interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Fall 2017 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?
Rebecca: I’ve entered and placed in WOW’s contests before, and I love the format. Not to mention that the prize money is pretty good for flash fiction publication! Someday, I’ll get that grand prize, I hope.
WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, "Hobgoblin?"
Rebecca: "Hobgoblin" was originally written for a local open mic literary reading in Berkeley, CA, where the readings have to be completed within three minutes. The reading series is called Saturday Night Special, and it takes place once a month with a theme. That month, the theme was Heroes and Villains. Hobgoblin was what I came up with when I sat down to write something for the open mic. I thought it would be fun to do a character sketch of a misunderstood villain from fairy tales, and hobgoblins are a more nebulous category among those. I’ve revised the short story since then, but it retains the original lyricism that makes it an ideal piece for reading aloud.
WOW: You mention that you write “all the speculative fiction genres you can conjure up.” What are a few of your favorite types, and perhaps explain it a bit for people who may not be familiar with speculative fiction?
Rebecca: Speculative fiction is an umbrella term for fiction that falls within the genres of fantasy, horror, science fiction, paranormal, superhero, slipstream, magic realism, alternative history, steampunk, and a few others that I’m sure I’m leaving out. The element these sorts of fiction share is that they come from asking a question that requires the author to speculate. For example, “What if Columbus had never come to the Americas?”, “What if people could read minds?”, “What if there were a world where it never stopped snowing?” When I began writing as a career, I thought I would focus on fantasy, as I’ve always loved stories that imply a deep history and lore and involve magic. But I’ve found that I also gravitate toward fairy tale qualities in my storytelling, whether existing or new fairy tales I invent, and I have written a fair bit of humorous science fiction tales. Horror, with more of a Poe or Twilight Zone feel than slashers, is also a natural fit for my narrative style. I’m not likely to write a highly technical science fiction tale any time soon, but I’m working on a postapocalyptic paranormal romance novel, currently in its second draft.
WOW: Your novel, Wings Unseen, debuted last year, which must have been very exciting. What was your novel writing journey like? What did you learn along the way?
Rebecca: I’m thrilled that Meerkat Press published Wings Unseen, my epic fantasy novel, last August. I had a great time putting together a book tour to promote it, and I’ve been happy with how much support I’ve received. Hopefully, a few readers will follow my work and buy my other books as they come out! By the time I graduated college, fifteen years ago, I knew the basic premise of the book and I knew my three main characters, from whose points of view Wings Unseen is told, quite well. But I didn’t seriously start writing the book until six years later, and I completed it four years after that. As I am working on any number of writing projects at a time, I am definitely not a fast novel writer!
I’m still rather surprised that my first book was published, as so many authors talk about their first books being in a dark drawer somewhere, never to see the light of day again. But it wasn’t a speedy process getting there. I knew I wanted to be traditionally published, but I didn’t necessarily want to go the agent route. So I spent a year sending the manuscript to the big speculative fiction publishers who consider work from writers without agents. That went nowhere, so I decided I would try to land an agent next, and while I had some promising nibbles, I became discouraged with that process by the end of the next year. I then switched gears to small presses that take work from writers without agents. Within six months, I had a couple of offers. Ultimately, I went with Meerkat Press, and I have been absolutely thrilled with them as publishers. They provided the full traditional publication experience: advances, multiple rounds of editing, fantastic cover art, distribution, and great support and access to reviewers. I hope to continue my relationship with Meerkat once my next book is complete. It took about a year from contract acceptance to the launch of Wings Unseen.
WOW: Congratulations and good luck with the next book! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Rebecca. Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?
Rebecca: Contests are a great way for writers to get a confidence boost for their work – as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my very first published short story, “Last Complaint,” was a WOW third place winner, and that was in 2011, early on in my writing career. I’d caution writers against spending too much money on contest entry fees, as it’s rare that they’ll see a return on them, but WOW’s $10 entry is right at my sweet spot for what I’m willing to pay. Plus, it’s great to have published bylines, but it’s also great to be able to list contest placements among your accolades when querying publishers and agents.
Make sure you read up on the contest judges and submit a piece of your work that they’ll potentially connect with, if you can. And make sure that your submitted manuscript is as clean and error-free as possible! That always give me a leg up in the submission or contest judging process.
For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.