*This Contest is Now Closed*
Skyler White crafts challenging fiction for a changing world. Populated with angels and rock stars, scientists, demons and revolutionaries, her dark stories explore the secret places where myth and modernity collide.
She is the nationally bestselling author of dark fantasy novels and Falling, Fly (Berkley, March 2010) and In Dreams Begin (Berkley, November 2010).
The child of two college professors, Skyler grew up in an environment of scholarship and academic rigor, so naturally left high school to pursue a career in ballet. She’s been dancing around research and thinking through muscle cramps ever since. She has a master’s degree in theater and work experience in advertising; she’s won awards as a stage director and appeared on reality TV. She is a mother and an instigator, a wife and a realist, a liberal living in Texas and an atheist who believes in mythology. She is a sucker for paradox, and it’s a fortunate thing, too!
Hi Skyler, welcome to Paperback Dolls!
Thank you! It’s great to be here.
Like and Falling, Fly, In Dreams Begin elicits so many questions eagerly waiting to be asked, but in the interest of our readers, could you tell us more about it in your own words?
Happy to. “In Dreams Begin” is a dark romance/horror in which the consciousness of a modern woman wakes up in the body of Irish Victorian freedom fighter Maud Gonne. In Maud’s body, Laura meets and falls in love with the poet W. B. Yeats and must negotiate the body- and mind-shifting that happens between them and her modern life.
You said you wrote In Dreams Begin because “I fell in love with W. B. Yeats, which created some interesting problems for me.” can you elaborate more on it?
The problems Yeats created for me were really a more mental version of what Laura faces. Yeats, (to me anyway) represents this wild, passionate Irish emotionality and idealism that’s deeply at odds with my modern goals of balance and reason. I like my life, but there’s part of me that longs for the Irish poet down on one knee in the middle of a moonlit lake. The danger and the romance appeal to me. I want to take risks. Just not really risky risks. At least not with my life. So I take them with my writing.
In writing In Dreams Begin, were you able to answer your own questions? Do you truly possess your own body? Is it yours to maintain, enhance, neglect or add horns to?
I think so. But I had two big “a-ha” moments, relative to my body, in writing Laura’s body-hopping experience. The first came out of research. I came to realize how modern the Body-As-Improvement-Project idea is. Maud would never have thought of her beauty (and she was famously beautiful) as something she worked at. Exercise for anything other than health wasn’t a concept she would have understood, and certainly cosmetic surgery would have been an alien idea. Women dressed and corseted themselves, used make-up and perfume to be more attractive, but they thought of it as ornamentation, not alteration. Bodies were for feeling through, not looking at. And that has been a change of perspective that, when I have tried to adopt it, has made me happier. To a certain extent, it’s a continuation of some of the ideas in “Falling,” the switch from being wanting to wanting, the difference between being seen and feeling…
The other moment, more personal maybe, came from imagining Laura, the modern woman, looking at her twenty-something body after having inhabited Maud’s forty-something, post-baby body and discovering, to my surprise, that Laura didn’t like the comparison. Rather than seeing young and beautiful she saw the lack of story on her body. It was a cool moment for me, to start looking at my flaws as history, as the story my body has lived rather than the ideal it’s failed to meet.
Can you tell us how this love of W. B. Yeats started? When and why you think it started?
I think it’s who I’m afraid I really am. I’m afraid I’m that emotional, extravagant, argumentative, unfaithful, self-indulgent romantic ready to throw it all away for passion and hopeless dreams. I love him, not because he was brave enough to really be that, but because it never occurred to him to be otherwise. He has innocence, a total lack of self-consciousness that I can’t even attempt from my twenty-first century vantage point. To him, it was perfectly possible that science would prove the existence of the human soul, that experimentation would yield techniques for speaking with dead loved ones, and that ritual acts might determine the course of re-incarnation. His pre-World War optimism, his absolute faith are so attractive (and so problematic) to me. And the clothes! He ran around in a huge Inverness cape. He wore the loose white poet shirts. He wrote the most gorgeous lines.
Both and Falling, Fly and In Dreams Begin take place in Ireland, and we know that you’ve taken many trips there for research. So why Ireland? What calls to you from there?
