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Interview: New Author Becca C. Smith Talks About Her First Novel Riser

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After having the opportunity to read and review Becca C. Smith’s first novel Riser, I sat down to talk with the author about her book. Riser is a sci-fi teen novel about 18-year old Chelsan, a girl who has the power to control the dead. Riser is the first book in the series, which takes place in the year 2320. Smith talks about the writing process, and provides insight into the world of self-publishing and self-marketing books.

Is this your first novel?

Yes, this is my first novel, unless you want to count the dreadful novel I wrote when I was 12! I mainly write screenplays and teleplays, but I felt this story needed to be told in book form. I love delving directly into my character’s head and telling the story in first person allowed me to go places a screenplay couldn’t. But overall, I just love to write. Becca C Smith

What other projects have you worked on?

I co-wrote the graphic novel, Ghost Whisperer: The Haunted based on the hit TV show and I illustrated and wrote the graphic novel Little Family Secrets based on the true story of my great aunt who murdered her husband when I was a kid. Writing is like breathing to me.

Your bio on your website says you went to film school. Did you have other aspirations besides writing?

My dream has always been to write. Whether it be for movies, TV, books, comics, or any format where I can tell my stories! I went to film school so I could learn everything I could about writing for movies and television. I learned a lot at film school and it really helped me hone my craft.

Can you talk about Riser a little bit, what’s it about?

Riser has been milling around my brain for a quite a while. It started out as an idea for a television series, but the more I fleshed out the story the more I knew it needed to be a book.

It’s about an 18-year old girl named Chelsan Derée who has the ability to control every living dead thing within a four mile radius. Chelsan sees churning black holes in the center of every corpse and she is able to connect to those black holes to bring them back to life. Except they are not really alive, they are more like zombies in that their brains are still dead. Everything they do, even talking, is controlled by Chelsan.

Really Chelsan’s biggest problem is not her power, it’s her time at high school where she is constantly tormented by her school mate Jill Forrester. Jill’s objective in life is the make Chelsan’s life a living hell. Chelsan also has a crush on the unobtainable and popular Ryan Vaughn. Chelsan must also deal with the pressure of deciding whether to take the anti-aging drug Age-pro, which can make everyone 18 forever. It has also led to a world of over-population.

Chelsan’s mom is killed, along with everyone else living in her trailer park, and she realizes she was the target. Chelsan must then figure out how to use her power to save herself, her friends and figure out who killed her mother.

Riser is part one of a series, do you know how many books there will ultimately be?

The nice thing about the Riser series is that it could literally go on forever. I have at least the next four books planned for sure. I’m about half-way through the second book and I’m really excited about where it’s going.

What direction is the story going to take?

The next book will explore some of the atrocities brought up in the first book, mainly I.Q. farms. I.Q. farms are essentially underground laboratories where children from the ages of seven to 10 are given Age-pro so they can be experimented on when their brains are the most active. Chelsan will have to save a 98-year old who is still in her seven year old body. Pretty gruesome stuff, but I promise it will be full of action and suspense.

What made you want to write the story as a novel instead of a teleplay?

As I said before, I originally planned for it to be a television series, mainly because I really missed Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I desperately wanted something like it on TV! But, I soon realized that it was truly meant to be a book. When I was a teenager I was really into sci-fi/fantasy and my favorite characters were always the kick ass girls with superpowers. I just wanted to write something where the girl saves herself and her friends. I get really tired of stories where the girl has to constantly be rescued.

Riser worked so much better as a novel, because I could really dig into Chelsan’s thoughts and actions. Often times when I’m writing in other formats everything is about showing what’s going on. Through that we can figure out what’s going on with the characters. The more I thought about the story the more I wanted to tell it through her voice. Even though Chelsan has powers, I really wanted people to relate to her humanity and admire what she’s been through. Plus, books give you the opportunity to tell the story in the length you want to tell it. With screenplays and teleplays you really are limited to the format and page count.

What was your inspiration for this story?

It’s funny because the actual inspiration came from an article I read about a scientist working at Cambridge University. He was studying the aging process and claimed that within 10 years he’d have a “cure” for aging. He didn’t say how or in what form, but with today’s obsession with prescribed drugs I immediately imagined Age-pro. The opposite of life is death and that’s when I came up with Chelsan’s necromancy power. It pretty much snowballed from there. Just taking death off the table in society opens the imagination up to all kinds of really messed up possibilities. It’s been a blast creating this universe!

As a writer who/what are your influences?

I’m influenced and inspired by a lot of things. I have an amazing group of friends and family who are always there for me and let me bounce off ideas with them. In terms of outside influences and authors who have inspired me, Terry Brooks comes to mind. He was the first author I chose to read myself. I was probably 10 years old and up until then I pretty much read what people recommended or what I could steal from my sister’s room! Then I found Magic Kingdom on my own in the bookstore and I’ve been reading Brooks ever since. Stephen King is another favorite of mine. No one can mess with your mind like that man. He knows how to nestle inside your brain and make it explode whenever he feels like it. Truly amazing!

Is this book self-published? Can you talk a little about the process you went through to get this published?

Yes, it’s self-published. I published it through CreateSpace.com an affiliate of Amazon. It’s really fantastic. Through their distribution channels, Riser is available pretty much anywhere. You can buy it online or order it through any bookstore. The tough part is making sure it’s edited properly. I had three professional editors and countless amounts of friends and family help me bring Riser print, and I thank them all!

What kinds of things have you been doing to market this book?

Marketing is a crazy beast. Since Riser is self-published I have to do all the marketing myself. I’m doing pretty much anything and everything! From book signings to reading excerpts at sci-fi conventions to sitting on panels, it’s all about getting the word out there. No one will read your book if they don’t know it exists. Sometimes it feels like I’m at the bottom of the Grand Canyon climbing my way up one step at a time. I’m in good shape so I’ll get to the top eventually, but it’s going to take a lot of patience and time.

When do you expect the next book to be finished?

I expect to be finished early next year if all goes well! I’ll be sure to post updates and maybe even release the first chapter soon on my website.

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About Sherry Lipp

Sherry Lipp is an entertainment and food writer who specializes in film and television reviews. She has published the gluten and grain-free cookbook Don't Skip Dessert.