MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR REBECCA LAFFAR-SMITH
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
Hi, I’m Rebecca Laffar-Smith and I write Y.A. Science Fiction and Fantasy. I also write kids books with my two children under the name Bec J. Smith but sci-fi/fantasy is my first love. I’m a big fan of stories that make us believe in what could be possible.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
When you ask this I have to think about which book to talk about. My latest release was a complete diversion from what I normally write. My 14-year-old son has a YouTube channel and dreams of being a pro-gamer so we play a lot of video games. Including a trending favorite, Fortnite. While I was helping edit his videos for his channel I found a story there I couldn’t resist telling. Ultimately, it was destined for the Bec J. Smith penname, but the first draft came out full of violence and swear words, so I published that version as Solo 7 under my own name for adult fans of LitRPG, and then GameNite became the middle grade version for kids.
But my other two books are more in keeping with what I truly love to write. Last year I released the first book in the Children of Nar Chronicles, City of Light. It’s about two teenage clones, sisters, who are the last hope of a mission to save Nar from a disaster that blocked out their sun two hundred years ago. The fascinating thing about this story, is it wasn’t originally mine. It was a challenge in The Smarter Artist group where forty writers all created their versions of a story from the same story outline. We all diverged from the outline and told the version truest to our voice and I was delighted by the story that came from that experiment. Now I’m working on book two in the series, but I didn’t have a story outline to work from this time and am having to find my way through the story myself.
And then finally, there’s The Flight of Torque, which was my debut. And that’s the book that’s had the oddest journey. It started with a dream, and I don’t normally dream (and I don’t see pictures when I do dream) which is part of why it was so odd. But in the dream a girl, tormented by her inner demons, throws herself off the roof of a church and her wingless guardian angle dives after her. From that The Flight of Torque evolved, and a sequel, and then two prequels, and now a ten book series that’s forcing me to work really hard to bring it all together. I’m actually writing all ten before releasing any of them because I want the story arc to be cohesive and each time I write a book in the series I’m finding new treasures to include in the others. The Flight of Torque, which will be Flight of the Charmed when it’s republished, is actually book five in that series. But the whole series is still at least two years from completion. Especially since I have other projects in my production schedule that are more urgent.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy. My earliest memories of the genre include family movie nights watching Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and Star Wars, of course. And I grew up reading The Wishing Chair and Lord of the Rings. Despite all that, I tinkered with all kinds of writing when I was younger. At the age of twelve I was an internationally award winning poet.
In my teen years, I’d written a few very terrible stories: an epic fantasy the likes of the Belgariad and a teenage, angst-ridden literary fiction about a girl learning to surf while getting over the death of her mother and her transition to a new town.
But, I truly discovered that my passion was for science fiction and fantasy, and the way the two can combine, when I read The Ancient Future Trilogy by Traci Harding. In those books, Traci managed to bring together metaphysics and myth in a way that transported me, fully believing, into the ultimate possibility of her stories. I discovered that those were the kinds of stories I wanted to tell. The kind where enough is completely true or possible, that the fantastic becomes entirely plausible.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
City of Light has been the most fun to research. For The Flight of Torque and the Blood of the Nagaran series I’ve researched snakes and venom, angels, medicine, and used Google Maps to wander the streets and real estate websites to house hunt for locations. But City of Light had me learning about ion engines, space flight, genetics and cloning, and all kinds of brink of breakthrough technology. It’s really exciting to see how plausible long distance space flight is becoming. Humanity is on the very edge of taking giant leaps out into the stars.
My research for City of Light coincided with Elon Musk’s reusuable thrusters and sending a car into orbit so the timing was kind of perfect. We’re making new discoveries about the universe beyond our little planet and it’s exciting to imagine what might be out beyond the edges of our solar system.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I’m working on a Lifelong Writing Habit (inspired by Chris Fox’s book) that includes daily writing but I’ve struggled the past nine months since I moved back home to help take care of my aging parents. When it was just my two kids and I, we had a really solid routine. I would write between 7am and 8.30am every morning, usually managing 1,500-2,000 words. I’d do administration and marketing work in the morning, homeschool my children in the afternoon, have a family dinner on the table by 6.30pm every evening, and then write again from 7pm to 9pm each night. I loved that routine.
