Friday, November 23, 2012

Author Interview--Rachel Robins

Hello folks,

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Welcome back to the Lockbox and another author interview. This week Rachel Robins (one of my fellow 2s at Seton Hill) is in the hot seat. Let's have it, Rachel.

-What book and/or experience made you want to be a writer?

Definitely, it’d have to be Laurell K. Hamilton, author of the AB:VH book series. I had picked up her series in high school and loved the earlier books—yanno, before everything went downhill. I ragequit when she shifted her genre from urban fantasy to paranormal erotica, keen on coming up with something better on my own.

I don’t know if I’m succeeding, but I’m trying all the same.

-What genre do you write?

I’m entirely enamored with urban fantasy. I love playing with reality and elements of the fantastic or absurd. At the moment, though, my current work in progress will likely be marketed as New Adult fiction in YA.

-What project are you working on now?

My main writing priority is my thesis novel, but I’m also working on my blog and trying my hand at other lengths of fiction. My small writer’s book club, The Ladies of Book Wookery, have banded together to challenge ourselves to write a monthly flash fic each, incorporating a specific noun, verb and genre, all chosen at random. My first addition went up September 23rd at The Wood Word.


Here’s an excerpt from Ex Nihilo, Chapter Five:

I shook my head to brush it away and hobbled over to the handicap stall to wait just outside of so I could claim it once the fairy left it. I couldn't maneuver around in the smaller ones.

Slouched against the wall waiting, I couldn’t help but stare at the girl who held open the door. She was some sort of anthromorph, or furry. Dense auburn fur coated her like skin. Maybe it was a trick of the light that made it seem to grow longer with each heartbeat?

But that wasn’t why I stared. Sometime in between me coming in and walking to stand outside the stall, she had whipped her shirt off. Bra and all. I looked up in time to see her vigorously shearing her left breast. There was hair everywhere. Even the nipples. It shocked me.

She grunted when she noticed through the mirror. “What? Never seen a pair of tits before?"

Not like those. I shook my head. “Sorry."

She shrugged.

She seemed absolutely comfortable with her nudity. If it didn't bother her, I wasn't going to let it bother me. I just wanted to make conversation. “So, uh. Are you a werewolf?” I realized afterward that it wasn't the best choice to start with.

She glowered at me. “Who are you calling a Vulkodlac, bitch? With a face like that, you ain’t got no right to start in on the name-calling."

My face warmed. I knew with the scars, I was no looker. “Sorry. I’m just kinda new to all this. I didn’t mean any offense."

She hesitated, like she was weighing my words. Testing for sincerity. “That’s fine. I guess. Just so you know. It’s sort of rude to ask people what they are."

“But then how will I know?"

“I don’t know. Be a mindreader?” She gave a short bray of laughter. “No, really. You pick it up. That, or get your ass kicked. Maybe both. One sort of helps with the other.” Finished with the left boob, she moved on to her shoulder and upper arm.

“I see,” I said.

-For other aspiring writers, any tips?

Like my mother says, “Keep it simple, stupid.” Just because you have a complex world or a surplus of intertwining subplots doesn’t mean you can hurl everything at the reader all at once. Put your blinders on, and focus on one element at a time. Only feed the reader information on an as-needed basis, detail by detail. Any more than that, either your story will start to bloat in places, or you’ll entirely confuse your audience.

-What’s your favorite book/genre to read?

Due to my critical hag nature, it’s a rare thing for me to really enjoy most books.

Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series was a front runner for me I think the longest now. I have certain issues with the last two books at the moment, but mostly, the series is pretty solid.

-What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

Generally anything I’m currently writing is my favorite thing at the moment.

About Rachel
Rachel Robins is currently a graduate student in the MFA program of Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. She writes, she reads, she dabbles in almost every craft known to man, except possibly underwater basket-weaving. Rachel maintains a wide range of interests, from bento-making to crochet to French, drawing, graphic design, ABJD, jewelry making, designing fairy houses, and pretty much anything that looks spiffy, really. When she's not mucking about with any of that, she's most likely reading or slaving away on her urban fantasy work in progress, Ex Nihilo.

Want more from Rachel?

Check out her blog. Also check her out at Future Flash Fiction.

Rachel can also be found on Pinterest, Tumblr, and on Twitter @RSquaredWrites.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Hi folks,

It’s another anti-normal Wednesday blog post. What can I say? This time of year is holiday heavy.

In any case, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for?

My top 5 in no particular order

Also, the final round of the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards has begun. Go vote!

And to all those for whom tomorrow is a holiday, enjoy, eat lots of food, and be thankful.

Wednesday Word Tally

Finished my first round of edits on the urban fantasy. Now I’m just going back through and hammering out inconsistencies and anything else that needs hammering.

