Hello all and welcome to Fable Hunter! Today I am so pleased to bring to you all an interview with RN Merle, the author of a brilliant fantasy novel, In Fallen Woods. It’s a beautifully written story about a young witch trying to find the truth about the world, and even herself. You can find my full review of In Fallen Woods here, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good witchy fantasy, which is perfect for this month! You can find it in the link here! Check it out, quick!!!
Now onto the interview!
Tell the readers a little about yourself!
My name is Rebecca, and I currently live in Hampshire, England, which is the home county of Jane Austen. I have always been passionate about literature, and studied it at university. I’m a vegetarian, dog enthusiast. I love to paint and draw. I was born on Halloween, so I think I’m predisposed to be attracted to things of a dark or gothic persuasion, such as witches and dark woods.
Do you read in your free time? If so, what book or author was the most inspirational/influential to you?
I will pick up a book at any spare moment I get, I’ll even read while I brush my teeth! There are so many authors I couldn’t have written this book without, the Brontes for their engrossing stories, Daphne Du Maurier for her darkly twisting psychological plots, F Scott Fitzgerald for his style. But I think in terms of this novel, the author who inspired me most was Mary Webb. She wrote a novel called Precious Bane, published in 1924, about a young woman born with a ‘harelip’, who is believed to be cursed, and is shunned by her community. It is written with such an authentic voice, and the author’s love of nature is so beautifully expressed. It is one of my favourite novels of all time.
How did you begin writing? Have you always wanted to be an author?
I always loved writing stories at school, and I did a bit of creative writing at University, and I would do little bits of writing in my spare time, but not a significant amount. Really, I have always been torn between wanting to be an author and wanting to be an artist. I have always flip-flopped between the two, and in a way, I still am. But it’s good, because when I get sick of one, there is always the other to turn to.
How did you come up with the idea for In Fallen Woods?
I was trying to think of a fable for children, which I could write and illustrate. I was listening to the radio, and I heard the song lyric ‘the daughter of the devil’ and I started to imagine who she might be, and whether she could be anything but evil. As my ideas evolved, the devil’s daughter became the daughter of an evil witch, and as I started writing, it became apparent to me that the story would work much better as a YA novel, and away I went.
How important was research when writing In Fallen Woods? Was there any websites or resources that you found particularly useful for research or writing?
I found at first, setting my novel in the 18th century, I was worried about creating historical inaccuracies. There are hundreds of things that can trip you up, tiny things-for example tea. I was itching to write the Somerbornes drank tea and ate cake, to highlight the lovely, small, home comforts Darklin has missed out on. But tea (as in, the everyday tea English people drink) wasn’t available to the masses at that time, nor was sugar, so they couldn’t have cake. So I had to think up alternatives. In terms of research, I read up on social history, and also about witchcraft, the Cornish Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, has a very interesting website. I did some research into native species of trees and plants. Basically, anything I wasn’t sure of I looked up, and for the rest of it, I used what I knew from general knowledge, and also read fiction that was published in the 18th Century.
Did you use any of the people in your life as inspiration for your characters? If not what was your inspiration for your characters, more specifically, your main character Darklin?
No one particular person inspired one particular character, but I did incorporate certain people’s gestures, or expressions. Darklin was kind of formed by the questions I had about the world when I was younger. As a sensitive person, it is easy to feel like people are hurtful. Even, and perhaps especially, those you love the most, can hurt you without even realising. So, I would wonder whether it is worthwhile to make new friendships or relationships, or make the effort to maintain old ones. Gressyl represents the other side of this question, if we were to be completely cynical and untrusting of other humans, where would it take us?
Do you have any habits or traditions to help keep you motivated while writing?
As I started writing, I set aside certain hours to dedicate to writing. Usually four hour blocks of time, four times a week. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, and just kept it to myself until I had the first draft completely written. My motivation was wanting to be successful at writing, to try and make it something I could do for a living. I thought if I do the best writing I can possibly do; make my novel as perfect as I can, then I would succeed or fail knowing that I had tried my hardest.
