Author Interview: Rebecca Demarest

rebeccademarestToday Rebecca Demarest shares the inspiration behind the very unique voice of her novels, short stories, and blog. I had the pleasure of reading samples of her work, and her style is quick-paced and authentic. She isn’t afraid to tackle tough subjects with sensitivity and realism. After immersing myself in her writing, I was incredibly impressed by how driven she and prolific she is so early in her career.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a mild mannered technical illustrator by day and an author and book designer by night. My writing ranges from literary to speculative fiction, with an emphasis on bridging the gap between those two genres. I have a B.A. in English and Psychology from Willamette University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College.

What was your inspiration for your novels, Undeliverable and Mark of the Storyteller?

CaptureUndeliverable was inspired by a random news story I heard talking about this mysterious Lost Letters Office—now the Mail Recovery Center—in the United States Postal Service. I was intrigued, and started digging into its history and its current operations. That was much harder than it would seem because no one at the Center is actually allowed to speak to civilians about anything and their monthly auctions are actually rather secretive (I was nearly arrested for taking pictures). But once I had a sense of what the Center did on a day-to-day basis, I started contemplating what kind of story could happen there, what kind of people would be drawn to it. After a couple years of research and free-writing, Ben slowly came into focus and his story took shape. A lot of the details of the characters themselves came from myself, my family, and my friends, which helped to make them real to me.

As for Mark of the Storyteller, this was actually inspired by my senior thesis class at Willamette University. It was a fantastic class about Grimm’s Fairy Tales and we were given the opportunity to either do a research paper on the tales or create our own unique re-interpretation of them. I leaped at the chance to do a creative English thesis as I was already weighed down with a research thesis in Psychology, and wrote a short story that eventually became the villain interview section at the beginning of Mark. The basic concept I had wanted to address was ‘What happens when the villain isn’t who we think it is, but is instead the one person we’re supposed to root for? And why do we have those misperceptions?’ Let me tell you, creating the world that all these characters live in and wreaking havoc on the stories and characters we know well was an immense amount of fun.

Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling blocked?

News sites, actually. Articles about bleeding glaciers, people hijacking barrels of maple syrup, or the fact that the ancient Egyptians made jewelry out of meteorites can all give my imagination a boost. Also, turning off your music and actually paying attention to the world around you while you walk, including eavesdropping on your fellow commuters, can provide some outlandish leads.

What’s the strangest thing that has ever inspired you?

The absolute strangest thing was an article about a lithopedion, or stone baby. A lithopedion is the result of an ectopic pregnancy that self terminates after the 14th week and the mother’s body calcifies the fetus to prevent it from causing harm to the mother. I couldn’t help it, the idea just grabbed hold of my brain and I couldn’t shake it, so I’ve got a short story in the works centering around this phenomenon.

Tell us about an inspirational figure in your life.

While I have found many of my writing instructors and friends inspirational, the woman who is the most inspirational would have to be my mother. She has not led the easiest of lives and has dealt with a series of genetic and environmentally induced health problems, many of which required surgery and extensive recoveries. But through all of this, she has never lost her sense of adventure, determination, or love. In fact, she started her first business just a couple years ago as a professional storyteller and has reached her five year goals, four years early. If she can deal with all of the health issues, two kids, and a husband who traveled extensively for work and come out the other side with enough energy to devote to a whole new career, then I can do anything.

What are some books in your genre that have inspired you?

This is a really hard question to answer because I read a lot of books each year. In the literary genre, I find the work of George Saunders, Scott Nadelson, Steve Yarbrough, Tom Perotta, and a handful of others to be greatly inspiring, mostly modern literary authors. In the speculative fiction genre, I draw a lot of inspiration from Tamora Pierce, Robert A. Heinlein, Patricia C. Wrede, Jasper Fforde, and Terry Pratchett.

What are some words that you live by?

Be and not seem. This is one of Emerson’s philosophies, and I’ve had it on my wall as long as I can remember. In my life and in my writing I try to stay true to myself and my ideals. Do not pretend you are a good person, let your work speak for itself. Do not pretend you are competent, actually go out and do the hard work to make it true.

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

I’ll be doing an Indiegogo campaign in November to help defray the last editing and marketing costs for Undeliverable, which will be launching in March of 2014. If you’d like to learn more about me or my writing, drop by my website at or follow me on Twitter @RebeccaDemarest.

