Welcome, one and all, to the first author itnerview of the month! This tiem around, i’m welcoming Rebecca Langham aboard!
Before we get going with the bookish stuff, can you do a quick introduction for any readers that may not be familiar with your work?
These are my first ever releases, so I doubt anyone will be familiar with my work just yet! In general, I love to write speculative fiction and most of the stories I am planning (hoping?! It’s hard to tell with three kids and a full time teaching job) to write in the foreseeable future are science fiction. That said, my alter ego, Kara Ripley…she has permission to write the things I can’t honestly believe I’d have written at all; romance novellas.
You have three releases coming soon, a novel, and two novella length pieces. I wanted to start with the novel though. Can you tell us a little about Beneath The Surface, and the series that it begins, The Outsider Project? What can readers expect from the book?
At this stage The Outsider Project is planned as a duology, two books with an ongoing narrative. There’s plenty of scope to write other books in the future, but the story at the heart of Beneath the Surface is definitely designed for two books only. Though I’m told that sci-fi writers say that all the time, and it ends up being a trilogy. I don’t think that’ll be the case here though.
Beneath the Surface is set in a futuristic world that’s struggling to reconcile the possibilities of science with the moral implications of scientific advancement. A major disease called the Paxin has wiped out more than half of the world’s population and, of course, this brings a whole host of economic and social issues which lead to a political shift. A world government is established to bring order and respond to the disease and, when it all settles down, that government becomes permanent, with old political borders broken down.
As one of the first tests of this new, united society, an alien race appears in our solar system, seeking refuge from a civil war. When we move forward to the time the story is set in, those aliens have been living in underground colonies for nearly a century, locked away for – supposedly – their own protection, as well as the good of political stability. Lydia Barrett, who happens to be the daughter of the governor who administers a quarter of the planet, takes on a job inside one of the colonies. Given she’s come from a sheltered background, she’s quiet naïve about the whole experience when she first arrives. It doesn’t take long for her to open her eyes, not only to the issues that come with unending internment for the aliens, but to the huge corporate conspiracy that facilitated it. The story focuses on Lydia’s exploration of public, collective history and the role it plays in shaping cultural attitudes toward groups and events.
BTS is not what you’d call a ‘hard’ sci-fi. It’s more of a political story, with a focus on individual identity and its connection to community identity. There’s a little bit of romance, including a F/F central story line, with a M/M subplot, but the romance element is not the core of the plot.
How long ago did the book begin its life? And did you do a lot of plotting before sitting down to write in earnest, or did you take the pantser approach?
I can remember the exact moment Beneath the Surface asserted itself in my head. I was actually watching an episode of The 100 and thinking about how badly I wished we could see more characters like Clarke, a woman who is strong because of her personality traits, not because she’s a warrior. Don’t get me wrong, I love female warriors, Lexa…well! Amazing. But I realised that so often, for female characters to be considered ‘strong’, they often adopt masculine characteristics and stand behind a gun or a sword. Whilst I’m all for those characters, because of course women can be physically strong (and I’m a Xena fan from way back) and quite often we love those characters because of their emotional strength, but that’s often a secondary trait. The warrior is the salient feature of their character.
That’s where Lydia and Alessia come in. They told me they wanted to be written, and so they were. Within the space of a few days, I wrote around 12,000 words of a plot outline. The story is, at least for me, a little bit too complicated for my brain to cope with the seat-of-my-pants approach. That said, over the next 12 months, the outline changed a few times, but I had a chapter-by-chapter break down that I followed quite closely. I also wrote most of the book in order, with only three chapters being written out of the order they ultimately appear in the book.
The next book I wanted to talk about is Finding Aurora. While Beneath The Surface is a sci-fi tale, this one is a novella length adaption of Sleeping Beauty and is set to appear as part of the anthology, Once Upon A Rainbow Volume 2. This anthology series focuses on retellings of fairy tales, but with an LGBT twist. What inspired you to choose Sleeping Beauty as your theme? What sort of differences can we expect compared to the original story?
When I saw the open call for this anthology I knew I had to write something. My mother was an English teacher and she loved fairy tale adaptations and taught me to love them too. One of the reasons I chose Sleeping Beauty is because it is one of the most famous stories to feature the ‘true love kiss’ element. I remember seeing the scene in the TV series Once Upon a Time where they had Red Riding Hood awaken Dorothy Gale from a sleeping curse and I was shocked by how much it affected me, seeing a woman in a really traditional style fairy tale, kiss another woman. It wasn’t an overly creative re-telling, it was ridiculously cliché, but it was lesbian and I realised I had never seen or read something that maintained that ‘Disneyfied’ fairy tale feeling with lesbian characters. It may have existed, but I hadn’t seen it. Even that particular storyline on the show was all too brief and felt a little tokenistic – though I’m glad they went there.
So Finding Aurora is, in a lot of ways, very predictable, highly cliché, and altogether adorable. The main differences you’ll see is that there’s an asexual prince, a pansexual spell caster, and a lesbian ghost. I won’t tell you too much about the sleeping princess because that might ruin the ending. Other than that, a lot of the elements are very traditional.
Next is Riding Track, a cowgirl romance novella. You have said that your aim with this piece was to try writing something different to what you normally read, watch and write. It certainly sounds like a very different beast to your other two releases! How did it feel to write something so wildly different and then have it accepted for publication? It must have been pretty gratifying!