I come from there. Or least I chose to believe I do. I was adopted at birth and don’t have any genetic information about my background. Ireland *feels* like home, so when I was writing “Falling” and needed Olivia to go back somewhere primal, that’s where she went.
Ida uses mesmerism on Maud for Laura to possess her. Can you tell our readers what mesmerism is and why you chose this method?
Ooh, awesome question! Mesmerism is basically the same as hypnotism, pioneered by a guy named Mesmer. The ritual Ida uses to mesmerize Maud comes from a book that was hugely popular at the time the story is set. The occult – mesmerism, séances, mediums, mind reading, etc. — was the Victorian era’s “reality TV”. It was huge business, very lucrative, with its own stars and circuits, and certainly qualified as “edutainment.” I chose it because it allowed me to free Maud’s mind from her body, which left her open to possession by Laura’s awareness.
It really came out of a very convenient confluence of real history. Maud believed herself to be part faerie, one of the Irish Sidhe, a particular breed of creature with a propensity for stealing souls. This was handy. Secondly, Maud was active in the occult. She attended séances and wrote in her autobiography about spirit visions and ghosts from her childhood on. Finally, Maud and Yeats had what they both referred to as a “spiritual marriage”, or a marriage to one another on the “spirit plane.” Mesmerism, which would have been very accessible to women like Maud and Ida – and Miss Hunt’s book of complete instructions having been published seven years before the first scene in the book – allowed me to tie the stealing of souls with the spiritual plane and whisk Laura’s soul into Maud.
Speaking of Laura, when the readers are able to read In Dreams Begin, they will notice the similarities between not only your character Laura and yourself, but to Maud Gonne as well. How much of Laura is Laura Armstrong or Maud Gonne and how much of her is yourself?
Laura is my given name. Yeats’s first love was named Laura. Maud and I share a birthday (the winter solstice) separated by exactly 100 years. I’m adopted. Maud believed she was part Sidhe, that she had sold her soul to the devil, and that she was possibly a faery changeling. There’s a lot of overlap, and that’s just history. Once you get into fiction, you could argue it’s all me, since I’m the author.
In and Falling, Fly we visit Hell, but your own view of it. Then again in In Dreams Begin. Are we visiting the same place? Does it still hold no real power of its own as the Hell in and Falling, Fly? Why do you suppose you always find your characters returning there?
::Grin:: OK, spoiler alert. “Dreams” is a prequel to “Falling.” Gaehod looks the way he does in “Falling” because he’s wearing MacGregor’s clothes (and body). Hell looks the way it does in “Falling” because that’s how Ida describes it to the devil of possession when she’s vamping for time. (As a side note, all her descriptions are stolen by her from the way Yeats described the Castle of Heroes that he wanted to build on the island in Lough Key, and his vision for that we have because Maud recorded it.)
What do you hope the reader will take away from the experience of reading In Dreams Begin?
Pleasure, primarily. I hope the book is fun – engaging, challenging, erotic, intellectual fun. If I’ve done my job the way I want to, the book should be a good, if not easy, jumping-off point for a great conversation.
What would you ask of your readers?
Talk back. To me, to other readers. Writers spend so much time alone, but really what we make is just the opening salvo. We build these constructs – characters, ideas, stories – as a sandbox, and it’d be very sad if we had to not only create, but also play, alone.
All of us at Paperback Dolls would like to thank you for visiting and hope that you feel welcomed to come back at anytime, but in the meantime, can you tell us where we can find you?
Thanks so much for having me, and for the really intelligent, interesting questions. I love having to think about these things!
~*~*~*In Dreams Begin Giveaway*~*~*~
Skyler is offering ONE signed copy of In Dreams Begin to ONE lucky follower! All YOU have to do is answer this question: Do you think you truly possess your own body? Is it yours to maintain, enhance, neglect or add horns to?
This contest is US/CANADA ONLY and we will always give you more ways to win:
+1 for each place you post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, twit it, share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your comment.
+1 subscribe to Paperback Dolls – either via a reader or email (see the RSS button at the top of the right sidebar or the entry form to the left sidebar.)
Giveaway ends October 30th and the winner will be chosen by random.org on October 31st. We ask the winners to post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out. Also, we will try to contact the winners, but we ask that you check back to see if you’ve won.