Sunday, August 10, 2014

Interview with Rebecca Laffar-Smith

Welcome to Worlds of Wonderment, Rebecca. For those who have yet to hear about your novel, could you tell us about it?

Sure! The Flight of Torque is a paranormal fantasy about a young reporter, Tori, and her guardian angel, Lucas. Tori is captured by the Nagaran, a sinister cult of snake worshippers. Lucas, also captive and now seriously injured, is unable to prevent the cult taking Tori for a ceremony of ritual sacrifice. Thankfully, rather than dying from the ritual like those before her, Tori becomes Serpenthropy, a human able to transform into a giant serpent. Unable to control her serpent form, Tori is taken over by the creature. It acts from basic, animal instinct and is prone to violent anger and lust.

The Flight of Torque explores Tori and Lucas’s experiences and internal struggles as Tori tries to reclaim her body and find a cure for what she has become, and Lucas fights a growing sense of helplessness and failure as a guardian angel unable to protect his charges. The forbidden bond forming between them complicates matters and raises the stakes as both realise that they’d sacrifice themselves to save the other. At every turn Tori and Lucas discover new secrets about the Nagaran and it’s connection to Tori’s family and the Angel Hierarchy.

Is The Flight of Torque part of a series? If so, what do you foresee for the series?

Yes. The Flight of Torque is the first in what I currently see as four books. Book two is actually a prequel that goes back a generation to follow the experiences of the Sacred Mother, a being worshipped by the Nagaran as the first Serpenthropy and mother of the Nagaran Royals, men who go on to father the Children of the Nagaran. While in book-world-time it comes before The Flight of Torque, it’s intended to be read after, as some of the secrets revealed in the first book will be the story and action of the second.

Following that I’ll be returning to where The Flight of Torque ends (or shortly after) as Tori and Lucas continue to unravel issues within the Nagaran and the Angel Hierarchy. I don’t want to spoil the ending for those who haven’t read The Flight of Torque yet so I’ll say no more, but I’ve already started to outline that book and I’m very excited about discovering the story as it unfolds on the page.

Finally, there will be a fourth book where Zara and Crey are the main characters. I’m not too sure what will happen there yet, only that they’re demanding a book of their own.

It’s possible more books in the world will evolve as I write the sequels so I won’t say four is it, but it’s definitely more than enough to be going on with right now. Especially since I also have other book projects in the works and I coordinate Write Along The Highway and the OzNoWriMo Young Writers Program for West Australian writers. There are never enough hours in the day to write everything I want to write.

Can you describe your main characters in five words?

Wow, this one is difficult (mostly because I write long, so boxing them up into only five words is very challenging).
Tori: Independent. Passionate. Determined. Courageous. Stubborn.
Lucas: Compassionate. Loyal. Honourable. Timeless. Wounded.

How does the fantasy world you've created differ from ours?

Maybe it doesn’t… At least, I like to think of it that way. Everything within the world is just like our real world today. There are mobile phones, suburban houses, sprawling cities, towering skyscrapers, bustling police stations and news offices, stylish sedans and compact hatchbacks (including an Easter-egg-style nod to the first car I ever owned, a little blue Kia). As I was writing it I used a lot of the real world around me here in Perth, Western Australia, but I also wanted to make it unidentifiable so that most readers could feel like it could be an urban environment near their own home.

The fantasy comes from the presence of angels and serpenthropy. And I like to think, maybe such things are possible in our real world, like an undiscovered world of supernatural beings existing under the surface of what is collectively accepted as normal. Who knows? Maybe there is a cult of snake worshippers living in a segregated community underneath an old, abandoned church somewhere.

Have there been any authors that have influenced your writing?

The author who had the most influence on me as a writer is fellow Australian author, Traci Harding. I read
her Ancient Future Trilogy when I was a teenager and was struck by the way she introduced metaphysical and spiritual concepts through fiction. She made things that were often considered rather airy-fairy at the time something that could be embraced.

I remember reading her book and realising that fiction is a great medium for introducing spiritual and esoteric beliefs in a way that won’t cause readers to close their minds to possibility. I decided that’s what I wanted to do as a writer. I wanted to use my fiction to explore the wonder and ‘magic’ that exists in the world and use fiction as a gateway to explore my own beliefs and share those beliefs with others.

Having said that, The Flight of Torque is not in any way preachy. The only truly “spiritual” or religious aspect of the book is the presence of angels, guardians who watch over and protect mortals. Beyond that the themes that came out were to do with inner strength, self-love, and acceptance. I found Tori’s experience with the serpent within her was almost metaphoric for my experiences with Bipolar and so, rather than looking at more new-age concepts, I explored the journey she’d take facing the darkness within.

Where did the inspiration for the Flight of Torque come from?

Actually, I owe this book to a cherished friend of mine who I’ve never met in person. Forge (to whom the book is dedicated) is a fellow Australian author living across the other side of the country in Victoria. He and I ‘met’ on Writing.Com and in December 2006 we decided to co-write a story. The story evolved through brainstorming sessions via Yahoo messenger and emails. We wrote alternating scenes and together a basic outline and few thousand words evolved.

