Wow, it’s been a while since my last post. Unfortunately, I’ve been suffering from some heart health issues that still haven’t been resolved yet - in fact, I have more appointments this week to see if I can get on some medication to stabilize my heart. So, that and school have been the reason why I’ve been so inactive, but I hope to be back to a regular posting schedule in November!
I am proud to present another author interview, this time from YA author S. T. Gibson! She is the author of ROBBERGIRL, a book that I read over the summer and absolutely loved. In this post, you can read all about ROBBERGIRL, see an exclusive Q&A with the author, and find out her future book plans! I hope you enjoy!
ROBBERGIRL SUMMARY: In a Sweden wracked by war and haunted by folk stories so dark they can only be spoken of in whispers, Helvig has been raised by her brigand father to steal whatever treasure catches her eye. When her men ambush a strange girl on the road with hair pale as death and a crow perched on her shoulder, Helvig cannot resist bringing home a truly unique prize: a genuine witch.
Drawn irresistibly into the other woman's web, Helvig soon learns of Gerda's reason for walking the icy border roads alone: to find the Queen who lives at the top of the world and kill her. Anyone else would be smart enough not to believe a children's story, but Helvig is plagued by enchantments of her own, and struggles to guard the sins of her past while growing closer to the other woman.
As Christmastide gives way to the thin-veiled days when ghosts are at their most vengeful, the two women will find themselves on a journey through forest and Samiland to a final confrontation that will either redeem them or destroy them entirely.
OTHER WORKS: ODD SPIRITS, an occult romance novella about two magicians trying to keep their marriage together in a haunted house, and "Revival" a southern Gothic short story about a snake-handling girl battling abusive religious hierarchies in the FIENDS IN THE FURROWS folk horror anthology.
1. When did you start writing your first book? Did you know then that you wanted to be a published author?
I took my first stab at writing after devouring the X-Men Encyclopedia when I was 8 years old. I was completely taken in by the glossy full-page character spreads, and all the juicy bits of backstory and alternate timelines! I wrote one of my first stories that day; a hand-drawn comic strip about my friends and I as superheros. I pretty much emerged from the womb making up stories, and always knew I wanted to share as many of them as possible, even after realizing I didn't have the art chops to make it as a comic book artist. My interests soon expanded beyond superheros (although I still love them! Hire me to write a Nightcrawler spinoff, Marvel!) and I wrote a novel about angels and Armageddon in high school. This little hobby quickly turned into an obsession. I focused up in college and poured my energy and resources into establishing a writing career, bit by bit. While holding down other jobs, of course!
2. Did the agent querying process go the way you excepted it to go? How long did it take for you to find an agent from the time you first started querying?
I'm in a unique situation with this one! At this point, my longform fiction has been independently published and my shortform work has been published in anthologies and magazines, which aren't markets you need an agent to submit to. I'm currently out on submission as part of a YA horror anthology which is being repped by a fantastic agent, but the editor of the anthology went through the process of getting that agent, not me! However, I promised myself I would push to find an agent in 2019, and I hope to be able to tackle 2020 with formal representation. Fingers crossed!
3. How did you decide that you wanted to Indie publish your book? Was it something you had always planned to do?
That was the plan from the start, yes! I wanted to self-publish a couple of fantasy novellas to establish myself before traditionally publishing full-length work, and I had always wanted to write a queered Snow Queen retelling about Gerda falling in love with the Robber Girl. I think I imprinted onto that scene where they cuddle up together in the Robber Girl's bed of furs together as a child, and I could never shake my attachment to the story. I (erroneously) thought that there was no place for fairy tale retellings in the traditional market and that agents would only represent 100% original stories, so I poured all my efforts into making this a beautiful final product on my own. I had also been reading a lot of lesbian/sapphic romances and befriending their authors, and that genre is incredibly welcoming of self-published authors, so it seemed like a natural fit! I was also very lucky to have the financial resources for a good cover designer (Lena Yang, she's perfection) and the social resources of other writers and editors who helped me revise and edit the book.
4. Have you written any books since your first book’s release?
I've finished some short fiction and started work on three full length manuscripts; a supernatural crime thriller, a gay vampire reincarnation romance, and the occult urban fantasy sequel to ODD SPIRITS. I also ghostwrite contemporary romances for third-party clients and I've finished a couple of those, but my lips are sealed on the details there.
