For May’s Ink Splat issue, we loved chatting with Rebecca Coffindaffer, author of the YA science fiction series, Crownchasers and Thronebreakers. Her novels are filled with world-building, sci-fi elements, and strong female main characters. Rebecca reminds us, “to be gentle with yourself and give yourself grace” when you are in the midst of writer’s block and to “take a step back and refill your well by consuming stories in whatever medium you feel like – movies, TV, books, video games, and fanfiction.”
May’s writing challenge is such an interesting one! Write a story or scene about an alternative vampire that survives on something other than blood. Maybe they need something goofy, like pineapples or pillow fluff to survive, or maybe something more sinister. Whichever tone you go for, see how this world-building detail affects your scene.
An Interview with Rebecca Coffindaffer
Crownchasers and Thronebreakers are out now. How were you inspired to write this YA series?
I am a long-time fan of science fiction, stretching all the way back to watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and the original Star Wars trilogy when I was eight or nine years old. A lot of my story ideas have sci-fi elements to them, but this duology was really about the chance to write the kind of devil-may-care, reckless starship pilot (Alyssa Farshot) that I’ve always loved. Alyssa’s voice came through so strong, and she was really the inspiration and the initial building block to these books.
What’s your process for world-building? Do you ever have to make big changes as you write or revise?
I tend to approach world-building in two different ways: If I have the characters already, then I ask myself, “Okay, what kind of world would these characters live in?” If I don’t have characters yet and I just have a couple ideas about the world itself, then I build in the other direction and go, “Okay, what sorts of people live in this world?” In either case, I’m using the characters and the world to inform each other when it comes to making decisions like, what does it look like, what’s their technology, what’s the social structure, etc. I’ll toss in little bits of ideas from here and there – maybe they have trains, maybe all the animals and insects are giant, and so on – but it’s all about how the elements connect. Sometimes I’ll make little world-building changes as I write, but nothing too major. In revision, though, anything goes. I’ll throw out whole characters, rearrange governments and cities, scoop it up and put the plot in an entirely different place – whatever is best for the story.
What is your favorite part of writing and what is your least favorite part? What do you do to increase your enjoyment of your least favorite part?
Drafting is the hardest for me. That first draft is always really intimidating and an uphill battle; I do so much better in revisions. The fact that I hate drafting, though, really makes me think about the scenes I’m writing because I know I have to make them exciting for me to get myself in the chair. And if I’m dreading it, then maybe that scene isn’t needed. Or maybe it needs a punch-up, like putting it in a more interesting setting or pushing the characters in more extreme directions. I also will use writing sprints with friends to help keep my focus and get words on the page. My favorite part is writing dialogue. I always love writing back-and-forth banter, playing with what people are and are not saying. It’s the best.
What is a tip you could share for tackling writer’s block?
I think you have to be gentle with yourself and give yourself grace. I have periods where I just can’t get the words to come, and it’s like trying to squeeze water out of a dry sponge. If you’re stuck, if you’re dreading the work, take a step back and refill your well by consuming stories in whatever medium you feel like – movies, TV, books, video games, fanfiction. Make a list of tropes that you love to see in stories and play with writing them just for fun, no pressure. Give yourself time to regroup.
What was your favorite book as a child and why?
I have a long-standing love for the book The String in the Harp by Nancy Bond. It’s a backlist title, written in the 70s I think, but I just always loved how it told this story about family and healing while also making me fall in love with the country of Wales and stir up an interest in history.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Telekinesis! The ability to move things with my mind would just be super handy and I’ve always wanted that power.
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Rebecca Coffindaffer (they/she) grew up on Star Wars, Star Trek, fantastical movies and even more fantastical books. They waited a long time for their secret elemental powers to develop, and in the interim, they started writing stories about magic and politics, spaceships, far-off worlds, and people walking away from explosions in slow motion. These days they live in Kansas with their family, surrounded by a lot of books and a lot of tabletop games and one big fuzzy dog. They’re the author of the YA space opera duology Crownchasers and Thronebreakers.
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