Wednesday, September 30, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW - Meet Rebekah Raymond

Earlier this month on Ups, Downs, Ins and Outs I posted a long feature that spotlighted a number of authors – who had even earlier been featured on my Facebook page as “Author’s of the Day”. Rebekah Raymond was one of them.

She is a new author that comes from my area of this wide world. I was very excited to connect with her online and I’m really looking forward to meeting her in person next week at the book launch party for her very first published novel Life’s Defeat (all details for the launch party will be posted at the end of the interview). Having Rebekah so close to home presented a unique opportunity for me to get to know her just a little bit better and to help her promote and celebrate her first book release in person.

So here we are and I hope you’re ready to get to know the author Rebekah Raymond.

[LDF] Did you always want to be an author?

[RR] No, for as long as I remember, I have been a writer though. I was always writing—in diaries, in journals, poems, stories. I am an avid Trekkie and have played for years on email Star Trek role playing games. Of course there was always that pull when I held a really great great book, that maybe, one day...but no, I expected it.

I suppose as I started to pursue more serious projects I had the thought that it would be nice to become officially an author, which is what I had felt like for a long time.

[LDF] What was your main inspiration or reason for becoming an author?

[RR] My first inspiration came when a friend of ours passed away, actually. Our girls had been in the same class the year before and she had been incredibly helpful during my pregnancy near the end. Her death came as a shock to us and it was so hard making that connection of similarities and thinking of the possibility that my children could grow up without me at any time. It made me wonder if I was gone, what I would have to leave behind for my kids to look up to? So, I revisited my bucket list I had made years before and publishing a book was on it.

[LDF] When writing, where does the inspiration for your stories come from?

[RR] I have a scary vivid imagination. When I am alone, I often find myself, thinking up stories, or scenarios, replaying how things could have gone differently or how a storyline should go. It doesn't hurt that I am a fan of generally all music and art and writing. So I have a lot of experience in a lot of different areas: I have worked security at concerts, read about murder and thrills, been an artist and musician, experienced my own high-school sweetheart romance and wedding, had children, known loss of friends and family. For my genre it helps too that I have branched out over the years, occasionally delving into the worlds of vampires and murder. I even took a course while I was in college that allowed me to go to the gross anatomy lab, seeing bodies in all sorts of different states up close. Ultimately though, I do automatic writing, so what comes out is often unknown to me until it is down on the paper and I go back to read it. Anything can trigger it though – a song, a great piece of art, an antique or piece of furniture I see while out.

[LDF] What was the driving inspiration behind Life’s Defeat and the other books that will make up the Life series?

[RR] Would it seem strange if I said “I have no clue?” *laughing* I have this friend who I do a lot of email based RPG with, and occasionally we write other stories together, or write our own things and exchange writings. Life’s Defeat started like that - a short story I did just to write one day. That friend had mentioned NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) several times, and last November felt like the right time.

Later, when I saw how great Life’s Defeat turned out, I felt like I had something really special. I loved the characters, thoroughly enjoyed the plot. So, I decided to take a small leap. I entered a contest with a small ebook publisher and actually won! It didn't work out between me and that publisher, but when I saw how many options there were for publishing, it became clear that becoming a published author was a real possibility. So when the editor I hired said I actually had a good storyline and that my writing was good, I decided to keep going.

The friend inspired the writing of the short story, that inspired the challenge of making it more, that inspired the process of publishing, which inspired the next book. Of course, the characters were somewhat of the inspiration as well – my main character in Life’s Defeat had more of her story to tell, and couldn't let me just stop at one book.

[LDF] When you finished writing Life’s Defeat was the story what you`d thought or planned it would be, or did it turn out to be somewhat different?

[RR] I wrote Life's Defeat with little preconceived intentions or plot. I had a few notes, ideas of things that I wanted to happen, but I had no clue how it would turn out from the start. I did know that it was not, essentially, a happy story. How can it be when it starts with her parents death and the bulk of it focuses on her torture and repeated deaths? The real surprise came during the beta and editing process. My beta tester questioned me about things I had never thought of, things I needed to cut or change. Then my editor asked me clarify a number of things, which added plot and twists. The end result did turn out to be a bit different than I expected, but was made all the better for it. Of course, it sets up the entire series beautifully, and the next two books have turned out to be completely unexpected plot lines, even though I tried to do basic outlines on those. In the end my characters drive their story, no matter what I say. They really fight me if I try to dictate their fate.

[LDF] As brief as you can, tell us about “Life’s Defeat”?

[RR] Life’s Defeat is an adult thriller, set years in the future, in a time where the government has basically given up on the country. It recounts a young woman's experience of losing her parents at a young age, and growing up within a unique boarding school. When she is still a teenager the headmaster gives her the choice to join the ranks of the school's hidden and elite force of soldiers. She takes it, and finds she is good at being a trained killing force. Too good. She leaves the school at nineteen, travels and becomes more worldly, but comes back only to be abducted by the most devious mastermind of their time. His own agenda in mind, he kills her.

Only it doesn't work.

Life’s Defeat becomes her testament, then, of her decent into madness, when repeated torture and death by the criminal Rochester claims her but fails each time to effectively do the job. She loses herself time and again, and the stakes are raised as her deadly trials are transformed into tests of her own suicide.

Eventually she is rescued by a team, run by her old friend, Tomlin, and returns to the school to continue the next chapter of her life as a broken and beaten young prisoner of war. She heals slowly, and she faces more decisions of love and acceptance, deception and revenge. The ending will blow readers away.

