Author Interview: Rebecca Laffar-Smith

  1. Name, please!

Hey there, I’m Rebecca Laffar-Smith. I’m a Y.A. Sci-Fi & Fantasy Author.

  1. We’ll skip the “tell us about yourself” because coming up with something on the spot is, truly, the bane of an author’s existence. So, let’s start with something a little easier! Tell me what you’re working on at the moment.

Right now, I’m working on two books. The first is a Y.A. Fantasy that I’m cowriting with my daughter about a dragon-winged girl who must venture into the land of dreams to save her sister from a sleeping sickness that is ravaging her people. The other is book two in my Shadows of Nar Y.A. Dystopian Sci-Fi series. In this book, they venture to another world where advanced medicine has cured all illness and babies are born genetically perfect or are terminated. They get caught up in an uprising of the divergana who believe it shouldn’t be a crime punishable by death to be born different.

  1. In as much detail as you would like, tell me about your book(s) that are already out/on the way.

I have three Y.A. titles out in the world. My debut, The Flight of Torque, is about a young woman kidnapped by snake worshippers who, despite her guardian angel’s attempts to save her, is transformed into a serpenthrope, a snake-shifter.

My second Y.A. book, City of Light, is a Dystopian Sci-Fi. After two-hundred years the ship sent out into the Universe to find a cure is finally returning. Aboard are two sisters, genetic clones (mostly) of the former captain and his brother. They’re determined to fulfil the original mission, but not everyone on Nar wants to be saved.

And my new release, Spirit Talker, is a Y.A. Contemporary with a supernatural kicker. After the death of her mother, Sara begins to see things, impossible things, dead things. She’s diagnosed with schizophrenia but starts to wonder if what she’s seeing is real. It’s a coming-of-age story that deals in mental illness, grief, depression, friendship, hope, and learning to trust yourself.

  1. As far as the writing process goes—including such things as conception of idea all the way through to money in the bank—what is the least favourite bit? (Everyone has one!)

Ironically, the writing part. lol I’m a huge fan of brainstorming and ideas and story outlines. I love Plot Storming my books and fleshing out my characters and getting to know my story worlds. I’ve also been an editor for so many years that I find that part of the process natural and fun. I might be an oddity in that regard, but I love having the raw work to shape into something truly beautiful. And I love connecting with readers and sharing my books with the world. It’s just that middle bit, getting that first draft down on the page that’s hard. I’m constantly plagued by doubts and anxiety during that stage. I’m always afraid I can never do the idea justice. So yes, the writing is my least favourite because it feels the most challenging.

  1. Conversely, what is the bit of the writing process that gets your writery brain grinning?

Outlines! It’s the part I love helping other authors with too. I love seeing the shape of stories in the things I read and the things I watch. I love deconstructing great structure in stories, or seeing the way people put their own unique twist on the way stories have been told for millennia. And developing that story arc, finding the parts that make the story sing, and exploring who a character is and who they need to become over the course of the story is so much fun.

  1. If you could steal any author’s ability to improve your own work, who would you steal from and why? (e.g. Tolkien’s language skills, Douglas Adams’ humour, etc.)

Wow, this is actually a really difficult question. There are so many authors I admire and who have done fantastic things with their writing over the centuries. Honestly, although I admire Tolkien’s ability to create whole languages, it’s his world building and the simplicity of complicated characters I admire him for even more. It’s not given as much credit because the languages is something he uniquely did that no one else was doing at the time. I know I’d love to be able to incorporate more humour but it doesn’t come naturally to me and I think it’s important to lean into your strengths rather than try to shore up your weaknesses. For me, I’m a lover of words so I’ve been influenced by the works of Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss, even Shakespeare who all invented words and did unique things with language.

  1. Now for some fun! The main character of the book you’re working on (or have recently finished) has kidnapped you for ruining their life. How will you explain that what you’re doing is for the best?

By the end of Spirit Talker, I think Sara understands the whole point of it. But earlier in the book I imagine she’d want to rant and rave at me about how unfair it all is. Why would I torment her by making her crazy like this? Why would I put her through so much pain? And because she cares about others and Will’s experience is possibly even worse than her own, she’d be angry about that too. How could I do that to him, or to Grae, or to Bobby. But I’d have to tell her that facing the most challenging things our life throws at us is how we grow into who we are meant to become. Her pain, Will’s pain, it’s part of discovering their gifts. For Sara, losing her mother and developing an ability to see spirit gives her an incredible capacity to help people on both sides of the veil. I like to think the books I write help people want to live into ultimate possibility. The universe is infinite and expanding but we exist in our human condition, making the most of the life we’ve been given. The whole point is to live your best life and through doing that make a positive change in the lives of those around you. So yes, I put my characters through hell, because it challenges them to step up into who they are meant to become. Life does that. And sharing that raw, honest experience with readers gives them the opportunity to do it too.

  1. You, your main character(s), and the protagonist of the last book you read are playing poker. What are the stakes? Who will win and why?

This might be a little unfair because the last book I read was a series of contemporary romances where the guys were all expert spies and the women were all extremely brilliant professionals in their own various careers whereas Sara is a normal teenager who loves art and roller skating and spending time at the beach. She hasn’t really had a chance to play poker with any real stakes. In fact, I don’t imagine it’s even something she plays with her family. Her dad would be more into Cluedo. Although, I’d like to think maybe the Norcross Security Agency would play for the right to add her skillset to their team. It would be cool to add a paranormal investigator to the crew and although she’s still just a teen she might be that someday. Trouble is, the deck is stacked in their favour because not only would they likely be deeply familiar with the game, they’re masters at schooling their features and lying convincingly. Thankfully, they’d make sure to make their win something that benefits Sara and her family too.

  1. Let’s face it, writing is hard. What do you think are some traps to avoid in your particular area of expertise? (Whether that be your genre, your knowledge of plot, your character building, your world building, etc.)

Because I’m a huge advocate of outlining I tend to be biased here in saying that planning your book in advance can help avoid plot holes and tangents and blank page syndrome. For me, facing a blank page and writing into the void is a pit of anxiety. And I avoid it by planning every scene before I begin. But it’s a two-edged sword because it can lead to the trap of feeling locked into the plan, so it’s important to remain flexible. No matter how meticulously you plan a story it will always deviate, and you need to be able to roll with it and change the plan when it’s no longer working for you.

  1. Anything else you’d like to add? Plots to take over the world, for example. Upcoming release dates, links and things, maybe even your favourite chocolate cake recipe.

Actually, since you’ve given me room for my plan for world domination, I’d love to share my TEDx Talk. I’m driven, both in my fiction and my public speaking, to help people face their darkness and find their strength. Be that in dealing with mental illness or neurodivergence, or just facing the tough battles life throws at us. I hope my fiction gives people a place of light to explore strength through adversity. And I hope this talk does that too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1zclgFC99g