I want to thank Rebecca for answering the “Meet the Writer’ interview questions. I found her answers to be inspiring to me, and encourage bravery! You can find Rebecca in a variety of places: Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and at her website!
Information in brackets was added by Grab the Lapels.
What kinds of writing do you do? What kinds of writing do you wish you did more of?
I write contemporary erotic romance about independent women who leave their lives behind to try something new. My debut, Above All, is about an artist and a chef in the Adirondacks. [Read my review on Grab the Lapels!]. My second novel, How to Fall, is now published and features a Chicago teacher and an Australian television writer who meet in Brazil. I’m interested in stories with well-rounded characters whose sexual adventures form a larger narrative about self-discovery and fulfillment. I’ve done a lot of different kinds of writing, including poetry and literary scholarship, but there’s nothing else I’d rather be working on now!
In what ways has academia shaped your writing?
Academia is actually how I got into romance. I wrote my dissertation on the romance plot in contemporary feminist utopian and dystopian fiction. Through that project I a) got hooked on romance and b) came up with the idea that would become Above All. Although I’ve since left academia, the experience helped prepare me to write full-time. Grad school taught me how to get serious about my writing. It also made me want to be more creative. I get to explore a lot of the same issues in fiction that I was in scholarship—feminism, sexuality, identity, how to imagine alternative futures. But I have more opportunities to connect with readers, which I really enjoy.
In what ways has life outside of academia shaped your writing?
The other major influence on my writing is travel. I lived in India when I was 18 and spent time in Brazil during college and after. I’ve also done a lot of hiking around the world. It’s no coincidence I’m drawn to writing with a strong sense of place. I love hearing from readers who tell me they’ve Googled the small mountain town in Above All so they can visit and are disappointed to discover it isn’t real. (Sorry!) My beta readers for How to Fall are now dying to spend New Year’s in Brazil. [How to Fall was published in November of 2015. Congrats, Rebecca!]. I want readers to feel truly immersed in the world of the novel. It’s a great excuse for me to ditch the computer and go somewhere great so I can write about it later.
What was the first piece of writing you did that you remember being happy with?
In middle school I went to a writing camp that I hated, but one of the counselors said something that stuck with me. He said you have to write a lot of shit before you get anything good. This permission to write badly was revelatory. I wrote a short vignette asking how you can tell if your writing is shit. It’s cliché to write about not being able to write, but it felt like a risk for me to use the word shit, admit to self-doubt, and understand that I was going to keep writing anyway. I remember reading over this piece and being surprised that it had come from me. I’m less afraid of writing shit now. I know it’s inevitable. But my best writing always includes this same disbelief.
What happens when you’re not happy with your writing?
I’m rarely happy with the first draft, but that’s what drafts are for. I start tearing my hair out when I go through revision after revision and the same problems persist. That’s when I stop and put it away. The break can be anywhere from a few hours to weeks or even months. I might take a walk, work on something else, or read other novels that tackle similar issues. The important thing for me is to remember that the problem isn’t permanent. Going back to an earlier question, that’s one of the main lessons I’ve taken from academia. I couldn’t put an article in a drawer and forget about it—there were due dates. Even if I keep writing the wrong thing over and over again, I have to trust it will eventually work out.
(This all sounds much more optimistic than how I actually feel, which is like the world is imploding and I should have gone to law school.)
How do your friends and family respond to your writing?
Above All has been out since July 2014 and it amazes me how positive the response has been. It was initially a little awkward to announce, “Oh, hey. I’m finishing my PhD but not going on the job market because, um, I want to write graphic sex.” But it turns out people love graphic sex! I wrote an essay about being embarrassed to tell my mom when I found out Above All was going to be published.
Now she posts every link on Facebook, hands out flyers and postcards, and talks it up to everyone she knows. My friends who don’t typically read romance want book recommendations. I don’t take for granted how lucky I am to have this support.