Now that I live with my parents my time doesn’t feel like my own and creating a routine is really hard. My mother wakes at all hours of the day or night. My father comes and goes all the time. He is in charge of dinner because he doesn’t eat what I’d cook but that means dinner is anywhere from 6pm to 9pm. On the rare occasions I manage to get to sleep before midnight, people coming in to talk to me while I’m trying to work inevitably interrupt my 7am writing block. It’s insane and frustrating.
But, it’s a new year, and I’m committed to making this work. I know I’ll be here for at least the next seven to ten years helping to look after my father as his health declines and I know I want to continue to be productive during that time. I need to write, for my own sanity, so this year I’m working harder than ever to carve out the time and get some semblance of routine back. So far I’m not always successful, but I’ve at least managed to find a couple of hours a day to work on the writing.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
I’ve currently got three books taking priority, each with varying stages of urgency. City of Quartz is the sequel to City of Light. Wish, Niah, and Tye travel to the Sekya System in search of a cure to save Niah’s life. It’s slated for a May 21st release and there’s a lot of work still to be done so it’s relatively urgent.
Will of Destiny is book zero in the multi-generational Blood of the Nagaran series and tells the origin of the Nagaran curse. When I release the ten book series, book zero will be exclusive to my mailing list subscribers. But the series is on a longer timeline and won’t be released until at least 2021 so it’s less urgent.
And I also have a new series, as yet unnamed, which involves a school of elite magic users, demons, and a girl who has no idea of the depths of her as yet untapped power. This series is for a publisher and we’re looking to do three books in the series by the end of 2019. Writing this series with a publisher waiting for pages helps keep me motivated to finish, and it’s exactly the kind of story I love to tell so I’m really keen to get to the words each day.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
Character names are very important. I strongly believe that characters, people, and pets all live into the names we give them. I know this is true because we once named a puppy, Fizzgig, after the fuzzy furball in The Dark Crystal. He grew up to be a yappy, snappy, monster of a mutt that couldn’t be friendly with anyone. We named another Toby after the baby in Labyrinth and he was the sweetest, most gentle, guileless creature you’d ever meet. And we now have a dog we called Carson, after Dr. Carson Beckett from Stargate, and he’s proving to be a perfect service animal for my son. He’s full of affection, kindness, and always knows when someone needs help.
The same has been true of my characters, too. While there’s no particular special meaning to the names I’ve given my characters, I do find myself working to make sure I give my characters the “right” name. Thankfully, this is something I find relatively easy. I think I have a sixth sense for names. And I love watching the way characters come to live into their names as their stories unfold.
Where do your ideas come from?
Ideas are absolutely everywhere. I think the biggest challenge new writers face when trying to figure out where ideas come from is they’re too obsessed with finding “good” ideas. I’ve found more and more that any idea has the potential to be great. All of them, even the most terrible, are often the strokes of a bigger picture. We just have to have the courage to say, “yes”, to even the most inane or insane ideas. And follow those ideas down their rabbit holes to see where we end up.
These days, the bigger challenge is that I have so many ideas but never enough time to write all the stories I want to write. From the books I’ve currently got on my “to be written” list I probably have an easy decade of work ahead of me and new ideas still keep coming!
Is there a genre that you’ve wanted to experiment with?
To be honest, I just want to dive all in on Urban Fantasy at the moment.
The past few years I’ve felt kind of sidelined by the children’s fiction. We started writing children’s books when my son was eleven years old and struggling to read. Now he’s fourteen and a capable reader so the urgency of writing those books has decreased, but we need to finish the twelve book P.I. Penguin series for our readers.
And, as much as I love the sci-fi I’m writing with the Children of Nar Chronicles, I’m looking forward to wrapping that series too.
So 2019 and 2020 are all about closing boxes by finishing my children’s books and the Chornicles of Nar. Then, I have several ideas for Urban Fantasy stories, and I’m looking forward to being able to focus exclusively on those.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Is this a trick question? My best accomplishment is clearly my two fabulous children. They’re the light of my life. Although, I’m very proud of my author career, too.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Sharing stories with readers. I love being able to capture people’s imaginations, to take them into my worlds and help them escape reality even if just for a few hours. Even more than that, I love feeling like I leave my readers with a sense of wonder. I hope readers go away from my books imagining what could be possible, and asking if maybe, just maybe, there’s something more than what we’ve seen with our own eyes. That maybe, something bigger than us, exists either in this world or beyond.
