuff that the self-pubbed crew has to figure out from scratch. (Again, props to them!) I’m a last-minute dasher who needs to be dragged kicking and screaming to the keyboard, and Leslie goes into a Sherlock-esque focus while in the zone, but somehow it works.”
Their stories can be found on Amazon and Goodreads under V.F. LeSann or Megan Fennell and Leslie Van Zwol.
“The room to play in the world of sci-fi is limitless, so why would we restrain ourselves to just writing about the here and now? The world is more interesting to us with more bends and cracks in the rigid reality we actually live in. I would describe our style as ‘speculative fiction’, though we’ve ranged as far as android-narrated, deep-space sci-fi (‘Nautilus: 20,000 Light Years Above the Sea’) to dystopian Western (‘Riders in the Sky’). Our only rule is not to do the same thing twice in a row,” they enthused.
A compilation they are included in, “Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinns,” was shortlisted for an Alberta Publishing award.
“It was really unexpected but a honour to hear! Any notoriety for the publisher, editor, and our co-contributors makes us so, so happy! Writing is a team sport and it’s always a treat to have the book get some street cred! Our story in the Fire anthology is called ‘Old Flames’ and is about the trials and tribulations of a demon lord working as a research scientist in the glaciers of Iceland. You know, that old trope,” they noted.
They are always working on new projects.
“As is the way with publishing, we’re always working on something that we “can’t talk about just yet.” It’s a slow process, but just know we’re always writing our way through something, and once we get the green light, we let people know via our Facebook page (V.F. LeSann). Although, editor Rhonda Parrish has some submission calls upcoming on her website, so if anyone wants to join us in an anthology, head over to her website and see if the call is your flavour,” they wrote.
As females writing in the traditionally male dominated science fiction field, Fennell and Van Zwol have faced a few challenges.
“Writing in general boasts many challenges — it’s a big pond with many fish. You have to hustle with all your gumption, you have to risk rejection, and if you are rejected, you have to get back up and go hustle again. The sci-fi writing game is an old boys club, so you have to hit it like a Mack truck to break in there, and even if you do, you have to hit it again and again. The fact is that the door isn’t as easily opened if you’re a woman; you are constantly belittled, condescended, and underestimated by people with fewer writing credits than you. Just keep being the truck, find a writing crew that supports you and your art, and drive that truck through the door of their club,” they noted.
“All metaphors aside: our writing group has both men and women in it. Writing is better when you’re on a team. Once you drive that truck in, offer someone else a hand up. The world is better with more books, by diverse authors, who can offer alternative perspectives. The world is better for it.”
They enjoy the writing process.
“I don’t think there’s any great end goal of writing for either of us. I write because I don’t know how not to. If I had a choice of picking a passion, there are plenty out there that will garner an easier, more fruitful bounty. It’s a chance to create something out of nothing and there’s power in that,” they wrote, noting Lethbridge has a very strong writing community.
“There’s absolutely a good crew of writers in Lethbridge, many of whom we consider great friends, with some very strong genre fiction writers in the mix! I (Megan) was a member of the Riverbottom Writers group for several years and loved the support and enthusiasm there.”

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