Today's Darklight On... is with Bec Skrabl. Welcome, Bec!
How did you come to write speculative fiction? What attracted you to the genre?
I’ve always loved fantasy and speculative elements. Even back to the days of Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree series or Grimm’s Fairytales. Everything I read as a kid had fantastical elements and when I wasn’t reading, I was making up games featuring unicorns and fairies, for example. My sister always says I played the coolest games with her. So when it came time to put pen to paper, the stories were always going to have fantastical elements.
I think I love the world-building the most. The ability to dream yourself into another world and escape for a few hours. Plus, dragons and goblins and faeries are cool. Who wants to read about boring real-life stuff? We’re already living it.
You seem to have taken over from Kylie Griffin as the competition slu...I mean, queen, with you finalling in many contests over the last year or so. What do you find so valuable by entering contests?
This is the second year I’ve hit the contest circuit. Last year I submitted to all of the RWA Australia contests, because I wanted feedback on whether the manuscript was, well, any good. It was a great experience and I learned heaps from the judges about what did and didn’t work.
This year the contest thing has more of a specific goal. I’m only submitting to contests where the final judges are publishers or agents I would like my work in front of (presuming I make it through the first round of course), so mainly RWA America contests, though I have entered the Emerald and the Clendon. It’s also a great way to get your name out there and again, to see how the general readership responds to this new manuscript. Because it’s a new genre for me (steampunk), I was wondering how most readers would warm to it. So far, so good, it seems.
Besides, Michelle (my CP) challenged me for Kylie’s title this year, and I just had to accept. LOL.
Are you a plotter? Pantser? Or somewhere in-between?
I’m somewhere in between. When the idea first hits me, I have to get it down in as much detail as possible – saying this, I once wrote a 45 page single-spaced synopsis and couldn’t work out why that book never got written. Now I try and hold myself back at about fifteen pages so it doesn’t get too stale. I also write out a blurb (like the back cover copy of a book), because I find that the blurb concentrates on the main conflicts of the book, so its easier for me not to lose track if I go back and glance at it.
Then I start writing. I follow the synopsis for a good three chapters and then the characters start intruding and fleshing themselves out and plot twists pop up that weren’t accounted for. I actually don’t like to know too much about my characters before I start, but they’re fully realized by the time I finish. It’s like I’m slowly unearthing them at the same time as a reader might, and I love what little hints of history and flaws they might reveal. So, in the end, you might say I start out a plotter and end up a pantser, but it seems to work for me.
Do have a favourite of your characters?
I have a thing for my heroes, the darker the better. The story is always more heroine-centric (her journey anyway), but give me a flawed hero any day. My current favourite is probably Blade, the hero of The Devil of Whitechapel. Born in the gutters and turned into a blue blood by the craving virus, he’s my diamond in the rough. I wanted a hero who wasn’t a duke or vampire master. In fact he doesn’t want power at all. He’s simply a man trying to protect his friends and family from the monsters without... and the monster within.
What are you currently working on?
I started a steampunk series (Devil of Whitechapel) last October and finished the first manuscript in late January. I’ve got the ideas mapped out for the next two books in the series, but I’ve just started a new series to keep myself fresh. This is my (admittedly rough) blurb for my latest WIP and it’s half paranormal, half erotic.
Welcome to the world of the Inferi. A sensual world where humans are slaves to the passion of their Inferi masters and pawns in the Courts of Midnight. Where entering this world means you might never want to come back out...
When Detective Regan Kane’s sister, Darcy, goes missing in New Orleans, she returns home vowing to find her – no matter what the cost. The trail leads to a world she never believed existed, where all the monsters her mother has raved about for years are suddenly real.
Someone is intent on drawing her into the world of the Courts of Midnight, with their wicked, sexual games. Taking an invite meant for her sister, Regan enters the House of Éros for its annual Claiming Ball; a night where the Inferi choose their new esclavage for the next year and a day. Regan needs an in to this mysterious world but even she is shocked when Theron, one of the Inferi Masters, chooses her.
Responsible for the death of his previous esclavage, Theron vowed never to take another. But it’s clear that Regan is in over her head amongst this dangerous world and one look in her grey eyes rouses an unusual protectiveness – and a hunger he has denied for far too long. From the bayous of Louisiana to the dazzling glitter of the French Quarter, they must work together to discover the mystery behind Darcy’s disappearance – and the dark threat facing the Inferi world.
What is your favourite part of the process of writing?
Definitely the first 60,000 words. That’s when the story’s coming at a rapid fire pace and I can’t type quick enough to keep up with it. I’m exploring a new world and I love every twist and turn of it.
Then of course, the dreaded 60,000 hits for me and the shiny new ideas start beckoning. I’m trying not to cheat on my first manuscript, but sometimes I can’t resist playing with something else.
What can we expect from Bec Skrabl in the future?
Hopefully a publishing contract.
Who are your favourite authors?
Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, Lilith Saintcrow, Meljean Brook, Karen M. Moning and Linnea Sinclair are a few of my paranormal/UF auto-buys.
On the fantasy side of things I love Jacqueline Carey, Robin Hobb, Anne Bishop, George R.R. Martin and Tad Williams.
My absolute fave author in general is Dorothy Dunnett, who wrote the Lymond Chronicles many years ago. I can re-read once or twice a year and still find things she’s layered in. An absolute master in how-to-write and plot.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Zoe Archer’s Stranger, the fourth book in her Blades of the Rose series. One of my obsessions is travel, so I just love the fact that the BOTR quartet are set in very different places, rather than the usual America or UK. The first was in Mongolia, the second in Greece, the third in Canada. Stranger is mostly based in the UK, but it features a man of colour who is also an inventor, so I give it points for originality there – how cool is that?
Do you have a favourite spec fiction movie or TV series?
I don’t tend to watch a lot of TV (sob). Last year I was working full-time, travelling to Melbourne twice a week to do a course in tourism and I’d decided to make my writing a priority. Something had to give, and that turned out to be TV – and sleep.
I tend to watch series on DVD with my boyfriend. That’s my little treat. Unfortunately he’s not so into sci-fi/fantasy, so we have to compromise. Though we did recently enjoy the Vampire Diaries, Supernatural’s latest season and I can’t wait for Game of Thrones to hit Oz.
As for movies, old faves include Ladyhawke, the Princess Bride, Willow, LOTR, Pitch Black and Sunshine. Watched Sucker Punch two weeks ago (the steampunk aspects sucked me in) and even though I’m still trying to work out the plot, I loved the visuals. That’s so what goes on in my head when I write. LOL.
Do you have advice for emerging writers?
There are so many great tips for emerging writers on craft (and most likely said much better than I ever could), but one of the things I read somewhere that really made me think was; this is a business that we’re (hopefully) getting into. The more you know about the business side of things, the better. Study the publishing industry and follow agent and editor blogs, learn what’s selling and what’s not. Even if it’s not information that currently applies, bookmark it for later. I have a huge marketing file that I may never need – but if I do, then I’m going to be prepared. I hate the idea of marketing and promo, but its something that is necessary in this business, so I figure the more I know about it, the better.
I can understand why so many authors warn against the internet being a time suck, but for me, I feel like I’ve learned so much from it in the last two years. Mind you, just make sure you get that word count in FIRST.
Have your dreams, live your dreams, but work for them too. This, for me, means a daily word count and a responsibility to myself for my future career.
A great quote that I have pinned to my desk - ‘Dreamers who only dream, never have their dreams come true’.
Eleni, thanks so much for having me!