Of course, part of what makes this the best thing is when I hear from readers either through emails, messages, or reviews. Feeling like I’m connecting with readers is what fills me up as a creative. Sometimes, when I’m working on long novels or series it can feel like I’m writing into a void. Hearing from my readers shines a light from the other side of that void which I can write toward. It’s my readers that get me from one book to the next.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
My daughter, also an avid fantasy writer, and I have big plans. In ten years we’d like to be opening a farm stay creative retreat just outside of Perth here in Western Australia. I’ll have dozens more books by then and split my time between writing and teaching. I enjoy public speaking so I’m looking forward to doing more of that, including doing more international travel for business.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Just start and learn as you go. A lot of people get so hung up on trying to get things right. But I’ve found I learn more and faster by just diving right into a creative project and learning from my mistakes along the way. You’ll learn more spending a year writing several books than you will from any creative writing class. If you immerse yourself in story and write book length work from beginning to end you’ll find yourself improving with every book you write. So start… Stop waiting for the right time, or for when you know enough, or for when you get permission from a gatekeeper, and just begin. Start today.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
I’d probably be a teacher. I was just finishing my first year of a Bachelor of Education when I discovered my son was Autistic, struggling in school, and I decided to homeschool him. I really loved learning about education, and one of the joys of writing children’s books has been the opportunity to go into classrooms and teach creative writing to children.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I do read them, good or bad, but I don’t respond to them. In the industry it’s frowned on to respond. When readers “feel” the presence of the author when they’re leaving a review they tend to be more censored. Some will opt not to review, even if they had only positive things to say, so it’s usually better to be invisible in that space.
But I DO read them, because I want to always be giving my readers what they want and reviews are a great way of finding out what they love or hate so that I can give them more of what they love and less of what they hate.
With bad reviews, I remind myself that not everyone is my audience. My stories speak to a certain kind of reader and not everyone who discovers my books are a right fit for them. I can’t control who chooses to read, or who chooses to review, so instead, I just focus on writing the best books for MY kind of reader. I write the kind of books that should resonate with my specific audience. And I trust that those readers will always outnumber the wrong-fit readers who sometimes stumble upon my work.
What is your least favorite part of the writing / publishing process?
To be honest, it’s the writing part. lol I know, that sounds insane, but for me it’s the hardest part. Actualizing the stories that are in my head and getting them down on the page is difficult. Authors often talk about “hearing” their characters or “seeing” the story play out in their head, but I have a condition called Aphantisia, which means I don’t “see” pictures in my mind’s eye. I don’t hear the voices of my characters and I don’t see the action take place in my imagination. I conceptualize, but then I have to piece together my concepts so that the characters and story immerges.
We use the word “imagination” when we talk about this kind of creativity. And it wasn’t until I discovered aphantasia that I realized the word doesn’t accurately describe the ability to create new ideas from nothing. It implies “images” and being able to see those ideas. But even though I can’t “see” it, I can’t technically “imagine” it, I can create. But I suspect it is one of the reasons I find the writing part so hard.
I love to do outlines because I know how stories work and can conceptualize how they should unfold. And I love editing because it involves working with words to really carve out the stories true beauty from the mess on the page. I even enjoy doing layouts and publishing. But the writing part, that’s hard. And yet, I yearn to tell my stories so much that I work at putting them on paper so that others can enjoy them.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
Tasty morsel? How about the opening chapter from City of Quartz? 😉
After six orbits of rising suns, I’d gotten used to riding out through a greening scrubland. The black murk of the shadowlands had given way to blue skies. The earth had sprouted with life. Even the eagrim, heavy winged creatures with fanged teeth and haunting, squinted eyes, had mellowed as plants and insects flourished. Over weeks, the bleak and barren land had transformed into blossoming beauty.
