Meet Erica Rue, a reader and writer of science fiction and fantasy, especially YA. Her abandoned biology major and handful of astronomy classes have prepared her well for writing sci-fi. She's also a member of my local writing group, the Hourlings, and one of my beta readers!
What inspired the story concept for Kepos Chronicles? I love the possibilities of science fiction and the potential of YA. Science fiction is most of what I read, and I love all of the different worlds that I get to visit. As for the YA bit, my day job is teaching high school. Teens have a ton of potential and capability, but are still figuring out who they are and who they want to be. They have yet to specialize in something, so they are designed to try and fail, try again, and succeed. Put these amazing teen characters into worlds where anything can happen? I love it.
What do you love about writing YA Sci-fi? I’m not completely sure, to be honest! The story really changed from my initial idea kernel to the finished product, but that change was very gradual. I had a few ideas, and as I learned more about story structure, I turned those ideas into something readable. This was my first novel, and it felt like I’d been saving up all of these different ideas, but when it came time to sit down and tell the story, I found my goals and characters had changed. A lot of those old ideas got shelved or significantly changed. It’s a better story because of it, but a very different one than I initially dreamed up.
When it comes to world-building do you have any particular tricks or techniques? As much as Neil DeGrasse Tyson might complain that fictional aliens are completely unrealistic, they are by necessity familiar enough that we can easily relate to them. Maybe it’s a lack of creativity on my part, but I like to take the familiar, then add a twist. This keeps things approachable for readers, but still exciting. I also try to incorporate world building into the plot. This means that a lot of cool details get left out because the reader doesn’t need to know them to enjoy the story and they would slow down the pacing.
What was the most difficult part of the publishing process for you? The hardest part was deciding that the story was ready. I’d been through edits (I completely rewrote half of the first draft), beta reads, more edits, and an editor, and I still doubted myself. Finding this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LAhHDEtTD0) helped me a lot. It was permission to publish. I’d gotten my story to a place I was honestly proud of, and even though I could have obsessed over it some more, I realized it was time to publish it and learn from that process.
What does your writing space look like? I wish I had a #bookstagram perfect desk, but mine is a magnet for clutter. I often like to curl up on my couch, computer in lap, and just write. I have trouble writing when my desk or house is cluttered, but instead of cleaning, I find a new room. At some point, though, nowhere is safe, and I have to set aside time to declutter.
What are your tricks for juggling writing with a full-time job, family, life, etc.? This is an area I’ve put a lot of trial and error into, and now with a seven month old, I’m back to figuring it all out again. Before the baby, I had a daily word count goal. I’d prepare as much as possible the night before (make my lunch, shower, etc.), then get up early, put my computer in airplane mode, and write until I had to go to work.
After the baby, this method was no longer working for me, so for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing timed sessions. I write for thirty minutes each morning, uninterrupted when possible. Everyone is different in terms of what works for them, so my biggest tip is try a bunch of things until something works, and if it stops working, try a bunch of things again. If you mean business about writing, you will make the time each day to write.
What's the best piece of advice you've received about writing? “Finish it.” This is one of the first pieces of advice I got from Martin Wilsey after joining The Hourlings, my local critique group. It’s so simple, but it’s perfect. If I don’t finish the story, it doesn’t matter how many unnecessary adverbs I use or how believable my characters are. Finish something, make mistakes, then improve!
What is the best book you’ve read recently? I’m a huge fan of Drew Hayes, and recently finished Siege Tactics (Book Four in his Spells, Swords, & Stealth series). I usually listen to his audiobooks because his narrators are fantastic for the two series of his I’ve been reading, Super Powereds and Spells, Swords, & Stealth. The first series is about superhero college, the latter is based in a D&D type world, but it’s very meta. He does an amazing job writing characters that feel real. I should point out these books are not YA, though.