Raquel Byrnes

‘So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned.’ ~J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan: The Fairy Tales)

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I think I was six or seven when I saw the Nutcracker Ballet with my parents and being absolutely shocked that you could be a girl with pink silk slippers and still go on adventures.  I remember wanting to have adventures of my own and started making them up and eventually writing them in notebook after notebook while growing up.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

The authors I read early on as a teen really did leave a mark on my psyche. Philip K. Dick, Matheson, Asimov for sure. I had a deep love affair with Poe during my goth years in high school. Lovecraft was a fascination for a while as well. I loved both science fiction and fantasy and that hasn’t changed. I still read and write both.

Tell me about your book.

Sometimes heroes are born ladies…

Tremblers is thetale of Charlotte Blackburn, a debutante living in post calamitous Manhattan. She’s a daughter of the new society that sprang up after a series of devastating quakes nearly decimated all of North America. Technology, specifically steam tech and mechanica, are all that protect the citizens from the terrors outside the domes. The Peaceful Union is a reformed Untied States made up of 13 ruthless governors that rule what is left of America with an iron fist.  Charlotte’s  father, a chemist, discovers the cause of a terrible sickness that is spreading across the nation creating monsters out of men, but there are powers that want to hide the truth and keep the cure to themselves. When he is abducted, Charlotte is thrust into a world of secret societies, ruthless lawmen, and unfathomable danger as she tries to save her father and stop the disease from spreading.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh my gosh…at least a dozen. I have books halfway done, books in the throes of first chapters, and an entire series that is complete, but hidden away. I have novellas and flash fiction tucked in there somewhere also.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

I don’t like anybody making decisions for me for anything.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

Charlotte Blackburn is the heroine of the story and she is memorable because she is SO not qualified for what she must do. She’s a debutante in a cloistered and safe community who lives under the protection of electric Tesla domes that keep out the ash and poisonous gasses of their ruined landscape. She has no idea what is outside of her safe world or how to deal with it. She is a relatively normal person thrust into a situation that requires extraordinary resilience and bravery.  Everything she was taught in becoming a lady is of no use and she has to rely on instinct and guts to get her through. I find those types of rise to the challenge characters so interesting.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I am a little fuzzy on that, actually. When I was sending out queries and going to conferences years ago, indie publishers were simply small publishers, not self-publishers. I still find people debating on which name to use. I met an acquisitions editor for a small publisher at a conference. They ended up offering a contract on my first three books so that is how I ended up on the traditional side of things.  I’ve met traditional authors that moved to self publishing and vise versa. It’s so fluid nowadays. More and more though, I am hearing of hybrid authors that use the best of both worlds to connect with other book lovers.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I think that is absolutely true. I have learned so much about what works for me as a reader and what throws me out of the fictional world by reading. Good books, great books, books that are very different than what you write. Its important to look at writing through the eyes of a reader.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

I think the best part of being an author is bringing my imagination to life and being able to share in those experiences with others. The worst part is the snack pounds. I am forever running off the things I munch on during my writing sessions.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I am 100% a plotter. I have outlines, charts, mind maps, character questionnaires, etc. I feel it frees me up to explore if I know I won’t leave out important beats. Pantsers fascinate me. My critique partner is one and she weaves the most amazing, detailed Regency romances with this method. It works for her, but the thought of whittling down a book that is one hundred and fifty thousand words is terrifying to me.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Oh definitely, all the time! I have names for side characters, boats, pets, even place that hold meaning for people who have read all my books. I throw in references to characters and happenings from other books and even hint at what happens after the book ends.  I love leaving surprises for my best book buddies.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I have always loved astronomy. I’m an avid sky watcher and often have get togethers to watch meteor showers or what not.  There’s a campground near my home that is next to an observatory. That is one of my favorite places. No lights or fire are allowed after nightfall and all around you are people on RV’s with telescopes pointing tracking lasers at the sky.  People wander from site to site talking, sharing food, and talking space.  Truly a great community.

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m working on a Gunpowder Fantasy set in the Civil War with monsters and magic. I’m having the time of my life!

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

Perhaps at the very beginning when the industry was just starting out that may have been true. There just wasn’t the support networks and industry resources out there for the average author. But as indie publishing has come into its own, the quality out there has skyrocketed. Some of my favorite authors are completely self-reliant from concept to cover art and the products are amazing.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

I would have to say adventure/thriller. I just seem to gravitate towards that first love. I will always be Clara, fighting against the Mouse King’s Army in a little pink dress.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

I’m not sure I would survive them. The post calamity steampunk world of The Tremblers is definitely a dangerous place, but I think I would try it if given the chance. There is so much about the spirit of innovation and wonder during that time that is so appealing.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

I would tell myself to stop trying to beat some imaginary clock to publication and just enjoy the process of writing and learning and getting to know the industry. I was so stressed about the business side early on in my career for no reason. Don’t try to understand EVERYTHING about publishing all at once… learn what you need to, when you need to know it.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I make playlists for each book with soundracks, classical music, mellow beats…anything without lyrics. I find a great piece for an airship battle or a monster chase and I play it on repeat while I write the scene. I find it really works for me.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I guess how hard it is to decide when you’re done tinkering. I never feel finished with a story. Never.

Tell me three unique things about you.

Let’s see…

1) I did karate for 5 years as a teenager. No help to me now, but it was fun at the time.

2) I am a real scaredy cat and can only watch horror movies with someone else…even though I write monsters and mayhem.

3) I am a natural introvert and quiet at parties, but if you have a seat next to me we’ll talk for hours.

Raquel, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!