Monday, April 15, 2013
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Penelope Reece
10 Questions for author Penelope Reece. Visit her website or Find her on Goodreads.
Hi Penelope! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. How did you get into writing?
It started when I was a child playing that holy - anything goes - game of make-believe. I used to pretend I was an author writing beautiful prose in my little composition notebook. But what I was really doing was copying one of my favorite children’s stories, verbatim.
After that I moved on to my own stories, ones that began “It was a dark and stormy night.” Back then I believed every story of worth began that way.
Then one day my mother let me play on her old typewriter and as soon as my fingers smacked those buttons I was off and running. I wrote fantasy novels about fairies and humans. I believe my first story, mind you I was probably eleven or twelve at the time, was called Into the Land of the Shamrocks. It was never finished and I still have it… somewhere.
If you want to know when I decided, “This is it! Writing is for me,” that didn’t happen until my senior year of high school when I signed up for creative writing. It was that class that swayed me from a dream of living with the gorillas like Jane Goodall, to sharing my daydreams with other people.
Can you tell us about your book? Where did the idea come from?
What can I say about this book without giving anything away? Perhaps I should just say what my inspirations were. First, there’s the whole idea of astral projection. Think Charmed versus Insidious. And then there was the painting, The Nightmare, and its connection with sleep paralysis. Throw in another dimension plus body snatching and you’ve got Phantasma: a story about a girl who suffers from a sleeping condition and ends up summoning a quirky being who was previously trapped in Limbo.
I’d had the idea for Phantasma way back in 2003. It was called Demon inside Me then and as the title suggests, Noer was a demon. In this version he was summoned via the Ouija board. One day back in January, while I was showering (Yes that’s usually the place where I do my best thinking) I decided to rework the story into something else, something other than conjuring a demon. Thus Noer became a being from another plane/dimension instead of a boring ol’ demon who threw taxidermy crows. (Though, I can’t say for sure if I’ve totally scrapped my previous idea. Some of the original may pop up in other stories. I’m all about recycling.)
What was the inspiration behind your protagonist, Alphie?
I can’t really say for sure how Alphie came about. I’m usually a panster and started writing with no one in mind (Well, actually that is a big fat lie! Usually all my female leads are molded after me in one way or the other. It’s that whole fulfilling those childhood fantasies thing, I guess). When I began with Alphie, she was just a simple black and white character, but as the story progressed, as the plot began to take shape, so did Alphie. She slowly pulled away from me until she was her own being making her own choices and basically telling me to “butt out!”
Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?
Even though I love all my characters, I would have to say my favorite in this novel is definitely Noer. Noer is this tall Romanesque being who may well be a tad bit crazy. Well he’s pretty crazy really. I enjoyed writing about him and especially enjoyed his moments of childish insanity. I have a soft spot for characters that appear to be innocent/childish/silly and yet when things get serious they get serious too. Chalk it up to my love for characters like Percy from The Scarlet Pimpernel, Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin, and even a particular scene with Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop. There’s just something about a character secretly acting like a fop, a dandy, and or a cute innocent, when in reality they are quite intelligent and downright lethal.
I hope to show more of Noer’s eccentricities in book two, Phantasmata.
What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?
My favorite scene… Now that’s a tough one. If I had to choose (and I don’t really want to, but I will) I’d have to say it would be Alphie and Cary’s date. I had the most fun writing it. I even wrote it all in one sitting. Once it began, I couldn’t stop until the end. It reminded me of my high school days when I tried my hand (and failed) to flirt with those handsome guys.
I wanted to incorporate all those awkward first encounters when you’re first getting to know someone. Once you’ve establish his hotness, comes the time when you start to fish out his personality. Sometimes (for me it was all the time) once I’d seen past the pretty boy glamour, I’d realize the boy wasn’t at all what I’d expected. Or there were those times when I’d like a boy, but the only way I could flirt was by acting rude or indifferent.
What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?
