Thursday, November 11, 2010

Interview with Skyler White Author of In Dreams Begin

Today we have an interview with Skyler White author of and Falling, fly and the new book In Dreams Begin.

Q: In and Falling, Fly you introduced us to a lush world filled with mythology, philosophy and so much more- it was book that made readers think. What will In Dreams Begin make readers think about?

A: In Dreams Begin imagines a modern girl whose awareness wakes up in the body of a Victorian woman, so it probably won’t come as a shock to hear I was thinking about the contrasts and similarities between women’s lives and bodies, their freedoms and concerns in the past and now. I was interested in the many different meanings of “dream,” and in possession, so all of that is there, under the surface of the story.

Q: Can you give us a brief description of In Dreams Begin?

A: Sure! In Dreams Begin is a secret history/time travel that begins when the consciousness of a modern woman is stolen on her wedding night and channeled into the body of Maud Gonne, a beautiful Irish revolutionary who believed herself to be part faery. Reeling from the change of body and frightened by the change in time, Laura meets the poet W.B. Yeats and finds in him the wild romanticism she longs for, but has carefully avoided, in her contemporary life. Yeats, meeting Maud for the first time, is fascinated by the modern soul he sees in her. As Laura tries to negotiate the present with the man she married and the man she’s falling in love with in the past, Yeats summons all the power of the Victorian occult to establish who or what he found in Maud the first night, drawing on the help of Ida Jameson, a woman dangerously distorted by the rigidities of Victorian womanhood.

Q: Do any of the characters from and Falling, Fly appear in this story?

A: Yes, but really only as Easter eggs, not in a way that’s integral to either book. Both overlaps are basically “spot the bunny” games, so I’ll tell you who and where, but I’m going to do it in white, since they’re spoilers. Highlight to read: Olivia (from Falling ) and Laura (from Dreams) are seatmates on the plane to Ireland. Their meeting is brief, but it’s in both books. In Dreams Begin is the origin of Hell and Gaehod. Both the place and the person from Falling are created in this book, the place in Ida’s parroting of Yeats’s vision for “an Irish Eleusis” and Gaehod when the ghost that has been sleeping takes possession of the body of MacGregor Mathers.

Q: Tell us a little about your main characters, what’s going on with them in this book?

A: Laura, moving back and forth between time periods and men, is grappling with what love and fidelity, body and soul have to do with each other.

Will Yeats, passionate in his politics, love and poetry, is pursuing the spirit he only occasionally finds embodied in one of the most famously beautiful women of his generation.

And Ida Jameson, enamored of Maud, but thwarted by a life of rejection and repression, is working to manipulate Yeats and both women through Laura’s possession of Maud, and by the soul of possession itself (or himself).

Q: Time travel, the occult, possession, historical settings and figures…it’s a complex world you’ve created in this novel. Do you think it may be too much for fans of the genre?

A: Probably for some of them. But that’s okay. There are plenty of things written for folks who like a quick read. And I’m glad, because I’m one of them. But I also like complex worlds full of strange action where the ground shifts and the ideas swim around. And there’s not quite so much of that available. So I write for those of us who want to play in that kind of sandbox from time to time. It’ll probably never put me on any major best seller lists, but I have met the most amazing people in this space – other writers and readers at cons or who email me. It’s a smaller world, but I love the aliens too much to come back. Which isn’t to say that I want to be obscure or difficult. My personal task as a writer is to keep getting clearer and cleaner without losing any of the complexity, nuance or layers of meaning.

Q: The details of the occult practices along with the rich historical settings are so vivid you must have put in a lot of research time. How long did you work on this book and how extensive was your research?

A: Dreams took me almost two years to write, the first six months of which were just research. I read both Yeats’s autobiographies and several biographies. I read Maud’s autobiography and two very good biographies of her. I read all the letters they wrote each other. And I read some specifically Irish history.

After I got the timelines sketched in, I did location research and wrote a first draft. The writing itself turned up racks of additional questions though, so I did another round of research between the second and third draft. And the whole time I was writing, I was reading Yeats. In the course of the time it took me to write Dreams, I read all of his poetry, and collected the lines and little snippets that preface each chapter.

Finally, with a pretty evolved draft finished, I went to Ireland, London and Paris for two weeks and visited every location (or the closest thing still around) where I had a scene set. I have a tiny little netbook computer, so I was able to actually re-write scenes in the places where they were set. Which was wonderful. There are some pictures from that trip on my website here.

Q: What books are currently in your to-read pile?

A: It’s actually more of a tower. On the teetering top: the Stacia Kane sequel to “Unholy Ghosts,” which I loved, “The Hemlock Cup” by Bettany Hughes, and “Sandman Slim” by Richard Kadrey

Q: What authors have influenced your work?

A: That’s such a hard question, because I can’t imagine any I’ve read who haven’t. But the Greatest Hits list would have to include: the D’Auliers, Rosemary Sutcliff, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne Rice, Tom Robbins, Neil Gaiman, Emma Bull and Margret Atwood.

