Becca Patterson happens to be a writing buddy of mine. We get together every Tuesday to fight with our muses, struggle with plot lines and visit (shhh… don’t tell our husbands!) I have been a beta for some of her work and I can tell you she is going places!
Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
When I’m not writing I’m doing all kinds of things. I am an ASL interpreter by trade (NIC certified if you really want to know). I work in a program for students with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The program is housed in a school for students with behavior disorders – so work provides me with many interesting examples of things going wonky. I also freelance interpret and get a peek at a lot of different ways of life. In addition to that I am on the planning committee for CONvergence – science fiction convention and the newsletter editor for GPS – Geek Partnership Society (community center for geeks). I just moved into a house with my husband and mother (wow that’s an interesting combination) and am trying my hand at vegetable gardening.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in St. Paul, MN. Specifically the Mac-Groveland neighborhood. I spent 5 years in Morris, MN – first as a Geo-chemistry major then as a theatre major before transferring back to the Twin Cities. There I took an ASL class to fill in a Gen-Ed and ended up falling head over heels in love with the language. At the time I was working for HCMC as a secretary in a psychiatric program and met several interpreters (and other interesting characters).
Where you born writing or was there an “ah ha” moment when you knew that writing is what you were meant to do?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t tell stories at the very least. My earliest memories are all about the stories we told in play. In second grade my teacher handed me a journal book and said I could write about anything that I wanted. I don’t think she expected the (relatively) well rounded stories I came up with and I found myself frequently in the school counselor’s office the day after my journal was due. I guess second graders aren’t supposed to have well thought out villains. It didn’t stop my though (actually it became a running joke between the counselor and me), and the stories kept coming. Even when I no longer needed to write for school, I kept on writing. It wasn’t until I had my first convention experience in 1994 that I even thought I could become an author. My life took a few detours though and only recently have I come back to writing seriously – and amazingly the headaches have gone away.
RAVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO:
Tell us about your current projects. What are they about?
“Intervention” is humor piece about a vampire fashion model whose friends have become concerned about his lack of eating. They stage an intervention about his anorexia. This one is currently out to editors and I hope will find a home soon. So far, everyone who has read it has laughed, so at least I got the humor part right.
“Cookies for All Occasions” is a serious piece that falls somewhere in the urban fantasy/ light horror field. Kim is a mage who learned her magic baking cookies with her grandmother and is about to open her own cookie store when she meets Amy, a young untrained mage running from the Warglings – mythical creatures who eat magic. It’s a race to see if she can develop a new spell that will satisfy the Warglings before they tear her store apart.
“The Bounty Hunter” is an urban fantasy story about a werewolf who supports himself as a PI specializing in finding runaway teens. His current mark is an empath who had perfectly good reasons to run away and offers him her life and talent to “fail” his mission.
“Red” a dark twist on the already dark tale of Little Red Riding Hood. She and the wolf are caught in a loop forever playing out their fairy tale on college campuses until Red can learn not to get distracted.
“Bob’s Fix it Shop” is urban fantasy with a curse. When Bob gets fired from the town’s best mechanic shop, he finds a complete set of tools with “free” taped to the box on the side of the road. He uses them to open his own shop in his garage. It seems like the perfect solution to get back at his former boss until his customers start dying in horrific crashes.
Natural Spirits Fantasy Romance. As the Kingdom expands to encompass the forest villages, the soldiers and taxes throw off the balance of life. Rastar, a child born to a god-like forest spirit and raised by her father, a village leader, heads to the capitol to explain the problem and find a solution. There she meets Kimbren, the King’s fourth son who is also the child of a forest spirit. Shortly after, the King is assassinated. Kimbren and Rastar, because they look different, are blamed. They flee into the forest where they must find a way to clear their names and learn to use the powers they are just growing into.
The Queen’s Own, High Fantasy. Kala is the strange green skinned wizard/warrior who is friend to the queen and the voice of the peasants. Bo is the mountain tribe journeyman hired to assassinate her. Unqualified to confront her head on, he joins her in rooting out the troubles that are besetting the smallest of the villages (hoping to get close enough to complete his assignment) only to discover it is a distraction meant to leave the Queen vulnerable to a coup. While Kala, in her usual head on manner, fights her way back to the queen’s side, Bo discovers that he can’t complete his mission without loosing far more than he would gain.
The Elevator Doors, Urban Fantasy. Detective Nick Kincaid responds to an attempted homicide call expecting to follow the evidence to some creep like every other case he’s ever worked. This time though, it leads him through the elevator doors to another world where wishes can come true. The perp is just a man trying to connect with his perfect mate – even though she lives in a world that doesn’t believe his could exist.
THE WRITING PROCESS:
Are you a pantser or planner?
I sit in the middle on this one. I do some planning before I start to write, but I leave myself open to other options. With shorts especially, I have a very general idea of where the story is going before I put fingers to keyboard and nothing more. With novels I tend to focus my planning on the world and antagonists. If I know what the “bad guys” are going to do or what kind of obstacles are in the way, I can throw them at my MCs. Then I can get to know the MCs in the course of writing the first draft. I like to write the first draft as though I were just reading the story.
How many backups do you have? Have you ever lost any of your words or stories?
