After reading an advanced copy of Rebecca Ross’ debut book, The Queen’s Rising, I sat back and thought, WOW! I knew I had to contact Rebecca and ask her for an interview… I mean, come on… readers want to know, right?
So, grab your preferred liquid of the moment, sit back and put on your reading glasses… oh ya! Hold onto your seats, cuz we are going on a magical ride!
Interview with Rebecca Ross, author of The Queen’s Rising!
Welcome Rebecca! Thank you for taking time out of your busy, busy schedule to answer my questions!
First of all, let me say THANK YOU so much for this interview! I am truly so excited and honored to be featured on your lovely website! Your kind words and encouragement have been fuel to get me through the last few days of my deadline. And now that I have my Book 2 turned over to my editor, I have my answers ready! Without further ado, here they are:
Q. First off, o m g, I absolutely couldn’t put this book down! I read it into the morning up until 4:00 a.m. Trust me, for a book to do that to me, it has to be that good! So, tell me what will be the first thing you’ll do if (I have no doubts, but we must remain humble…) it becomes a best seller? Too intense a first question, lol? Okay, let’s ask this then. Have your feet touched the ground yet?
A. Aww, I love to hear that my book had you reading until 4 AM! That truly is the highest compliment an author can receive. You know, sometimes I feel like my feet have yet to touch the ground with this book. Everything happened quite quickly with it: I drafted it in 48 days, I found an amazing agent within 3 queries, and it was preempted by Harper Teen. All of this happened within 10 months. I have to keep reminding myself to take deep breaths and focus on the next thing, which is of course the next story I have brewing in my imagination.
Q. I love the Passion idea. I especially love the creative aspect to them. No magic, just intense study. I’m all about education, the more the better, focusing on one aspect. What made you come up this the Passion system?
A: The idea of the passions emerged from the first scene I ever saw for this book. I was working on another story late one night, feeling discouraged with my writing, and then out of the blue, I envisioned Brienna sitting in a library with this handsome (yet stern) young man. And Brienna said to me, “The summer solstice is in eight days, and I have yet to master my passion.” And I was like, “Wait, who are you and what are you talking about!?”
I grabbed some paper and wrote down that line, and then I asked myself, what is this passion she is speaking of? I began to think of things in life that require time, dedication, and heart to master, and I wrote down art. Then I wrote down music…dramatics…wit…knowledge. I stared at that list, which really did not surprise me since I was an English major in college. I decided to create a school around the passions. And I thought, this sounds like a Renaissance world. I continued to build the setting up from there.
Q. The way this book reads, I initially thought, “great a new series!” But the way it finished, to me it could be a standalone… with the possibility of becoming a series???
A: I originally wrote The Queen’s Rising as a standalone, thinking Brienna’s story was over and I had plans to write 2 more companion books in the same realm. I wrote Book 2 twice, and I was very unhappy with both versions of it.
I honestly had no idea what Book 2 was supposed to be until I was sitting on my deck one afternoon with my journal, and I let myself imagine, just for a moment, what Book 2 would be like if Brienna continued to narrate. I wrote the first line down, picking up directly where The Queen’s Rising ended, and then I wrote another line, and another until the story literally unfolded before me. I was so excited I ran inside and began typing. That’s when I knew that Book 2 needed to be a sequel. As for Book 3…time will tell 🙂
Q. The Protagonist was so realistic and whole, I just loved her. I loved how her character grew especially after she found out the truth about who she was. So did you know this was how she was going to develop? Are you a writer who plots everything out, writes everything in a summary or on a storyboard before writing it out? Or, do you wait to see where the writing is taking you?
A: I’m so happy you loved Brienna! I definitely wanted her to be relatable and for readers to enjoy her adventure. I am not a plotter. I totally write by the seat of my pants, although I like to know where I’m beginning and where I’m ending. The rest I love to discover in the moment. So Brienna’s character continued to deepen and develop with each edit I went through.
Q. I found the names used for your characters unique and creative. Are they based on a particular ethnicity? If not, how did you come up with them?
A: Valenia is very much inspired by Renaissance France, so I drew most of my names from there. Maevana is inspired by medieval Ireland. I employed name banks, and honestly, there are some names I cannot remember how I came up with!
