Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
Please welcome SV Bekvalac here today! She has kindly answered questions about herself and her writing . . . . Then read on to discover more about her novel, iRemember, and herself…..
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have one full-length novel that was never published, and literally hundreds of other finished unpublished projects. You name it, I’ve tried to write it. Screenplays. Short stories. Poetry. I do try to finish something once I start it, even if I don’t think it’s ever going to see the light of day. Every piece of work teaches me something. Even if that’s just: short stories about the London Underground are not your thing. Stop trying to write about the Underground. No-one wants to read about the Underground while they’re commuting…on the Underground.
That’s a lot of different forms. How do you feel about ‘genre’?
As a rule of thumb I try not to set out to fit into a genre when I sit down to write a new thing. Genres are useful for readers and booksellers, and anyone looking to buy a book. And reviewers. Or cultural historians. Basically anyone but me. I am secretly very jealous of writers who can pick a genre and stick with it but I find I’m a magpie and get distracted too easily. Having said that, the finished un-published novel was a strange kind of time-travel story, and most of what I write tends to have a sci-fi or fantasy element tucked in somewhere.
Was there anything that didn’t make the final edit of iRemember? Anything you wish you’d kept?
I’m pretty ruthless when I edit and rewrite and will routinely throw away between 30 and 50% of something if I think it needs it. That’s what happened with iRemember. There are therefore countless sentences which I thought were glorious that did not make the final cut. And quite a few puns and bits of word play and alliteration. Including the phrase ‘vocational Viagra’, which I eventually had to concede threw readers out of the sci-fi world, and transported them to somewhere they really didn’t want to be, just because I fancied a bit of alliteration. There were also whole characters whom I originally loved, and then had to dispense with. It’s funny because each of these phrases, sentences, and characters that could have been, have left their traces on the text, and can still be seen. But you have to know what you’re looking for.
Is there anything else in the text that only those who are looking will find? Did you hide any ‘Easter eggs’ in your book?
In a very early draft I tried to do something altogether too clever with false memories in iRemember. I wanted to leave clues for switched-on readers that would let them figure out at the end of the book that the whole book itself was a false memory or hint at it. It didn’t work. Especially because I hate the kind of books where it all turns out to have been a dream in the end and was horrified to have written one. As I said before, I threw out most of that early draft and started again. So, no. Nothing to find except perhaps the absence of that original idea.
What is the hardest part of writing for you? How do you tackle it?
Planning. A novel is a serious undertaking. And requires meticulous planning. Which I’m terrible at. I always like to ‘get stuck in’, but the problem with plots that grow organically is that they basically don’t make sense. So, you end up having to plan in reverse. Which is so much harder! And involves the correction of endless continuity errors when you’d rather be getting on with something else. I’m glad no-one told me before I started how hard novels are to write, and how much time you should actually spend in planning them out. Otherwise I don’t think I would have started at all!
If the title is anything to go by, iRemember is all about memory. Are there any of your own memories that make a cameo in the book?
Mostly not directly. Though the emotions behind them do make several cameos. And there is one memory that is mine that made it in there in its entirety. It’s a memory of a bad job interview, where I was asked a question and didn’t know what to say. So I said I’d read something I hadn’t. And the interviewer then chose to grill me on the specifics of that exact thing, which he was very familiar with. It became pretty clear that I hadn’t read it, but I had to stick with my lie, because…you know…and it was pretty obvious that the interviewer knew I was lying and wanted to make me squirm. See if you can spot it. It’s the kind of memory that only people in Rom-Coms have, but I can confirm that it is mine, and it is real and it makes a very small cameo appearance in the first third of the book.
Have you ever had ‘bad’ feedback that completely changed how you write?
Yes. I sent off that early attempt at a time-travel novel to a publisher, blissfully unaware of how good a manuscript really has to be before you even think about sending it out to publishers. And I’m glad I did. Because it was rejected. And I learned so much. I received a very long rejection letter which was so kind and detailed it made me pay attention. Boy was it long… Sometimes, if negative feedback isn’t kind, it can make you want to ignore it. And then cry a bit. OK, a lot. This feedback changed my whole world. It made me realise that I’d got writing a bit backwards – and had forgotten that what really matters is the characters. It seems obvious now, and maybe most people know all about this. They’re all there, honing those arcs, building real people. While I was playing with cardboard cut-outs. And I completely changed my approach with iRemember. It turned out to be excellent advice. And good feedback, even though it was ‘bad’.
Thank you so much for the great insight into your writing!
Read on to find out more about her book, ‘iRemember’
The city of iRemember shimmers in the desert haze, watched over by the Bureau, a government agency that maintains control through memory surveillance and little pink pills made from the narcotic plant Tranquelle.
It looks like an oasis under its geodesic dome, but the city is under siege. ‘Off-Gridder’ insurgents are fighting to be forgotten.
Bureau Inspector Icara Swansong is on a mission to neutralise the threat. Her investigation leads her into iRemember’s secret underbelly, where she finds herself a fugitive from the very system she had vowed to protect. She has to learn new rules: trust no one. Behind every purple Tranquelle stalk lurk double-agents.
A sci-fi noir with a psychedelic twist, iRemember explores the power the past holds over us and the fragility of everything: what is, what once was, and what will be.
For a limited time, iRemember will be available for only 99p.
Author Bio –
SV Bekvalac was born in 1987 in Croatia, in what was then Yugoslavia, but grew up in London.
She studied German and Russian at Oxford, and went to film school in Prague. After almost becoming a film-maker and then an academic, researching cities and films, she found herself writing fiction about cities instead. She started off with screenplays and short stories, but they got longer and longer. iRremember is her first novel.
She has lived in cities all over Europe. Now she lives in London, or in one of her own imaginary cities.
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