It’s time for another author interview! This time, I’m so lucky to share an interview with R.K. Brainerd, author of Jagged Emerald City. It’s the first book in a new, romantic fantasy ecopunk series that I HIGHLY recommend. I’m so excited it’s out in the world!
Yet R.K. isn’t just a talented author. She’s also one of my favorite friends EVER. We met online so many years ago, becoming beta readers for one another, before becoming fast friends. Rebekkah has been with me through many things. So, the fact I get to help celebrate the release of her first book!!😭
So, please give a warm welcome to R.K.!
- Thank you so much for agreeing to stop by my corner of the internet, Ladz! Warmest welcomes! We’ve been internet friends for so long (!!). I am so beyond thrilled to have a chance to interview YOU about your upcoming debut novella, Ice Upon a Pier.
- But first, for those who don’t know: introduce yourself!
- Writing Questions
- Personally, I love seeing the non-creative day job not prevent you from telling stories (as sometimes, I feel that disconnect in my own life makes my imposter syndrome flair. But that’s a discussion for another time!).
- As someone who is also a writer and has a lot of fellow writers who follow this blog, I love the chance to pick an author’s brain. So, if you don’t mind, I’d love to ask a few writing/craft questions first, before we dive into books and hyping up your latest release.
- Would you mind telling us about your publication journey and any tips for unpublished writers?
- I absolutely LOVE your tips, especially about luck. I could have been saved a lot of heartache had I realized how big a factor that played ten years ago.
- What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite?
- Since we met on Twitter and have beta read for each other before, I feel like this question is particularly apt. How did you initially find your writing support group and what advice would you give for writers who feel a little more alone in their own writing journeys?
- I feel like so much of this advice could be tattooed, by gosh, by how important it is. Thank you for sharing it.
- What informed your decision to self-publish? What are you most excited about?
- I think many of the aspects you detailed are apt—being in control, the freedom with the finances in some cases, etc. But what resonated with me the most, in my own writing journey, was sitting down and having a self heart-to-heart about why we are writing and then matching our publication journeys with that vision.
- Thank you, truly, for sharing that with me, and all the readers here!
- If people were to say, “This feels like a Ladz novel,” what do you hope they associate with you? What do you want readers to take away?
- I genuinely love these, ohmygosh.
- Book Hype
- Alright, we’ve talked a lot about writing. Now, let’s talk about your novella, ICE UPON A PIER. What’s it about? What are you most excited for readers to discover?
- You had me sold on amoral lesbians, to be honest.
- What has the self-marketing experience felt like? Do you enjoy it? For others who might want to self-publish, what would you recommend?
- That’s some great advice. And some I need to take to heart (especially related to marketing, which I always feel like I’m “annoying” people with).
- What projects are you currently working on? Any hints you can give readers on what we can expect to buy from you next?
- My gods, let me preorder IMMEDIATELY. That pitch is speaking to my soul in so many ways.
Thank you so much for agreeing to stop by my corner of the internet, Rebekkah! Warmest welcomes!
We’ve been internet friends for so long (!!) and you’re a writer I have always admired. But, the fact that you’ve gone from writer to published author (!!!) is just so exciting!
But first, for those who don’t know: introduce yourself!
Hi! Hello! So excited to be here (virtually?)! Me in a nutshell: I’ve been writing since I was 11, I built a straw bale house with my parents during my teens, I’m obsessed with environmentalism and anything fantasy, I have a herd of goats and cats, and I published my first novel in January at 30 years old.
As someone who is also a writer and has a lot of fellow writers who follow this blog, I love the chance to pick an author’s brain. So, if you don’t mind, I’d love to ask a few writing/craft questions first, before we dive into books and hyping up your latest release.
Would you mind telling us about your publication journey?
I started writing at 11, writing short segments where I pretended to go to a fantasy world when I went to sleep. I finished my actual first full-length novel at about 14-15. That novel will probably never be published, but it taught me a lot about how to get words onto paper (onto screen? Whatever). I spent a lot of time and effort writing, rewriting, and editing that story. You know the rule about how you have to write a million words before you write your first novel? That definitely happened in my journey.
