Rebecca Minor draws narrative experience from a BFA in animation from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Since her graduation in 1997, she has worked as a game animator, freelance artist, full-time mom, teacher, and sheet music customer service representative. She is the author of The Windrider Saga, serial fantasy fiction from Diminished Media Group. She blogs at http://callofthecreator.blogspot.com on anything from fantasy reading and writing to the life of mother and wife. In addition to writing, Rebecca also creates occasional illustrations, three of which will appear in Port Yonder Press’s The Book of Silvari: An Anthology of Elves. Rebecca resides outside Philadelphia, PA with her husband and three sons, whom she is slowly infusing with a love of fantasy, one member at a time.
Rebecca P. Minor: I think I have always been interested in the not-so-beaten path, and when it comes to reading, speculative fiction fits this tendency well. I have enough “believable” in my everyday life. I’m happy to escape to worlds where the unimagined happens whenever I have the chance. I guess my interest is just an outgrowth of my personality.
SFFWRTCHT: Who were some of your favorite authors/books growing up?
RPM: Lloyd Alexander and C S Lewis were my first two favorite fantasy authors as a young reader. Other than them, I read a lot of Walter Farley (The Black Stallion) to feed my horse obsession. As I grew into my teens, I shifted to reading Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Margaret Weis/Tracy Hickman, and R A Salvatore. I came to Tolkien as a college student, and he occupies a huge section of my literary heart as well.
SFFWRTCHT: Were you involved with cons and fandom? Cosplay?
RPM: Honestly, I’ve been outside the convention/fandom circle as an observer. I’ve been known to drop in at the PA Renaissance Faire on occasion, and costumed is always fun for that, and I was clearly a rabid Star Wars fan in college (the original trilogy, mind you.) I do hope to step into the convention culture this year, however, as I seek out new audience connections for my published work.
SFFWRTCHT: When did you decide to start writing? How did you begin?
RPM: I put the first word of my first novel on the digital page on New Year’s eve of 2007. I have always written partial stories, including about a hundred pages of a fantasy novel that was going nowhere in high school, but I was not really convinced I was a writer until about six months into penning that novel I began in 2007. I had this character I had developed in my head who seemed to require a full epic told about her, so I just started writing, and things have multiplied since then. The world I have developed for my writing is fairly in-depth, so it offers a lot of opportunities for stories to crop up in my mind. The trick is finding the time to write them down.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you study writing in school? How did you learn your craft?
RPM: I studied filmmaking and animation in school, so I was a student of story if not straight-up fiction. The tools of building a narrative have a lot of overlap between film and fiction, though, so I believe my scriptwriting and storyboarding training from college has trained me how to construct a well-balanced narrative. Since I began writing fiction, I have read quite a bit about the craft, attended multiple writers conferences, and participated in constant peer critique to help me sharpen my craft.
SFFWRTCHT: How long did you write until your first sale? What was that?
RPM: This past summer marked the arrival of royalty paying contracts into my life, so it took me about three-and-a-half years from deciding to write fiction to landing those contracts. However, my first publications came through Digital Dragon Magazine, and without their interest in my Windrider stories, the compilations coming out this fall never would have happened. They may not have paid at the time, but I would say writing the stories paid off.
RPM: Honestly, the whole book grew out of a single submission that at the time was going to be just a one time story for Digital Dragon Magazine. The character of Vinyanel Ecleriast has existed as a hero figure in my story world for many years, and when I decided to tackle a short story for DDM, I sifted through what personalities I had available in my world, and decided Vinyanel’s story would be an interesting one to tell. I never imagined that one little story would blossom into a series of books, but Vinyanel seems to inspire scenario after scenario.
SFFWRTCHT: Captain Vinyanel Ecleriast is an Elven soldier charged with recovering artifacts vital to the Elves’ future, correct?
RPM: Correct—on the surface. The deeper story has everything to do with Vinyanel coming to terms with an opportunity to command a new division of cavalry, the Windrider Battalion, and the character and spiritual growth he will need to undergo in order to be effective in that role. The plot about the elves’ enemies infiltrating their society and wreaking havoc supplies the thread that stitches all of Vinyanel’s revelations about himself and others together.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you start with characters or plot?
RPM: Characters—absolutely. I tend to build the characters in detail, then plunge them into a situation and let their personalities determine what happens next.
SFFWRTCHT: Pantser or Outliner?
