First off, I'd like to thank Skyler White for taking the time to answer my questions. Her new Urban Fantasy novel, and Falling, Fly, released on March 2nd. Everyone should go run out and get a copy. I thought it was an awesome book, as you can see from my review of and Falling, Fly, which can be found here.
Sara: How would you describe your novel, 'and Falling, Fly', in three sentences or less, for readers who haven’t heard of it before?
Skyler: ‘and Falling, Fly’ is a dark fable of desire between a fallen angel and a self-medicating neuroscientist. It’s a love story between two mutually exclusive world-views set in world without any, where medicine and mythology both confront the mystery of what it means to be human. Neither can answer alone nor hear the other.
How would you describe Olivia and Dominic using only three words each?
Olivia- dark, beautiful, damned
Dominic- brilliant, fearless, denied
Sara: Olivia and her sisters are the only angels in your novel, and your website describes ‘and Falling, Fly’ as feminist. Are all of the angels in this universe female, or are there male angels that we haven’t met yet?
Skyler: There are definitely masculine angels, but all the angels of desire are female.
Sara: On your website, ‘and Falling, Fly’ is described as anti-‘Twilight’. From the beginning, was it important to you to that the female protagonist not become a victim of a male vampire, or did it just happen?
Skyler: I hadn’t read the ‘Twilight’ books when I wrote ‘and Falling, Fly’, but having read them, it’s hard for me to imagine two vampire books with less in common. In ‘and Falling, Fly’, not only is the powerful, supernatural creature the woman, but the core question of the book is how she can become the authority on her own desire, rather than the object or victim of another’s. Bella’s only access to power and protection is through the desire she inspires in a man infinitely more powerful than she. I don’t believe real love can co-exist with fear for one’s physical safety.
‘and Falling, Fly’ is a very adult book too, using the same symbols to say something almost the inverse of Twilight’s pro-abstinence stance. Olivia is a vampire because desire is powerful. A woman’s desire is powerful. And can be monstrous or divine. I wanted to start out with the monstrous and see what it took to redeem it. We have such a complicated relationship to our own hungers. I wanted to tease some of them apart, look for the relationships between them and the pathologies and mercies.
Sara: Why neuroscience? Were you afraid that some of the concepts would be too scientific or obscure for some readers? Was there a lot of research involved?
Skyler: That’s a great question. Why neuroscience? Because it’s so d*mn cool! Dominic is a neuroscientist because he has to be, because it would be the only way a guy like him would go about trying to answer the questions he has, but also expressly because it allowed me to do the research.
And yes. There was lots of research. Was I afraid? Yes. Of course. But not really for the neuroscience.
‘and Falling, Fly’ is a challenging book that asks a lot of its readers. It’s my hope that it gives a lot in return, but to some extent, the neuroscience is the easy part. I’m asking folks to engage with me on some very complex terrain. The neuroscience, at least, exists elsewhere. But yes, of course I worry. I worry because it’s a very fine line between asking enough of readers that they engage with their whole self, mind and emotion, and asking so much that you exclude people you want to reach.
I want to reach people with this book. I want to touch them. I don’t want to confuse folks or overwhelm them with language or science, but I truly believe that my best chance to deliver the experience to readers that I hope I can lies in taking exactly those risks.
Sara: The setting of the majority of ‘and Falling, Fly’ is in Ireland. Did you visit Ireland for research (or for fun)? And if so, what were your favorite parts of the trip?
Skyler: I travelled to Ireland for fun in 2005, before I wrote the book. The trip was a ten-day solo trip, a gift from my husband, and hugely important to me. I took a ton of pictures and lots of notes, and when I was writing I was able to refer back to them. Every part of that trip was a favorite, but the U2 show in Dublin certainly stands out as a highlight!
Sara: Both Olivia and Dominic are seen sporting tattoos or getting tattooed. I personally have five (and eleven piercings), so little details like this make me like a character that much more. Do you have any tattoos of your own, or any plans for a tattoo?
Skyler: I don’t have any. I’m too inconsistent. But my husband has one that runs from his second toe to his last rib, so I have a certain vicarious connection to the process.
Sara: Your next novel, ‘In Dreams Begin’, follows a different cast of characters through the same universe. Can you give us a brief summary? How is ‘In Dreams Begin’ similar to ‘and Falling, Fly’? How is it different?
Skyler: ‘In Dreams Begin’ revolves around the Irish poet WB Yeats and Laura, a modern commercial artist who, on her wedding night, wakes up in the body of Maud Gonne, the six-foot tall, red-headed, possibly party-faerie political revolutionary everyone believes Yeats was in love with. In my story, it’s Laura he loves, and their connection, reaching across time and countries, allows me to play with the Victorian occult, modern romance, body image, possession and the fae all in the context of remarkably co-operative real historical people and events.
Yeats really was involved in the occult. He and Maud Gonne really did have a marriage “on the spiritual plane,” and Maud was, at the time, in the Irish countryside, widely considered to be of the Sidhe, a kind of faerie known for spiriting away the souls of wives on wedding nights. It’s different from ‘and Falling, Fly’ in that it concerns different questions: fidelity rather than desire, the body vs. time rather than body vs. mind, and that it’s grounded much more in actual history; but it’s similar in how it asks its questions and in several important points of overlap.
Sara: Who are your greatest influences, both in and out of the Urban Fantasy genre?
Skyler: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne Rice, Margret Atwood, Tom Robbins, Neil Gaiman, Caitlin Kiernan, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, Yeats. I’m going to keep the list to writers and stop there. It’s not an exhaustive list though. There are so many. And I feel different influences more or less strongly at different times.
Sara: What are you currently reading?
Skyler: I like to keep one collection of poetry, and another of comics or short stories, a non-fiction research or craft book, and a novel going at the same time. Right now it’s Rimbaud, Gaiman’s ‘Sandman: World’s End’, ‘Maps and Legends’ by Michael Chabon and China Mieville’s ‘The City and The City’.
Skyler White is author of dark fantasy novels ‘and Falling, Fly’ (Berkley, March 2010) and ‘In Dreams Begin’ (Berkley, March 2010). She lives in Austin, TX.
Thank you, Skyler, for taking the time to answer my questions! And feel free to post any comments or questions for Skyler.