Monday, October 18, 2010
Interview with Urban Fantasy author Laura Bickle
SPARKS so we are lucky to have her. Today we sit down with Laura to talk about her background and how she got started writing. Tomorrow we’ll have a special giveaway featuring one of her books and later this week Laura will take center stage with a blog post of her own.
Laura thanks so much for joining us. Congratulations on the new book!
Thanks so much! I really appreciate you having me.
So, tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from?
I live in the Midwestern US with my husband/chief muse, where we're owned by four mostly-reformed feral cats. My background is in Criminology and Library Science. I've worked in and around criminal justice for the last ten years, which has really helped me with the criminal investigation aspects of my books.
I write urban fantasy novels as Laura Bickle and as Alayna Williams. This past year has been busy. EMBERS and SPARKS were released in April and September. DARK ORACLE was released under my Alayna Williams pseudonym this June, and will be followed by ROGUE ORACLE in March, 2011.
Wow, you have been busy! When and why did you begin writing?
I've always been writing, since I was old enough to hold a crayon. When I was a kid, I used to write stories from the perspectives of the family pets. The dachshunds and the cats had pretty exciting adventures in the woods, chasing critters and climbing trees. The fish...not so much.
Poor fish! What inspired you to write your first book?
I probably completed my first book ten years ago. It's still in a shoebox. The road to publication is really long.
My first published book, EMBERS, was inspired by a theme that pretty much built itself. By day, Anya investigates suspicious fires as an arson investigator in Detroit. By night, she works as part of an eccentric group of ghost hunters. Anya's the rarest type of spiritual medium - a Lantern. Where other mediums allow spirits to use their hands and voices to communicate, Anya incinerates malicious ghosts.
I'd established a theme centering around flame....and decided to give Anya a fire salamander as a companion. Salamanders haven't gotten much press since Paracelsus' time. They are the elemental avatars of fire. Our ancestors assumed that they were the spirit of fire, as they were often seen crawling out of logs tossed into hearth blazes. The salamander was probably annoyed to have his peaceful woodland home turned to tinder, and was making a fleet-footed escape. But alchemists and sorcerers made the link between salamanders and flames, and the association has endured.
So...for me, inspiration is pretty much following a theme down a rabbit hole.
It seems like you don't have any problems finding inspiration at all. So I have to ask, do you ever experience writer's block? If so, how do you get through it?
All the time. I think that the worst thing that I can do is to give into it. There's really no good solution except powering through it with the "butt in chair" approach.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I do a lot of research. I keep files of clippings about arson investigation, spontaneous human combustion, ghosts, Tarot cards…I’m sure that my files greatly resemble Fox Mulder’s from the X-Files. I’m doing research before and throughout the writing of the book. I often arrive at a point where I need to know something new for a plot detail. Everything I’m reading when I’m writing a book is research for that project – sort of a total immersion. I find that I get the best ideas that way.
When I’m working on the ORACLE series (as Alayna Williams), I write with a deck of Tarot cards at hand to try out a spread or generate ideas. It’s a really fun way to work.
Probably the hardest research I did was research on Chernobyl for ROGUE ORACLE. That kept me up at night, everything from eyewitness accounts to pictures. Really disturbing stuff
Wow. That sounds like pretty heavy research.
So let’s switch gears for a moment. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It's something I've always done, but never really thought much about. I've always had at least one project going on.
What book(s) have influenced your life most?
When I was a child, I read Robin McKinley's HERO AND THE CROWN and BLUE SWORD. I'd never read any fantasy before with strong female heroines, and I was instantly in love with the genre.
What book(s) are you reading now?
I'm reading Ann Aguirre's HELLFIRE. Also THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO ALCHEMY. I love mixing pleasure reading up with research.
Is there someone you consider a mentor?
I've had a lot of help and encouragement from fabulous authors like Linda Robertson, Ann Aguirre, and Jeri Smith-Ready. But my favorite mentor would be my editor, Paula Guran. She really teaches as she works. I've learned so much about what it takes to make a book through the four books she's edited for me.
What would your ideal career be, if you couldn't be an author?
I'd be a veterinarian. Maybe for some mythical beasts, like dragons. :)
And to finish up, what has surprised you the most about the publishing industry?
That it isn't over once the contract is signed. There's so much to do after the fact...copy edits, promo, worrying about sales...it can get to be overwhelming.
Do you think your experience is typical in the publishing industry?
Probably not. My first four books were sold directly to the publisher without an agent. I only recently acquired one, and am very excited to begin to work on new projects and ideas.
Any words of advice on how to get published?
Know how what you're writing fits the market. Study submission guidelines carefully - there really is no leeway. Only submit if your manuscript meets those requirements.
Be patient, persistent, and flexible. Once you've sent a manuscript off, be working on the next. This may not be the book that is your big break, but it may be the next one. Keep pushing your darlings out of the nest. One of them will fly someday.
Go to local writer’s conventions and join organizations that are involved with your type of writing, like RWA and SFWA. Go to conventions and meet other writers, editors, and agents. Though it's difficult for introverted writers like me...network, network, network.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
The best advice I can give is to finish. Whatever you’re working on, push through to the end. And do it again. And again.
To that end, I strongly recommend participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The process challenges you to write 50,000 words in November. That was really a breakthrough in my own writing process, in learning what was possible. Both DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE are NaNoWriMo books.
Laura thanks so much for your time. For all of our as-yet unpublished authors out there, your story is very inspiring because it proves that there is not just one way to get published. Great job!
Readers, if you want more info on Laura or her books, check out her websites http://www.laurabickle.com/ and http://www.alaynawilliams.com/. Plus, we’re not done with her yet. Laura will be back on Thursday with a guest post on the upcoming NaNoWriMo that you won’t want to miss. Best of all, Laura has a great giveaway for the Fiction Flurry followers, so be sure to check back with us tomorrow for Contest Tuesday.