The wonderful, brilliant and beautiful author of “Sings With Stars” gave me the honor of sending her some interview questions. A month went by, and now we have both finally gotten ourselves a few spare minutes in which we could finalize this interview, Bethany – time to email me her answers and me – time to get this in writing!
So here goes nothing!
Yvonne: What inspired you to become a writer and to write this book?
Bethany: The first time that somebody told me I should write a book I was seven. That sentiment was repeated by a few other people as well over the years, and I suppose it stuck with me. I’ve written in a journal on and off for many years, so writing came pretty easily.
Yvonne: How did you get started with your story, was it just some random ideas or did the story come from somewhere more complex?
Bethany: That’s actually kind of a funny story. I was having a tarot card reading with a good friend of mine, and he said it was time to start writing. He didn’t specify what, just that it was time. A week or two later my husband and I were out for a walk, and he was describing the growing subculture called “steampunk”, and I was very intrigued. The notion of an alternative reality where everything was re-imagined was very appealing to me. Within about ten minutes of our conversation, I’d decided that I was going to write my story in a steampunk universe, but one that uses magic. I went home, wrote out a very brief overview of the main characters, and began writing when I got home from work that night. Nine weeks later, the first draft was finished. I mostly heard the story in my head. I would sit down to write, and there it was.
Ironically, the tarot card aspect of the book didn’t make it’s way into the book until later.
Yvonne: What is steampunk?
Bethany: Steampunk is a genre of speculative fiction born of the works of authors like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells that is usually set in the Victorian era and steam is used rather than electricity. Often it’s an alternate history version of the “path not taken” (wikipedia). That much seems to be the accepted version of steampunk that most people agree on.
It’s a good definition, but it doesn’t cover the entire truth of my interest in the subject. When I began googling “Steampunk”, I was very inspired by the amount of DIY (do it yourself) fashion aesthetic and work ethic I was seeing in the photos people had posted. So, being a DIY kinda girl, it immediately appealed to me. It has also come to represent (for me) a rejection of the planned obsolescence of mass produced stuff. I was already re-making clothes I found in resale shops, so this just pushed me further in that direction, reinforcing my belief in the value of individuality or an assumed value of wearing a designer label, to fit in…
I don’t consider myself a “steampunk” however, I am (like everybody) the combination of my experiences filtered through my perceptions. It makes us all unique in all the world, so though I enjoy the fashion of steampunk quite a bit, I wouldn’t want to classify myself as any particular thing.
Yvonne: Where did the magical world in your story come from?
Bethany: With steampunk’s fundamental need to take place in an alternate dimension, time line, or universe, a magical world was a perfect fit. Plus I love books that have a secret magical world. I based the magic of my world on “real world” magic, the shamanism of the Toltec / Mayan peoples. As well as aspects of other spiritual and magical traditions, and metaphysical concepts. It was an interesting process of weaving them together to make a cohesive world.
Yvonne: How difficult was it for you to develop your characters?
Bethany: Because the book is semi-autobiographical, some of the characters are based on people in my life, or more accurately, combinations of people in my life. There is not one person who is exactly themselves in the book, more what they represented to me.
The villain in the book is based on my mother, or specifically a personification of her mental illness. She had a dissociative personality disorder, so I used those traits to make the villain. The combination of those exaggerated traits and some very real comments and conversations from my childhood are what came together as the Fayanna character.
Yvonne: Do you have any advice for future writers?
Bethany: Your story matters, and you only have to believe in your ability to write it. Get it on paper, let the editors help you hone the story later. The most important thing is to start and keep at it.
Yvonne: Why do you think people should read your book?
Bethany: This was a really hard answer for me, but I finally came to the conclusion that, I enjoy finding aspects of myself in the books that I read, as do other people. I used archetypal metaphors which by their nature help the reader to find themselves within the story. Nobody can have exactly the same experience as anybody else because each person brings their own unique perspective to any experience.