I keep most of my stories in a folder on my desktop that get’s backed up to three different jump drives on a regular basis. Once a year I burn a CD of my back up and put that in my safety deposit box. Other than that, I also email them to beta readers, and as a beta myself I maintain a folder of other people’s work as their backups.
I have lost work in computer crashes. I lost the final edited version of one story when I failed to save during a four hour long editing session just before a power out
THE JOYS OF RAISING A CHARACTER:
How do your characters come to life
My characters come to me with a story in hand and beg me to write them. Sometimes they are perfectly willing to tell me about themselves others it’s like pulling teeth. In any case I have to deal with them as if they were a real person even though I only see them in my mind. When I do character sketches it’s as though I’m discovering something that’s already there rather than making something up. When I write without the sketch, the consistency of the character comes through and my readers can make the sketch for themselves. I’ve often been complimented on the real-life qualities of my characters.
Which one of your characters remind you the most of you?
Kala has my snarky attitude, Rastar has my innocent belief that all things will work out, Gems is the embodiment of my fascination with language. None of them are me. They all have a piece of me.
Do you characters like to listen to you, their creator, do they like to pull all the strings and write you into corners?
My characters come with their stories attached. Occasionally I’ve tried to make plans about that story – I’ve learned to leave it to the characters, they know what’s going on. I’ve only been written into a corner once, and that was when I was trying to force a plot the characters didn’t want to go. When I went back and did it their way it worked much better.
Do your character make you laugh and cry?
It depends on the piece. For “Intervention” the more Edward wanted to cry the more I laughed. Generally though I tend to match the view point character’s mood.
BELIEVE ME IT’S REAL EVEN IF IT IS FICTION
World building is an art form, even if you book isn’t science fiction or paranormal. How do you make your world believable?
Since I mostly write in fantasy/ science fiction I get to make some things up (that’s the cool part). What I try to do though is follow the rules of the real world except for the parts that make my world unique. Meaning that in my worlds water flows down, rocks will erode, physics works, genetics and heredity are basically how Darwin said. That way I have an already consistent framework to start with. In the parts that I’m changing, I start with the rules. I look at the physics closest to what I want and tweak it just a bit to get the effect I’m looking for. Then my characters have to live with the rules, no exceptions. When I use magic, I know in great detail how the magic works AND just as much about what it can’t do. Everything has limitations and I try to make it so that the characters will run up against those limits (both the MCs and the bad guys). Each world has its own rules, consistent to the story. I’ve heard a lot of fantasy writers say that they only make up one magic system and use that in all their worlds. I say if you are going to make a new world who says the magic has to be the same as another one. It only has to be internally consistent. When I am working in my science heavy worlds I spend time looking at the science. I’m most interested in the stuff we know we don’t know about. For example, a few years ago the physics world was all up in arms because there was some new evidence that travel faster than the speed of light was possible for incredibly small particles, but we didn’t know how that happened. I wrote a story where that was a key factor. I had to make up the science about how it happened, and then could play with that.
What is your editing process like?
I start by reading through the piece and seeing if there are any major plot holes or other problems that will major rewriting to fix (no point in getting the spelling and grammar right on a sentence that isn’t going to be there). Then I start at the beginning and work my way through, several times. I keep notes about what changes I’m making and what I need to make so that I don’t get confused. Sometimes in a first draft I’ll make a change in something fundamental halfway through. I don’t like doing that during revision so if something needs to change I’ll go back and change it right away.
INSPIRATION AND HINDERANCES:
How many times have you wanted to chuck your computer at the next person who asks how it is going?
The people who annoy me about it are never around when I have my computer to throw at them. My co-workers mostly who don’t have a clue what goes into writing a short story let alone a novel. Most of them are ok with the non-committals of “fine” or “it’s going”. Occasionally they want to know when it’s going to be published to which I say “when someone else decides that they like it as much as I do.”
What is one piece of advice that you have received that you thought was good?
BIC – Butt In Chair. You can’t be a writer if you don’t plop your ass down and write.
What advice do you have for others that are considering joining you on this rocky path?
This isn’t a career if you want to be rich and famous (yes some of us are, but most aren’t). It’s hard work and most of the time you are the only source of praise or reward. Join us ONLY if the journey itself will make you happy.
Where do you see yourself in one year?
Still plugging along. Writing and editing. Now I have a publishing credit to add to my cover letters and queries. I’ll have a whole new crop of stories pestering me for their turn in the editing chair and I’ll be getting my first responses from agents.
How about 5?
Dreaming big – I’ll be considered an “attending professional” at the conventions I go to. I’ll have a contract in hand for my latest book and a stack of postcards enticing people to buy the one that came out last year.
Tell us where and how we find you. Twitter, face book, blogs, websites, etc.
Sorry, no facebook, website or blog yet. I’m still working on that part.
BOOKS OR SITES THAT YOU HAVE FOUND HELPFUL:
3AM epiphany – a book of writing exercises
Sff.onlinewritersworkshop.com – an online forum for writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy to give and receive feedback on their stories. It’s often more helpful to your development to critique other people’s work.
NaNoWriMo – the National Novel Writer’s Month. It’s great to be crazy all together.