Current word count: 97,955


I think it’s a lost cause. Lol. My count is at about 20k, and I don’t see it going up much more. School kind of ate my life this month, and, among other things this week, I’m writing my final paper for my contemporary fantasy and science fiction genre reading class. For anyone who’s curious, my topic is emotional investment in larger than life characters facing larger than life odds. Given my academic background in psychology and my application of psychology to genre fiction, I’m enjoying writing this paper.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a...what the f*** is it?"

Good Monday,

Today’s Media Monday is my class post for “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor. I chose to focus on genre (since the book seems to span the lines between so many). And so here is my analysis.

NOTE: At Barnes and Noble, the book is in fact shelved under young adult fantasy and adventure. Not where I would have put it, but to each his own.

Who needs this genre thing anyway?

Unfortunately, we do, so I’m going to attempt to figure out what genre this book falls into. Wish me luck.

At this point, I’m toying with a few different ideas. I’ve got romantic fantasy, urban fantasy, and parallel universe.

Romantic Fantasy

Is this romantic fantasy? Oh yeah….

There is debate to whether this book is a story with a mid-show flash back, a late-coming story with a too-long prologue, or two stories in one. To say that this is definitely romantic fantasy, I think, would require to view it as two stories. The part that takes place in the past is an other-world romantic fantasy. The plot is driven by Madrigal and Akiva’s meeting and subsequent “flights in the night” (no pun intended, the characters have wings). The high point is when their love is discovered and madrigal is sentenced and killed. It’s got a “Romeo and Juliet” feel to it. “Two households (worlds) both alike in dignity….” In fact, if the Chimaera and Seraph were replaced by humans with shamanistic powers of reincarnation, I wouldn’t even feel like it was fantasy. I’d label it as paranormal romance.

Urban Fantasy

Is this urban fantasy? Don’t think so.

My first answer was “yes.” Upon closer examination, it dawned on me, however, that, aside from Karou’s wishes, there’s no actual magic in Prague. It’s in the workshop and the world beyond and just happens to slip into the real world sometimes. So even though the book takes place in a city (one of the characteristics of urban fantasy) I’m not sure I’d classify it as such. It’s more like “urban fiction with a single girl who was born of ‘demons,’ who collects teeth, and who travels to an alternate world via a magical door that can sometimes be found in her city.”

Parallel universe

Is it parallel universe? Very possibly, and here’s why I say that.

I can’t find the exact quotation, but somewhere in there it was said of the Seraph that they and their history are not what humans believe them to be. And this is what their history/lives really are (vastly different from what is believed in our reality). So it’s a real-life religion in a different universe. There’s talk about fallen and demons and angels and warriors. And amidst that, there’s one girl who was punished in a former life, moved to Earth, and given a new life. And then there’s the angel that finds her, makes her remember her old life, and explains that everything isn’t as she thinks it is. It seems like a romantic retelling of religion and, more importantly, a retelling that requires someone on each side of the war to realize that there’s more than war. Furthermore, these individuals need to show everyone else that.

***Not part of my original post*** Someone in my class suggested that it’s “portal fiction,” which is fantasy where the magical world is gotten to by going through a type of door or portal. This seems to fit since the way for Karou to get to the Shop (which technically isn’t on Earth) is through a door that only certain people can access.

Is it young adult?

Putting aside the debate of whether ya is a genre or an audience, I’d say it’s aimed at younger readers. There’s no over-the-top violence, but there’s plenty of “love at first sight” and “feeling of missing everything when his/her other half isn’t there.” The first I feel more fit to comment on. The entire story’s based around a war. Karou herself is injured pretty badly. Madrigal is killed. But it’s not shown in excruciating detail.

The romance thing—it’s “love” rather than “lust.” I have never claimed to be a romance writer or know much about the conventions of writing romance. All I can say is I’ve noticed that more books geared for adults have less “true love” and more “love and lust/sex.” Books geared for younger readers (teens) may mention sex but don’t feature it specifically. And the relationship between the romantic characters in ya works is more of “soul mates/true love.” Karou’s seventeen, and her relationship with Akiva (both as Karou and Madrigal) is more reminiscent of ya trends.

So I’d say (based on what philosophy you subscribe to) that Daughter of Smoke and Bone is of the ya genre or aimed at a ya audience.

Where would I house it on the shelves?

As I said above, it can be found under young adult fantasy and adventure. I’d keep it in the ya section, but I’d seriously consider moving it to the paranormal romance area. Just my two cents.

Oh, and if anyone’s wondering where my title came from, it’s paraphrased from Robin Williams’s comedy skit where he talks about kids’ toys. He’s goes on about how you can’t get high when you have kids because they have toys like transformers…”It’s a truck. It’s a plane. It’s a…what the f*** is it?” I used it as my title because that’s sort of how I felt with the question of “what genre is this book?”

See you out of the box,