[see contest details at the end of the interview]
Welcome Skyler! Thanks for visiting Patricia's Vampire Notes.
Skyler: Thanks so much for having me!
PVN: Your urban fantasy novel and Falling Fly just hit the shelves yesterday. This is your first published book. How are you feeling?
Skyler: A little overwhelmed. It feels a little like standing beneath a tree full of apples, and you have your eye on one particularly beautiful, ripe fruit just out of reach. So you jump and you shake the tree and you jump again. You swear for a little bit, throw a rock at the tree, shake it some more. And the entire tree’s worth comes down on your head and on every side of you in one giant whomp! It’s all good. It’s more than I hoped for. I love every stinking apple. It’s just a lot. And I’m a little dizzy.
PVN: Tell us something about the heroine, Olivia.
Skyler: Olivia is the fallen angel of desire. She creates desire in others, but can’t feel her own. She is wanted, but can’t want. So she’s a vampire and sustains herself on what she inspires but can’t experience.
PVN: Also describe Dominic O’Shaughnessy and how the two characters connect.
Skyler: Dominic is a neuroscientist. He understands desire as a biochemical process and attraction or addiction as adaptive traits. Olivia explains suffering as God’s judgment. Dominic understands it as neurological disorder. They connect because they’re both interested in ending suffering, their own and other people’s, but the very thing each feels the other needs is the one thing that would negate everything they believe in.
PVN: What sort of research did you do for this novel? Or did it all come from your imagination?
Skyler: I did quite a lot of research on the neuroscience of desire and memory for this book. I’m fascinated by the field. Sometimes I think I made Dominic a neuroscientist just for the chance to learn more about it. I also did a good deal of retro-active research in Ireland. I spent ten days over there with a rental car and terrible maps about five years ago, and even though I didn’t know it at the time, several of my tourist accidents set the stage for events and locations in the book. Finally, my imagination is formed and informed by the mythologies I grew up with, and I did go back a re-read some of those primary texts very deliberately, mining them for trinkets I could hang on the story.
PVN: Why did you decide to use the vampire motif for Olivia?
Skyler: Vampires are so magnificently rich symbolically. And so infinitely open to re-interpretation. A human-appearing creature that feeds on humans – the list of taboos on offer in just that simple construct was irresistible to me. There’s the primal fear of being eaten. And a primal pleasure in being fed. There’s cannibalism and sexuality and religion in the mix. Just way too much to pass up.
PVN: What are you working on now? Will there be a sequel for and Falling Fly?
Skyler: My next book, which comes out in December, isn’t really a sequel to and Falling, Fly, but it takes place in the same story-world. In Dreams Begin is a dark time-travel romance/horror about a contemporary woman who falls asleep on her wedding night and wakes up channeled into the body of Maud Gonne, a six-foot tall, Irish Victorian revolutionary. The amateur occultist who channels her (the Victorians were big into spirituality and séances and wild experimentation with religion and science) introduces her to the poet WB Yeats, and they fall immediately – Victorianly – in love. This raises some interesting problems for her in her modern life and allows me to play with questions of fidelity and imagination, romance and irony, body, body image and culture. It was a lot of fun.
PVN: Do you use music or visuals to inspire you as you write?
Skyler: I can’t listen to music while I write. I listen to a repeating loop of thunderstorms on headphones. Weird, I know, but I’m very distractible and it blocks out noise and relaxes me.
Writing the second book, I had images of Victorian and fin de siècle clothes. With and Falling, Fly, I had photos from my Ireland trip of specific locations, but I can see the hotel vividly in my mind, and there’s no external image of that at all.
PVN: Would you tell us what it was like going from draft to publication?
Skyler: I write the world’s ugliest first drafts. So for me it’s going from draft to draft to draft (times eleven) to publication. By the time Leis (Leis Pederson at Berkley) bought the book, I felt it was pretty finished. She made a few streamlining tweaks, but she’s wonderful to work with and very collaborative, rather than dictatorial. Mostly she asks amazing questions.
PVN: Has your theater background influenced your writing?
Skyler: I think so. It certainly taught me a lot about working with other creative people on a collaborative project. And it showed me how much I enjoy the blatantly theatrical. It’s why I like SciFi/Fantasy. I’m simply uninterested in realism. I can enjoy it as a spectator or a reader, but it’s not what I want to make. There’s still so much more in the way of breaking down the fourth wall that I want to do as a writer, but you have to start slowly.
PVN: What is your writing environment like?
Skyler: My ideal writing environment sadly no longer exists. There was a day spa just outside of Austin called “The Crossings” where you could go, work undisturbed until you got tired, walk a labyrinth or swim in their pool, go back to work until you were hungry, go to the cafeteria and have a gorgeous, hot, healthy meal, and go back to your room and work. I never actually went there and did that (although my best friend and I went for a girl’s day once and had a ball) but I think it would have been perfect. However, The Crossings was a casualty of the recession.
So instead, I write mostly in a coffee shop with earplugs in my ears and my notes in a wad beside me. Or I work at home. I have a desk in my bedroom and all my books within reach and a big, soft exercise ball to sit on. When the work is going well I do my best work there. But if the words are being twitchy, there’s email and Google Reader and the laundry waiting, and I have to run away to work.
PVN:Where can readers find you?
Skyler: My website is the best place.
PVN: Anything else you would like to add?
Skyler: I wrote ...and Falling Fly to start a conversation, so please join in! I love hearing from readers.
Skyler White is author of dark fantasy novels ...and Falling Fly (Berkley, March 2010) and In Dreams Begin (Berkley, December 2010).
Trailer for ...and Falling Fly
one US readers or Canadian reader (No P. O Boxes please) will have a chance to win a copy of ...and Falling Fly
International readers (non-US or Canadian). I will offer one copy of ...and Falling Fly to be sent from Book Depository.
To enter the contest:
*Ask Skyler a question: One chance
*Make a pertinent comment: One chance
You may also:
*Link to this contest on any of the social network sites or your own web page. Let me know the url: One chance for each link.
*Tell me if you are a follower: One chance
*Tell me if you are an email subscriber: One chance
*If your email is not associated with your ID, please put the address in your response.
*Let me know if you are a US or International reader.
Contest ends March 24, 2010