[LDF] That is something that I can attest to. I certainly didn’t see the ending you gave the book coming at all! So now you’ve finished writing and editing, you’ve got printed books in hand and delivered to the book store for the launch. You’ve got e-book pre-order and sales links all ready to go. I have to ask... You’re about to release your first book as a fiction author.  What thoughts are going through your head? How do you feel?

[RR] Such a loaded question, and one I feel I need to answer perfectly honest. I am a bit terrified. As strange as it is, I feel as though I am ready to have my first child again. I remember feeling very anxious, going into the unknown, unsure if I would be a good parent, if I could do everything I needed to see it through. There is that same hesitation here: what if people don't like it, what if I can't make it as an author? Or, what if I DO?

Seriously though, I am very excited. My launch date can't come fast enough, and I am hoping that all goes well. My proudest moment was when I accepted my shipment of books and I was able to post the picture on social media. My brain is jam packed with things I need to do between now and then, emails to send, reviews to inquire about, copies to send out. All good things.

[LDF] Well as I’ve already mentioned, I’m really looking forward to attending the launch party and getting my hands on one of those published paperback copies. I already know that I love the story, but I have to have the book!

When I chat with and do interviews with authors I like to ask them a bit about their regular day-to-day routines and to try and get to know them as more than just an author too. So let’s go that direction now... During a typical writing day, what are 3 items that you always have within arm’s reach?

[RR] First, my IPad. All of my current stories, poems, and books get written on my iPad. When I wrote Life’s Defeat I had only my old beat up laptop (which would overheat on my lap occasionally) and so I actually wrote about 75% (if not more) of the novel on my iPhone 4. For anyone who writes frequent emails, they will tell you how much fun mass writing on a phone can be. So I told myself that if I “won” NaNoWriMo (accomplished writing 50,000 words in 30 days) I would buy an IPad for the future. So I did.

Second, a snack. I do most of my writing late at night or in the middle of the night, so something clean and satisfying, like raisins or air-popped popcorn, is a must.

Third, a blanket. Sounds crazy, but I am one of those weirdos who likes to be warm. All the time. So whether it’s during a heat wave in July or freezing in December, I will often be on the couch, iPad in lap, quilt or couch throw over me.

[LDF] And when you have some time for yourself, just to kick back and relax and read, who are the favorite authors you would reach for?

[RR] Well, I have my favourite books, certainly. I read incredibly fast, so all of my books are loaded onto my kindle and go with me on every camping trip, vacation, or long road trip. I have a lot of really random reads like psychology journals and historical journals. But I keep a good selection of paranormal, historical romance, horror, sci if, fantasy, romance, and memoirs on hand.

I re-read Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series about once every few years (yes, all nine of them). I love the richness of her characters, and how she broke boundaries between basically prostitution, sex and the heroine, the relationships between her people, and the believable sprawls of the landscapes she creates.

Otherwise there are a smattering of other authors I pull up frequently: Maggie Shayne, Edgar Allan Poe, Diana Gabaldon. To be honest half the time I pull up a book without looking at the title or the name. The book must speak for itself, no matter what it is.

[LDF] Alright this is the last question and time for one of my little quirk questions – my quirk not yours, but I always have to ask… Coffee or Tea? Coke or Pepsi? Books or Movies?

[RR] Once or twice a year I enjoy a coffee or tea (no really, no preference, and only that many times).

Coke always wins over Pepsi, although lately diet Pepsi has found its way into our fridge and I don't hate it enough that I don't drink it.

I love the feel of a book in my hands. I love the smell of an old hardcover and the jagged edges of the nice, hundred year old cloth covered novels. I love the fact that a good book doesn't tell the reader absolutely everything, so you are able to imagine exactly how a character looks and sounds. I don't mind that a book becomes a six hour video in my brain. Having said that, there is something to be said for a movie that really captures the essence of a good book - Little Women (Louisa May Alcott), for example. I love the book, and read it frequently for my own enjoyment and also to my daughter. But the movie fit my own feel of the book, and I always get hit hard during the scene of Beth’s death. Even with knowing it is coming, I cry every time.

[end of interview]

Rebekah and I have been messaging and emailing back and forth over the last few weeks and I’ve truly had a great time getting know her and to ask her questions about her journey to publishing. One day while messaging she mentioned that she’d written most of the first book on her cell phone and I couldn’t help but laugh (as I was actually doing the same thing at that moment) and I told her that we were going to have to share that tidbit in her interview. I didn’t know how but I knew it had to be included, so I’m really happy with the way our whole interview turned out.

As you should have guessed by now, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to read Life’s Defeat as an advanced reader and I will be posting my complete review of the book here on Ups, Downs, Ins and Outs tomorrow.  But needless to say, I loved it and I thoroughly recommend Life’s Defeat to everyone. It’s a thriller and has a romance. It’s a bit science fiction and dystopian. It’s simply a really great book. I promise.

Now, if you’re in the Calgary, Alberta area on Wednesday October 7th, 2015 and if, like me, you’d really like to get your hands on this book then I suggest you make your way to the Book Launch Party for Life’s Defeat at OWL’S NEST BOOKS from 7:00-8:30pm.

Here’s all the details and I hope we’ll see you there:
Owl’s Nest Books
7-8:30 pm
815A 49th Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta

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