Thursday, May 27, 2010

Q&A with Skyler White

    The Craft

    1. What is your writing process like? Do you keep organized notes? Do you designate a set time for writing each day?

    My process is in process. It’s evolving. I do a lot of pre-writing and planning, and I’ve always worked from a list of questions that I ask myself, character interviews etc., which I then hammer into an outline. But I like to read craft books between projects, so each time I start a new project, I have new techniques to try.

    My second book, ‘In Dreams Begin’ (November 2010, Berkley),started with a ton of research, since it’s a time-travel story. I’m getting ready to begin my third book, and I’m trying out a new process with it. I’m constructing the question lists and other prompts into a board game that I’ll then get to play. No idea if it’ll work, though.

    As for designated writing times, I wish! I don’t have a daily routine, writing or otherwise. Maybe one day. Every Sunday, though, I sit down and look at the upcoming week – which kid has what sport, whether we have houseguests, my husband’s work schedule, school vacation days or field trips, the “full catastrophe” of hearth and home – and block out at least ten hours of writing time, ideally in two-plus hour blocks. I try very hard to protect those time slots from other commitments and actually make myself sit down and write.

    1. Do you have music that you listen to for inspiration? If so, what do you listen to? If not, what inspires you?

    I can’t listen to music while I write; I need all my focus for the words. I have a one-hour track of white noise — thunderstorms, actually — that I listen to on in-ear earbuds, and I listen to it on my iPod, so I can turn off the sound on my computer. All a little precious, I know, but I’m easily distracted.

    As for what inspires me, it’s life and art, really. I’m very fortunate to know many interesting people, and they and their stories inspire me. And I love to read and watch movies and plays. No art in, no art out. I need to feed myself on ideas and images.

    1. How do you celebrate finishing a book?

    I go out to dinner with my family. And I celebrate every single stage of finishing: finished first draft, final sent in to my editor, first set of notes, copy edits, type-set edits, you name it! My husband is my first reader, and my kids are old enough to understand what I’m doing, so it’s a big family deal when I hit a milestone like that, and we all enjoy them. I have some hysterical congratulatory cards from my son, who also really enjoys watching the cover art come in.

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    1. Why did you choose the vampire as a character for your book?

    I started writing “Falling” because I was turning forty and needed to come to grips with what that meant for me. I was beginning to see that a lot of what had made me feel sexy as a younger woman was no longer available to me, and the more I thought about it, the less comfortable I was with it in the first place. I was starting to think I actually had no idea what I wanted for myself.

    What turned me on most was being thought attractive. I wanted to be wanted, rather than wanting something in its own right for myself. It was that sense of estrangement from my own desires, and that feeding off the desire of another, that determined Olivia would be a vampire. There’s something both predatory and parasitic about that kind of sexuality, and I needed to ask myself some hard questions about it.

    Olivia can’t feed from anyone who doesn’t fear or desire her, and her body has no ability to feel pleasure or pain. Her appearance alters to conform to the desires of whoever is looking at her, and she can’t see herself at all unless someone else is looking at her. All her power comes from being wanted, so her life depends on the wants and fears of others.

    1. What is easier to write- the hero, the heroine, or the villain?

    They’re like people, really, each difficult and easy in their own ways. I have a lot of fun writing villains, but I have to be careful not to get carried away. It’s way too easy to fall into the hand-wringing cackle. Heroes are wonderful to write, because hey, what better way to spend an afternoon than thinking about everything yummy in men, but it can be very difficult for me to put myself into a man’s head sometimes, and I have to be disciplined about not just staying on the outside enjoying the packaging.

    Opposite problem writing women. I really enjoy my noodle time. I like to ponder stuff, ask myself questions, examine things from different perspectives, and the heroine’s head is the most comfortable place for me to do that. She’s usually the easiest to write, but I have to be careful not to over-indulge because it’s easy.

    1. Favorite character that you have written?

    Ooow, that’s like favorite children. I’m really not allowed to pick one, but Alyx was tremendous fun to write, and Ophelia. Secondary characters are more like your kids’ friends, I guess. You feel better about having favorites there, and you’re more charitable of eccentricities and habits than you’d be in your own.

    1. Do you prefer to use the traditional vampire mythology or do you prefer to create your own myths?

    What I really enjoy is being able to play with traditional mythologies of all kinds. I like the interaction between what is canon and what is invention. To me, you can learn more by unpacking a mythos and repurposing the parts than you can by inventing something completely new (if that’s even possible!). “and Falling, Fly” bumps up against the traditional vampire in the same way it does against Persephone and the Garden of Eden – because I’m interested in what makes those stories still resonant today.

    General Vampire Questions

    1. Looking back in history, who is the one person you'd expect to find out was really a vampire? Why?

    That’s an interesting question! Cleopatra is a little obvious, maybe, but I’m going to go with her.

    2. What would you want to say if you met a real vampire?

    “You wanna piece-a me?” No, I’m kidding. I don’t know. Probably, “Tell me everything!” Either that, or I’d just scream and run away. I’m a bit of a weenie in real life.

    3. If vampires existed should they stay hidden, or reveal themselves?

    Ack! I would never “should” a vampire! I imagine they chose to stay hidden for good reason, not least of which being that what we cannot see often has more power than what we can. Part of vampires’ allure is their mystery. I wouldn’t want them to give that up.

    4. Would you make a good vampire?

    Nope, although I’d love the clothes! I’m too practical, really. And I really don’t think I could do ‘deathless’, although the time to read would be wonderful. I don’t think I could lose my family and friends and keep going.

    Speed Round

    1. Vampires- fangs or no fangs? Fangs! But not the kind that pop out.

    1. Blood- fresh, bottled, or synthetic? Fresh

    1. Romance or Horror? Both, and as mingled as you can make ‘em.

    1. One thing readers would be surprised to know about you? I can make a mean batch of cinnamon rolls and read tarot. Not at the same time.

    5. Favorite vampire book? Movie? “The Vampire Lestat” is my favorite vampire book. And can I take a wiggle on the movie, because there’re a couple I love, and say, instead, the stage play of “Dracula” I saw when I was a kid. It was performed in this amazing old haunted opera house in the town where I grew up and made a huge impression on me.

    Skyler White is author of dark fantasy novels ‘and Falling, Fly’ (Berkley, March 2010) and ‘In Dreams Begin’ (Berkley, November 2010).She lives in Austin, TX.


Jen D. said...

Great interview! I'm taking advantage of the long weekend and the relaxing beach setting to finally read and Falling, Fly.

Lorelei said...

Loved the interview. I liked her answers.