The novel I just published started as a concept when I was 19, and I finished its first iteration in my early 20s. 23, I think? I called it “Inner Demons” at the time.
(I was actually querying that first novel during that time…which taught me a lot about querying. Er, maybe more like how not to query, ha!)
During a twitter pitching event, Inner Demons caught the attention of a small press, and ended up signing with them. I worked with them for about 3 years, but ended up (amicably) parting ways because things just weren’t moving fast enough for me.
After that, I dove into revisions with a vengeance, and Jagged Emerald City came to life. It’s actually pretty fascinating how different that first iteration was (I hesitate to say draft, because that first version went through many drafts, and this was like a whole new book!) to what ended up published. I’d say that first novel taught me to get words out and craft characters. JEC taught me how to structure a story and build suspense. We’ll see what lessons I come out with for Book 2!
Any tips for unpublished writers?
Things that have helped me succeed in feeling confident about writing and publishing:
- Writing and publishing are two entirely different things. Do not write to market when you are drafting. Do not focus on readers when you are drafting. Write only for yourself. Protect that space with a vengeance. Once it’s done and you want to share it, then start thinking about market, readers, all the writing rules, etc. You can edit and revise from there to find the middle ground between art and business.
- You are the only one who can write the stories inside of you. That automatically makes them special. Has someone else out there written something that sounds eerily similar to yours? Yes. Will you come across similar concepts, characters, plotlines? Yes.
What informed your decision to self-publish? What are you most excited about?
I’d been playing with the idea for a while. I have a lot of friends who self-publish and love it, so I knew it was an option. At first, I didn’t want to at all. I wanted the validation that comes from being agented and signed by a publisher, and I’d always heard that traditional publishing was the only way to make money. But over time (maybe as I gained more confidence) I really started thinking about what I wanted, got frustrated waiting for all these other people’s approval and attention, debated the whole issue, and then made the decision.
It also helped that I traveled to the place where my fantasy city is located in the real world, and found such a rush of inspiration and peace. It just felt right, and that it was time. I think if I’d tried to do this earlier, or been pushed into it earlier, it would have been a bad experience. But I spent the time I needed to make the decision and set myself up for what I thought was success.
Mostly I’m excited to experiment and try things. I know this is a marathon, not a sprint, and I set my goals and expectations low because of that. There’s freedom here to play around and be excited for each of the little successes (which definitely help with the energy level and burnout). And while it’s intimidating that everything is on me to do, I’m also finding a lot of joy in it.
We met on Twitter and have beta read for each other before. So, I feel like this question is particularly apt. How did you initially find your writing support group? What advice would you give for writers who feel a little more alone in their own writing journeys?
It’s super easy to feel alone. I tend to be introverted, so I embraced the alone. That being said, being lonely isn’t fun, and at some point you can only improve so much by yourself. Plus, we all need confidence boosts and people to talk to.
It feels like there are a hundred ways to find writer friends, and everyone goes about it a little differently. Wattpad. Sharing your writing online. Joining Facebook groups. You’ll have to figure out your own path with what’s comfortable and works for you. For me, it started with Twitter. I joined hashtag events, I stalked hashtags to find people who looked cool, and then I just started…talking. I didn’t ask for anything, I just talked about the things I cared about, responded to people with similar interests who looked cool, and made friends.
I think one of the most important things about entering the writing community is to be genuinely interested in the people around you and hype them up. Give more than you take. Make connections about things you’re passionate about. As with any kind of friendships or connections, invest time and energy.
But just as critically, have strong boundaries. It’s okay if you don’t fit with certain groups, if you decide someone isn’t for you, if you don’t want someone to be a beta reader. Writing can be an incredibly personal craft. I was picky with who got to read my work before publication. I’m a soft smol bean who is easily hurt; I chose people I admired and who are compassionate as well as smart and [the good kind of] critical. (I actually wrote a very opinionated blog about beta reading you can check out if you’d like to read more on this.)
Trust yourself, and put yourself out there, that’s my best advice.
If people were to say, “This feels like a R.K. Brainerd novel,” what do you hope they associate with you? What do you want readers to take away?
Oooo, fabulous question. The answer to that question has been an evolution, and probably will continue to change as time goes on.