RPM: As you can imagine from the answer above, I am the worst of pantsers! I keep telling myself I am going to outline the next thing I write, but I tend to get bogged down and end up just sitting down and letting the narrative unfold one scene at a time. I always have a general idea where I’m headed for the big “end of act two climax,” but what might happen along the way is often a surprise.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you use character sketches?
RPM: Absolutely—a well-drawn character gives me the structure I need to direct my pantser ways and establish the ground rules as to what the characters would and would not do in their situations.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you have future plans to explore this world?
RPM: I’m writing exclusively in Vinyanel’s world right now, though I am writing all over the timeline. I have one novelette that occurs 2500 years before Divine Summons, and novels that occur about 250 years after, as well as more ideas for situations to befall Vinyanel himself.
SFFWRTCHT: What’s the divine summons about?
RPM: The phrase “divine summons” refers to a destiny that is laid upon Vinyanel at the very beginning of that tale—his calling to use his skills as a soldier, a rider, and a leader to grow into an indispensible piece of the elves’ military presence in the world. Although the serial fiction doesn’t really reveal the full extent of Vinyanel’s eventual importance to his people, it’s woven into the fabric of my world, and I’m sure it’s bound to come out in one place or another.
SFFWRTCHT:Is this book accessible to people of all beliefs or specific to your own faith?
RPM: I have written the book with my beliefs at its core, but the themes that the book portrays really can appeal to anyone who believes in serving a greater purpose, people’s responsibility to stand up against evil, and the idea that we need to rise above our own fears, prejudices, and selfish inclinations for the good of others. Whether some readers find the religious system portrayed in the stories too overt remains to be seen, but I hope people who pick it up will be able to enjoy the light mix of action and message.
SFFWRTCHT: What’s your writing time look like? Planned time? Grab it when you can?
RPM: My writing time was more planned up until this past August, when I went back to full-time employment, but now it’s a more “grab it when you can” sort of scenario. I believe I need to learn how to live on less sleep.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you use any special software or music playlist?
RPM: I listen to a mixture of movie soundtracks, classical orchestral music, and some choral works as I write. I can’t listen to anything where there are clearly discernible words while I write, or else my story and the words in my ears get completely tangled. I’m a big fan of the works of John Powell, James Horner, Michael Giacchino, Howard Shore, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, and Basil Poledouris, to name a few soundtrack composers. For classical music, I lean toward Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and Brahms—the “orderly” classical literature, and for choral works, I love most anything recorded by either the Cambridge Singers or Chanticleer. Now that I’ve completely begun speaking Greek to most readers, I’ll stop…
SFFWRTCHT: How do you deal with writer’s block?
RPM: I tend to write in fitful spurts. I’ll get an idea rolling, I’ll work feverishly on it for a stretch (even to the exclusion of eating and sleep when I can get away with it) and then I will crash for a week or two. If I try to write during the crash, it tends to be futile, so I’ve learned that’s my form of writer’s block, and that I need to rejuvenate for a while. I just let ideas percolate. I run them over in my mind when I have the chance, and I wait for the pressure to build again. That pseudo-system has worked for now, but I have a feeling there will come a time I need to be more deliberate about writing at least a little, all the time.
SFFWRTCHT: What advice would you give an up and coming writer?
RPM: Write both long works and short stories to force yourself to both endure until you get to the bitter end of a big project, and to write as lean as you need to in order to fit an entire tale into just a few pages. Also, don’t hang onto your darlings, especially in the beginning when you’re just learning. If a couple sources say something has to go, it probably does, no matter how much you love it.
SFFWRTCHT: What role do beta readers play, if any, in your process as a professional author?
RPM: Fresh eyes are essential to me. So many passages that make sense to nobody but me would never get changed or clarified if I didn’t have keen-minded readers looking at my work and letting me know when the information in my head isn’t getting onto the page in a way that connects all the dots.
SFFWRTCHT: What future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?
RPM: From here, readers can look for another volume of Windrider stories, due out on Kindle, Nook, and at Smashwords in November (the 22nd). Also, sometime in the first quarter of 2012, my debut novel will release from Other Sheep, the speculative fiction imprint of Written World Communications. There’s also been some talk of the novelette I have kicking around coming available next year, and there’s potential for more Windrider Saga as well. But that will involve my getting my writing time more focused and productive than those spurts I talked about before, I have a feeling.
SFFWRTCHT: Lastly, where can we find you and more about your work?
RPM: For official updates, people can visit my blog at http://callofthecreator.blogspot.com
or they can “like” my Facebook author page. The book is currently available at Amazon (Kindle edition) and Barnes and Noble (Nook). Or you can find various formats at Smashwords.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.