The Art of Foreshadowing

“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.” – Anton Chekov

shutterstock_90204550Being in the hands of a master of the craft of foreshadowing is one of the most rewarding parts of reading a great book. J.K. Rowling is such a master – there are incredible examples throughout the entire Harry Potter series. But by far my favorite is when we learn that Snape loved Harry’s mother in the final book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Rowling knew in book one that this was coming and laid clues throughout her series, from the color of Harry’s eyes to the hatred Snape had for Harry’s father, that made the payoff in book seven incredibly rewarding. It was one of those moments as an author where I shake my head and consider giving up the craft in the face of such genius.

Another example of excellent foreshadowing that I recently read is in Kendra C. Highley’s Matt Archer series. (I’ll be interviewing her in July, for those who would like to hear more.) I don’t want to give away any spoilers for those who haven’t read her latest book, but she had a creative idea that I haven’t seen before. Her character has a vision of himself with a strange marking, like a magical tattoo. It’s foreshadowing when he has the vision, then again when he gets the mark, because we know that he’ll be having some crazy adventures soon.

We all can’t be Rowling, but I do try to incorporate good foreshadowing into my writing – which invariably involves intense planning for my entire series, rather than planning book by book. This is my favorite part of the writing process – creating the overarching plot and identifying where the payoffs of each storyline will occur. It makes me feel like the master of my own little universe. For some great basic information and tips on foreshadowing I also like the advice in this All Write – Fiction Advice blog post.

But in the actual implementation of little clues throughout my series, I am constantly second guessing myself – are the hints too obvious, or too obtuse? It’s hard to find a balance between ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ and a little failed eye contact by a character at a key moment. What seems blatant to me as the author may be totally missed by an unsuspecting reader. So it’s critical that I have honest beta readers who can give me feedback.

Do you have any tips on how to implement foreshadowing well?

Author Interview: Jason Robbins

Jason RobbinsWhen I stumbled upon Jason Robbins’ post-apocalyptic fictional blog, Soulless, I planned to read a couple of entries out of curiosity because I haven’t had a lot of exposure to fictional blogs. Instead, I found myself following every step of his anti-hero’s journey. He has created a character who should be difficult to sympathize with, but somehow you can’t help rooting for. Add to that the mystery of what triggered the apocalypse and why there are any survivors at all, and you can understand why I ignored my toddler’s cries for milk for several minutes so I could finish reading the latest entry. After marathoning all of the blog entries in one sitting, I was interested in learning about Jason’s inspiration for Soulless and how he tackles the thorny writing challenges he encounters writing for this medium.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I’m a native New Yorker.  Grew up in Queens and now I live in Manhattan.  I have a day job that I won’t bore you with. Suffice it to say, creativity isn’t a big part of it.  I’ve always loved writing, and this guy I worked with, who I’m good friends with now, was actually writing a novel on the side.  He always talked about it, seemed to derive a lot of joy from the process. So I thought, what the hell, let me take a stab.  Been writing fiction in one form or another ever since.  I love it.

What was your inspiration for your blog, Soulless?

Apocalypse NYCI always wanted to write an apocalypse tale, but the market is so saturated with them now, I figured, what’s the point?  But then this idea hit me – What if the protagonist has no interest in saving humankind or propagating the species?  What if he actually, if only subconsciously, wished for the apocalypse?  What would that story look like?  I think all of us, in our darkest moments, have wished everyone would just disappear.  This story takes that mentality to the extreme.  I think it’s pretty interesting to see someone start like that and then grow into something more.

Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling blocked?

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve never actually experienced writer’s block in the seriously debilitating sense of the term.  If anything, I have more ideas than I have time to devote to them.  But, when I’m in the middle of a story, and I’m not sure where to take the proceedings next, I usually let the characters do the work for me.  I think about what that character or someone I know like that character would do next.  What’s the next logical step that character would take?  It helps shape the story more organically than if you plan out a bunch of plot points and drag the characters kicking and screaming through them.

What’s the strangest thing that has ever inspired you?

It’s funny, I had started writing the first post for Soulless, and I was walking down the street – don’t really remember where I was headed – and I came upon this sign someone had put up against a work-fence.  You run into weird things all the time in New York; in this case, someone had scrawled “What if when you die, they ask how was heaven?” on a piece of cardboard and propped it up.  And there were people streaming by all around me, but it happened that no one was right in front of this thing, so I took a picture, and it really looked like the city had been abandoned and someone left this sign there.  And that’s how I came up with the idea for the Messenger, one of the major antagonists in Soulless, a killer that leaves cryptic religious messages around post-apocalyptic Manhattan.  I even posted the pic on the site as his first message.

Tell us about an inspirational figure in your life.

