Rebecca Taylor is the author of the book Ascendant, a book about protagonist Charlotte and her quest to find answers about her mother’s disappearance–and the strange mysteries that unfold the more answers she seeks. The book is YA, and a review will be coming to the blog soon, so stay tuned!
Many of my readers are aspiring authors themselves who are incredibly interested in the writing process through the lens of somebody successful in the field. What is the writing process like for you?
As always, I over think the question. On the larger level of “process” I keep a file of ideas. Things that catch my interest and that I find myself coming back to and daydreaming about. If I’m washing dishes and thinking of a particular story (events, setting, theme, secondary characters) I stop whatever physical act I’m doing to go and write those ideas down. I may never use them, I may never write that book, but these notes are wonderful to come back to. Currently I have two other files started for books that MAY be written when I finish the current one.
On the smaller level of “process” I’m thinking the day-to-day writing. I wish I could say that I write every day. I wish I WOULD write every day. Instead, I write most days. Like so many others, I work, I have a family, I have many other obligations that have nothing whatsoever to do with writing. I also, sometimes, procrastinate. It is very easy to use all those other very important things in your life as grand excuses for NOT writing—and I think that is a terrible thing. Never blame your family for why you are not writing. Having jobs and people in our lives who love us are gifts—not obligations that are simply keeping us from focusing on creative pursuits. When I’m not writing it’s because I’m avoiding having my butt in a chair long enough to get the process going—if I have time to watch TV, play internet games, Facebook and Twitter, I should have time to write.
Was there ever a point while writing Ascendant that you struggled with writing further?
Probably. I can’t remember specifics but it was undoubtedly like working on my current book. For me it’s a series of starts and stops, then streaks of writing followed by droughts punctuated by another start. I recently purchased a new teacup that reminds me to “trust the process” I think this is very important. For me, lots of the writing process can happen when I’m not sitting in front of my computer. That daydreaming about your book, the characters, the events—that’s all writing as well! I just have to make sure I jot those notes down.
A mandatory question for all authors to be asked is where their inspiration for their book came from. Seeing that you’re a school psychologist, did you tap into your experiences with the students around you when writing any of your characters?
Actually, no. Most people don’t really know what a school psychologist does and I think many assume I work much like a clinical psychologist would. For example, if a child is depressed, they would have therapy with the school psychologist at school—for me, this is not the case. Most of the children I work with have fairly severe disabilities (cognitive, emotional, behavioral, autism) I do sometimes work with kids who need and benefit from some form of transitional mental health support, but this is a very small portion of my overall caseload. Of course, every school is different and so the role of the school psychologist can be different at every school. Mostly I’m testing, observing, writing reports, and providing service for children who are qualifying for special education support.
My inspiration for writing Ascendant sprouted from research I was doing on Alchemy. I was completely hooked and so wanted to write a book about a girl whose family was deeply involved in the practice—only she doesn’t know it.
One thing that’s incredibly remarkable about Ascendant is how real and unique each character feels. Charlotte is a very strong and independent protagonist, and I found it very easy to latch onto her while I was reading. How much of yourself is infused with this character?
Probably more than I realize. I love Charlotte. I understand and sympathize with her weaknesses, her flaws—she is probably more like me than I would like to admit. It is difficult to say how much of me is in her because it would require me to have a profound understanding of myself in the first place—and I am not that developed of an individual. I will say this, if Charlotte were real and I was still sixteen, we would be best friends. Maybe even sisters.
Another thing that I absolutely loved was how vivid the detail was in describing the setting. I felt as though I was in the room with Charlotte during her discoveries. What made you choose such an elaborate setting for Charlotte’s journey?
This one is easy, those are places I would absolutely love to be, filled with things I want to touch. Setting is like the playground for your imagination—build it with whatever you like! Or, with everything that scares you the most.
There are aspects of romance in this story, but they take a back seat to the overarching mystery and action, which I absolutely enjoyed. Was that a conscious decision on your part, or did it just progress that way as the story developed?
Yes, completely conscious because this is not a YA romance. The story is about Charlotte and her search for answers after her mother’s mysterious disappearance, but I still love love. I want to write and read about the complications of raw attraction and the complexity of loving another person. I think I have always been fascinated by the ability to be immediately sexually attracted to another person, without much solid evidence to suggest that this is a good choice, verses the love of a developed relationship where you can easily create a list of positive attributes that person possess to support the decision of engaging in a long term relationship with them. Have you experienced both?—I have. I have absolutely fallen for that guy that was pure fire, but what kept me roped in was the tiny glimpse that, underneath; he had a lot to protect. Now contrast all that with the guy that is safe, loves you, and has been your best friend forever. This is probably what was going on deep in my brain when I came up with Hayden and Caleb.
Also, neither of the love interests is perfect, just like Charlotte is not—nor will they ever be. Humans are complex, irritating, and making poor choices based on emotions all the time. The trick with writing, I think, is to covey these flaws while still engendering sympathy for and with the character—and not losing it. That is the difficult part.
Okay, I’m personally dying to know: Is there a sequel planned?
Yes, and it is already written.
Lastly, what is some lasting advice you could offer young readers interested in becoming writers themselves?
READ EVERYTHING. I write young adult because I love writing from that time of life. It is discovery—becoming. But, like Charlotte’s mother, I read everything, I always have and I always will. Every book has something to teach me, even if that something is “well I don’t want to do that!” as a writer.
Next, WRITE, and don’t be too hard on yourself. When I was younger, I would write lots of things. Not books or even whole short stories—they were more like episodes, or exchanges. Because I had always read and loved good writing, I knew what good writing looked like—and mine wasn’t it. So, I never let anything live and have destroyed all that early stuff, most of it seconds after it hit the page. I was very hard on myself—I still am.
Writing is like anything, some degree of talent is necessary, but that alone is not enough. Practice. Practice. Practice. I think most people who think they want to be a writer give up long before they have put in enough practice to get good enough. Having said that, I also think that some people could practice until their fingers grew to their keyboard and it would not be enough to get good enough—some degree of talent is also necessary.
Of course, the million dollar question is always, “But do I have that degree of talent?! Is my time and effort worthwhile? Will I ever be good enough?” And, of course, the answer to that is, “I don’t know.” For me it has been a mixture of listening to myself, listening to others, and having some faith. It was also the realization that it didn’t matter anyway because even if I really suck, I can’t stop thinking of stories or control the urge to write them down. I will just keep plugging along and sending my words into a world that may or may not want them—but you don’t have any control over that part of the process. So that brings me to the point where I say, don’t think for one second that I’m not still trying to get somewhere myself. The funny thing about accomplishing your goals and desires is that there are always different goals and desires waiting in the queue.Contact Rebecca through these venues if you wish to ask her questions or interview her yourself. She has graciously offered to speak to fans and fellow writers, so take advantage! Blog: Rebeccataylorbooks.blogspot.com Twitter: @RebeccaTaylorYA Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/Rebeccataylor Amazon.com/author/rebeccataylorbooks