PJV: First off, Ms. White, I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for the readers of Parajunkee’s View. Your first book, ‘and Falling, Fly’, is about to released at the beginning of March; can you tell us a little bit about the book?
White: ‘and Falling, Fly’ is a love story between Olivia, the fallen angel of desire, and Dominic, a self-medicating neuroscientist. Olivia, depressed by her realization that everyone you don’t love tastes the same, returns to the Hotel of the Damned in Ireland. There, she meets Dominic, a radical neuroscientist whose research is fueled by his attempts to cure secret, inexplicable flashbacks to things that happened before he was born. He tries to enroll Olivia in his research study. She says medicine can’t cure mythology, and that his “seizures” are memories of past incarnations, which is completely unacceptable to him as a scientist, even if it would actually explain what he’s been experiencing.
White: I had some, but I can’t take any credit for my favorite part, which is the way it handles the conceptual heavy-lifting. It’s my first book, so I was wildly nervous about what it would look like. I assembled a twenty-slide PowerPoint deck full of inspirational images from album covers, design magazines, etc., for my editor, who probably thought I was completely nuts. She was very patient with me though, and then went into the cover conference and came up with the stone wings behind Olivia idea that captures, more beautifully than anything I sent her, the idea of Olivia. I was all hung up on how to picture a person whose appearance changes depending on who’s looking at her, who’s an angel but doesn’t have wings, and a vampire who doesn’t have fangs.
I couldn’t be more pleased with the end result, illustrated by artist Craig White. In fact, my husband just walked in the door with a large poster of the cover he had framed as my anniversary present.
PJV: Then there is the title. Unique like all the other aspects of this novel, can you run us through the title process you took with ‘and Falling, Fly’?
White: I wish I could remember exactly how that came about. I know it was pretty early in the process, but it was after I’d started the first draft. I do a ton of pre-writing, all of which is generally filed under some embarrassing working title. I thing ‘and Falling, Fly’ came out of a line that ended up on the back of the book as cover copy: that part of the nature of love, or of humanity, both of which Olivia and Dominic need to learn, is that it is both fall and flight. That’s part of it.
Part of it, too, was a challenge to myself. Writing this book was scary, and I needed to have that right in front of me. It was only by hurling myself off the edge of this concept, by throwing myself into it fully, that I had any chance at all. It’s the lesson of the Ace of Cups in the tarot: you can’t learn to dive in the shallow end of the pool.
PJV: Olivia, the main character of ‘and Falling, Fly’ is a fallen angel, a vampire. How did you decide to write about this particular paranormal creature?
White: Olivia was an angel before she was a vampire, and the ‘vampire-ness’ (gak, that’s not a word, is it?) came out of her angelic nature. She’s the fallen angel of desire. In other words, she’s desire in its corrupted state. She has no direct access to what she wants; she has to get it through others. Because she’s out of touch with her true nature, she latches on to what others want her to be. And that’s such a dependent posture, and such a predatory one, that it *is* vampirism.
PJV: Desire is the focus emotion throughout your book. Vampires have transitioned from monsters to be feared to creatures to be desired and your book epitomizes this transition, the main character being the embodiment of desire itself. What is your take on this transition?
White: That’s a hard question, because you’ve really put your finger spot on one of the key things I was trying to do. Can I say the book is my take on that transition?
I wrote ‘and Falling, Fly’ because I felt like Olivia. I felt out-of-touch with my own desire. I had transitioned from the teenage monster to be feared to the adult creature that is wanted, and while it made things much more manageable, it felt fallen.
I’d like to say I’ve got it all worked out and the answer is in the book, but the book is an exploration more than an explanation. It did help me be clearer about the tension I felt between being authentic and being likeable, and how I saw the difficulties in being a woman in a world that sends strong messages about your worth being tied to who wants you. It helped me get in touch with my own desires, gave me access to the difference between what I actually hungry for and what I was consuming.
