I’ve had the privilege of interviewing Rebecca Ross about her Queen’s Rising series, as well as about her book SISTERS OF SWORD AND SONG. Her newest YA novel, DREAMS LIE BENEATH, came out on November 2, 2021:
A curse plagues the realm of Azenor—during each new moon, magic flows from the nearby mountain and brings nightmares to life. Only magicians, who serve as territory wardens, stand between people and their worst dreams.
Clementine Madigan is ready to take over as the warden of her small town, but when two magicians challenge her, she is unwittingly drawn into a century-old conflict. She seeks revenge, but as she secretly gets closer to Phelan, one of the handsome young magicians, secrets begin to rise. Clementine must unite with her rival to fight the realm’s curse, which seems to be haunting her every turn.
In our last interview, you said, “Don’t feel discouraged when an idea doesn’t work out, or when you feel as if you’re never going to finish a book.” Are you able to share an example of a time you felt this way, and if so, what surprised you?
Surprisingly (or perhaps not-so-surprisingly), Dreams Lie Beneath falls under this statement! Back in 2016, I had a striking image of a girl who was wearing an enchanted disguise. I wanted to instantly start writing her story, but every time I tried, things fell apart. Frustrated, I tucked the idea away in one of my journals, where it simmered for a few more years. When the end of 2019 came around and it was time for me to pitch my next book to my editor, I decided to sit down and figure out Clem’s story. This time, I had a few more years of experience on my side, and I was able to figure out her motivation for the disguise, which led me to discover why she wanted revenge, as well as the details of her magical and curse-stricken world. I truly do believe some stories take time to sit and simmer in our imaginations before we reach the moment when we are ready for them. That’s why I hope other writers never feel discouraged if it feels like something isn’t working out for them, because it truly could just be you’re missing a few more elements to make the story come to life, and those elements are right around the corner.
Indeed! In DREAMS LIE BENEATH, people deal with nightmares come to life. How did this concept originate for you, and, without giving away spoilers, what ways did it develop in ways you didn’t expect?
I’ve always been a very vivid dreamer, and I’ve wanted to write a story that centered on dreams and nightmares for a long while now. Bringing tangible nightmares into the story was truly what made everything click in my mind, because in this world, your dreams can give away your plans, your secrets, and the things you most desire. Which can quickly complicate things when you’re in a game of court intrigue and aren’t quite sure who you can trust. Or if you’re like Clem, and need to keep your true identity hidden!
What a great way to have worldbuilding make way for plot complications! Your last couple of books have been stand-alones. What have you enjoyed most about writing stand-alones, and do you have plans for another series in the future?
I love writing stand-alones, but they can also be arduous to pull off. The good side of standalones is this: it’s nice not only as a writer but also as a reader to be able to enjoy the rise, conflict, and completion of a story in one volume. Everything is resolved by the last page. There is a warm feeling of satisfaction when you shut the cover on such a tome. And I’m also always hungry to move on to my next project, so it’s a relief to not be tied down to a series for years.
But…it’s hard, because you spend so much time and energy on developing the world and the characters and only get one book with them (worldbuilding is taxing, especially when you have magic systems involved!). Sometimes it’s nice to have the breadth and mileage of a series, to be able to truly delve deep into the world and the character arcs. It’s also a rewarding feeling, to reach the end of a series.
All of my future projects at the moment are duologies, and I feel like that’s the sweet spot for me: I get more than one book to develop the world and characters, but it’s not too long of a series to commit to–both as a writer and as a reader. 🙂
Excellent! What kinds of stories would you like to see more of and why?
I would love to see more diverse stories in the world! It’s been exciting to see more diverse fantasies published over the past few years, but there are still so many stories that need to be told and shared with the world and to find homes on our bookshelves. I also never complain about seeing these tropes: enemies-to-lovers, grump and sunshine, there’s only one bed.