Thursday, 22 September 2016

Thursday Interview: Rebecca Laffar-Smith

Y'all welcome Western Australian author Rebecca Laffar-Smith to Romance Spinners. Her official biography reads:

"An author; a publisher; a mother. Rebecca loves bringing the joy of reading to children, exploring magical words of wonder and darkness, and fairy tales of happily ever after romance. As you can imagine, that leaves her torn between her three passions. She writes science fiction and fantasy under the name Rebecca Laffar-Smith, romance under the name Serenity Bly, children's books under the name Bec J. Smith, and publishes books for children with language and literacy difficulties at Aulexic."

Today we're having a bit of a chat about the genres we like and the importance of reading for everyone. If you have a reluctant reader with literacy difficulties, consider having a look at her P.I. Penguin series.


HWK: You're known for writing SFF but I hear you've got a secret soft spot for Romance. What is it about this genre that you like?
RLS: I've always been a devourer of romance. I'm a big fan of Mills & Boon and in my twenties I imagined joining the ranks to pen some of their Sweet, or Sexy, or Temptation lines. I love to read romance, when I'm experiencing a physical and emotional low due to my Bipolar, because they're written in a way that isn't too demanding for the reader. They're light but powerfully emotional and that sense that love conquers all is uplifting. It brightens the mood and sometimes I need that, especially because my SFF writing is usually pretty dark and emotionally fraught.

Having said that, the first attempts I made into writing Romance in my twenties were absolutely terrible. I probably didn't have enough emotional maturity or experience with love and loss and even heartbreak to be able to write a convincing happily ever after. My characters didn't have much life and body. Thankfully, the writing I've done over the years has helped significantly but I'm still only just exploring the genre again as a writer.

And to be honest, a lot of what I like about it as a writer is the strength of the market and the emotionally rewarding writing experience. When I'm writing SFF I find I get into the grit of what I'm working on. It can be emotionally draining, and I find myself dragged into the darkness with my characters. Writing Romance does the opposite, it pulls me up out of that hole and makes life a lot more fun and shiny. Obviously there are stages of the writing where I'm dealing with conflict, but there's always a sense of destiny in the story where I know things will turn out for the best in the end. When I'm writing SFF I don't have the confidence of that certainty.

And that same confidence and certainty is true for being able to find readers. The romance market is huge and ravenous. As a romance reader myself I know I can power through about four romances in the time it takes me to read one SFF. So I can go to market with a romance and be relatively confident it will find readers where are SFF is often a lot more hit and miss. I have to hope that my kind of SFF appeals within a niche of the SFF market and because it takes longer to write and requires more emotional and physical investment in its production it can feel good to break that up with the occasional romance where I know I'll find readers who love the story. Romance readers are a lot less critical in reviews so long as you satisfy the key emotions.

HWK: I also love Pride & Prejudice. You explore Elizabeth & Darcy's first married Christmas in your novella "Christmas at Rosings". What is it about the Darcy/de Bourgh family dynamics that caught your imagination?
RLS: Lady Catherine is a monster. As an antagonist she was an obvious choice, especially because Darcy's loyalty is something to really play upon. Of course he loves his aunt and he has been raised to respect, even admire her. Elizabeth's standing in that dynamic is shaky at best. She doesn't have the breeding to give her any sort of status in Lady Catherine's eyes and it's easy to let Darcy's past respect for his aunt clash with his still emerging loyalty to his new wife. Their relationship, having had a rocky beginning, is easily shaken by the foibles of their past.

I think that's very true of relationships. The things that tear couples apart or make it hard for them to come together in the beginning, will continue to rock the foundations of that relationship. They'll continue to be tested by them, and it takes work to strengthen the foundation to withstand that kind of ongoing turmoil. I liked the idea of building that stronger foundation with Darcy and Elizabeth because I always felt like they didn't have enough strength to keep their relationship together after the final declarations in Pride and Prejudice. 

HWK: You've got works in several genres. What makes you want to explore different ones instead of focusing on a single genre or age group?
RLS: Well, the children's books surprised me. I honestly never imagined myself a children's book author and it was only the homeschooling I was doing with my son that lead me down that path. Now I can't imagine not working in children's fiction but I'm still always drawn back to SFF which is my first passion. And somehow, even in my SFF there is a degree of Romance. I think love is such a central theme in life that we find it in every genre.