Now the wonderland has a new kind of beauty. An eerie, white beauty, that steels my breath away in misty puffs. The blasting chill of icy air cuts against my cheeks.
The green shoots of fresh life lie buried beneath a blanket of frosted flakes. The echo of Oliver’s genetic memories in my mind calls it “snow”, but I’ve never seen it before. Even Tye had freaked out when we’d seen it through the windows of Elixr two days ago. No one on Nar remembers winter. No one but me, and Niah.
I guess that’s the advantage of being alien clones of long dead men. We remember the world before the darkness.
It’s a blessing and a curse.
Sometimes I wonder if my thoughts are mine, or if they’re his. The Lord of Light, the one who’d tried to kill us, and doom Nar to an eternity of sunless skies.
Now, zooming over the hills, mini-zip rumbling softly beneath me, I let the cold wind whip my hair back from my face. The stretch of empty land around me makes my freedom feel complete. No more rooms to clean, rations to sort, measurements to check. Elixr was space-ready, and as soon as we figure out how to get where we need to go we’ll be leaving Nar behind.
I squint against the blinding frost as I crest another rise. There’s supposed to be a lake between me and the city. But a large, ice pit has replaced it. The domed city rises behind it like a noble sentry, standing guard over the inhospitable wilderness.
Against the rim of the frozen lake I see movement. At first I think it’s probably a stray tiolf. The furry, four-legged beasts lap from water sources like these. But as I slow the mini-zip against the lake’s banks, I see more clearly the dark navy shirt and ribbed pleats of the young boy’s clothing.
He leans precariously close to the water’s edge. The golden flecks of light in his tawny hair and the cheeky grin on his face remind me of my friend Casper. This boy is younger though, maybe only six narcycles.
Tentatively, he treads his boot on the ice. He slips a little then steps his other foot onto the surface.
With a slight wobble, he glides out a little way from the edge.
I tilt my head, curious but concerned. We are just two circuits into the frost; there’s no telling how solid that lake is.
“Careful,” I call out. The wind whips my voice away. He doesn’t even look up. My chest lurches and my breath catches as I see the splinter of ice give way. The boy plunges down into the inky depth beneath the white surface.
I nudge the mini-zip forward and rev the engines, gliding directly across the lake. The ice crackles beneath the mini-zip as the hover jets blast a wake of frosty waves behind me. It’s quicker than going around.
I reach the hollow where he’d disappeared in two deccas but the swirl in my stomach is terrified I’m already too late. I don’t know medicine like Jenin does but even I, or maybe the genetic Oliver memories, know that a child that size can freeze to death or drown in the heartbeat from one decca to the next.
I tilt the mini-zip as I approach the hole in the frosted surface of the lake. The ice beneath me is thicker than the edges but I drop to it carefully and let the mini-zip glide away. It slams harmlessly into a drift at the edge of the lake. I lay, winded, on the hard ice about a quarter-furlong from the gaping hole that gives way to the chilly waters below.
With careful movements, I shimmy over the ice. I try to keep my weight evenly spread and wince as the frost chills through the mamot leather gloves that cover my fingers. I’m shivering as I reach the edge of the pool and gaze down into the murky ink abyss.
I breath again when I see him, one arm flailing as he tries to reach upward. Thrashing against the water is a very good sign. He’s still alive. As I take the moment to gather myself, his flailing stops. Beneath the water I see him convulse, then grow lax. The freezing lake seems to suck him downward, tugging him toward a watery death.
I thrust myself over the edge to catch him before he drifts out of reach. The icy water burns across my face and slicks down my back as I plunge almost to my waist. But I press my lips together against the instinct to suck a breath into my lungs and instead reach, grip the boy’s shirt, and yank him up to the surface. I haul him over the edge.
His small body is limp in my arms. As I pull backward and roll over, I hear the splinter of the ice beneath me. The boy’s weight crushes me from above. It presses us both into the crunching ice of the lake. I draw a breath and glance at the bank of the lake, at safety.
I bite my lip as I glance at the boy’s blue skin and closed eyes. The sharp sound of the ice splintering pushes me to action. I wrap my arms around him and push myself, and him, into a roll that takes us across the ice. His body is heavy and cold in my arms but I leverage against our momentum to travel the short distance.
