Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Rebecca is offering an ePub or mobi copy of my scifi novel ‘Beneath the Surface’ for a giveaway with this post – comment below for a chance to win.
Today, Rebecca Langham – Rebecca Langham lives in the Blue Mountains (Australia) with her partner, children, and menagerie of pets. A Xenite, a Whovian and all-round general nerd, she’s a lover of science fiction, comic books, and caffeine. When she isn’t teaching History to high schoolers or wrangling children, Rebecca enjoys playing broomball and reading.
Thanks so much, Rebecca, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?
Rebecca Langham: I write using two names, my own as well as the pseudonym Kara Ripley. Anything that involves speculative content, like scifi or fantasy, comes out under my own name.
Kara Ripley, on the other hand, writes romance stories. I decided to use a different name to publish Riding the Trackbecause it is so incredibly different to Beneath the Surface. If you read one of these, then picked up the other expecting to see a similar style or similar themes, you’d be really disappointed, so I wanted to keep them separate and establish a second writing identity I could use to write stories that were outside my usual realms.
JSC: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
RL: Please write shorter chapters and stop using the word ‘that’ so often. Just trust me on this.
JSC: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
RL: I think part-time would be an exaggeration. Perhaps ‘casual’ would be a more fitting term. I work full time as a high school teacher and my work always comes home with me. Whether it’s researching (History), programming, registering programs, or making assignments and exams, there’s always something that needs to be done. I also have two young daughters and a teenage foster son. Sometimes there can be months between writing chapters of a book and it’s quite frustrating because I can never get on top of my “to write” pile. But, that said, I’m truly blessed to have such a supportive partner coupled with my own stubborn mindset. Books come slowly, but at least they come at all.
JSC: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
RL: Both! ‘Beneath the Surface’ started with a character: Alessia. She formed in my head almost instantaneously; a woman whose strength and courage comes from fortitude, patience, and a willingness to admit she’s wrong—rather than at the end of a sword. From there, the story and the world quickly formed around her.
In the case of ‘Finding Aurora’, however, the idea came first. I wanted to write a F/F fairy tale appropriation that was, at heart, sweet. Something fairly simple, formulaic, youth-friendly, and adorable. I knew that my main character would be pansexual and would ultimately find true love, but the rest of the character details unfolded slowly as I started to write.
JSC: What is the most heartfelt thing a reader has said to you?
RL: This wasn’t so much a message sent to me, but rather a review. Recently, a couple of people said they had to finish ‘Finding Aurora’ in one sitting because they loved it so much. One of those people also mentioned crying happy tears when she reached the end. Day. Made! That was exactly the sort of heart-warming vibe I was aiming for with this novella, and I felt so privileged and so humble to have written something that had such an impact.
JSC: What inspired you to write “Finding Aurora”? What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
RL: I’m a shameless fan of the Disney show Once Upon a Time, but though I love so many elements of the program, it also frustrates the heck out of me! Some story arcs are just beautiful retellings of fairy tales, and others fall flat. The poor scheduling of so many guest actors also meant that stories with amazing potential (hello! Mulan and Merida!) for positive queer representation never came to fruition, despite some of the (I hope) best intentions of the writers.
One particular episode explored Red Riding Hood falling in love with Dorothy Gale. It was so gorgeous – but the whole thing was crammed into one episode, whilst other stories have unfolded over seasons. I was shocked by the emotional response I had to seeing Red wake Dorothy from a sleeping curse with True Love’s Kiss. I realized that, though I love clever, intelligent appropriations, what I’d always wanted to see what something incredibly Disney (i.e. Cheesy and cute) with two women.
So, I wrote it myself.
JSC: What secondary character would you like to explore more? Tell me about him or her.
RL: I’m keen to write a story about Red and her family. In ‘Finding Aurora’, Red is a spirit who has no memory of who she is or how she came to live on the ethereal side of the veil between worlds. Though we have some answers by the end of the novella, a few key questions are left hanging (questions I know the answer to, but couldn’t quite fit into this book). I also believe that Red’s existence, after Sleeping Beauty is awoken (come on – that’s not really a spoiler. I mean, that’s how it ends, right?), has plenty to offer in terms of adventure and excitement.
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
RL: For a brief time, when I was a teenager, I really wanted to work in radio. I imagined myself on one of those breakfast radio shows, throwing around banter with a cohost and being able to talk for a living.
JSC: What was the first book that made you cry?
RL: I can’t remember which was the first! I do know that I cried when reading ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café’ by Fannie Flagg (which is also one of my favourite books of all time, by the way). ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham also brought on a few tears, along with ‘The Secret River’ by Kate Grenville.
JSC: If I were a Hollywood producer about to put your book on the big screen, who would you want me to cast as the leads? Why? And can we have pictures to drool over?
RL: This is one of my favourite questions and I play this game all the time! The cast does seem to change on me, though.
In ‘Finding Aurora’, Red would be Bridget Regan (think of her in the Legend of the Seeker days) or, for someone around the right age now, then Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark/Phoenix) would fit the bill quite nicely also.
Yasmine Aker would be a great match to portray Talia. Amir would be Elijah Kelley.
And now for Rebecca’s new book: Finding Aurora:
Aurora Rose slumbers in the city of Oldpass, a cursed kingdom once allied with Grimvein. The victim of a malicious spell, she is powerless to control her own fate. At least, that’s how the story goes.
