Nov 9, 2010

Skyler White - Interview and Contest

PVN is happy to welcome Skyler White author of the fantastic bestseller and Falling Fly (Berkley, March 2010) and most recently the beautifully written In Dreams Begin (Berkley, November 2, 2010). She has graciously consented to an interview and is offering copies of her two novels to one lucky reader.

Read a review of  and Falling Fly

[see contest details at end of post]

PVN How do your two novels and Falling Fly (2010) and In Dreams Begin (2010) connect?

Skyler: Well, “Dreams” is actually a prequel of sorts to “Falling,” and they live in the same story world. Olivia (from “Falling”) and Laura (from “Dreams”) sit beside each other on the plane to Ireland, so the same scene is in both books from each character’s POV, but the character of primary overlap is really only hinted at, and it’d be too much of a spoiler to say who it is.

PVN What attracts you to the poet W. B. Yeats?

Skyler: He’s just so romantic. He represents this wild, passionate Irish emotionality and idealism that’s deeply at odds with my modern goals of balance and reason. I like my life, but there’s part of me that longs for the Irish poet down on one knee in the middle of a moonlit lake. The danger and the romance appeal to me. I want to take risks. Just not really risky risks. At least not with my life. So I take them with my writing. After the modern intellectualism of Dominic in and Falling Fly,  I wanted to take on good, old-fashioned romance. I wanted to create a hero who was romantic in all the classic ways: good-looking, brave, and devoted. And as I started trying to write that, I found myself struggling with what it would look like today. Can a modern man still profess his undying love and propose marriage to a woman he’s only seen once or twice? I couldn’t make it work. It either felt like parody or innocence, and I didn’t want to write YA.

So I started reading the Romantics, but they, of course, didn’t feel modern enough. Yeats was closer to me in time than Byron, but still had the optimism and total lack of irony I was looking for. You can see, particularly in his work before the First World War, a sort of self-confidence in humanity and a belief that the world was perfectible, the idea that science could prove the existence of the soul and that all the mysteries of god and man could yield their secrets and respond to our improvements. I found that very attractive, and I was excited about putting a modern woman against that kind of man. And at first that was all I was looking for in research, “that kind of man.” I had no intention, initially, of writing real people into the story. I’m not crazy, really. And research is hard. I was planning to write a turn-of-the-century Irish poet based loosely on Yeats who could fall in love with a modern woman moving backward in time through some time-travel device or portal.

But. But the more I read about Yeats, the more I was becoming attracted to him specifically – to his height and his wire-frame glasses, to his poetry, but also to his biography. I was intrigued by his thirty years of fruitless love for Maud Gonne. He proposed to her and to her daughter. He wrote about her as a woman, as a symbol, and as a supernatural being. And I couldn’t stop wondering what was going on with that. He, after all, wasn’t crazy either. He was at odds with Maud’s politics, the two of them were rarely on the same continent, and neither of them was much interested in changing to meet another person’s needs. He liked quiet, she traveled with over a dozen animals. He loved the Irish countryside. She adored Paris. This was never going to work. And he knew as much.

PVN Do you have a favorite poem or quote of his?

Skyler: Too many! I love his poem “The Second Coming,” and the quote I end my Acknowledgments with: “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.” I love that. And here’s a snippet I loved, but couldn’t fit into the book: “Then in 1900 everybody got down off his stilts, henceforth nobody drank absinthe with his black coffee; nobody went mad; nobody committed suicide; nobody joined the Catholic church; or if they did I have forgotten.”

PVN Victorian occult practices have always fascinated me, and they play an important role in your most recent novel. How did you go about researching this topic?

Skyler: I actually took six months off writing and just did research for “Dreams.” Luckily for me, Yeats was both a very prolific writer, and completely unabashed about his interest and involvement in the occult. I read his essays on magic and his autobiographies. I read Crowley (for whom Yeats held a deep and public dislike) and Dion Fortune and Madame Blavatsky. The mesmeric technique that Ida uses to channel Laura into Maud is taken directly from a treatise that was published a few years before my story is set.

PVN Did you experiment with any of your findings?

Skyler: What a cool question! No really. Although some of the sex magic could be kinda fun….. No, I didn’t try any of the rituals Yeats describes. Although I did experiment with his experiences. I visited his house – rather, his converted Norman castle – in Galway. He wrote several poems about being visited by ghosts, both personal and ancient, there. And I did spend quite some time alone in the room where he wrote, just sitting quietly and listening. Trying to feel him there.

PVN Tell us a bit about the historical figure of Maud Gonne and how she plays a role in your novel.