Do you have a special place you go to write?
I always write in my bedroom, with a blank wall in front of me. I try to minimize the risk of distractions, because I know I am very easily led astray. I will turn the internet off; I deleted the games off my computer, I made sure I couldn’t see out the window, otherwise I could lose hours to watching birds. I know a lot of people like to go to a café to write, but I know if I did that, I would get absolutely nothing done. There are too many interesting things to be distracted by. I think as a writer you have to be a studier of human nature, and also have an ear for conversation, so cafés, or anywhere where you can sit and observe, or even better, overhear, is like a feast of possible inspiration for me, and not somewhere I can turn inward and write.
What was the hardest part of writing In Fallen Woods?
Editing was really difficult for me, knowing what to keep in and what to cut out. It is horrible having to cut out paragraphs you’ve spent hours trying to perfect, and that you’re really pleased with. You become stubbornly attached to your little creations! Also, I found it hard to distinguish what was absolutely essential to keep in, from giving readers the information I thought they needed. It is a whole other skill to get the right perspective, as the writer, you really are too close to it to be objective. An editor would have been helpful, but I could imagine I would have had a few battles to keep what I wanted in!
What was your favorite part (or chapter) to write and why?
My favourite parts were the scenes between Darklin and John. John is typically found outside, and it was lovely to imagine and describe a rural idyll. John is a lovely character to write about, inside his head is a nice place to be. It also came as a relief to be able to write dialogue, rather than describing everything from Darklin’s point of view. They have a lot of interesting exchanges, and I really had to stretch myself to make both sides of their discussions compelling. I would say more, but I don’t want to give anything away!
If you were to spend a day with one of the characters from your book, who would you want it to be? What would you do during that day?
I really like this question. I would spend the day with Mrs Day. No small part of this is the fact that I also want to meet Greylady, as I fell a bit in love with her as I wrote her. I think we would drink some of her special tea in the cosy cottage kitchen, where I could pay my respects to Greylady. I would help her in the garden, and she would introduce me to all the animals she had rescued. We would have lots of interesting discussions. Mrs Day is the kind of person you could spill your heart out to. Maybe if I plucked up enough courage, I would pay a visit to the Owl Man. We could also wander across the woods and call on the Somerbornes and see what they are up to.
What are your hobbies and passions outside of writing?
My other main passion is art, which came in really handy when it came to designing my book’s cover. I’m also working on some artwork for a blogger friend’s new subscription book box, Book Hooked Box, which has been really fun so far. Other than that, I like to be out of doors, exploring the beautiful English countryside. I love finding interesting trees, lovely ancient oak trees, with twisting limbs and boughs, and wondering what stories they could tell, if only they could speak.
What struggles did you experience trying to write and publish your book?
I never realised as I was writing the book, publishers ideally want YA novels to be no more than 80 thousand words in length. My first draft topped 147 thousand! I managed to edit it down to 111 thousand, but when I approached agents, they told me it was still far too long. So I decided to self publish. My main struggle now is finding readers. I think I am making infinitesimal progress, but I need to become better at marketing and promotion, which I am a little bit clueless about!
Do you have any future projects you’re working on?
I have lots of novels planned in my head. I think if people really enjoy In Fallen Woods, the next novel I write will be another about the Witches of Vardyn, but not with the same characters, and not set in that time.
What advice would you give your younger writing self?
I think reading widely really paid off for me, so I would definitely say keep that up. Especially reading poetry, because I think it helps you see how powerful words can be when used thoughtfully and imaginatively. Otherwise, I would say, stop day dreaming and get on with it! There really aren’t any short cuts you can take if you want to write a book, you have to sit down and put the time in.
I hope you all enjoyed getting to know Rebecca a little, and learning about her book and writing process. A big thank you to Rebecca for doing this interview with me! You can find her on Goodreads, and don’t forget to check out her wonderful book if you haven’t already!