Tuesday, February 23, 2010


by KJ Howe

In the lair, nothing makes us more excited than a recounting of THE CALL, a new author's dream phone call. Please welcome debut author Skyler White as she shares her fantastic story!

I’ll be at the store …

I was pushing a cart out of the Costco in south Austin when I got The Call. I had my receipt in one hand, held out for the folks with the pink Sharpies, and had to wedge my cell phone between my shoulder and ear to have a hand free for cart-steering. Holly Root – my agent for all of three days at that point – mercifully, isn’t one to drag out good news. She had an offer – a good offer, a two-book offer. She suggested we take it.

Now, I don’t shop without a grocery list, and this is doubly true of Costco, so I had a notebook and pen I could have used for note taking. I could have asked intelligent questions and written down details so that when I got home I had some record of what she said after “two-book deal” and “Leis Pederson.” What I did instead was jump from cart-corral post to cart-corral post, and try to keep the giggles out of my voice.

Holly gave me details I would have to write her and ask for again the next day. My husband was on a plane, so I called my folks long-distance. I drove hands free for mile-long stretches because I was clapping. I don’t remember putting the food away. My family celebrated with me. When I actually signed the contract, we went out to dinner. But the next morning, the kids still need breakfasts and packed lunches. I still had to go to the store.

and Falling, Fly is a dark fable of desire between a fallen angel and a neuroscientist. Olivia is a vampire who feeds on the desire she inspires in mortals. Dominic is radical scientist engaged in secret experimentation on memory, testing new medications on himself. They aren’t the kind of folks who shop at Costco. And writing them, I get to inhabit their world. I spent afternoons at my desk in Ireland’s underground Hotel of the Damned, where the beautiful children of myth, the modern iterations of Persephone and Sirens, mingle with rock stars and snakes. Then I do the laundry.

Still, when Rosanne, my Berkley publicist, called me with the news that the first interest she’d had in setting up book signings for me came from my local grocery store, I was flummoxed. HEB is a classic Texas grocery chain. Their people are friendly, their prices are great, and their foodie-oriented Central Market stores give Whole Foods a run for its yuppie money. But book signings? I had to call Holly. Turns out HEB is a New York Times-reporting chain with a series of ‘Super HEBs’ that hold expansive book sections. So I’ll be doing my first ever book-signing at the grocery store.

I’m also throwing myself a book-launch at our local indie bookstore. My birthday is three days before Christmas, so I’m making up for all the previously rushed birthdays by throwing myself a “Fallen Angels and Flights of Absinthe” themed launch party. There will be a reading and absinthe tasting and I’m looking forward to living, at least for a few hours, in a shadow of the world I created.

The book I wrote as the second of my two-book deal is a dark time-travel horror/romance about the Irish poet WB Yeats. In Dreams Begin is set back and forth between contemporary Portland, Oregon and 1889-1914 Ireland, England and France, as Ida Jameson, heiress to the Dublin whiskey manufacturer and amateur occultist channels the spirit of Laura Armstrong from modern Portland into the body of Maud Gonne, the legendary beauty and Irish revolutionary. Yeats, through his interest in the occult, meets and falls in love with Laura, although neither of them understands the connection they have through time, or the danger they’re in from Ida.

It’s been a tremendously fun project that has allowed me to explore the Irish connection to my story-world in great detail. It also required intense amounts of research, since Maud, Ida and Yeats (and Laura, to an extent) were (or are) all real people with real histories; and the rule I set for myself was that, since the made-up elements are so fantastical, I was allowed to take no liberties with history. In one Yeats biography, I read that he and his wife (not Maud, btw) celebrated the news that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature by cooking sausages, because they were out of champagne. I would have gone to the store.

I have worked hard to rid myself of the capitalist notion that one thing can fix everything. This pill, that diet, the new job, the next house, the perfect moment … but there was a quiet, persistent “never going to happen, not to you,” voice that finally stopped whispering that day at Costco. It did, actually, change my life in a few significant ways. With a deadline for book two, I felt more justified carving out writing time. I bought a new, light-weight netbook with a long-lived battery. The “what if I never sell anything” stomach-roiler was replaced by “what if nobody buys it?” And almost two years later, every time I leave Costco, my tummy tightens up a little, and I grin.

Now, with the official release date of and Falling, Fly, March 2, only days away, I know it’s not too early to start popping into my local Borders or Barnes and Noble hoping for my first time I sight my book in the wild, but we’re out of dish soap and dried mangos. I’ll be at HEB.

Skyler White is author of dark fantasy novels and Falling, Fly (Berkley, March 2010) and In Dreams Begin (Berkley, March 2010).
Thanks so much for joining us, Skyler. I can't wait to read your first novel!!! KJ


jo robertson said...

Hi, Skyler, welcome to the Lair. What a fantastic call story. I would've left all my groceries at Costco and gone mad with excitement.

Your books sound intriguing. Congratulations on your debut!

Thanks for bringing Skyler as our guest, KJ.

jo robertson said...

Oops, did I win the rooster again, for the second day in a row??!!

Today the chook and Emma wore me out, so tomorrow we'll just relax and enjoy some quiet reading. Hmmm, I think the GR might like your books, Skyler!

Helen said...

Congrats again Jo have fun relaxing today.

What a great call story I am with Jo I think I would have left everything there and forgotten about it but then as you say there are always other things to do.

The books sound really interesting I love stories that build a new world.

