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Lisette Prendé

Lisette Prendé is an author, actor and tarot reader from Wellington. She has contributed to publications such as Stuff, The Spinoff and Headland Literary Journal. Bianca De Lumière is her first novel.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
When I first started reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss I very nearly gave up on it. The first 100 pages of the book were very slow. I found myself thinking, wow, how did this get past the literary agents? as they’re usually so obsessed with reading a fast and catchy first chapter. I think I put it down for a bit and read something else and when I came back to it suddenly I was hooked. I fell in love with Kvothe and his story. I not only finished that book but I went on read the rest of the series back to back. I’m eagerly awaiting the next book!
Do you try more to be original, or to deliver to readers what they want?
I tend to write about things that I am interested in. I follow my curiosities and go down rabbit holes of research, and then because the subject is on my mind, I use it in a fictional setting. So, I guess in that sense I try to be original with the content in my stories—I prefer to write about things I haven’t come across in books—though I do try to construct my story so that it’s satisfying for the reader but still bearing in mind that readers like a story that keeps them guessing and keeps them reading.
How do you select the names of your characters?
A lot of the time I hear an interesting name and the name actually inspires the story.
When I was writing my book Bianca De Lumiere, De Lumiere was a name I had been toying with for a while—for a short time I used the name Madame De Lumiere as my Tarot reading alter ego. I loved the way it looked on paper and sounded on the tongue. I loved how it meant ‘of light.’ Around the same time I had a dream in which a very pale girl was running through the forest, moonlight reflecting off her bare skin. There was something about her, something supernatural, and she wasn’t alone in the forest.

Over the next few days the rest of the story came to me through odd synchronicities. A friend told me in conversation that the name Bianca is Italian for white and it just clicked my head: The girl in my dream was called Bianca and I needed to tell her story.

What was the first book that made you cry?
My mum read me the Hobbit when I was around nine and I remember us both crying toward the end when a well loved member of the group dies. I also remember crying for a whole day after reading the Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
I would have started writing earlier and allowed myself to simply write, without the pressure of writing well.
I wrote a lot of poetry when I was younger but I didn’t start writing fiction until much later. At school in the 90s there wasn’t a lot of fantasy or sci-fi encouraged. It was very much about writing about what we knew—growing up in New Zealand. If I could give my teenage self some advice it would be not to ‘write about what you know’, but write about whatever you freaking want! Write about witches and magic and faeries, write about fantastical beings you’ve completely made up. It doesn’t have to be about native birds and it definitely doesn’t have to be real.
Have you Googled yourself? Did you find out anything interesting?

Ooh not for a while! But as I work as an actor and writer there is always something to find. Hopefully the first thing you’d find would be my website, lisetteprende.com.

Are there any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? Can you tell us one? Or give us any hints?

There are little Easter eggs all through my books. Ones that my friends, family and fellow kiwis would pick up on but others may not. There are some shout outs to New Zealand, to my dutch heritage and music and pop culture I like.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Why?

I think if I decided to write erotica I would consider it. My kids (eight and eleven) are already devastated that I have a TikTok account! Imagine if I wrote erotica too!

How did publishing your first book change your writing process?

I was to total ‘pantser’ when I wrote my first book. I didn’t have a clear narrative arc in mind, I just went for it, and even though I think a bit of pantsing is helpful to allow yourself to get into a state of flow, I have decided having a basic story line in mind helps with the fear of ‘oh god, what next?’ I am now writing my second book and I have adopted the ‘wall planning method’.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

About four at the moment! One I am currently working on, one I have shelved for now, another I really want to get back to before I lose the connection to it and another that is in it’s early planning stages. 

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?

I’m an only child so I never really had an inside glimpse into how boys transition into men. I never really saw teenage boys in vulnerable or emotionally open states—like with a parent. I guess I learnt a lot of it from movies and it probably helps that I am highly intuitive so I probably picked up more than I realise. I have two sons so I’m learning a lot about boys and men watching them grow.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I have been so far. At this stage I just see any review as publicity! It means people are reading my work and that is such a great feeling. I take in everything I read as a helpful critique but as a lot of the reviews contradict each other I find I just need to shrug and say ‘one person’s breakfast is another person’s pudding.’