Interview With Author Rebecca L. Fearnley
Teacher and Writer of Courageous Tales for Rebels and Dreamers
Rebecca has been obsessed with two things since she learned to walk and talk: stories and animals. Luckily, the two seem to be very compatible. She writes stories set in strange worlds filled with bizarre creatures, strong female characters and magical powers. She started her writing career as a poet, performing all over the country and publishing her first collection, Octopus Medicine, with Two Rivers Press in 2017.
In addition to writing, she is also a teacher and, in 2018, decided that she wanted to write quality books for the young people she works with. Her books tend towards themes of respect for the environment, protecting the planet and the new generations challenging the old to face up to their mistakes.
She lives in Reading, UK, with her unusual family, which includes herself and her partner, a friendly little mini-lop rabbit (called Cleo) and a gregarious and feisty quaker parrot (called Maya).
Well, I love Rebecca already. She has a mini lop! Plus she's kindly indulged a Q&A session with me, where we talk about her life as an author and other fun things.
But before that, I'd like to show you all the cover and blurb of her book The Last Beekeeper, which the first book of her Silent Skies trilogy. Published by Lightning Hyena Press, this YA dystopia scifi novel has been reviewed as 'heart stealing, moving and un-put-downable.' Anyone up for a bee adventure? (Pun intended! 🐝)
When one tiny creature holds the fate of humanity, how do you stop it falling into the wrong hands?
Solma is a fighter. Trained by her Steward to guard their village from the predators of their harsh world, she is dedicated, fierce and loyal. But how can she protect her friends and family from crop failure and starvation? With flying insects extinct for over a century, nowhere on the forsaken continent of Alphor is safe and Solma is terrified her little brother, Warren, will be one of the next to die. The villagers cling to life, waiting for the Earth Whisperers—mysterious nomads with a strange magic that helps plants grow—to arrive.
But then Warren finds something. Something impossible.
When the first bee in a hundred years crawls out of the earth, Warren forms a strange bond with the creature and Solma fears this unique power will make him a target. One that leaders of Alphor would kill for. As she and Warren fight to keep the bee secret and safe, word of this miracle sweeps the continent. Allies and enemies alike descend on the village. Some demand the bees for themselves, others want to destroy the colony to level the odds. When words become threats and then violence, Solma and Warren are caught in the conflict, and now it isn’t just the bees in danger.
When whoever controls the bees controls the world, how will Solma and Warren know who to trust?
And now, to our Q&A with this lovely author!
Tell us a fun story about your publication journey.
I suppose the most obvious one is opening my book mail to find proof copies of my own book inside. I’d been working on The Last Beekeeper for two years. I’d had so many setbacks, frustrations and fears. We’d been through a pandemic. I’d lost a heck of a lot of money. There were times I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to put the book out there. So, of course, when it arrived and I held it in my hands with it’s beautiful cover, I burst into tears. Typical, I know. But when you’ve worked so hard at something for so long, I feel like you’re entitled to cry about it!
How about a horror story about your author life?
I’m not sure I really have any specific horror stories. I have had the usual frustrations, fears and triumphs. I think a lot of authors (or perhaps, just a lot of people) suffer from imposter syndrome. I certainly do. Some days, I feel on top of the world, really confident in my writing and convinced I’ll be a success. A day—or even an hour—later, I feel like a fraud, a failure, that no-one will ever understand what I’m trying to say and it’s all pointless. But I think that’s true of everyone who’s ever tried to achieve anything. Sometimes, the biggest hurdle we have to overcome is our own self-doubt.
What do you think is the best thing about being an author?
It’s just the best playtime, isn’t it? When I’m really on a roll, I stop seeing the words I’m typing and a film just plays in my head, the character’s all acting out their various parts, being themselves. It sort of feels like it’s not me writing at all, that the characters are just telling the story through me. That’s definitely one of the best bits. The other best bit is when someone you’ve never met, in a part of the world you’ve never been to, contacts you and tells you your books have changed their life, or inspired them, or made them realise something about themselves they hadn’t known before. Connecting with people is definitely one of the best parts of being an author.
Who do you think you inspire? If not, who and what do you want to inspire?
Well, I was a teacher for four years. Secondary English. I loved working with the students, but found the curriculum such a bore! I still do a lot of work with young people, and I hope I inspire them. I’d like to inspire young people to think critically, to learn about their world, to ask questions, to be compassionate and empathetic both to themselves and to the other creatures and life-forms that inhabit our planet. I think empathy is what’s going to save us from ourselves in the end. So, I hope I manage to inspire the young people I work with and write for to be proactive, creative and constructive in their lives, working to build rather than to destroy.
What keeps you up at night?
