Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Interview with Rhiannon Held - June 5, 2012

Please welcome Rhiannon Held to The Qwillery. Rhiannon's debut novel, Silver, is published today. Happy Publication Day to Rhiannon!

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Rhiannon:  Writers are quirky people, so it has a lot of competition for most interesting, but I like to listen to the same song on repeat for a whole writing session of two hours or more. That way, I only have to find one song with the right mood. I often queue it up manually, so every three or four minutes pressing replay gives me an excuse to glance away from the word processor window and shake some words loose because I’m not concentrating on them for a moment.

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Rhiannon:  When it comes to my writing influences, I often feel like the child who’s described as a collection of body parts (your uncle’s nose, your mother’s eyes…). My love of beautiful imagery is influenced by authors like Jacqueline Carey and Patricia McKillip. I love Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series for its treatment of a very rigid, hierarchical society, and the depth and complexity of the character relationships. In urban fantasy, I love Patricia Briggs for how she grounds her stories in the setting and Jim Butcher for his humor. Finally, perhaps an especially eclectic choice, I love Dick Francis’ mysteries for how he creates male protagonists who are extremely honorable, and we feel deep in their heads even though they’re not overly emotional.

And while it’s a recent discovery rather than a formative influence, I want to mention Mary Robinette Kowal’s Regency series (starting with Shades of Milk and Honey) as one of my favorite of all time. Since I have a female protagonist, I had to think quite a lot about making her strong, and Mary Robinette Kowal does that wonderfully without making her heroine seem like some kind of weird time-traveling transplant to that society.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Rhiannon:  I’m a mixture of both, but I probably fall more on the plotter side of the spectrum. I never formally outline, but I always plan out in my head the broad sweep of the book’s structure. So when I start writing, I know the ending and the high points of the middle. As I go along, I fill in more detail in chunks of the story as I near them. I write best each day if I’ve imagined the scene(s) in my head beforehand. There’s a concept I’ve heard in director’s commentaries for TV shows called “breaking” the episode, where the writers sit down and plan out a episode’s story before writing it. I sit down and break a novel, and then break sections, and then break the scenes. Along the way, I keep what minimal notes I need to so I don’t forget anything.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Rhiannon:  My biggest challenge is always the thing I haven’t learned how to do yet. Some things throughout the process are always more difficult than others—for instance, I’m not a visual thinker, so I have to think harder about my setting description than I do about my dialogue—but the real challenges are the new things I’m not sure how to approach. At the moment, I’m still a little in the learning curve for promoting my book. I’d consider that part of the writing process, the same way submitting is, because if you don’t submit or promote what you’ve written, no one will read it. I got lots of help from my awesome publicist and great advice from writer friends, but once you have a big pile of advice, it can also be a challenge to sort through it all. It’s impossible for one person to do everything at once, and what plays to one writer’s talents might not play to yours. I’m sure by the time I feel like I have a handle on promotion, I’ll have discovered some new challenge I hadn’t expected, and be busy learning that.

TQ:   Describe Silver in 140 characters or less.

Rhiannon:  I originally wrote a plot summary, but you can read that yourself in full form, so here goes for the spirit of the novel:

Werewolf culture, politics, and religion clash when an atheist hiding from his past meets a woman who walks with Death.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Silver?

Rhiannon:  NaNoWriMo inspired me to start writing seriously for the first time, but after that novel, I worked on short stories exclusively during my formative years. When I attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop, I confessed to Jeanne Cavelos that I thought my style might work for novels, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to take on a project that big. She told me to wait to write a novel until I couldn’t imagine not writing one. Some years later, I had a period of turmoil in my life, so I decided that a novel was exactly the kind of project I wanted to throw myself into. That was Silver.

That’s what made me decide to write a novel, but that particular novel had further inspiration. The character of Silver had come to me a little before, and I’d played around with using her in short story that never quite worked. That short story turned out to be more of an exercise in finding her voice, and then when I decided to throw myself into a novel, the character was ready and waiting for me. The idea of a werewolf who had been injected with silver and had religious visions really grabbed my imagination, and it intrigued me to be able to make it absolutely ambiguous whether the religion was real or not.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Silver?

Rhiannon:  I’ve branched into different areas for the later books, but for Silver, I think I spent the most time on making sure I got the setting as correct as possible for the parts of the book set on the East Coast. Maps helped me with an outline of the action—things like Google’s travel time estimates are lovely for calculating what time the next day characters should arrive at their destination and such things. Then I did a lot of talking to people who’ve lived in Virginia and the other locations for a local’s sense of where the best parks are, where the worst traffic is, that sort of thing.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

Rhiannon:  This is a great question for me, because my novel has two POV characters. One came to me easily, and the other was much harder. Silver, as I mentioned above, had been in my head from the very beginning. She had such an unusual voice that writing her often flowed, and was a joy. Andrew, on the other hand, suffered at first from being just a foil for Silver. I realized early on that he needed his own story and goals, but I got quite a ways into the first draft before I figured out what they were. Once I figured out Andrew’s past and how that drove him, I still had some challenges in translating his voice onto the page. Initial readers found him too much of an asshole in one draft, and too weak in another. By that point, the character in my head wasn’t changing, but how I expressed that on the page had to be tweaked until people saw what I did in my head.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Silver?

Rhiannon:  I think one of my favorite scenes is actually when we enter Silver’s POV for the first time. Having been injected with silver nitrate makes her see the world differently. She sees the spirit realm, or she hallucinates, depending on your point of view. As time goes on, Silver becomes a little more grounded, so that first scene is her perspective at its most beautiful, and dangerous. It was wonderful to write.

TQ:  What's next?

Rhiannon:  At the moment, I’m working on book 3 of the series. Book 2 has already been turned in. I’m hoping that the first three books will do so well that Tor will want to buy book 4 and onward. I’m still having a ton of fun with this world, and I have lots of different stories left that I want to tell. I plan to use different POV characters, rather than sticking with the same one or two for the whole series, which gives me a lot of breadth for exploring different characters. There’s also a whole world of different werewolf subcultures and religious sects out there to explore and clash against each other.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

About Silver

Tom Doherty Associates/Tor Books, June 5, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Andrew Dare is a werewolf. He’s the enforcer for the Roanoke pack, and responsible for capturing or killing any Were intruders in Roanoke’s territory. But the lone Were he’s tracking doesn’t smell or act like anyone he’s ever encountered. And when he catches her, it doesn’t get any better. She’s beautiful, she’s crazy, and someone has tortured her by injecting silver into her veins. She says her name is Silver, and that she’s lost her wild self and can’t shift any more.

The packs in North America have a live-and-let-live attitude, and try not to overlap with each other. But Silver represents a terrible threat to every Were on the continent.

Andrew and Silver will join forces to track down this menace while discovering their own power and their passion for each other.

Silver  - Publisher Page

Read the first couple of chapters of Silver

About Rhiannon

Rhiannon Held lives in Seattle, where she works as a professional archaeologist. Unfortunately, given that it's real rather than fictional archaeology, fedoras, bullwhips, aliens, and dinosaurs are in short supply. Most of her work is done on the computer, using databases to organize data, and graphics programs to illustrate it. SILVER is her first novel.

Rhiannon's Links


1 comment:

  1. Hi! Great interview! I can't wait to read this book, the blurb was really interesting but after this interview: I want to read that first scene with Silver's POV!!! I saw the cover on Goodreads a few weeks ago and I was drawn to it!