5. Tell the readers a little bit about your book. Is there a character in particular that you relate to?
Robbergirl is a cozy, spooky wintertime story about found family, self-acceptance, healing from traumatic relationships, and learning how to love someone without possessing them entirely. The story is told from the perspective of Helvig, the adopted daughter of a Robber king. She's the fast-talking leader of a band of thieving miscreant boys and she becomes entranced by Gerda, a cunning femme witch full of secrets. The girls adventure through haunted churches, Swedish forests, and icy castles to find a missing boy, and slowly realize their feelings for each other in the process. There's a bit of discussion about the blurry lines between magic and religion in there as well, because I can't seem to get out of book without meditating on that.
Of all the characters, I definitely relate the most to Helvig. I can't always say with confidence which one of my characters has the most of me in them, but I used Helvig to work through a lot of the internalized biphobia I dealt with as a young woman coming out in a conservative religious context. I wanted her to embody the kind of daring, swaggering, but vulnerable femininity I wish I could have seen more of growing up. She's scrappy, a big flirt, a tad obsessive, and exceptionally loyal to people who earn her love, which describes me pretty well too.
6. What was the hardest part of your book for you to write?
Surprisingly, the emotional elements! I conceived of this book as a fantasy romance; I wanted the focus to be on the girls building tentative enemies-to-lovers style trust while ghosts, ice storms, and curses tried to pull them apart. And I thought I had carried that off. But when I sent the book out to my critique partners, they pointed out that I really skimmed over the emotional developments and pulled back from those romantic moments. I hadn't realized it before, but I think I was scared of writing a full-out, unapologetic romance (which I had been trained in college to view as a less worthy form of literature) or to fully lean into the sapphic elements of this book, because I felt like I was exposing something really personal about myself. Happily, my CPs helped me bring out the romance at the heart of this book and find my more emotional voice. The book doubled in size during revision on those notes alone (it was originally a novella!) but I'm so grateful for that. The finished product feels much more honest and authentic.
7. What part of your book did you most enjoy writing?
The group scenes! I got to build up a really fun band of thieves around Helvig and Gerda with their own quirks and personalities, and putting them together to take loving shots at one another and tell tall tales added a real dynamism to the writing process. It also opened up the relational world of Helvig beyond just her love interest, and established some firm non-sexual friendships and adopted family bonds that I hope the book presents as just as valuable as romantic bonds.
8. What’s some advice you can give to other aspiring YA writers looking to become published?
ROBBERGIRL is my only YA novel (I generally write for adults) but my advice to aspiring authors is much the same across the board.
You can't do anything unless you've got words on the page, you can't edit or submit or share or learn or grow. So many anxieties and hesitations are fixed simply by putting words on the page, shuffling them around into some semblance of order, showing it to people for their feedback, and then doing it again. Book twitter is an amazing networking resource, but you shouldn't let it stress you or distract you from following your artistic instincts and doing your best work. In this industry, perseverance wins the day over genius 8 times out of 10, and if you keep creating and showing up and submitting (for God's sake, submit to everything you can! Never self-reject!) you'll get there. Get a couple of really good people in your corner who believe in your work and love reading it but are also honest about the ways in which you can be better; they are worth their weight in gold. And one last tidbit from your Slytherin Aunt Saint: everyone in this industry knows everyone, or has worked with them, or has been on a panel with them. It behooves you to always be courteous in the way you speak about other writers, no matter who you're speaking to, online or in person, just in case.
Lastly, some fun questions!
9. What’s your favorite movie?
Labyrinth! That glittery 80s soundstage glamfest is the heartsong of my teenage soul, and I watch it whenever I feel down. It's such a glimpse into the subconscious of a young women; it keeps me feeling brave and bold and beautiful.
10. Favorite food?
11. Top 3 favorite books?
Deathless by Cathrynne Valente, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, and The Secret History by Donna Tartt. And I'll sneak an extra in: my favorite book of 2019 was Spectred Isle by KJ Charles.
12. Favorite band/song?
Fleetwood Mac, always.
Thank you so much for stopping by to read today’s blog post and author interview with S. T. Gibson! You can buy ROBBERGIRL on Amazon!
Have a great day,