Today's author interview is with R J (Rebecca) Anderson, author of newly released Knife or soon-to-be released Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter (depending on where you live). Born in Uganda, but raised in Ontario, R J Anderson tells us all about her debut YA novel Knife, the reason behind the different names and what it's like to be a writer...
KNIFE is the story of a fierce young faery who fights to save her dying people while concealing her forbidden friendship with a human. The faeries of the Oak have lost their magic, so they live in constant fear of predators and the dangers of the modern world. Knife is the only one with the skill and the courage to go out and try to find what's gone wrong with the Oakenfolk and what the world Outside is really like... but when she meets Paul McCormick, she discovers a lot more about humans, faeries, and her people's past than she ever bargained for.
To begin with, can you tell us a bit about your latest book, Knife?
KNIFE was my original title, and my UK publisher was happy to go with that. But my US publisher wanted to market the book in a different way, and also emphasize that it was part of a series. So in North America the series is FAERY REBELS, and this particular book is SPELL HUNTER.
What's the reason behind the two different names for the book (Knife/Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter)?
I started writing and illustrating my own stories when I was eight years old. By the time I was twelve I had definite, very strong ambitions of being a published author one day, and had even started writing my first fantasy novel. So yes, writing has always been a huge part of my life.
Have you always wanted to be an author?
"...it ticked me off that in all the books I'd read the disabled guy never got to be the romantic lead."
Long and bumpy. I wrote the book in 1993-94, but it took me more than ten years to get it into really marketable shape. It wasn't until 2002, when an editor friend stepped in to give me some very specific critical advice about how to *rewrite* the book instead of just polishing and tweaking little bits here and there, that I began to understand what Knife's story really needed in order to shine. Once I'd done two significant revisions under her direction, I was finally able to capture the interest of an agent with it, and shortly after that, the book finally sold.
What was the road to publication for Knife like?
Every time I think about this question I come up with a different answer. So many things go into an idea! But basically, if you took the Flower Faeries and PETER PAN (oh, all right, it was really Steven Spielberg's HOOK, so sue me) and put them in a blender with Madeleine L'Engle's A SWIFTLY TILTING PLANET and Frank Miller's ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN, you would have something like the primordial soup from which Knife arose in my teenaged brain. I loved the idea of small, humanoid faeries but I didn't want anything sparkly or twee, and I'd always felt a bit sorry for Tinkerbell being in love with Peter but clearly never having a chance, and it ticked me off that in all the books I'd read the disabled guy never got to be the romantic lead. So I let all those thoughts tumble around in my brain and polish each other for about five years until I was ready to put them all into a story.
Where did you get your inspiration for the story? Why faeries?
I used to as a teen, but I find it too distracting now, unless I'm listening to something that I've heard so many times I don't even register it any more. Though sometimes when I'm feeling really uptight about the words instead of relaxing into the story, familiar music can help to soothe the savage critic in my brain.
Do you listen to music when you write?
I do love Knife a lot, but I have an enormous soft spot for Thorn. She's so grouchy and cynical and sharp-tongued, but with hidden depths -- kind of the Dr. House of the Oakenwyld, now that I think about it. I wish I could write a whole book from her point of view, but I doubt that'll happen since she's too old to be the protagonist of a YA novel. Maybe I'll write a short story for her one day.
Who is your favourite character you've created?
I'm currently working on the sequel to KNIFE, which will be published in 2010. In my spare time I'm also writing a paranormal YA thriller about a girl with cross-wired senses (a.k.a. synesthesia), which my agent and I are really excited about.
What else can we look forward to from you in the future?
If you really want to be a writer, don't let discouragement and rejection keep you down. Keep writing, keep submitting, and use feedback and criticism from others to make your work better. If you start to get personalized rejections from agents and editors that actually give you advice on how to improve the book, that's fantastic progress! Take those comments to heart and put them to use, and you WILL eventually get published. Even if it takes fifteen years, like it did with me. :)
And finally, any parting words of wisdom?
A huge thankyou to R J Anderson for the interview! You can find her online at her website http://www.rj-anderson.com or follow her blog at livejournal http://rj-anderson.livejournal.com/
If you live in the UK Knife is out now! Go buy it! It will be available in Aus/NZ from March.
While Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter will be out late April for everyone in the USA!
Make sure you check back tomorrow for my review of Knife! :)