Q. Your world building was bang on. I enjoyed the irony of the dual world, split into one gentle and calm, the other more aggressive, war-like. You have to let us in on how you came up this idea. Why did you make them so different with only a river to divide them?
A: I wanted Valenia and Maevana to have a striking difference between them, as this is mirrored in Brienna, since her heritage is split between the two countries. I wanted it to be evident that honoring the passions really enabled Valenia to progress, while Maevana was stuck in the dark ages, floundering beneath a king that should have never taken the throne. I put a channel between them to help physically separate them in the reader’s mind.
Q. The fact that you didn’t overdo the use of magic is noticeable. Can you explain your thoughts behind why you did this?
A: I wanted the magic to come back gradually. Magic has been dormant with the loss of the Stone of Eventide. And even then, only the Kavanaghs are magic wielders. I wanted to ground the world in reality, to almost feel as if it is an alternate history to our world, and then bring back these whimsical glimpses (through Brienna’s memories) until the two began to eclipse with Brienna’s involvement in the revolution.
Q. When you completed your book and you sat back staring at the manuscript, what were your first thoughts? When you heard from Suzie Townsend, first can you explain who she is; and then, what were your first thoughts, and, when you heard from Karen Chaplin of HarperTeen, what were your first thoughts? Did you do a lot of research to find the right fit of an agent for your manuscript?
A: Oh, gosh, when I first finished this book, I sat back and was like, I think this is good. But I really wasn’t sure. All I knew was there was a spark in me when I was drafting it, and I had never felt that way before. And because of that spark, I began to compile a list of literary agents.
I definitely did my research, because I only wanted to query agents who I felt like would be a great fit for me and with my writing. Suzie Townsend was on my dream list of agents. I sent out three queries, because that’s about all my heart could handle at the time. Two of the agents passed, but Suzie requested my full manuscript within days of my query. She had no idea that she had my manuscript exclusively, and I just had this feeling that she was the one. When she offered to represent me, I was so excited I honestly could not even believe it. I think it took several days for the truth to really sink in.
And when we went on submission with TQR, I was prepared to wait weeks to months to hear back from editors. So when Karen Chaplin made an offer within two days to publish TQR and two additional books, I literally cried my eyes out. Happy tears, of course. Both events—finding my agent and selling my first series—absolutely changed my life.
Q. What are you writing next, can you share any insights? I know you’re probably getting ready to promote “The Queen’s Rising” but surely there’s a rough outline hidden somewhere in your treasure trove of ideas?
A: I just finished up my first round of edits for Book 2 (hopefully I will have more to share about this soon!). And I’m certainly gearing up to promote TQR, which is exciting as it is terrifying. Like most authors, I am constantly looking ahead, scheming up my next book. I have about seven journals going right now with random scenes, ideas, names, and maps all written down by hand. Since I am such a discovery author, I really don’t know what will snag my interest next, but I like to be working on something at all times.
Q. Do you have notebooks for ideas that you keep handy to write things down in? How do you come up with these ideas?
A: Haha, YES (see answer above). I have so many notebooks, my husband thinks I have a little obsession with them. But I love to write down thoughts and dialogue and random scenes by hand. Most of my ideas begin with characters. I’ll imagine someone and begin to unravel who they are, what they want, etc.
Q. I know you love Jane Austin, as do I. Can you tell me what were two of your favorite scenes in Pride and Prejudice and why? Is there an author that you aspire to write like one day?
A: Oh, I do love Jane Austin. If there was one person I could meet, it would probably be her. So my two favorite scenes in P&P are when Elizabeth and Darcy dance at Netherfield and when Elizabeth is at Pemberly and unexpectedly runs into Darcy. Both scenes have such amazing tension and witty banter (I love how Charlotte tries to console Lizzy about agreeing to the dance by saying, “I dare say you will find him very agreeable.”).
There are so many authors who I aspire to write like. Juliet Marillier and Melina Marchetta are two authors whose stories have deeply impacted and influenced me. I don’t reread very many books, but every year, I reread Daughter of the Forest and Finnikin of the Rock. Both books tear my heart out and then puts it back together. Every time.