These days, because I'm working so much with my publishing house I don't have as much time to write as I need and I try to keep my focus to just those three genres, Children's, SFF, and Romance. As I said before, the SFF tends to be heavy writing so it's time consuming and emotionally taxing. I tend to think of Romance writing as a palate cleanser. It's a way to declutter those dark thoughts and emotions so that I can come back to the other work with a clearer head.

Of course, having said that, I can tend to have a short attention span and just love to flit from project to project. I let the ideas lead me and sometimes those ideas take me outside of what I've already done. I love to challenge myself to keep growing and developing as a writer so I'll throw myself down the rabbit holes of wild ideas and see where they take me. Thankfully, for now at least, they've gravitated around just three genres, but I'm not ruling out someday exploring crime, and I definitely know I have some non-fiction waiting in the wings, although I'm fairly confident that I won't go near thriller or literary fiction.

HWK: You've been doing a fair bit of work with Aulexic, an imprint that brings interest-appropriate books to readers with literary acquisition difficulties. How did you identify the hook (simple language, advanced ideas) as a successful gateway into reading for this particular literacy group?
RLS: I tend to focus on what has worked in my own experience and in the experiences of those I've talked to directly. It's not particularly scientific, although I have done a lot of research into the science of learning disabilities and language acquisition, I find anecdotal evidence tends to hold greater weight in that we can see it's effect directly on the people that matter. Especially in situations where the science doesn't hold up to what I've seen in the real world.

In this case, our family has first hand experience. I'm dyslexic, my mother is dyslexic, and my son is both dyslexic and autistic. So we're very familiar with language and literacy challenges. Aulexic began as a homeschool project to make books that would entice my son to want to read. He had become disenchanted with books when he was attending school. He had been forced to read boring school readers that had no story or substance but were a jumble of words on the page so he had begun to assume that all reading was pointless. We had to find a way to convince him that reading can be powerful and fun.
I knew that, as a dyslexic myself, the only time I read is when I'm absolutely interested in the material or I'm gaining a particular benefit from the information or communication. And I know a lot of non-dyslexic adults who are like that too. If it's not gripping our attention, we'll put it down and walk away. Today, children have even more choice when it comes to reading or not and we need books and resources that give them a reason to want to read.

Then, of course, we take the ideas of compelling, interesting, and story-rich concepts even further by incorporating aspects of layout and formatting that improve readability for all readers, but have shown particular improvement for dyslexics. And I like to incorporate a degree of reality, logic, and science in our books so that they'll appeal to autistic children as well.

HWK: A friend is visiting you next week and bringing a guest who's a scientist. However, they have warned you that their guest can be a talker. What kind of scientist do you hope they're not?
RLS: Wow, that's actually a hard question because I tend to be fascinated by everything. I could tell you I'd love to talk with people in genetics, space flight & astronomy, and psychology. I don't know that there is any particular science I wouldn't find interesting but I might not be too keen to spend an evening with someone who talked incessantly about bugs. Entomology, while interesting, can send shivers down my spine because I'm not a fan of insects.

In fact, I think I've found one I would like to avoid, a Melittologist! They study bees and I'm deathly allergic to bees. Just thinking about them gives me anxiety attacks so spending a whole evening talking about them would put me off my food and make for a very unpleasant evening. Although, even having said that, the insatiable curiosity of my brain wants to learn more so while it would be physically taxing because of my emotional response to the subject matter I think I'd still find the evening mentally stimulating and interesting.

HWK: Preach it! If you could convince the world of *anything*, what would it be?
RLS: Possibility is infinite.

These three words have such broad reaching implications in every area of our existence. I believe that the potential for every individual is limited only by their dreams. You can achieve anything you decide to set out to achieve. It will take hard work and patience, but if you truly believe in what you set out to do and continue working toward that goal, eventually you'll accomplish it.

That then of course extends to things like space flight, time travel, extraterrestrial life, genetics, metaphysics, longevity of life and health, even love. I believe anything and everything is possible. Scientifically it may require adjusting some of our commonly held beliefs or changing the rules, but we've been proving that even that is possible, especially when you consider the vastness of our universe. We've only just scratched the surface on what we think we know and we're having to adjust that view all the time.

So yes, I'm preaching, "Possibility is infinite."

HWK: Thank yo so much for joining us on Romance Spinners.


Interested in Rebecca Laffar-Smith's books? Get your copy now:  Romance | Science Fiction/Fantasy | Children's

1 comment:

Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

Thanks so much for having me Heidi! :-)