Q: So what’s next? Are there more books coming in this darkly intellectual series?

A: Oooh, I like that “darkly intellectual!” Lovely combination of words. See? Writers. We’re good like that.

Yes, there are more books coming, no I don’t know what next. I have a very expressionistic erotic novella and a three-book contemporary detective series on submission right now. They both belong to the same story universe as Falling and Dreams, but they go very different places.

Feel free to share an excerpt if you wish.

I’d love to! This is from Chapter 5:

As children, Maud and Ida had walked thus, deliberate and slow, down Donnybrook Road, both of them shaking, although only Maud with fear. Arm in trembling arm again now, through the dark October graves, toward Georges’s tomb, Ida still needed to caution herself against skipping in her first giddy moment since arriving in France almost a month ago. The country irritated her, the rigorous attention the nation paid to beauty, the constant wine in small glasses, and how at home Maud was within it.

Ever the hostess—ever the French hostess, for all her Irish color—Maud had brought red wine and flowers to the crypt. Ida, always more practical, carried candles, blankets, and lap rugs. Maud unlocked the metal doors of Georges’s little memorial chapel, and Ida stepped into its dark of underground smells and windless cold.

Ida dropped the furs in a corner while Maud cursed benignly, burning matches, unable to make the flame stick to the candle wicks. If they lived together and entertained, they would bustle about thus, in friendly silence, preparing for their guests. But tonight only Lucien was expected, he and whatever spirits came, invited or otherwise. Ida tore the bloom from one of Maud’s flowers and scattered the petals over the altar. “Why don’t you let me light the candles, darling?” she suggested.

Maud leaned her back against the cold and unadorned stone wall. “Ida . . .”

“I know.” Ida kept her smile sympathetic, and took the matches from Maud’s ghost-white fingers. “Pour the wine.”

“Ida, I don’t think I can do what I . . .”

“Go ahead and have yourself a glassful, dear. We have more than enough for our communion.”

Maud took glasses from the wooden crate they had provisioned over several trips to the little mausoleum. Ida lit the candles, humming to herself. Maud already had a reputation for pleasant evening gatherings, but Ida would raise the tone of the soirĂ©es. She and Maud would talk Art and God with their guests, not only politics. The tomb’s rich, under-earth smell of graveworms and mushrooms crept over Ida. Maud had been too frightened of tonight to eat, but when they entertained together, Cook would serve duck in whiskey sauce, or salmon with morels.

The candles blazed like a birthday cake, dancing in the drafts admitted through the glassless windows and the open grate in the door. Possibly too from the colder metal doors in the cold stone floor. Maud sat on the provisions box, wordlessly taking her wine like the poison or medicine it was. “Did you want some, Ida?”


“He will be here soon.”

“Yes, I should think so.” Ida stood over Maud, strong and unafraid, behind Maud’s sloping, robed shoulders. In Paris, Halloween festivities would be mocking the rites and devils Ida and Maud hoped to make real tonight, in the little village of Samois. Through the provincial streets to its tiny cemetery, Maud had walked, a priestess or a secret witch cloaked and hooded with Ida, her familiar bird, wing-in-elbow beside her. But inside Georges’s little burial chapel, Maud shrunk to an Irish crone, her ritual robes a weathered shawl wrapped over curling shoulders and the hollowed-out hole where her heart had been, and Ida, her carrion bird behind her.

She plucked the pins from Maud’s hair. “Let’s prepare you,” she whispered.

Maud did not move while Ida’s pecking fingers unwound the braided skeins of rust and shadow. It slithered free over Maud’s shoulders, and she absently pushed back the strands snaking into her face. She caught Ida’s hand in an icy grip. “Ida, I’m frightened.”

Maud choked on the blood-scraped whisper, but Ida had heard, and her smile broke like a towering thundercloud. Maud’s deathbed promise to her father broken—to never be afraid of anything, not even death—and Ida here beside her. She sank down beside Maud’s shuddering shoulders and wrapped her robe-winged arms around them. “Shhh,” she murmured, cheek in flowing hair, lips to sunken throat. “You must master your fear. There is no other way.”

Thank you so much for joining us today at Fang-tastic Books.

Thank you for having me! It’s always a pleasure.

Skyler White is the nationally bestselling author of dark fantasy novels ‘and Falling, Fly’ (Berkley, March 2010) and ‘In Dreams Begin’ (Berkley, November 2010). She lives in Austin, TX. Visit her on the web at

1 comment:

Kelly aka yllektra(force-oblique) said...

Oh thanks for hosting this interview!

I think the inspiration for both stories is very original and though it is fascinating, I'm sure that like she said they were very difficult to research!!

I really admire authors who dedicate so much time researching and collecting info so that they get every single date, event, detail right!

After reading the exceprt, I have to get this book now! *g*