Q. Has there ever been a book (besides Beauty and the Beast) that you would love to do a retelling of? Why?
My favorite folklore of all time is East o’ the Sun, West o’ the Moon (which I suppose is somewhat related to Beauty and the Beast). I love it because in this tale, the maiden is the one who must journey to save the man. And I love retellings but I’m a little hesitant to do one myself. Although as an author, I never close myself off to ideas.
Q. Young Adult is the genre you’re writing in now, but has there ever been another genre that tweaked your interest and if yes, why? Which genre would you never attempt to write in? Why?
A: I love the heart and spirit of Young Adult. But I might try to break into the Adult realm of Fantasy one day, or maybe even historical fiction, if I could handle all the research. 🙂 I honestly don’t know how well I could write a contemporary. But I never say never, because I don’t know what I’ll be writing in ten years.
Q. Authors are unique in that they love the whole story-telling aspect. Fictional authors love to expand on the story-telling aspect by embellishing their tales with make-believe. Most times, this ability to weave a tale begins at a very early age. Were you encourage to be creative at a young age? Did you have an active imagination as a child, or even an overactive imagination that led to story-telling? Were you artistic/creative in other areas that were nurtured and helped develop your imagination? Did your parents encourage creativity or academics?
A: Yes! I loved stories from an early age. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know how to read. And since I loved reading so much, I began creating stories as a child. I was obsessed with Narnia and Aslan. There were multiple times when I tried to get to Narnia through a closet. And my parents and my family as a whole were very encouraging of my writing. My grandmother would take me to the bookstore every time we went to the mall, to buy me a book or two. And my mom read a lot of my early tales, and gave me the encouragement I needed to keep writing and to keep pursuing publication.
Q. Do you self-edit? Do you have beta readers? Whom do you brainstorm with?
A: I do my best to self-edit, but revisions are hard for me. I love drafting, so editing is so much more of a challenge for me. My two younger sisters were my first beta readers ever (they are both teens so they are my audience for YA). I also have a few close friends who read my work and lend me good feedback. I honestly do a lot of brainstorming on my own, listening to music as I run on the treadmill.
Q. What do you do to recharge? Do you take time off of writing? Where do you do most of your writing? Loud or quiet? Tea/coffee or wine?
A: Reading is one of my favorite ways to recharge. I could be utterly worn out by a deadline, and then read an amazing book that inspires me, and I want to be right back at it, putting words on the page. I try to take time off from writing, but it never seems to really happen. Even on vacation, I am always plotting and scheming and dreaming up the next thing. I do most of my writing in my office. I find that coffee shops and public places are extremely distracting to me. I also love to listen to music, mainly soundtracks and epic music. I have to have my coffee, then my water bottle, then some hot tea, and then my kombucha. I usually have 4 drinks on my desk at one time.
Q. What do you do to combat writer’s block, if you’ve ever had it?
A: I have found that when I’m struggling with writer’s block, I am expecting too much out of myself. This summer I actually struggled for weeks with it, unable to write anything. So I told myself, I am only going to write 1,000 words a day. That’s actually a very easy goal to hit. And then I began to write very random scenes. I would write whatever came to mind that day, and then I would stop right around 1,000 words. By the end of the summer, I had a patchwork of scenes and characters and dilemmas that have potential to bloom into something greater.
Q. Which character do you relate to the most in “The Queen’s Rising?” Which character was the hardest for you to write about? Why? Did you have a character that you wanted to put in to “The Queen’s Rising” but then scrapped the idea? Care to share why?
A: I relate the most to Brienna. We’re both easy going and introspective (although she is, hands down, much braver than me!). I think Jourdain might have been the hardest for me to write about. He’s kind of gruff and prickly with a lot of secrets, but he definitely has a soft side. I struggled to find a good balance for him. And while all of my characters survived my drafts of TQR, I will say that the other teachers at Magnalia played a much greater role in my earlier versions. I had to cut a few scenes that Brienna shared with the mistress of art to quicken the pace at the beginning.
