Please join me in welcoming fellow Musa Publishing author Rachael Acks. Rachael’s novel under Musa’s Urania Imrint, Blood in Elk Creek, is set for release on Friday, September 6th. Rachael has been extremely gracious in answering fifteen questions in a way that definitely follows the parameters of free speech that I love to showcase on my blog, “Unfiltered Speech in a Politically Correct World.” Rachael, congratulations on your newest release!
1. What or who inspired you to become a writer?
At the risk of sounding like a pretentious dick, that’s kind of like asking what inspired me to breathe. Writing is just something I’ve always done, quite literally since the time I actually learned how to write. (And even before then, made up stories and told anyone who would listen and quite a few people who wouldn’t.) My mom still has one of my earliest efforts that she’ll take out and show people (pictures here: https://plus.google.com/photos/104914909709893493346/albums/5760328598722567617) Writing is such a natural part of my life that I can’t not do it; I have written stories and outlines on the back of napkins because I didn’t have anything else on hand.
2. Do you have a specific genre you prefer?
Speculative fiction has always been my home. I love science fiction and fantasy equally and write both.
3. How did you decide upon the title for your latest book?
I actually had to come up with the titles for all of the Captain Ramos novellas before they were ever written, which felt really weird and terrifying. I’m really horrible at thinking up titles normally, so I don’t know what brilliance seized me to come up with The Curious Case of Miss Clementine Nimowitz (and Her Exceedingly Tiny Dog). I was able to change the titles if necessary (for example, I had to change what I originally intended to be Blood in Peyote Creek to Blood in Elk Creek because geography is a harsh mistress) but I actually tried to think of stories that would go with the titles. I’ve never done that before.
4. Is there a specific message in your work that you want readers to understand?
I really try to not have a specific message; maybe other writers are good enough they can do that without sounding preachy, but I sure can’t. I do try to keep a unifying theme in mind when I’m writing, but a lot of times that thread doesn’t even come out until the story is done and I go back to edit.
5. How much of the book is related to your own life experiences?
In the specifics, close to zero. I’m definitely no adventuring genius rail pirate captain, that’s for sure. But sometimes I use my own experiences in the detail. I’m a geologist, so I tend to pay attention to natural landscapes. I was an EMT for three years, so little things like the way blood smells tend to come out of that experience. And of course, there are general human experiences we can all draw from; we all know what it’s like to make a really horrible decision, what it’s like to be really scared, so then it’s just a matter of extrapolating from there. No matter how fantastic the setting, I think it’s possible to draw on those universal human experiences.
6. What life events have most influenced your writing?
A lot of what fuels me are moments of scientific wonder, like when Curiosity landed on Mars; I treasure the moments that remind me how tiny humans are in a vast universe, and how unbelievably fantastic it is that we’re alive and trying to reach outside our immediate orbit. I think the other events in my immediate life that have really influenced me come from when I was an EMT. That time of my life exposed me to a lot of very raw human suffering and institutionalized unfairness, and has forced me to question a lot of the way I viewed the world, then and even now.
7. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Humor should be an eleven on the Moh’s hardness scale. (Hur hur.) I like really dry humor, and it’s hard to hit the right note with that—particularly since as John Scalzi once said, the failure mode of clever is asshole (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/06/16/the-failure-state-of-clever/). Humor is just really, really hard to write, and even if I think something is hilarious there’s a good chance other people won’t.
8. Who is your favorite author, and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
William Gibson. I just love the way he uses language.
9. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Shut up and write. Seriously, no one cares about what you would write if only you have time. Just write it. From there, it’s becomes a question of how persistent you are.
10. Do you ever experience writer’s block, and any tips on breaking the dreaded block?
I don’t think I’ve ever hit writers block in the deadly, soul-destroying way I’ve seen it get other writers. (And I hope I’m lucky enough that I never do.) When I do get stuck on something, the first thing I do is take a break. I go ride my bike, or run, anything that gives me space to think and keeps me the hell away from the television. What also helps is taking a couple days away (if it’s not a question of a deadline) and work on something else. At a reading, Orson Scott Card (and despite the major disagreements I have with the man, he’s a good writer) once told me that writers block means you’ve written something into the story that didn’t belong there, and you have to go back, find that thing, and fix it. I’ve also found that to be true as well.
11. Do you write an outline before every book you write, or does the story come to you as you write (plotter or pantser)?
Leave my pants out of this. Flying by the seat of your trousers is really bad for the fabric.
I can’t survive without outlines. I even outline any short story over 3K words long, even if it’s just a three sentence summary of how I think the story will go. However, I also don’t believe in sticking to my outline if the story goes somewhere else. I’ll rewrite outlines as I go; I’ve gone through five drafts of an outline before, just because new ideas have come up in the course of writing.
12. Do you have a favorite character in your book(s)?
I love Captain Ramos of course. She’s just so much fun to write. But I’ve come to love Mr. Simms just as much, because it’s hard to have a character like Captain Ramos without a sidekick to act as her foil. They’re really a matched set, and I love writing dialog for them.
13. Do you have any hobbies?
I collect ties and think of new and creative ways to use the word fuck in blog posts because I love it when people tell me they don’t like my tone. Just kidding. Kind of. Not really.
Otherwise, I bicycle (normally 100-150 miles a week), lift weights, practice kung fu, and watch movies so I can indulge in my popcorn addiction. I also love playing board games and roleplaying. And I obsessively watch Chopped shut up I don’t have a problem. Every now and then I make a half-hearted attempt to get in to some kind of crafting, but I’m always stymied by the fact that I have the creative abilities of the average brick and I just get too frustrated with it.
14. What is your favorite movie?
Hot Fuzz. It is the greatest movie ever made, and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are utterly perfect human beings.
15. What do you see yourself doing ten years from now in terms of your writing?
I intend to be a stupendously wealthy best-selling novelist with a harem of barely clothed pool boys who all look suspiciously like certain movie stars who shall remain nameless. My pool boy army will fan me and feed me miraculously calorie-free chocolate while I work on my next novel and listen to music crafted from the wailing and gnashing of teeth of all the critics whose souls I have crushed, accented by the soft weeping of foolish mortals who Just Don’t Get My Stupendous Art.
Failing that, I’d like to have a series out and be the most dapper sf/f writer of my generation. This may be a slightly more realistic goal.
Buy link for Blood in Elk Creek: http://musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=642