The boy hits the ground hard. I try to stop myself from crashing into him but feel his chest compress beneath mine as we slam into the snowdrift. We’re just feet from the mini-zip, and thankfully, on solid ground.
He starts coughing, spluttering a gagging breath as he spits up water. I sit up and reach toward him, pulling him upright so that he can clear his lungs. “It’s okay,” I whisper, my own voice tight. “Just breath. You’re okay.”
He gazes up at me. His blue lips quiver. I notice how pale his skin still is as his teeth begin to chatter. I can feel the chill myself, shivering through the layers I’d put on earlier. I glance around, searching for help, but there’s no one else at the lake’s edge.
“Where is your mother? Your family?” I ask the boy.
He gazes up at me, lips quivering, but does not say a word. I turn toward the domed city. It’s only a short distance. Despite the fact that the surface of Nar was habitable again, most of the citizens of the City of Light had remained within the dome rather than venture outside. It was probably a good thing since they couldn’t be prepared for this winter. But right now it meant the unwelcoming city was the only help on hand. The Elixr was too far away.
I push myself to my feet. “Let’s go to the city. You need to get warm.”
I glance down, ready to help the boy to his feet, but his eyes are closed again and his body rests against the snow. I kneel down, reaching my fingers to feel the rise of his chest as I lean forward. I feel his breath against my cheek, it’s cold and so feint that it’s almost as if he’s not breathing at all. My own breath catches, but I force myself to exhale, then haul the boy up into my arms.
I try to sprint toward the city but the snow rises up my shins. Each footstep sinks in, slowing my pace so that I’m wading through the drifts. Still, I push myself as fast as I can. The boy’s weight is cold and heavy. His clothing, logged with water, is freezing in places against his skin. I feel the uncomfortable chill of my own clothes. My hair is stiff; a slick of ice stalactites hanging against my cheeks.
As I approach the city, the thick, heavy black cloaks of the Stalkers shift. They turn to watch me. “Help!” I call out to them when I’m sure I’m close enough to be heard. One lifts his chin so I know he heard me, but neither man moves forward. The other Stalker places a hand to the laser blaster at his belt. I shake my head. “Please, he needs help!”
I’m wilting by the time I reach them. My arms ache with the boy’s weight and my legs tremble. The Stalkers step forward, barring my way. “Hold there, the city is closed to outsiders.”
I shiver against the breeze of cold air that lances down my back. Even the light from the twin suns can’t cut through the bitter chill. I drop to my knees and place the boy against my thighs as I look up at the Stalkers. “Please,” I whisper, “we need help.”
I catch the glint of recognition in one of the Stalker’s eyes. I try to remember how he knows me, then tense as I remember the chortessa pit and the mamot ride that followed. This Stalker, Erron, had been one of our captors. An underling to Hanzor, but still compliant in the kidnapping.
He stares down on me, obviously recognising me as well. “Erron, isn’t it?” I ask.
He shudders, shaking his head. “I don’t know you.”
“She knows your name,” the other Stalker says, glaring at him. The white of Erron’s eyes sharply contrasts against the darkness of his skin. He lifts a hand to wipe the black tuft of his moustache.
“Nah, she don’t know me.” His gaze narrows, then he adds, “Get away, filthy offworlder.”
“Please, Erron,” I keep my eyes fixed to his. “The boy fell in the lake. He needs medicine. Blankets, warmth, something.”
Beneath my hands the boy barely moves. His breath is shallow. I pull off my gloves and keep my fingers close to his lips just to feel the moisture of each breath. He’s still alive. I tell myself that, desperate that we won’t be too late.
Erron shakes his head again. The other Stalker nudges his head out toward the wilderness. “Go home to your Shadow village, girl. The contaminated are not welcome in the City.”
“Contaminated?” I shove a hand through my ice-frosted hair and wince as it tugs against my skull. “We’re not contaminated. We’re wet, and cold. Eagrim’s beak, it’s just water!”
He rocks his head back, pointing out the sign over his shoulder. “Quarantine. No one out, no one in.”
I glance through the gates beyond the sign. A scatter of citizens gazes out at us. One, a woman with caramel hair and tear-filled eyes, stares at us. Her gaze rests hungrily on the boy and her hands clasp together, her lips tight and face pinched.