Q. Why do you write? It’s no secret most don’t write to get rich, although some actually do get rich when fame knocks on their door… but why do you write? What is it that draws you into fantasy worlds, filled with interesting and complex characters that go on adventures free from judgment, or maybe not…
A: I can’t not write. And that’s terrible grammar, but I write because I must, because if I didn’t, I would be restless. I write because I like to explore the world through other characters, and I like to build and create and then set it all loose. A Fantasy setting is the perfect place to do all of that.
Q. In your opinion, what are the greatest tools available to a writer? What would you advise would-be authors to avoid doing? What sort of advice could you give them about the submission process that might help them to find a good agent/publisher? What should would-be authors be willing to do, in your opinion, to help their odds in becoming published?
A: There are a lot of tools available to novice writers these days. Quite a few authors have great writing and publishing advice (Susan Dennard, Holly Black and Tomi Adeyemi are three I can think of right off the bat). Susan Dennard wrote an article that taught me how to build my query. She also has an excellent newsletter that also goes out once a month with all sorts of tips.
For any aspiring author who wants to be traditionally published, I would say that you absolutely need an agent. And no agent is better than a bad agent. You must take the time to do your own research, to compile a list of agents who you believe would be a great fit for you and what you write. I used the website literaryrambles.com to help me build my list (that’s how I came across Suzie) but there is also a hashtag on Twitter #mswl (manuscript wish list) that could potentially help you find agents who are interested in what you write. Also, query shark is a website that every author who is about to query needs to look at, so they can learn from bad queries.
I think the best thing a would-be author can do is to develop patience and grit (publishing moves very slowly) and to be aware of the realistic balance that is needed when you write for others: You need tough skin so that rejections and harsh criticisms don’t jar you (because this is inevitable and is the hardest thing about writing). But you also need to have skin that is thin enough so you can work with an editor, who is definitely going to take your manuscript down to the bones.
I think that understanding the emotional impact of publishing before you get there will help keep an aspiring author grounded and ready for when that next step comes.
Q. What was the hardest part of the writing process for you? If you were given one chance to change something about your writing career (and you have to pick something), what would it be and why?
A: Receiving my first edit letter was the hardest part. I had no idea what to expect. I was originally so overwhelmed by it, I thought, I can’t do this. But one of my author friends told me to sit on it a few days before I did anything. That advice was exactly what I needed, because the more I pondered all the concerns my editor had shared with me, the more I realized that she was right—she was seeing my book from an angle I couldn’t—and she was going to help me bring my writing and my storytelling to the next level.
Ah, this next question is hard! I feel like my writing career has only just begun, so I can’t really pick anything I would want to change (other than to say to myself two years ago when all this was getting started: Relax. Breathe. Enjoy the journey. Don’t get too caught up on this or that. And to reach out more to other writers).
Q. Where do you see yourself in ten years. Have you ever thought about the film industry for one of your books? Do you think “The Queen’s Rising” would make a good movie? (I do)? What is your favorite fantasy movie/television show and why?
A: I’ll still be writing books. Hopefully in ten years I will have a few more on the shelves. 🙂 I have, indeed, thought about film. I do believe The Queen’s Rising would make a striking movie, maybe even a miniseries since there is a lot going on in one book and I would want it to have the hours it needs to be fully developed. But I think this truly depends on having the right producer(s) and director behind it who can translate my vision to the screen.
Favorite shows right now are Game of Thrones (I love the scope of this world and the ambitious characters!). I am also a huge fan of Survivor (I love watching how complete strangers alliance and blind side each other and plot to make it to the end). I also just watched Dark (featured on Netflix) and my mind was completely blown by it.
Q. Have you written other books, articles or self-published anything? Do you intend on writing any articles? Perhaps, about writing?
You know, I have never thought about writing articles about writing, but maybe (once I get through my debut year) I’ll have a little more wisdom to share.
That’s a wrap! Many thanks to Rebecca Ross for giving me this wonderful opportunity. There’s good things on the horizon for this author, mark my words!
Title: The Queen’s Rising
Dimensions: 464 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 1.41 in
Published: February 6, 2018
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN – 10: 0062471341
ISBN – 13: 9780062471345