Mainly, writing ideas. My brain is ridiculous. Sometimes, I jerk awake at one o’clock in the morning with a mad idea that niggles at me until I have to get up and write it down. It’s not unusual for me to get up in the small hours, fire up my laptop in the dark and write for an hour until the idea is satisfied it won’t be forgotten, and then I’ll be able to go back to sleep. I’m also quite an anxious person, though, so sometimes questions like what if no-one buys my book? Or What if someone DOES buy my book and then hates it? also plague me. I’ve been an anxious person all my life though and I’ve worked hard to learn how to manage it. I can normally work through these thoughts with some mantras or some breathing exercises. There’s no cure for the ideas though. When they’re persistent enough, I have to give in, get up, and write them down!
What character archetype would you be if you were a character in a book, movie or TV series?
Probably the comic-relief side character. You know, the one most likely to die halfway through. I have very few special powers other than my ability to make snarky remarks at inappropriate moments.
If you were a character in a book, movie or TV series, what would be your catchphrase or famous line or popular expression?
It would probably be: "It seemed like a good idea at the time. I take after my father in that respect."
What food or drink best describes you?
Pizza. Warm, filling, comforting, and can wear many toppings!
If you were cursed to only be able to sing ONE song in karaoke for the rest of your life, what would you like it to be and why?
I Get Knocked Down by Chumbawumba. I sing it terribly but I feel like it’s a song that doesn’t need to be sung well. You just need bags of enthusiasm and the ability to get back up again. We’re all stronger than we think.
(Now sing it with us! 🤣)
What else do you enjoy doing other than reading and writing?
Well, reading and writing are pretty big parts of my life, but I also play the ukulele, which I really enjoy. I have a pet bunny and a pet parrot, who are my two best friends, and I also play roller derby. It’s a full contact sport played on roller skates. It’s mad, and brutal. And I love it.
What do you consider as your weakness as a writer, and what have you done to overcome it?
Hmm, that’s a really tough one. Every day, I think my weakness is different! I’ve definitely learned a lot about the business side of writing since publishing. Marketing is HARD and is definitely a weakness of mine. In terms of the actual creative aspect, though, I think I’m very wordy. I love metaphors and flowery language and sometimes I’ll use five sentences where one would do. I account for this in my process, though, and my third draft of any story is always a rigorous cutting draft. For the second book in the Silent Skies trilogy, The Hive Child, I cut twenty thousand words just from deleting irrelevant sentences.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love Sarah Chorn. Her writing is brilliant and beautiful. I also recently discovered S.F.E. Smith, and I’ll definitely be reading more of her books! I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read by Naomi Novik and I’m a die-hard Pratchett fan.
Any book recommendations?
Oh, loads! My current favourite is the Scholomance series by Naomi Novik, which starts with A Deadly Education. I loved Dawn Rising by A.F.E. Smith. Sarah Chorn’s Seraphina’s Lament was beautiful and moving. I love a good dragon story and Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon series is fabulous. The Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett are brilliant. Wintersmith is my favourite, but that’s book three. I love Pax by Sarah Pennypacker. It’s written for younger readers, but I actually think it’s a complexly imagined, beautifully empathetic and ambitious book about grief, love, inter-species friendship and learning to let go. Is that enough? I’ve got more…
Anything else you want to tell your fans, our readers, and the writing/reading/blogging community at large?
I guess just that if anyone has any creative dreams or ambitions that scare them, or that they fear others will judge them for, I’d encourage you to go for it. I’ve been incredibly lucky in how supportive my friends and family have been and I know that not everyone has the same freedom to pursue their dreams as I do. But fight for it. Creative people make the world go round. They are innovators, philosophers, free-thinkers, revolutionaries. They challenge the status quo and ask questions of the present so that we can have a brighter future. We need our creatives! Read, write, draw, dance, act, paint, play your instrument, bake, invent, engineer, experiment, explore. Sometimes, the most terrifying thing to be is true to yourself. But it’s also the most liberating. Imagine yourself at eighty, sitting in a comfortable chair by a fire in a care home with a cat on your lap, thinking back over your life. Would she/he/they be smiling at the things they’ve achieved, or aimed for, even if they’d failed? Or would they be full of regret at being afraid to follow their dreams? I know which eighty-year-old I’d rather be. Go for it!
The Last Beekeeper is available on ebook and paperback via Amazon. To know more about Rebecca, visit her website at rebeccafearnleywrites.co.uk. You can also subscribe to her mailing list to get her novella Doorway to Nowhere for free.
About the Creator
Filipino author, singer-songwriter and theatre actress. Loves writing fantasy short stories, composing songs for books, and reading SFF and YA. Also writes romance, horror and scifi. Married and based in the UK. www.mariesinadjan.com
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