From the time I was a baby writer, I’ve always wanted to “teach people things,” because I love learning things. At first, that meant science-y stuff, or history, or the mechanics of how something worked. I wanted to infuse cool things into the plot alongside heartfelt characters, so people could come out feeling like they learned something.
At the same time, I’ve always been an instinctive writer. As much as I want to infuse all this meaning and lessons into my stories, I don’t set out that way. I don’t figure out until the end, oh that’s what this story is about. And if I start out writing to write about x thing, I can’t get anything down. (Plus, most of the time, I don’t feel smart enough to be “teaching” anyone anything.)
But when I think about the books that made the biggest impact on me, they’re always the ones where I felt seen. I connected to the characters, or the conflict, or the story. So I think somewhere along the line it became more important to me that readers can connect and resonate with my characters, to feel some part of themselves in the story. I want people like me to feel seen.
And I think these two ideas have combined.
So to answer the question as succinctly as I can, I want to write stories that either help someone feel valid or heard, or help someone see a new perspective and gain empathy for a different way of being or seeing the world. With dragons. And kissing and stuff.
I love this so, so much.
Something I’ve always admired about your writing is not only how creative it is, but the depth to it, especially with the eco- and environmentalism stuff that always comes through. How do you approach research, when it comes to writing?
Awww, that really means a lot that you think that! To be honest, I’m not very organized when it comes to research, or have a good process. When I come across something as I’m writing, I just google it (or leave a note to google it later). But, as for overall big concepts…that usually springs from unconnected times I get fascinated by things.
I don’t usually start from a concept and build from there; how it’s worked in the past is I will come across a piece of information or idea, love it, fall down the rabbit hole of research, and then later wonder if it could be added to a story somehow. Then sprinkle in a bit of, “Yeah I’m tweaking this because *magic*,” and there you have it.
Really, my best advice for research is let yourself be curious and wonder and get intrigued by things. And then let your imagination spin.
Alright, we’ve talked a lot about writing. Now, let’s talk about your book, Jagged Emerald City. What’s it about? What are you most excited for readers to discover?
Jagged Emerald City is ultimately, at its core, about a young woman (Fairian) searching for belonging in life after trauma. Fairian struggles with anxiety and depression, not to mention the grief of losing her sister in that same traumatic event. It’s about making new choices and decisions to repair and heal from those things.
But as for the plot: it’s about Fairian searching for proof of magic, while trying to fight off the expectations that have been traumatically placed upon her, and accidentally turning herself into a pawn in a supernatural power struggle. It’s got a heavy slow-burn romance plotline with a broody cinnamon-roll who gets her into a bunch of trouble in his efforts to keep her out of trouble.
You can read the whole back-cover copy here!
I love Fairian so much.
What projects are you currently working on? Any hints you can give readers on what we can expect to buy from you next?
Soooo I’m working on Book 2…which I really hope to have for sale on the last new moon of the year, December 12th. I may not make that deadline because I am also in the midst of finishing up remodeling a house, working full-time, and taking care of a farm. While also trying to recover from a personal tragedy. But! If that gets pushed off, it’ll be January or February 2024.
I also want to start working seriously on a duology that’s been in my head for years: an ecopunk star-crossed-lovers romance with heavy environmental social justice themes. I’m so excited for this one too. I’ve built a whole society built on underground cave ecology, and it’s really pushing my skills in worldbuilding, which has been enlightening. There’s also a looooot of fun romance and angst (this one will not be slow burn!) which has been entertaining as well.
Obviously, I am excited for the sequel. But that new duology, too!!! *grabby hands*
Finally, in what ways can readers connect with you and how can we support you?
You can connect with me on my website, my email list (don’t worry, I send out like 5-6 emails a year just for important updates), and the main social media ones: Instagram, Twitter, and FaceBook. I’m most active on Instagram, where you can see all sorts of updates about writing, books, cats, goats, house remodeling, and social justice concerns to think about and share.
As for support…well, I’m definitely in the review-building stage for JEC and my career in general. If anyone is interested in getting a free copy of my book for an honest review, I’d love that! You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much for taking the time, R.K.!
Thank YOU for giving me the space and opportunity to show off a little!! You’re the best, and I appreciate you.