“Orders from her Lady,” Erron adds, drawing back my attention.
“You mean Carmen?” Erron flinches at the use of the woman’s given name. “Lord Oliver’s mistress?” The other Stalker’s lips compress and his gaze darkens. I continue anyway, knowing I’m pushing my luck. “She’s not a lady, she never was. The city is free now, you don’t have to stay inside. Nar is saved.”
The Stalker glances out at the barren white lands that stretch away in every direction. He snorts.
“Saved?” Erron mutters. “More like the a whole new version of the Nine-voids.”
I glance down at the boy. His lips are a darker blue now. My fingers are so cold with frost that I can’t feel the chill of his breath or the moisture tingle across them.
“Please, he’ll die. He needs a doctor. He needs his mother.” I glance up at the woman through the gate again, wondering. Our gazes catch. There’s a trace of torture in her look and a hesitation in her stance. It’s as if she wants to step forward, to intervene, but her fear crackles through the air around her like hardened toffee, holding her in place.
I still as I realise that the feint rise and fall of the boy’s chest has stopped. I gasp, laying him flat on the ground and lean close. My ear touches the chill of his lips. No breath stirs there.
In the whisper of Oliver’s memories I feel traces of knowledge and act as if his mind controls my body. I press my hands together against the boy’s chest. One, two, three, four. Then lean down again. I place my lips across his mouth and blow a burst of air to fill his lungs. His chest moves under my hands and the breath rushes out again as I compress once more.
I glance up at the Stalkers as I count off four more beats, breath again, then count again. “Please,” I whisper. “He’s dying.”
Through the gate the woman raises a hand to cover her horrified mouth. She goes to step forward but other hands pull her back.
“He’s lost, Becky. He’s already lost.”
I can’t put a face to the words whispered in the crowd.
“It’s not too late!” I shout back before giving the boy another breath. Four more compressions. “Please, you can save him.”
The guards stay fixed in place, watching. The people inside the gate turn away. I clench my teeth against the sob that fills my chest.
“You can’t do this!” I shout again putting my attention on the boy as I work to keep him alive.
Whispers rise up. I hear the echo of repeated words, “Look, it’s the Lady. She’s coming.” The young mother’s head snaps up and swivels, searching. I glance through the crowd, seeking the face I’d only seen on the screens of the Elixr.
“Carmen?” I call, searching for her. The woman’s pale hair stands out against the darkness. So do her brightly painted red lips and the glimmer of diamonds in her earrings. Her dark eyebrows, brown eyes, and black roots stand out against the artificial platinum of her hair. It was the Bellamy colour, like mine, but hers was achieved by chemistry not nature.
The people shuffle around her as she steps up to the gate. Erron goes to open it, to let her out, but she waves a hand to ward off him off. Instead, she watches me through the bars. Her gaze is firm, resolute. Her smile stiffens. She hides it well but I can see in the tightness around her eyes that she hates me. Hates everything that Niah and I mean to Nar.
“It’s too late, Wish,” she says. Her voice is gentle and I think that makes me even more angry.
“Don’t pretend that you care!” I snarl.
Her gaze rests on me. “I do care. All loss is tragedy. You and your sister should know that, having caused so much of it.”
I lift my chin. “You don’t even see, do you? Closed off in this artificial void. The world is bigger than this crushing dome.” I glance down at the boy’s limp body, then wipe away the tear the streaks down my cheek before glaring back at Carmen. “You could have saved him.”
“He was lost the decca he stepped outside the gate, Wish. You killed him, you and the false hope and promises. Nar is not safe.”
Why did you choose to write in your genre? If you write in more than one, how do you balance them?
I’ve already mentioned the why, but the balance, that’s HARD. To be honest, I wish I weren’t juggling multiple genres. Whenever I’m focusing on one thing I feel like I’m letting down the other. These days, I have a publication schedule and I work toward it. I can’t do a little of everything every day, so instead I focus on which projects I can make the best progress with or which project has the tightest deadline. I do my best to schedule and plan so that I’m not scrambling.
