We’d like to thank Rebecca Demarest, our very first CALLING ALL INDIES! winner and new friend. She is both smart and sweet–a rare combination of which we at DLB are in internal awe. It has been more than a pleasure to work with Rebecca during our reading and get-to-know process, and we look forward to experiencing both the sequel and The Ozite Cycle, and any future projects–especially those involving Mattel misconduct.
The best of success with everything that you do, Rebecca! And always stay witchy.
DLB: How long have you been writing?
RD: For as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is writing “How the Butterfly got his colors” and illustrating it in crayon. Thankfully, my mother saved this gem and I might actually turn it into a real story one of these days, just for fun. Even my final project for high school was all about publishing and writing. There was a brief moment heading into college where I thought I was going to do something else with my life in an effort to make money, but then made the mistake of filling a free period with a creative writing course with Michael Strelow, and I’ve never looked back since. I continued on from my undergrad straight into an MFA program at Emerson College and haven’t stopped writing since.
DLB: What is your day job?
RD: I spend my 9-to-5 drawing technical illustrations for O’Reilly Media, the publishing company who published the first book about the internet. Its a long, steady stream of flowcharts and metaphors (turtles all the way down!) about computer science. I don’t actually understand most of what I’m drawing, I just take the sketches the authors attempt and make them pretty and readable.
After I punch out from that, I actually have a couple other gigs on top of writing. I’m a book designer, and have actually won an award from the Boston Book Builders Association for my design of Undeliverable. I also craft pretty hard and have plenty of commissions for jewelry, crochet, and the like.
DLB: How many books have you completed?
RD: Completed? Well, Undeliverable is published, and Thea of Oz will be published on August 6th, I have a fantasy novel manuscript that is in its third draft and out with beta readers, the second Thea novella is in its second draft and out with beta readers, I’ve got a sci-fi novella I’m shopping around to some of the larger sci-fi venues, I have half a draft of the Undeliverable sequel, and an outline of the third Thea, along with outlines of three other sci-fi novellas. So, too-long-didn’t-read, I’ll soon have two books up for sale, loads more in the pipeline.
DLB: What is your writing process? Do you begin with an outline? How well do you know your characters?
RD: I almost always start with an idea or concept, which spawns either a plot or a character (50/50 chance) and from there I build a pretty complete outline around it. From there, I write straight from beginning to end, then put it away in a drawer for a few months. Sometimes a couple years. For instance, the fantasy manuscript I have, I started all the research and outlining in 2009, wrote most of the full manuscript for NaNoWriMo in 2012, finished it in January of 2013, and just pulled it out to edit in June of 2014. I have to give my work space to breath so I can actually approach it impartially and rip it apart again.
As for how well I know my characters, by the time I start writing their story, I’ve usually been living with them for a couple years, even if they’re just a niggle at the back of my brain. There’s a lot of my friends and acquaintances that go into them, and even a lot of myself sometimes. But, then again, my characters can sometimes surprise the crap out of me while I’m writing. There’s a scene in Undeliverable where Ben makes an off-hand remark about a story being crazy and Sylvia has a fit about his word choice. That just sort of…happened on the page and I had to sit back and ask myself why my perky little character had just spat venom at Ben. It took two days, and writing some monologues from the perspective of Sylvia, before I realized her backstory was a lot more complicated than I had first imagined. Which is good, since it definitely gives her more depth, but I had no idea my subconscious was setting that up.
DLB: What was your inspiration for the book? (if too personal, no worries–just ignore)
RD: Definitely not too personal. You’ll find there’s hardly anything I won’t answer, when asked directly! Undeliverable was actually inspired by an article I read about the Mail Recovery Center. I was fascinated by the concept of such a place and promptly started trying to figure out what story I could tell there.
DLB: Is there really a Lost Letters Dept?
RD: Absolutely! All the history I talk about in the book is real. The Mail Recovery Center is in Atlanta, GA, and you can even go to the monthly auctions and bid on lots of lost jewelry, shoes, books, etc. However, the center itself is closed to the public, they’re not even allowed to talk to you, via phone, official channels, lost letter, or in person. I know, I tried really, really hard. Nearly got arrested for taking pictures of the building when I went down, too. So, all the procedures and people are entirely made-up, but the history and the location are 100% real.
DLB: What sort of research did you do for this book?
RD: I started with anything I could get my hands on online and in books about the lost letters office. I even tracked down an article in the Ladies Home Journal from 1899 that the head Reader at the time had written. From there, I went to the Postal museum in DC and took a trip south to stay with my uncle in Atlanta for a bit to make sure I remembered the town well and to attend an auction at the Center. I couldn’t afford to bid on the lots I wanted (there was a whole lot of just Tiffany jewelry, about 50 pieces worth), or else I didn’t have room for them (there was a whole semi truck FULL of books that was one lot) but I plan some day when I have an extra grand or two to blow to go down and bid again. Like I said above, I tried really hard to talk to people at the center, but I was stymied at every turn, so I had to rely on what I could find in publications and my own personal experiences at the center.
DLB: Any advice for other indie pubs?
RD: Be persistent. Send digital copies of your book to whoever you can get to read it online. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. But above all, for the sake of all that is holy, hire a professional editor before you hit ‘publish’. It is worth every penny. And, if you need some inexpensive, but excellent, book design, hit me up. I give discounts to other self-published authors.
DLB: What is your dream writing space?
RD: Oh this is a fun one. My dream, should I ever make enough money, is actually to open a writers retreat buried in the woods along the coast somewhere. I want a few acres of property with small one room cabins scattered around a main house where I can invite authors to come live and work for a period of time. I’d have a study on the first floor of this house, looking out over the ocean, big and bright and airy, with window seats and floor to ceiling bookcases on half the walls, the other half are magnetic whiteboards for storyboarding. I’d have one of those amazing sit/stand desks, two monitors, and plants everywhere. Oxygen is good for thinking, don’t you know. I’ve got the whole ‘surrounded by plants’ thing down already, now I just need to start making enough money to achieve the rest…
DLB: Any upcoming news or promo spots?
RD: Actually, yes! Thea of Oz, an illustrated novella set in the Wizard of Oz universe, launches on August 6th. You can find out more information at rebeccademarest.com, and enter for a chance to win a copy at: Thea of Oz Giveaway.