Rebecca Crunden is the Author of the The Outlands Pentalogy series of books, amongst many others!
Have you ever written a story from a dream?
Kind of. I have an eight-book fantasy series I’m currently working on that was inspired by a dream. It then just took on a life of its own and now is nothing like the original idea.
Do you base characters on people you know?
No. I honestly think it’d be too weird for me personally, but I know many authors who do! To each their own.
Do you prefer fiction, non-fiction or both?
Both. I’m a history student obsessed with fantasy and science fiction.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing/distribution industry?
How utterly impossible it is to get representation if you don’t have contacts or exceptional luck.
How do you feel when you start a book, in the middle, and when you finish?
I never know the ending when I start, so the entire time I write, I’m as curious about the mystery and excited by the romance as if I were reading it. The ending presents itself naturally at some point and I get this kind of yes! moment.
What was the first thing you learnt as an indie author that has never failed you?
Typos happen. It’s not the end of the world.
Do you think a big ego is a hindrance or a help?
I think you have to have determination more than ego. Ego can get you into trouble if you’re not willing to accept legitimate critiques or feedback.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Constantly. Usually it happens after I read an amazing book and struggle to get engaged in another. I also tend not to be able to read the genre I’m writing in. So if I’m writing sci-fi, I have to read contemporary or history or romance etc.
Do you try more to be original or pander to readers’ wants?
I always say my stories are my passion, my hobby and my therapy. I write the books I wanted to have as a kid and could never find. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but that’s okay.
Can you name a famous author whose work you really don’t like?
I could, but I’m going to Thumper this one. 😉
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Since I first published in 2017, I’ve found several friends in the indie/self-publishing world that I cannot thank enough for their support, kindness and help. With some it’s sending work and getting feedback, with others it’s simply sharing stories and experiences. To name a few: Meredith Anderson (author of ‘In the Grey’ in One Hundred Voices), Kristina Decker (author of ‘Falling through Photos’ in Made in Heaven and Other Short Stories), H.K. Rowe (author of Unbridled), L.J. LaBarthe (author of No Quarter), Diana Waters (author of A Trust to Follow), and Melissa Bobbitt (author of Nomania) have all been amazingly supportive and inspirational.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
The Outlands Pentalogy was written like a puzzle and each book has little bits that connect them to the rest of the series, so it really does need to be read as a whole to get all the information, but there’s two starts to the series: book 1 and book 3, which begin at the same point and then reconnect later.
When did you know you were going to be a writer?
When I was very little. About eight, maybe. I wrote a book about a haunted well and a dog. I spiralled from there.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Printing out drafts of my books for proper red-pen editing. You just can’t do that on a laptop and each paper draft edit improves my stories by 1000%.
Do you soundtrack your own novels?
I have certain genres for certain scenes. By and large, I write to folk and rock music, like Josh Ritter, Johnny Flynn, Kyla La Grange, Ruelle, Editors, Muse, First Aid Kit and Audioslave etc. Blue October’s ‘For My Brother’ and ‘A Quiet Mind’ are perfect for scenes with the brothers; the ending of A History of Madness was written to ‘Wolves Without Teeth’ and ‘A Thousand Eyes’ by Of Monsters & Men; fight scenes tend to be written to harder rock like Breaking Benjamin or Disturbed. When I edit, I opt for low-fi, the scores of Bear McCreary, or Tchaikovsky.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated or unknown novel?
Tomorrow, When the War Begins. The first in a series of books published in Australia that I’ve found few people outside of Australia know and I recommend them to everyone.
What book do you own or have read that might surprise your readers?
Err … I have a gorgeous hardback copy of Rousseau’s Confessions.
How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
I never want anyone finishing my books feeling worse about the world. My books are grim and bleak at points, but I try to balance that with hope and friendship. Relatively realistic yet optimistic endings are my jam.
Do you always give books not your own a chance right up until the end, or are you quick to DNF?
I give every book at least a chapter or two because sometimes it takes a while for things to build. If I love the premise, I’ll stick it out for longer. There’s more than one series where I barely got through book one, only to fall head over heels for book two, so I like to keep going if I think the plot/message is good. Usually it’s clunky prose that turns me off, rather than plot.
What does literary success look like to you?
Knowing my books mean as much to someone else as they do to me. I put my heart and soul and tears into these books. Every review makes it worth it.
How many hours a day do you write?
A potentially ridiculous amount. 😉 On days when I’m working or studying, I tend to wake up early and get an hour or two of writing in beforehand and then can stay up until like 2-3 in the morning writing if I’m home late. Sleep? Who needs sleep?
What did you edit out of your most recent book?
Romantic scenes that were wicked fun to write but added nothing to the story.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
‘Edit out the stuff you’d skim as a reader.’
How do you select the names of your characters?
Some come to me randomly, some I’ve loved for years, some I stumble across when I’m looking for a name with meaning.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do! Every single review means something to mean. For the bad ones — well, they’re hard to take. My remedy works well, though. When I get a bad review that really rocks my confidence and makes me want to stop writing for eternity, I take a deep breath, get online, and find my absolute favourite book and read all the one-star ratings given to it. And then I’m like, ‘Okay, you can’t please everyone!’ I mean, some people don’t like Harry Potter. It happens. But if your books matter to you, that’s all that matters.
Do you ever think it’s ethical to reply to your book reviews?
I never reply/like reviews or ratings unless I know the reader or have interacted with them in some other form first. Sometimes not even then. But I don’t judge authors who do. It’s a personal call.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
I have a few one-liners stuck into odd places that are in-jokes with someone in my life who I know will laugh when they read it.
What book do you wish you’d written and why?
The Wicker King recently took my breath away.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
That really depends. I started The Outlands, Haze and another that’s yet unpublished at the same time. Haze is the shortest novel I’ve written to date and took more time than four Outlands books. The to-be-published one is the longest one I’ve written to date and still not finished. It’s hopefully going to be out next year.
Do you think writer’s block exists?
Yes. But I also believe you can’t make something better that doesn’t exist. Write something awful. Write something stupid. Write something boring. Whatever you put to paper can be expanded, amended, changed, tossed out and started over, or can lead you to a whole new idea you’d never considered before. So yes, I believe in it, but I think determination is how you can overcome it.
Do you have a hidden talent?
My French toast is pretty awesome.
What’s the worst advice ever given to you?
‘You have to have an ending before you start.’
No. No, you don’t.