‘Imagine the perfect soldier. One who doesn’t fear death, or pain, who never quits, never gets sick. A soldier stronger than ten men, fast as a horse and able to sense the approach of danger. Imagine a soldier untroubled by heat or cold, able to heal in a day from a bullet wound and who, in hand-to-hand combat, could anticipate the enemy’s every move and counter it.’
Spark, the first book in a YA science-fiction trilogy by Rachael Craw, is a thrilling read about a young, feisty female protagonist who is trying to understand and control her super-human abilities while also trying to protect her best friend, Kitty, and resist the inexplicable pull towards Kitty’s brother, Jamie (You can read my review of Spark here). I was left pondering about feisty female protagonists long after I finished reading Spark, so I fired off a few questions to Rachael about feisty women in fiction, her writing process and thoughts on YA.
You mention in your biography section at the back of Spark that you wanted to write about a feisty female. How would you describe a feisty woman?
I don’t even know if feisty is the right word, in retrospect. Seems like such a buzz-word now and slapped on any female character with a snappy comeback. For me I think my interest lies in the protagonist being an initiator, someone who challenges the limitations placed on them by circumstance/nature/environment. Someone with a bit of fight in them! Someone not waiting to be rescued but taking action.
What was the driving force behind writing about a feisty female character?
I think it was more organic than a “I’m going to write this type of character” and probably a natural expression of what attracts me to a protagonist, someone flawed, grappling with their lot but also someone with conviction and some fight in them. I am particularly wired toward justice. I love characters who stand up to bullies, and stand up for the oppressed. I spent a significant part of my childhood being chased by bullies and big boys after mouthing off at them for the way they were picking on a kid. I have no idea why I was like that. I just couldn’t stand to see that kind of cruelty. The sense of injustice would bubble up in me and come out rather fiery.
What are your top five favourite books depicting feisty women?
How about 6?
Elizabeth Bennet: Pride and Prejudice
Jane: Jane Eyre
Trixie Beldon: Trixie Beldon Mysteries
Anne: Anne of Green Gables
Karou: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
What are your top five favourite films/TV shows depicting feisty women?
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
Xena: Warrior Princess
Why does YA appeal to adults?
I kind of feel like the lines have blurred. People are freer to read across categories without stigma. I approach YA no differently from adult lit but YA tends to have that ‘cusp of life’ feel to it, that teetering on the brink of discovery, wonder, horror that shapes and defines the character’s journey.
Do you read YA (for enjoyment, as opposed to research)? What YA title resonates with you the most?
Yes! I am an equal opportunity reader. I swing from Margaret Atwood, Kate Atkinson, Isabelle Allende, Alice Hoffman, Ian McEwan, Emily Perkins to Patrick Ness, Samantha Shannon, Leslye Walton, Neil Gaiman, Laini Taylor, Elizabeth Knox without the slightest hesitation. Back and forth from Contemporary Literature to Commercial Fiction without batting an eye-lid and many of these authors blur those lines too. I am a HUGE Patrick Ness fan, don’t make me choose a title.
What time of day do you find to be the best for writing?
Do you type or handwrite?
Write on my laptop, but brainstorm in a notebook with a pen.
Do you have a writing ritual?
Nothing clever. Get kids to school. Check social media. Write.
How do you overcome writers’ block?
By banging my head on my laptop? LOL. Slowly, painfully, sweat, tears, prayer, by writing even when it’s like birthing a watermelon.
Did you pitch your series to the agent, or did you just pitch the first book?
I had my worked professionally assessed by a literary assessment service that also operated as a literary agency. I had mentoring through them and eventually they offered to represent me.
How much of the series did you have plotted out when you signed with Walker Books?
I had already written book one and the first draft of book two. Book three is in development.
How soon after you finished writing Spark did you start writing Stray?
Spark took 5.5 years. I wrote the very first draft of Stray in the first year of Spark, then came back to it now and then in between re-writes and assessments of book one.
What advice would you give to emerging writers?
I definitely count myself as an emerging/aspiring writer, with much to learn. I strive always for perfection and suffer the horrors of never attaining it but continue to strive anyway. Learn to receive criticism. Get professional help! Read the best in your genre. Write all the time. Never give up.
Spark, the debut novel by Rachael Craw, is out now. Stray (the second book) is due out in 2015 and Shield (the third book) is due out in 2016.