Skyler:  She was a remarkable woman. She worked for Irish independence but not women’s suffrage, bore two children to a married French revolutionary, and married a man who was subsequently shot by firing squad for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising. She was six feet tall, famed for her beauty, pro-violence, and psychic. She also believed that she had sold her soul to the devil in her teens and believed herself to be part faerie, one of the Irish Sidhe, a particular breed of creature with a propensity for stealing souls. She attended séances and writes in her autobiography about spirit visions and ghosts from her childhood on. Both she and WB Yeats were involved in the Golden Dawn (an occult society), she intermittently and he throughout his life, and they both acknowledge a marriage to one another “on the spiritual plane.” That’s where the idea of the modern woman being channeled into Maud’s body began.

That idea opened up a lot of others. What would it be like to inhabit a different body? Would time move differently in the past and present? What would be in the modern woman’s present? And how much of it would she remember in the past? And those questions got me even more excited. That Yeats’s first love’s name was Laura, which is my given name, and that his first lover was named Olivia, which is the female lead from my first book, was initially just interesting. But Maud and I were both born on the winter solstice exactly a hundred years apart. Maud believed she was part Sidhe, possibly a faery changeling. I’m adopted.

All the pieces just lined up. Yeats was too wonderful not to write as himself. Maud’s life was full of actual events that were too bizarre not to include. The fiction made sense of the facts. Their mutual engagement with the occult provided a means to move spirits through time, as did Maud’s belief in her faery heritage, and the more of Yeats’s poetry I read, the more he seemed to be hinting at a secret very much like this one. Also, importantly, it gave me space to ask some questions that were becoming relevant from my own, personal, modern life about the nature of love and fidelity. And I was half in the book already.

PVN Has your theatrical background made you think about how your novels would be as movies, a TV series, or a play?

Skyler: It’s funny, I think of and Falling, Fly as a very visual book, and I could totally imagine it as a movie while I was writing it, much less so with Dreams. But then my best friend, who’s a graphic artist, is very excited about Dreams as a graphic novel, so I guess there’s something interesting going on there. I think my theater training allows me to visualize bodies in space easily. I can “see” a scene while I’m writing, and stage it in my mind.

PVN What are you working on now?

Skyler: I’m working on an all-American, no travel east of the Mississippi, completely contemporary trilogy. It nestles into the world of Falling and Dreams, but I’m thinking of it as a stand-alone series. There will be some character overlap between them and previous characters, as there is with Dreams and Falling, both of the brief cameo type that Laura gets in Falling, and the larger backstory building in Dreams.

PVN Which authors or books inspired you as you were growing up? 

Skyler: The single most seminal book for me growing up was the Daulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. After that probably Mary Stewart’s Arthur books and Rosemary Sutcliff. But it wasn’t until I was in my forties that I started thinking about being a writer, so writerly inspiration…. Gaiman, DeLindt, Bull.

PVN Anything else you would like to add?

Skyler: Just that I’ll be around today and would love to take any questions your readers have. Getting a chance to talk with readers and book bloggers in one of my favorite things about being a writer.

PVN Thanks so much Skyler for this very engrossing and thoroughly entertaining interview!

Skyler White is the nationally bestselling author of dark fantasy novels ‘and Falling Fly’ (Berkley, March 2010) and ‘In Dreams Begin’ (Berkley, November 2010). She lives in Austin, TX. Visit her on the web at
or write to her at


One lucky winner will win personalized copies of  In Dreams Begin as well as and Falling Fly’.

To enter the contest do one of two things:
      Ask Skyler a question.
      Make a comment on Skyler's post.

The contest is open to US and Canadian residents.

Be sure your email address is associated with your comment.

Contest ends November 23, 2010


debbie said...

I really enjoyed the interview. I think that the Second Coming is my favorite of his peoms,also.
I would like to ask, what was the most unusual thing that inspired you, and what did it inspire?

Kimberly B. said...

Wow, these books sound terrific? I love Yeats!
My question is: do you have any plans to incorporate any other historical figures into your writing?
Thanks for the great interview and giveaway!
beax0002 (at) umn (dot) edu

Julie said...

I think it's neat that the second book you wrote is actually before the story line of the first book you wrote. It's neat how the creative mind works.


Dot S. said...

I confess I have never read Yeats, if I have I have forgotten, but your interview makes me want to delve into a research project right along with making me want to read your facinating books.

SandyG265 said...

I like the covers of your books. Do you ahve any input into them?

sgiden at

katsrus said...