My little cousin Alexis is the inspiration for the character of Emily in Soulless.  She’s a bit older than Emily now, but she’s adorable, charismatic, smart as a whip, and a brilliant writer for her age.  I’m a flawed person, but whenever I’m around her and her brother, Jesse, I always strive to be the best version of me that I can be.  I figure if anyone could bring out the good in my protagonist, it would be someone like Alexis.

What are some words that you live by?

I think Van Wilder said it best when paraphrasing Elbert Hubbard: “You shouldn’t take life too seriously.  You’ll never get out of it alive.”   If you’re looking for some words to write by, you can’t go wrong with Alfred Hitchcock’s “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”  I always try to keep that in the back of my mind while writing, and it helps streamline the stories immensely.

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

Yes, if you have a writer in your life, be gentle.  It’s not easy putting yourself out there in front of family, friends and the public.  Your support can give them the courage to endure and to succeed.

Author Interview: K.N. Lee

K.N. LeeThe first author in my new interview series is K.N. Lee, a talented up-and-coming young writer who has already self-published a novel, a book of short stories and a book of poetry. Her work, which is both creative and achieves a depth of emotion, is riveting. I’ll also admit that I’m drawn to her newest novel because it stars a strong female heroine who can take care of herself (and kick a little butt when the occasion calls for it, too). Clearly, she knows quite a bit about how to channel her muse.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Chicago, Illinois, raised in Atlanta, and currently live in Charlotte. I discovered my love for writing when I was in the second grade. Obsessed with books, I decided to create my own. I’d write a story, draw the pictures, and then cut up cardboard and wrap it in wall paper to make my book a hard back. It was the only thing I enjoyed. You’d have to force me to play outside. I just wanted to write!

What was your inspiration for your newly released novel, The Chronicles of Koa?

The Chronicles of KoaThe inspiration for Koa came from a nightmare that I had. Not only that, but I love characters that may look small and nonthreatening, but can indeed be the most dangerous person in the room. There are many factors that went into creating The Chronicles of Koa. I grew up an Anne Rice fan, and I fully believe that she has the best vampire lore. So, what did I do? I created my own version of vampire, completely re-imagined. I didn’t stop there. As a high-fantasy fan and writer, I also created my own creatures and classes. Syths, Scayors, War-Breeders, Jems…they add an unexpected element to the story. You’ve never heard of them before, so the intrigue is heightened in my story.

Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling blocked?

Whenever I’m feeling blocked, I do a variety of things. Sometimes I’ll take a nice long walk with my iPod and my dog. Other times, I’ll take a yoga class or play video games (believe it or not, but video games are excellent inspiration!) Above all, I always go back to my desk and simply…write. It may feel forced at times. You may feel like it is a chore, but for me, I usually end up surprised by what I come up with. That blocked feeling has been conquered!

What’s the strangest thing that has ever inspired you?

Umm…OK…here goes. I had an experience with what I feel was a ghost. I was a child, and as I look back at the experience, I am no longer sure what happened. All I know, is that something grabbed my leg when I was trying to fall asleep. That moment, as horrifying, and as quick as it happened, started a traumatizing period in my life. I didn’t tell anyone what happened for years, for fear that whatever had grabbed me might still be watching me, and might try again. So, I took that fear and used it to my advantage. In silence, I instilled that feeling of absolute terror and let my characters use it. Such a real emotion gave my characters life.

Tell us about an inspirational figure in your life.

Tolkien is such an inspiration. He showed us that you don’t have to recycle the same creatures that have been used for centuries, and created his own. I do this myself. I may use elves sometimes, or vampires, but I also create my own creatures. In Koa, you’ll learn about Jems, War-Breeders, etc. In my high-fantasy trilogy, Rise of the Flame, you’ll see Tryans. The power of creation is exactly why I love writing so much.

What are some words that you live by?

If you have to choose between a material good or an experience, always go with the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop! However, if I have a chance to travel, see a show, or hang out with friends, I’ll always pick the latter.

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

I suppose I would like everyone to know that even though I am always cheerful, bubbly, and giggly, there is a darker, more serious, side to me that fuels my stories. I don’t hold back in my writing, and I fear that I truly live through my characters. Who knows, pick up The Chronicles of Koa, Wicked Webs, or Thicker Than Blood on Amazon…I might just surprise you.

Calling All Authors – What Inspires You?

open book2One of the reasons that I started this blog was to learn how other authors and artists find inspiration. I want to hear about your journey to creating your masterpiece – what got you started and what keeps pushing you forward. To that end, I’m inviting any authors who would like to be interviewed on my blog to contact me using the form below.