“Discover the secrets of a siren, fly with a hawk girl over the mountains of Montana, and flee supernatural party-crashers as the décor comes to
life in this magical journey through paranormal stories.
“Along the way, watch for ghosts in a haunted house, or ride through the moonlight with a stranger. Save a comatose boy who has lost his soul, and
don’t forget to bring your garlic and wolfsbane—you never know when the shadows will snag you.
“Transcendent includes eight stories of magic, love, death, and choice by some of the newest names in young adult fiction.”
A few months ago, I received the above blurb from Rita Webb along with a request to review Transcendent. And so this past weekend, I enjoyed taking a break from my usual practice of reviewing novels to relax with a collection of short stories. As added bonus, Webb also sent me a second anthology called Unlocked. I’ll review both books this weekend.
A fun person to interview when it comes to anthologies is the editor. After all, this is the person who determines what stories are included in the final cut. To kick off this week of teasers, I’m interviewing one of the editors at Robot Playground: Rita Webb.
Rita: Every writer should be an editor. There comes a time when you have to turn off your writer’s eye and assess your work critically.
My first attempt to write a novel was a disaster, and when beta-readers shredded it, I had no clue how to fix the problems. Thus began my search to understand every aspect of writing.
Allison: Why did Robot Playground compile an anthology of stories for young people?
Rita: Short stories are a breath of fresh air for a writer. After slaving away on a novel, I enjoy having a fun project. Anthologies allow me to work with others—pulling resources and talent, making connections and friendships, and creating something together that we couldn’t do alone.
And why for young people? Despite being 37, I still think I’m a teenager. Maybe I just refuse to grow up. But mostly I just refuse to stop dreaming.
Allison: What was the reason for focusing on paranormal tales?
Rita: Paranormal seems to be rampaging through the book world. Everywhere I turn, I’m finding another story featuring a paranormal teen struggling to control their newfound powers right here in the real world. Suddenly, our dull world becomes a magical place.
But really, our world should be seen as a magical place. The only thing that limits us is our imagination.
Allison: How do you balance also being a writer?
Rita: The secret to balance is planning. I plot before I write, which reduces writing time, and I set careful goals for myself. Editing becomes just another phase in the process.
Allison: What is your favorite part about being a homeschooling mom?
Rita: Being centered in my family. Once upon a time, social structures were based on families. Now they are based on jobs, careers, schools, extra-curricular activities, and institutions. I hate the idea of institutionalizing my life.
Oh, and I love the dance classes! Last year, I realized my kids needed more practice, and so this year, I signed up for classes along with them. After all, I can’t help them practice if I don’t know what they are doing! But really, I just love dancing. I have visions of teaching ballet when I’m 60 years old.
Allison: What is your proudest achievement?
Rita: When my oldest daughter Makani started writing stories just because I write stories, I felt like every moment I spend living my dreams is worth it. I taught her how to plot a story and plan her characters, and she listens when I give writing advice.
She makes me proud when she lives her dreams. Nothing in the world could be more wonderful.
Allison: What are your pet peeves?
Rita: Politics. Seriously, before we can change the world or fix the leaders of our country, we need to change our selves. Someone once said that we get the president we deserve. When I consider the candidates out there, that’s a very sad statement.
Allison: What are your biggest fears?
Rita: Losing out on my children’s childhood because I’m working too hard to know how to play.
Allison: What is one writing tip you’d like to pass onto others?
Rita: Never forget to breathe. Writers must experience the abundance of life in order to pour their hearts into their stories. Long walks, gardening, hobbies, playing, dancing, reading good books…these aren’t options. If your soul dries up, you’ll have nothing left to give.
Allison: What is one other thing about yourself you’d like to share?
Rita: There are common themes in my writing: freedom, pursuing your dreams, living life to the fullest. If there is one thing, I want people to take from my writing is the desire to live an adventure.
Allison: Where else can we read your stories?
Rita: My debut novel Tears, a YA space fantasy, is available online: 17-year-old Lelea seeks to restore dragonkind to the world, but everyone believes she is insane. Dragons don’t exist, after all. Fleeing a military regime where she was raised, she gathers a group of fugitives to help her find the hidden scrolls that will lead her to a stash of dragon eggs.
“Symbiote” is a short story of mine in the YA anthology Unlocked: Ten ‘Key’ Tales about a cyborg slave girl who dreams of freedom. Closest thing I’ve ever written to an autobiography—a metaphorical one, of course. I’m not a cyborg or a slave, but I think I’d do a good job of playing one on TV.
Allison: What’s next from Robot Playground?
Rita: Oh, I am so full of plans and ideas and wish that time would stand still long enough for me to put them all down on paper! So let me focus on my plans for 2012.
Daughter of Goddess, a novella fairy tale, is in the last stages of editing and should be released in April. Inspired by the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche, this story is about a young priestess named Nephecia. When an oracle brings a message from the goddess Araphia, Nephecia must travel into a foreign country to marry a stranger.
My husband and I are also working on Songs, which is the sequel to Tears. I’ve finally convinced him to join me in my insane writing adventure. He’s the perfect complement to my style and balances out my weaknesses. He sees the bigger picture, plot and world building, while I see the details, the character voices and descriptions.
My short story “Symbiote” (first published in the anthology Unlocked: Ten ‘Key’ Tales) will become part of a longer work, perhaps a series. The novel is already 75% written and, with the help of my husband, should be finished late 2012.
I’m also planning a short story series around the character “Feather” from my story in Transcendent: Tales of the Paranormal. Writing short stories is a fun way to relieve stress and to remind myself why I love creating stories, worlds, and characters.
Two novels, a novella, and some short stories before the end of the year? Maybe that’s a bigger chunk than I can chew. But to quote Mr. Incredible, “I still have time.”
Thank you for taking the time to interview me!