Love your book covers. Your books sound very interesting. I have never read Yeats either. Sounds like he wrote about very interesting things. I love learning how authors research their books.
Sue B

Jennifer said...

In regards to "and Falling, Fly" and/or "In Dreams Begin" While writing did any of the characters surprise you?

I can't wait to read In Dreams Begin.

BookNoise at gmail dot com

Tore said...

I like the covers of your books. What inspired you to be a writer? What books do you like to read? Pleas enter me in contest. I would love to read both books.

Kathleen said...

Fantastic interview. I was just in Ireland this summer after an Irish literature class. Maud came up quite a bit along with Yeats during the class, and we visited a special Yeats exhibit at the National Library. Sounds like a book I'd definitely be interested in!

rachel445 said...

Love the covers to the books! What do you like most about being an author?


Skyler White said...

Debbie- Wow, that's an interesting question. I'm not sure I know. I heard a story about parasites that can change human behavior on a podcast recently that has inspired a short story I'm still working on.
Kimberly- Thanks, and God, no! Actually, that's a lie. I do plan to incorporate historical figures in another book, but not for a long, long time. It's really hard, and I'll need a few years to forget that.
Julie- Minds are funky things, yes?
Dot- I'm so glad! He's well worth picking up. And thank you, I hope you enjoy "Dreams!"
Sandy- I do have some input into my covers. I put together a packet of images for my editor to take into their cover conference, and I've been very lucky!
Katsrus- Thank you!
Jennifer -- Yes, in both books I had characters surprise me. Ida (in "Dreams") was the biggest shock though. She just kept taking off in strange directions.
Tore- I love to read, and will try almost anything for 20 pages. I read a lot of fantasy/sci-fi since that's what I write, but I read literary fiction, horror, poetry and a ton of non-fiction. As for what inspired me to be a writer.... I realized, at forty, it was the only thing I'd done consistently, and enjoyed, throughout my other careers. It just seemed write to see what would happen if I gave it direct focus.
Kathleen- I hope you had a wonderful time in Ireland! I spent *hours* in that Yeats installation in the National Library, and thought it was beautiful. (Spent a lot of time in the microfiche room too -- not as pretty)
But yeah, both Will and Maud are huge cultural figures historically in Ireland.
Rachel -- What I like most about being a writer, really, is the people. I love talking books (mine and other people's) with folks, I love other writers and talking craft, and I love people who read. I don't think I've ever had a bad conversation that started with "what are you reading" as long as it was answered by anything other than "I don't read." And not everybody does read much, but those of us who do, who love books and enjoy ideas tend to be always have a good time when we find each other.

Bethany C. said...

Oh good- I'm not the only one who was fascinated with Daulaire's Book of Greek Myths! My class read it in sixth grade and not only did no one think of it as anything other than a book we just read for school, but I've never heard anyone mention it since. I've been obsessed with greek mythology ever since I read it.
I'm really interested in reading your books. Not only because they sound interesting, but because I can see how much research and care you put into them.


elaing8 said...

Interesting interview I enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to reading these books

heatwave16 said...

I never thought that Falling & Dreams were related. They just seemed like since completely different stories. Will the 2 be tied together in the 3rd book?


Skyler White said...

Bethany- Yay! I still love that book. I read it to both of my kids twice and give it as my standard first gift to any child over five. And the illustrations are so gorgeous!
elaing8- Thank you!
heatwave16- They are, but in really subtle Easter-eggy ways, and only in two places. Olivia and Laura sit beside each other on the plane to Ireland, so that scene is in both books. The other is subtler, but kind of a spoiler, so I don't want to post it in comments, but email me and I'll tell you!

Pam S (pams00) said...

I also enjoy Yeats - great post, ty for sharing :)! These look like great reads. Do you enjoy any other poets? Do any inspire future books?

Pam S
gfc follower - pams00
pams00 @ aol.comi

Asylumgirl said...

Now that's the kind of research I could get into, occult history and trying to feel out ghosts. lol

deidre_durance at hotmail dot com

throuthehaze said...

Great interview! I have heard a lot of positive things about this series. Love the covers!
throuthehaze at gmail dot com

latishajean said...

I really enjoyed the interview I look forward to reading them sound very good!Great giveaway thank you very much!

jmspettoli said...

I'm very exited to read Dreams because I absolutely love Yeats and his poetry. "The Second Coming" is one of my favourite poems of all time. I also love "Sailing to Byzantium" and "Leda and the Swan."

spettolij AT gmail DOT com

booklover0226 said...

Hello, Skyler.

What is your opinion on book trailers? Do you think they help in book sales?

Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com