I’m going to go with…uncomfortable, yet still a little fun. This story is going to be published under a pseudonym (Kara Ripley) because the tone is just totally different to the other two and I didn’t want a reader to expect something like my speculative fiction pieces and then, potentially, be disappointed. I also didn’t really want students I teach finding it straight away if they happen to do the ‘let’s Google our teacher thing.’
Writing it was somewhat liberating though, as Beneath the Surface took over a year and had plot and character aspects that were a lot of work to refine. For Riding the Track though, the story follows a very simple ‘tourist has a fling that helps her enjoy life again’ narrative and the world building was all about the Australian outback, rather than a futuristic underground prison. I loved writing about the Australian landscape. I finished the first draft in six weeks and it was a great detox from all the hard work that went into the sci-fi novel. One thing I’ll say though, I am really never going to be a fan of writing sex scenes though, my partner thought it was hysterical watching me agonise over trying to writing a romance because I just kept swearing at the laptop.
Tell us a little about the story.
This one is all about the tropes. Clara is an American tourist who has reluctantly gone on a horseback tour of South Australia. She bought the vacation with her ex-boyfriend and when he cheated on her she decided that the plane tickets were most definitely hers, more just to spite him than because she genuinely wanted to go. Clara is a little bit jaded and cynical after a string of disappointing relationships and she doesn’t really like horses, either. But when she meets Australian cowgirl Evie, her outlook starts to change.
All three of the above titles are being released by NineStar Press. How did you discover this publisher, and what first drew you to them? How have you found working them thus far?
I’m an obsessive researcher. Well, sometimes. I looked up as many publishers of LGBTIQ+ fiction I could find. I read some of their releases, looked at their submission guidelines and staff profiles, and considered the quality of their websites, covers, and general marketing. NSP drew me straight in. Their book covers are stunning and the website is very professional. They seem to be very active across social media, and they publish sci-fi, which is, I’ve discovered, a genre that many publishers just don’t want. A lot of LGBTIQ publishers seem to mostly want romance and that’s about it, but NSP is as diverse as it gets. The staff profiles really drew me in as well. They just sounded like a team I’d love to work with.
I did one “practice” submission to another publisher. I actually did it before I’d even finished proofreading the book because I didn’t necessarily want to print with that publisher, I just wanted to get a feel for the experience and get my first rejection out of the way, as I told my friends. Not surprisingly, that very large publishing house didn’t accept my poorly edited book, and when it was ready I sent it off to the #1 publisher on my list: NineStar Press.
So far, I feel like all that research has paid off. They’re communicative, encouraging, and generally really lovely. They’ve been very patient with all of my debut-author-jitters.
While all different types of story, all three books also feature F/F pairings. For a while, it seemed like a lot of the market for LGBT fiction was primarily based around pure romance novels. How important do you think it is to show same gender relationships in genre fiction?
This. Is. What. It’s. All. About!
I read a romance novel every now and then but I’m not particularly thrilled by most of them. It just isn’t my thing. There are still plenty of publishers who don’t really want genre fiction or, if they do print speculative fiction, it’s actually a romance that happens to take place in the future or in an enchanted forest. I think people are really looking to see stories where the same sex pairings are an organic part of a story, but where those (great) relationships are not the entire reason for the story. A sci-fi with lesbian characters, rather than a ‘lesbian sci-fi’, though I’m not sure if that distinction makes sense beyond my head. We – that is, our community members – are important to the narrative, but part of the landscape in a natural way. Speculative fiction explores some wonderful worlds that are confronting, exciting, and thought-provoking. So why can’t same-sex attracted and/or gender diverse characters explore thematically rich worlds just as much as anybody else? There’s a lot of these books being written now, and I’m personally very grateful because it’s exactly the sort of thing I’m keen to read. If anyone reading this feels the same, I highly recommend ‘Trans Liberty Riot Brigade’ if you want to see some rich and unique story telling. I’ve also just started reading ‘The Caphenon’ and if it maintains the great start through to the end then it definitely deserves all the good reviews I’ve seen.
You are an avid broomball player. Now, if I’m being honest, I had to look the sport up. It’s odd because I’ve taken an interest in some obscure sports before to one degree or another, but broomball actually seems to be better known than I realised. For those that are as in the dark as I was, can explain what the sport is?
Amazing! That’s what it is! I’m terrible at sport. I always have been. I eat way too much junk food and drink too much wine, so that never really helped either. But broomball is just so much fun – I was addicted after my first game. Essentially, it’s like field hockey but on ice. No – not ice hockey, though they do look a little similar. You run on the ice wearing shoes designed for the sport, using a stick with a small triangular shaped head, and a ball. The best part of the sport is its community. People of all ages, sizes, fitness abilities, and sexualities play the sport. I’ve only ever been helped and supported to improve, even by members of the teams we are playing against. Give it a go if you ever get the chance!
Finally, I wanted to thank you for stopping by the site. Whereabouts on the web can everyone find you if they want to contact you or know more? Feel free to link to anything you want.
Thank you, Matt! These are really thoughtful questions and they would have taken you a while to research and compile.
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Website – www.rebeccalangham.com.au