Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Interview with R.J. Anderson

Yesterday, I posted my review of the delightful new novel Wayfarer. Today, here's the author herself, R.J. Anderson! Rebecca is so nice and friendly, and I'm excited to have been able to interview her.

How did you come up with the idea of the Oak and the faeries' world?

My experience was similar to that of C.S. Lewis with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe -- it all began with a picture. Though in his case it was a little girl and a faun walking with an umbrella in a snowy wood, while mine was of a huge hollow oak tree in the countryside, with a human house nearby. I wasn't really conscious of "inventing" that mental image at all -- it was more like remembering something I'd seen before.

Of course, it took me some time after that to figure out exactly how the faeries lived and related to each other and how their culture and attitudes would be different from humans, and that was where all the research and planning came in. But the overall vision of the Oakenwyld as a place was there from the beginning.

All of the characters in Wayfarer have such unique personalities. Did you base the characters off of people in real life? How did you come up with each character's personality?

Thank you! It can be quite a challenge to keep characters distinct, and difficult for an author to know whether she's really managed it. I'm glad you think I have. As it happens, two of the characters in the Oak, Wink and Thorn, are loosely based on people I knew as a teenager. But they're really the only characters I've ever done that with.

Usually I get a mental picture of a character's appearance and/or personality in my mind, and the next step is to find out his or her name. Names are just as important to me as an author as they are to the faeries in my stories -- until I have the right name for a character, I just don't know him or her properly. But once I get that name figured out, the rest of their personality falls into place as I write.

I've tried making lists of character traits and doing "interviews" with my characters and so on, but none of that really works for me. I know it works wonderfully for some other authors, though. Everyone's different.

Which scene in Wayfarer was your favorite to write?

In Wayfarer, my favourite scene is the one at the House where we have Timothy, Paul and Peri, Linden, Rob and then Thorn all interacting with each other. I particularly enjoyed writing the dialogue between Peri and Rob as she lets him inside, and then some of the things Thorn says after she arrives -- it was such a fun dynamic to write.

I loved that scene! Do you ever write your books with a particular theme or message in mind?

I think very seriously about the emotional arc of my main characters, because that's something it took me a long while to learn -- that the character needs to go through an emotional journey that changes him or her in some way. And because I am a committed Christian, I'm interested in matters of spirituality and faith and morality, so those ideas tend to show up in my books as well.

But I didn't sit down and say to myself at the beginning of Wayfarer, "I'm going to write a book about a missionary's kid who struggles with his faith, and I'm going to have him end up in such-and-such a place, to teach the readers X and Y." Rather, Timothy's struggles and the way he responds to them came naturally out of my own life experience and things I was thinking about at the time. And once I realized I was going to be dealing with questions of faith and doubt, I was actually quite anxious not to come across as sermonizing or lecturing the reader. Because I don't believe that fiction is a good medium for that sort of thing.

According to your bio, you've lived in a lot of places! Do you think that your diverse experiences have shaped your writing?

I think they've given me a good sense of what it's like to be a stranger in a strange land, looking at things from the perspective of an outsider. Most of my books are about people who are outsiders or foreigners in one way or another, and have to learn to stand on their own and resist the pressure to conform to other people's expectations.

What were some of your favorite books as a teenager?

In my early teens I fell hard for the fantasy novels of Patricia A. McKillip, particularly her Riddle-Master trilogy and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld -- her writing is so gorgeous and poetic, I loved it even when I had no clue what was going on in the story! I also had a very strong response to C.S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet and especially Perelandra.

Any upcoming books?

Yes! My third faery book, Arrow, will be released in the UK on January 6, 2011. I've also sold a paranormal thriller for older teens called Touching Indigo, which is being published in the US by Carolrhoda Lab in Fall 2011. And then I've agreed to write a fourth book about faeries (though only loosely connected to the first three), called Swift.

Thanks for a great interview, Priya!

Thank you so much, Rebecca! I can't wait for Arrow and Swift.


Maya Ganesan said...

Great interview! I should read the book.

Nonie said...

Loved her answers. :D It sounds interesting...

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

What an excellent interview. Thanks for posing such thoughtful questions. I learned a lot about R. J. Anderson and her writing. And I hope your regular readers enjoy her books as much as I do.