The alternating scenes technique we used as co-writers was actually what lead to the alternating point-of-view (POV) in The Flight of Torque. When we co-wrote, I wrote POV Tori and Forge wrote POV Lucas. The way the story unfolded from two points of view, with the opportunity to experience both Lucas and Tori’s inner thoughts and feelings, was something I was very strongly drawn to and I continued that when I wrote The Flight of Torque. As you read you’ll find some scenes are written in Tori’s POV. The reader experiences some of Tori’s thoughts, internal dialogue (when she’s arguing with the serpent form), and her feelings. In other scenes readers experience what Lucas thinks and feels. It gives us a greater sense of connection with the main characters and allowed me to do things within the story that I could not have otherwise done.

In early 2007, Forge found he couldn’t continue with the project it idled for a long time, but I found myself constantly drawn back to it. The characters wanted their story told. Many months (possibly years?) later I contacted Forge to find out if he would mind if I continued to develop the story as a solo author. I had no idea how far the story would diverge from its beginnings.

The original story Forge and I outlined together had dragons, and stolen eggs, and sonic weapons, and an epic adventure up a mountain, and lots of cool stuff that never made it into the final book. In fact, almost nothing remains of that original outline, but it was the seed that would, over the eight years that followed, evolve into the Blood of the Nagaran series.

Having said, “almost nothing remains”, there are two sequential chapters in the book that remain from the very first pages written way back in 2006. I rewrote the Lucas scenes so it had my writer’s voice rather than Forge’s, but the actual story elements are very similar to the original draft. Early readers have mentioned that they absolutely loved these chapters and found them the most effortless and enjoyable to read. I wonder if any readers can guess which chapters they are? Drop me an email or catch me on Facebook or Twitter to let me know which chapters you think they are.

If you could choose anyone to portray your characters, who would they be?

I always pictured Tori as Jessica Alba, particularly from her role as Max Guevera in the T.V. series, Dark Angel.

While I was writing the book, Lucas was played by Paul Walker. After Paul Walker’s death in November 2013 I had a short bout of writer’s block as I struggled to recast him in my mind. Then I was watching Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant on Fiction Unboxed as they talked about casting their characters. They cast based on roles rather than the real life actor. So, they might cast Sean Connery, but a young Connery like in his James Bond days rather than the older actor he is today. This idea of casting to the role they once played rather than who they are today helped me get past that block and keep writing. Still, when a big production company buys the rights we’ll need to find someone for the role and I still haven’t recast him, so I’d love reader’s suggestions for who they’d cast as Lucas in The Flight of Torque movie.

Crey de Luca Vento is Orlando Bloom as Will Turner (Pirates of the Caribbean); Zara is Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games); Tempany is Kate Hudson (the glamorous, elegant Kate we see at award ceremonies rather than the rather aggressive and very modern female heroine she often plays in romantic comedies); Michael is Hugh Jackman as Leopold in Kate & Leopold (but more sullen and aloof); and Marlena is Michelle Trachtenberg as Georgina Sparks in Gossip Girl (but older and with a wash of crimson hair dye).

I actually have photographs in my Scrivener file (I use Scrivener for Mac but you can get Scrivener for Windows too). I like to pick out pictures that have the look, hairstyle, makeup, etc. that I feel most closely represents the characters in my mind. It helped to have that tangible reference to come back to because sometimes I’d take long breaks from the book and it became fuzzy/blurry in my mind; the photographs helped ground me back with the characters. One of the first things I did in July, when I began preparing the outline for the sequel, Birth of the Sacred Mother, was cast my characters and add pictures to their character profiles.

Thanks so much for giving me an opportunity to talk about The Flight of Torque. I’ve enjoyed sharing my experience and loved running with the questions you’ve asked, Jo-Anne. I hope we’ll have a chance to do this again some time. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from readers. I’ll hang out in the comments but also invite conversation on The Craft of Writing Fiction on Facebook.

Rebecca Laffar-Smith is a science fiction and fantasy novelist. Her debut novel, The Flight of Torque, is available now as eBook and Paperback. You can try before you buy with a Free Flight of Torque Sample copy on your choice of eReader device or app.

FYI: Some of the links included in this interview are affiliate links. All products are honestly recommended by  Rebecca but in the honour of being open she would like to acknowledge that she will receive a small commission on any sales made following these links.

When investigative reporter, Tori, chases the story of an underground smuggling network, she stumbles into something significantly more sinister. Instead of the illegal trade of exotic reptiles, she finds a temple of devout snake worshipers. Taken by the cultists, Tori is subjected to a savage ritual and irrevocably transformed. Now something dark and primal slithers within her. 

Lucas, charged with Tori’s protection, struggles against an overwhelming sense of helplessness. He should be stronger, faster, and more powerful than any human, but in the past twenty years all of his charges have been murdered. Their deaths and his failures linger in his nightmares. They writhe in his mind like the chilling sense of brooding hunger that floods Tori’s thoughts. 

Filled with violent rage and dark jealousy, the cult’s High Priestess rears up between Tori and the truth. The only thing protecting Tori from the long, cold embrace of death is the darkness within and the tingling warmth and light of her guardian angel.