Now, as Grimvein faces attack, Prince Amir has been tasked with the life-threatening rescue of Aurora, his parents hopeful he will marry the princess and secure safety for their kingdom. Talia, the strongest spellcaster in the known lands, protects and guides the prince in his quest to save a woman that threatens to change their lives forever.In finding Aurora, the pair will realise the truth about themselves and each other, coming to understand just what—and who—they really want in life.
I doubt there was even one person in Grimvein who hadn’t heard the story of the sleeping princess. There were those who claimed she’d died a century ago and the curse was merely a story to maintain hope of her well-being. Amir and I knew better. Somewhere beneath the layers of magic and goddess-knew-how-many demonic guardians in Oldpass, Princess Aurora Rose slept. The problem was getting to her.
“Looks like the map was accurate.” Amir tucked the frayed parchment inside his leather vest and then stepped closer to the colossal boulder in front of us. “This entry is well concealed. Most people would walk right by without realising.”
I had to agree. We were deep within the forest to the east of Oldpass. The path we’d been following for over a week had disappeared hours earlier, replaced by mossy undergrowth and grasses. The sweet scent of drenched wisteria had been overpowering, though not as overpowering as the menacing darkness that seemed to swallow natural sounds one would expect to hear in such a place. No birds twittering. No dripping condensation. Not even so much as a rustling branch. If not for Amir’s orienteering skill and the importance of our quest, I’d have turned back.
“Does it open the old-fashioned way, Highness?” I indicated the door with my chin. Embedded in the rock and camouflaged, the ingress was almost unnoticeable, but we could make out the bevelled edges.
I sensed no magic surrounding the rock formation, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any. I might have been one of the strongest casters in the five kingdoms, but I was still mortal. There’s only so much one person confined by flesh can know. Or see. Or do.
Amir ran his hand through his shoulder-length black hair. His rather wonderful, lustrous, shoulder-length black hair.
“Let’s see.” He pressed both his palms against the smooth surface, bracing his feet against the leaf-covered ground. Something whirred deep inside the boulder and clicked as though a latch had been released. He stepped back as the rectangular slab skulked off to the side, like a sword disappearing into its sheath. “It appears the answer would be yes, it does open the old-fashioned way. Sort of.”
“I must admit, I had my doubts.”
“As did I,” he replied, scratching at the stubble on his chin. In all the years I’d been acquainted with the prince, he’d always been clean-shaven, and the rugged growth on his face, as charming as it looked, seemed to irritate him more and more. “It seems too convenient there could be an underground passage that would take us beneath the outer walls.” His hands held on to the rock as he leaned forward, peering inside. His soft leather boots gripped his defined calves as he did. “It’s quite dark in here. Do you have that magnificent bauble of yours?” He withdrew from the opening and turned to face me.
I gaped at him. “Prince Amir, the moonbeam stone is no mere bauble. And yes, of course I do. I’ll let the honour of first entry be yours.”
He bowed slightly, his hand over his heart. “Why, thank you, caster.” He returned his attention to the opening. “In we go.”
I followed him closely as we left the fresh air and crunching leaves of the forest behind. Inside, the darkness was thick and the air acrid. I slipped my moonbeam stone out of a pouch clipped to my belt. With a thought, I willed it to life. A soft yellow light emanated from the stone.
“Oh no,” I said. As though the enclosed room had heard me, the door behind us slid outward from its cavity, closing fast and hard.
“It seems we’re trapped.” Typical Amir. Always so calm. He walked around the room. “But surely there is a way from here into the tunnel. This must be a kind of annex.” I admired the fact that no matter how hopeless or scared Amir might have felt, he was always able to focus on the task at hand, putting his feelings aside until a more appropriate time presented itself.
“Mmmhmm.” I pinched the bridge of my nose, willing away the tension that had taken up residence there. I grabbed the small flask attached to my belt, just above my left hip. The water soothed my throat and afforded a distraction from the momentary sense of panic.
“Talia, I need your help over here,” Amir said. His voice was steady, but the shade of his cheeks betrayed bubbling anxiety.
“Yes, Highness.” I took one more sip of water from my flask, clipped it onto my leather belt, and wiped my forehead with the back of my hand. By the goddess, that place was hot. I wondered if we might have found the first level of the underworld rather than the subterranean passageway into Oldpass.
“That’s twice in as many minutes,” Amir said, gently elbowing me as I joined him. “I keep telling you to stop calling me that. We’ve been travelling together for over two weeks. The formalities are unnecessary by now, wouldn’t you agree?” He smiled, and I couldn’t help but smile back. As the Leading Caster of Grimvein, I’d been assigned to help Amir on a journey the public needed to believe he’d taken on his own. So far, my magical services had been of little use, aside from starting a few campfires when we were especially impatient to eat our evening meal.
“Yes, Highness.” I bit my lower lip. “Amir. Sorry, it’s a force of habit.”
Rebecca Langham lives in the Blue Mountains (Australia) with her partner, children, and menagerie of pets. A Xenite, a Whovian and all-round general nerd, she’s a lover of science fiction, comic books, and caffeine. When she isn’t teaching History to high schoolers or wrangling children, Rebecca enjoys playing broomball and reading.