My favorite part of the writing process would be designing my cover, because I get to sit back and let my designer do all the work. Ha! Actually, I’m kidding. My favorite part of writing would be that one fleeting moment when the idea first strikes. There is no greater feeling than getting that first flash of a scene/character and realizing this is it! That’s my story!
Afterward comes the fun part of sitting for hours at a time daydreaming, playing it all out in my head. Of course in those first few days, I let the story go wherever my mind takes it, usually to places and situations that never make it to paper. I want to draw the reader in, not send her screaming for the exit.
Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?
I keep telling myself to stop being a panster. I hate writing like that. It’s such a stressful process, especially when I almost finish writing and realize there are so many gaping holes in my story that I need to go back and fill in order for my “on the spot” story to make sense. I hate it. My husband hates it. And we both end up in an annoying argument over it because I always make him be the one to fix everything.
There are all kinds of "rules" out there about writing - show don't tell, no dialogue tags, etc. What's your opinion on them? Do you heed them? Bend them? Ignore them?
When I write, I tend to forget about everything but telling my story. Even when I am editing, I always focus on clarity and grammar. However, when my chaotic mind happens to remember that I should be showing and not telling, I shrug and pretend I didn’t remember. So, yeah, I definitely need to focus more on that particular rule. I know I’ve let the phrases “she was angry” and “she was sad” end up in my final versions. Oh the horror!
I’m a stickler for rules. I’m one of those annoying goody two shoes who’s scared of breaking rules and even tattles on those who do. This is how I think I am. How I am with most rules. However, as far as writing rules go, I probably bend them or completely ignore them and my conscience cries out in guilt. It tells me I shouldn’t be ignoring these rules and I want so much to change. Therefore, let’s say for future’s sake that I heed all rules and do my best not to fuddle them.
In your opinion, how has the Internet age affected the book world?
There are pros and cons to the internet. The pros of course being that more products are reaching millions of people every day. In the beginning we had the newspaper, magazines, and billboards. Now everything is put on the internet. And I mean everything!
With blogs, twitter, facebook, and all the other social networks, it has become easier and cheaper (emphasis on the cheap) to get your name out there. However, in my personal experience, even using these tools won’t bring about instant success. Now that the internet has become a breeding ground, probably more so a war zone between published and indie authors, it has become that more difficult to win the readers over. What used to be a select few is turning into hundreds and hundreds of authors, all trying their hardest to get their books out there.
I’ve only been in the writing scene for a few months and it’s been a challenge. I’ve sent out dozens of e-mails and only received three or four responses, most of those beginning with “I’m just too busy now.” It seems I’m always one step (okay make that at least five) behind other internet savvy authors. Once I completely learn the rules, I’m sure the internet will become more of my buddy instead of an attractive bully.
Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?
There are quite a few. I could probably list every single book I’ve ever read because I can’t with confidence say that I haven’t taken something of value from each. I love books, that’s all there is to it. I love literature. My favorite book is The Scarlet Pimpernel. I love Jane Austen, Robert Jordan, Stephen King, Terry Brooks, Alice Hoffman. I even love those sappy romance novels. Once I established my love for reading, I wanted to read everything. Of course all we had in the house were historical romances (you know the ones with Fabio on the cover). I think that’s why I love romance novels the most, because I grew up reading them.
When I was little, I hated reading. I even fell behind in second grade because I just thought it was boring, I guess. Then in fourth grade, I won at bingo. On the prize table lay an old book by the name of Shadow Castle. I don’t know why I chose it. It wasn’t like I’d win a Pizza Hut pizza for reading it (That was the only reason I read anything – to win that personal pan pizza). But it was a lot better than winning a pencil. So, I chose it and read it, and from that moment on I loved books. I loved the story and daydreamed about it for weeks, months, well… I still dream about it. It was the story that made me love stories.
I’ve since read that book so many times that I’ve had to tape the pages because they were falling out. In a way you could say this was the book that started it all. This was the biggest inspiration in my life. It opened a whole world up to me, a world of fantasy. And one day, I hope to read it to my children. Perhaps it will become their doorway into the land of books as it was for me.
Phantasma is available on Amazon.