Becca Mills is an urban fantasy writer. She’s currently working on her second book. In her spare time, she teaches literature and writing at a liberal arts college in the northeastern U.S.
What was the first book you ever read that really blew your mind, that you couldn’t stop thinking about after you’d finished?
Oddly, I don’t remember having this reaction to any books I read in my childhood. I’m not sure why that is—just a faulty memory, perhaps! At any rate, my first memories of “book hangover” are from high school. William Golding’s Inheritors really took a piece out of me, maybe because it was the first profoundly misanthropic book I’d read that I sort of understood. The idea that our species might be a blight upon the world was new to me. I found the concept both disturbing and fascinating. I still think about that book fairly regularly, even though it’s been close to thirty years since I read it.
How do you start thinking about a book? Is it the characters that first pop to mind, or the setting, or the plot? Where do you usually start?
I’m a seat-of-the-pantser, so I start at the beginning with just a vague sense of the ending in mind, and see what happens. This approach leads to a great deal of rewriting, as you can imagine! “Ah, so that’s what’s supposed to happen,” I realize halfway through and have to go back and change the beginning.
When you’re writing, what game do you most often play during “breaks”?
I like to hang out on internet discussion forums for writers, so that’s my favorite break time activity. This is only the case because I no longer load Tetris onto my computers. Those little twisty blocks are condensed, cubed procrastination.
Have you ever tried to shake up your writing routine? Writing at a different time? Writing in new places? Writing nude? *waggles eyebrows*
The other day I thought I’d try writing with clothes on, for a change. Just kidding. Actually, no, I’m totally serious. Ha. Just kidding.
What is your absolute favorite sentence--just one sentence--from your book? Why?
“It sounded like people turning away and thinking of other things.” The “it” is “emptiness.” I really like that sentence because it’s non-literal. I guess you could say it’s a synaesthetic simile—it uses a visual image (people turning away and thinking of other things) to describe a sound. And one doesn’t think of emptiness as having a sound, so the passage is quite figurative. I generally think language shouldn’t show off in genre fiction: character and story should be the big emphases. When I read genre fiction—and that is what I read when I read for fun—I’m looking for great characters and a great story. I expect the writing to be correct and fluid, but I don’t want to spend time pondering it. That sentence is one of the few places where I indulged in a flashy figure of speech. Hopefully it’s not that flashy.
What one scene do you think you spent the most time editing? What was it about it that you couldn’t seem to get right?
The last scene. I kept having the antagonist explain too much and too truthfully. Real people generally don’t do that.
What’s your worst writing habit? Something you know you shouldn’t do, but just can’t seem to stop?
Wordiness. As you can probably see here!
There are a lot of concepts about what writer are like, what’s the one you hate the most? Like the most?
Heh. That writers are like any one thing. Writers come from every kind of background and have radically different beliefs, practices, personalities, etc. They pretty much have just the one thing in common.
What’s your favorite book title?
Impossible to pick—there are so many amazing titles out there. I just finished teaching a young adult fiction class, so I’ll mention a few great ones from that genre: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, A Wrinkle in Time, Jacob Have I Loved, Lord of the Flies.
Name a book that, if you find out someone likes it, you know you will get along with that person.
Is there a writer whose style or talent you envy? What is it about their writing that draws you in?
There are too many such people to count! I’ll pick one: Neil Gaiman, for his inexplicable imagination.
Oh, I totally have to agree with you, there! Thanks for joining us, Becca! Any parting words?
Thanks for interviewing me, Marion! If you want to look me up and tell me how oh-so-wrong I am about something, you can find me on Facebook! Happy reading, everyone!