And this year, I’m also learning to let go. I worked hard the past few years building my children’s author brand, but now that I’ve decided that I’ll be wrapping up the P.I. Penguin series and then leaving children’s books behind I’ve realized I don’t need to spend so much time working on that brand. I can let it idle and put more focus where my heart truly lies.
And following my heart, that’s always the biggest key to finding the right balance for me.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
My absolute favorite author is Traci Harding. By I also love P.C. Cast, Cassandra Clare, Lauren Kate, Becca Fitzpatrick, Isobelle Carmody, Richelle Mead. You can see my obvious reading bias toward fantasy.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
This is like asking which of my children is my favorite. I plead the fifth.
Although, I will tell you, one of my most heartbreaking characters is Lucas from The Flight of Torque. One of the things I do when I’m working is cast my characters, usually with an actor. I do this so that I can steal a photograph that helps me “see” my characters since I can’t see them in my mind’s eye. I have a sense of what they should look like and I find the actor who best fits.
Lucas is Paul Walker. I was part way through final edits of The Flight of Torque when Paul Walker died in a tragic car accident. That loss rocked my world, and my writing, for quite a while. For years I’d been imaging Paul Walker as my Lucas. I could feel him embody the role. If the books were ever to be a movie then Paul Walker would play that part. Except he died… And I can’t help feeling a little of Lucas died with him. Thankfully, Lucas is an angel, so I can work with that.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both? There are good and bad writing days. When it’s a bad writing day it definitely saps energy. Every word feels laborious and while I know that at the end of the session the actual words on the page are just as good (and strangely just as fast) as on a good day, it feels harder and slower. That is exhausting. But thankfully, good writing days usually outnumber bad. And on good writing days the words flow and the story unfolds onto the page. It’s still hard, because I find the writing part hard, but I’m excited about the words on the page. I feel keyed up and inspired and motivated, and yes, energized. Sometimes, on those days, I don’t want to stop. Thus why I had to force myself to go to bed at 3am last night. It was a good writing day.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Chocolate. I know that’s an odd answer. But I have Bipolar and chocolate is one of the things I’ve learned impacts my Bipolar mood cycles. And yet, most writers, myself included, absolutely LOVE chocolate. Chocolate and writing feel like a good fit. A handful of M&Ms can make any writing session better. And yet, if I let myself have chocolate while I’m writing I know I’m setting myself up for a bad week. It can feel great on the day, but I’ll pay for the indulgence with three to five days of depression and the writing will suffer.
The same is true for alcohol and caffeine. So, I’m one of those writers who have to write sober and un-caffeinated or I risk not being able to write at all.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I want to give readers what they want, but in my own way. I think the best writers are true to their voice. They write what truly speaks to them and sometimes that requires a little divergence from the tropes. But even then, it’s important to lean into the market. There’s nothing worse than spending months writing a book and then have it languish unsold because it doesn’t quite fit.
Sadly, I can’t always control how “to market” my stories are. For example, if I wanted a shifter series that really hits the mark my Serpenthrope would be Lycanthrope. Werewolves sell. Snakes are untested. And yet, the concepts in the Blood of the Nagaran series just don’t work as werewolves. They’re serpent cults and serpent shifters. So I go with it, and hope the twist excites the right kind of readers and is just that little bit original to create a new wave of interest.
I focus on hitting my own sweet spots. I love angels and magic and kick ass heroines with tortured heroes. And I’m thankful that enough of my readers love the things I love. But with every book, I try to think about what my readers want and how I can make the stories I’m telling more and more what my readers are craving.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
While there are aspects of my life that are interesting, I don’t know that I’d ever write a memoir. I do occasionally write personal essays for non-fiction anthologies that highlight aspects of my life and I’d like to do more of that, but otherwise I take the interesting parts of my life and incorporate them into my fiction instead. I couldn’t even begin to figure out a title that might sum up the divergence of my life… Divergent is already taken. 😉
Where can your fans find you and follow??
The best way to hear from me and follow what I’m doing is to join my Nagaran Readers. I send out regular updates and share insider looks and early sneak peaks. You can subscribe from my website: http://www.rebeccalaffarsmith.com
You can also follow me on my author page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rebeccalaffarsmith/
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️