PJV: ‘Unique’ seems to be my buzz word when discussing this novel; the concept and tone of the novel also falls within that adjective. I found myself rereading sentences (to experience again) because of your analogies and adjective usage. Did you work at maintaining the tone, or is this your own voice?
White: ::grin:: No, I had to work at toning it down. I’m not a Hemingway. I like my adjectives and even (gasp!) adverbs, and I have a mind that loves to play in analogy. But you’re right, there aren’t many books I know of that are like this one. And that’s a danger for a writer who needs to appeal to a broad enough audience in order to get to keep writing! But I like playing with language, with blending concepts, and at the end of the day need to be honest to my voice and let the cards fall where they will.
PJV: Readers always like to know if there are particular songs that inspired you during the writing process. Any particular ones stand out?
White: I found myself gravitating to U2’s ‘Achtung Baby!’ and Tool’s ‘Undertow’ during the time I was writing, but never while I was writing. I listen to white noise while I write, to help me focus. If I’m feeling really confident while I’m editing, I’ll stretch out to some solo cello music, but that’d be pretty daring for me.
PJV: Speaking of the writing processes, how long did it take to write ‘and Falling, Fly’? You mention a good deal of research on your web site, regarding desire, sexuality and neurochemistry, was that a very time consuming process?
White: Yup. I’m a very slow writer, and I need multiple drafts. And the research was fairly intense. Fortunately, I enjoy it all, and I didn’t have a deadline, so that helped. It took me about a year and a half to write, another year to sell, tweaking all the time, and then about a year since it sold to when it actually hits shelves. So I’ve been living with Olivia for a while now. 😉
PJV: Your web site also mentions that you have experienced a great deal in your life, from a career in ballet, to a appearing on reality television shows. How has your life affected your writing, do you feel you have to live to be able to write?
White: I do. I think a wide base of life experience is important to a writer. An imagination is a hungry thing. And the career path … well … I’ve been a ballet dancer and a factory worker. I’ve done experimental theater and reality TV. It’s not really a coherent narrative. Maybe that’s why I’m a writer now. At least in fiction I can create a life where one experience leads logically to the next.
PJV: How has becoming a published author affected your life?
White: There are a couple of ways that getting published changed things for me. On a practical level, having sold ‘and Falling, Fly’ in a two-book deal, suddenly I had a deadline. This allowed me to be more deliberate about carving out time to write.
On a more emotional level, it did, finally, shut up some demons of mine about ‘worth’ and ‘quality’. For a while. Now with the book out for review, some of those bastards are back with new heads, but I’m learning to keep it in perspective. The inverse of that is that the feeling of real, soul-level recognition I have with readers who connect – who connect emotionally with the book, and then electronically to tell me about it. This has been very powerful. I’m looking into ways to work with that, too. I have the Tattoo Gallery as a baby step, but I have secret schemes for a “How Art Thou Damned” website exclusively for collecting those stories.
PJV: Are there any upcoming appearances you would like to mention? Any chances you’ll visit New Orleans??? I’m on a mission to get more authors to visit for signings!
White: I would love to come to New Orleans! Although the last time I was there, I almost didn’t make it out. I’ve never had a city collar me that way, except a tiny fishing village in Ireland. I actually called a friend back in Austin and asked if he’d be willing to box up all my stuff and ship it to Louisiana. I seriously did not want to leave. But there’s a vampire ball at Halloween that has me highly intrigued, and I have folks to visit, so yeah, I hope to make it there.
As for other appearances, the next book, more info etc, it’s all on my website: www.SkylerWhite.com
Skyler White is author of dark fantasy novels ‘and Falling, Fly’ (Berkley, March 2010) and ‘In Dreams Begin’ (Berkley, March 2010).She lives in Austin, TX.
Thank you to Ms. White for answering my questions and stopping by PJV. and Falling, Fly is a definite must read for urban fantasy fanatics like myself. Grab a copy and tell me what you think!
Read the PJV review here.