Congrats on the release

Have Fun

Nancy said...

Skyler, welcome! What a great call story!

These books sound terrific. Do you know any neuroscientists, or were you starting cold on that character?

Jo, congrats on the bird.

Nancy said...

Hi, Helen--

You know I love new worlds, too!

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Skyler, welcome to the lair.

And Jo, nice nab of the rooster this morning.

I loved your call story. And your books sound great.

The idea of a book signing is a grocery store really cracked me up this morning. I've never heard of such a thing!

Donna MacMeans said...

Jo! Two days in a row? People will talk (grin).

Welcome Skyler - I've been hearing about this book for years now and can't wait to see it on the shelves. I heard someone describe it as sort of steampunk. Do you consider it so? What inspired the idea - which is truly unigue BTW?

Thanks for joining today.

Skyler White said...

Good morning everybody, and thanks for the warm welcome!
I did almost leave the groceries in the cart! I can remeber thinking "I can't believe I'm doing this now" while I was packing them into the car. It seemed such an ordinary, stupid thing to do. My life hit this major pivot right in the middle of something else. It's like the zen koan "after the ecstacy, the laundry." Except for me it's "after The Call, the groceries."
Nancy: I don't know any neuroscientists. I read a book a couple of years ago called "Mind Wide Open," a sort of layperson's guide to the field and it just blew my mind. I wanted to know more about it because it seems like such an interesting vantage to see the world from. So when I was looking for a mate for Olivia, that suggested itself. The fact that it meant I got to do a lot more reading in the subject was just gravy!
Christie: Yeah, it still cracks me up too. In that shake-your-head-and-laugh sorta way.
Donna: Thanks! I *love* hearing that there's some buzz about "Falling" out there! I'd say there's a steampunk color to the book, but it's certainly not a Steampunk Book. I borrow a couple of elements. I'm part magpie, I think. I'll pick up shiny bits from anywhere! But I love the steampunk aesthetic, the glass and metal of it, which felt very right for an eternal world.

Deb Marlowe said...

Congrats Jo!

And congrats Skyler--your book sounds fascinating! Love the call story--we fly so high, only to be brought down by the mundane. Kids do that to me everyday! I might be lost in the past for a part of the day, but I still have to deal with the homework, the sports practices and the toilet paper emergencies too!

TerriOsburn said...

What a great story! And incredibly unique stories. Your titles are so interesting, were they yours to start with or chosen by the publisher?


Anna Sugden said...

Welcome to the Lair, Skyler and thanks for sharing your fab call story!

Your books sound fascinating and unique - a hard thing to do in the marketplace.

As one who still has the voice of doubt ringing loudly in her ears, it's good to know that wonderful things do happen, and after them life returns to something resembling normal *g*. (or, as we'd say over here, normal with knobs on!)

Libby said...

Hello, Skyler,

Your descriptions make me want to read both of your books immediately. I'm glad March is close upon us.

But, now, to my burning question (seriously): How can I get hair likes yours?

Libby McCord

Anna Campbell said...

Congratulations, Skyler! I love your call story. It's funny how they're endlessly fascinating, isn't it? And how wonderful that the venue of the call is the venue of the first signing. There's something cosmic in that!

Anna Campbell said...

Jo, congrats on the Rooster! What's the story? Are you getting up earlier or is he sleeping in?

Kim Howe said...

I loved the call story and the insight into how the business works, I just can't get enough.

Neuroscience, vampires and a touch of steampunk...I am intrigued. I bet I could even get my husband to read that one!

Skyler White said...

Hi again! Sorry to be so scattershot popping by!
Terri: "and Falling, Fly" was the title for book one from very early on, Leis loved it and so no discussion was necessary. I titled book 2 "Deus Inversus" which she promptly (and properly) vetoed. It was Yeats's Golden Dawn name, and it works on so many levels for the book, but it's Latin and all but un-sayable. "In Dreams Begin" is cribbed from Yeats too, though. It's the preface to one of his books of poetry. The full line is "In dreams begin responsibilites."
Anna: "with knobs on" Love that!
Libby: Thank you! The hair.... My hair is an ongoing evolution. In the picture, it's about half extensions, half dreads. The ratio has tipped more into dreads at the moment, but it could change again. I never know until the new thing bites me. Mostly its a fidget toy, something to go sew beads into when the stories aren't working. A more recent, if less posed picture is here: http://www.skylerwhite.com/skye-interviewed-for-austin-artists-video-mag

Louisa Cornell said...

He must have a crush on Miss Emma, Jo !! Congrats on nabbing the Boid !

Hello, Skyler !

What a great call story. Yes, life has a way of putting you right back in your place when you start to float up on that cloud. When I got my first Golden Heart call I was cleaning litter boxes. In fact, I hung up and went back to cleaning litter boxes until it hit me. I remember thinking "Did that just happen?"

I can't believe you could drive! I would have wrecked the car!

I love world building and the magpie method of writing sounds like fun !! I will definitely be picking this one up!

PJ said...

Hi Skyler! Congratulations on the upcoming releases. They both sound very intriguing.

Love your call story! Had to laugh at the hands-free driving while clapping. I'm amazed you were able to drive at all! I'm afraid I would have had to call someone to come get me.

jo robertson said...

Ah, Anna, we're always up early, the rooster and me! The housecleaner came today, so I had him do the, uh, you know, cleaning before the cleaners come.