Becca Fitzpatrick writes realities

Becca answers questions from the media, before her book signing event at National Book Store-Ayala Center-Cebu. (CDN PHOTO/ EDD BUENAVIAJE)

Besides the characters in her novels and the arduous attempts  to have her books published, Becca Fitzpatrick isn’t inclined to  say much about herself.

A warm and modest lady, Becca doesn’t view her life as a cut above the rest. She considers herself no different from that woman reeking of sweat from a long run, the shopper relentlessly seeking a shoe sale, or the hopeless romantic wishing for her Prince Charming.

When she was younger, Becca would “confide” her secrets and teenage concerns in  her journals. Now who would have thought she’d one day be a writer and get young adults hooked on the love struggles of Nora and the fallen angel Patch.

Whatever thrills her seemingly normal existence lacks have been well compensated in the lives of the characters of her best-selling book series.

Becca loves taking trips so it’s but natural that her imagination travels with her. She takes pleasure in meeting new people, immersing into different cultures, reading books of all sorts—and with her creativity, she breathed life to the characters  in the realm she created. Call it a pleasant surprise, but  what was meant to be  a single fantasy novel eventually became  a tetralogy. The first book titled “Hush, Hush” wraps up in the fourth book “Finale.” Here, the author takes us back to how it all started.

When were you bitten by the writer’s bug?
I remember watching the movie “Romancing the Stone” when I was a little girl. It’s a movie from the 80s about this woman writer who  ends up flying to Colombia to rescue her sister from the bad guys, and she hunts for treasure, falls in love with this handsome guy… So I do remember  being that little girl watching the movie and thinking I wanted to be a romance writer when I grow up because I thought all romance writers fly to Colombia, hunt for treasures, and fall in love. But  I forgot about that childhood dream  and I didn’t start writing
seriously until my 24th birthday, and that was when my husband surprised me by enrolling me to a writing class as a birthday present.

I wrote “Hush, Hush” in that class.

When was this?
That was 11 years ago.

I  sent it to prospective publishers,  hoping  to get it published. It took me five years of rewriting the book and sending it out before Simon and Schuster chose to buy the book.

We hard that it was intended to be a trilogy, but then there is a fourth book—“Finale.” What happened?
I intended for it to be just one book! It’s just going to be “Hush, Hush.” But  when my editor bought the book, she  said that she  wanted a sequel. So I wrote “Crescendo” (laughs) but  I decided to end it with a cliffhanger.  And then  I had to  write the third book. At that point, I told the fans, I was done, that the series was over. But  I had fallen in love with writing these characters so much that I couldn’t say goodbye. (Laughs). And I just had to write one more. I guess it was like a hodge-podge. I didn’t plan the whole thing from the start.

What did you feel when your editor said she wanted a sequel?
I was very intimidated. I thought the story was done and we had to go in and take out little pieces so we’ll have enough for a second book. I mean, I’m glad that it worked out the way it did, but it wasn’t the plan I had.

I always tell myself that if I do write another series, I want to know from the beginning how many books and what happens in every book. On the other hand, I learned a lot this way. And I wouldn’t go back and do it any other way. I learned  much about how to tell a story. I’ve also become a really good outliner now so I do plan my stories before I begin my writing now.

Do you set a timeline  in your writing?
After my kids go to school, I sit down and write for  five to six hours a day. When I’m on a deadline, I write in the night and it takes a lot longer.

Do you have an office?
Yes. I have an office at home. So I don’t write in coffee shops. (Laughs) I just work from home.

How does the writing process come to you? Do you wait to get inspired or push yourself to meet a daily writing goal?
I don’t have a ritual. I usually just sit down because I outline my books. I just  look… ok, where do I need to write, where to pick up today, so I know where I’m going.

I plot the novels while I’m running.  I turn on some music and  go for a run. That’s when I plan out the story, and  when I come home I like it peace and quiet so I don’t listen to music.

When did you first call yourself a writer— without hesitation?
I still hesitate! (Laughs.) The first moment it felt real was when I got the offer for the book. At that point, I realized it was really happening— my story was going to be published and I was  very excited. Then again,  I consider myself a mother and a wife first. That’s my main job even though I write full time. And this main job  doesn’t come with holidays and a resignation. It’s true! I don’t even own my time! (Laughs).

What inspired you to write?
In my writing class that I mentioned, one day our teacher said  he wanted us to write a scene showing humiliation. I remembered that something happened to me when I was in high school.  I was 16 and we were discussing human reproduction  in class. My teacher goes, “Becca, why don’t you stand up and tell the class what you want in a mate?” This was high school so everyone was laughing.  I sat next to a really cute boy and he was poking me and saying, “Come on, Becca, tell us what you want in a man.” It was really mortifying. There’s that scene in “Hush, Hush” where the same  happens to the main character when she was sitting in a Biology class. That was the first scene I wrote and it was based on a moment of insecurity during  my teenage years.

What made you decide to pick fantasy as the genre of your books?
When I wrote the first draft, there weren’t any paranormal elements. It wasn’t fantasy. It was very realistic. I was really into Patch’s character and what caused him to become this bad boy.

Like a fallen angel?
Right! I came up with the idea of  a fallen angel. That at one point, he had been this really good, moral, upstanding person, and he’d fallen from grace and become this really dark, disturbed and tormented character. I thought it was  perfect for him because fallen angels were the original bad boys.

How much of it is based on reality?

I kept a journal in high school and middle school. I’d go back and read those journals again, steal little pieces of my life and incorporate them in the books. As for the mythology, I read the Old Testament in the Bible when I was in high school and so I kind of had this foundation. There are the Nephilim and angels in the Old Testament. I had that as my basis and use my imagination to create the rest of the world.

Becca Fitzpatrick shows her book. (CDN PHOTO/ BUENAVIAJE)

What’s the best thing about being a novelist?
It’s meeting my fans from all over the country. All over the world! It’s really exciting to think that there are people who live half the world away  but share something in common with me, that we  read this book and feel connected to the characters. And it is something I created! That’s something really rewarding.

And what could be the most challenging part?
The editing process, I would say. I mean, I always enjoyed writing that first draft before anyone has read it. I can freely write what I want. Then, during the editing process, they have to
figure out the character’s motivation and sometimes that means cutting hundreds of pages and writing them again from scratch. That can be a little demoralizing! (Laughs). I received about a hundred rejection letters from publishers and agents. It’s hard work.

But surely you learned something along the way?
Oh, I learned so many things. Probably the biggest thing I have learned is to have faith and confidence in myself. When my first book came out, it was bombarded with reviews and some of them were negative. It was really hard to absorb that and hear those things. And when I turned to my editor, well, she didn’t like it. She wanted the whole thing rewritten, but over time, I learned to block off the noise.  The important  thing is  being true to your story. Be true to your characters and write in the best way  you can. Once I figured that out,
I gained more confidence and the writing felt more natural.  You kind of have to hit rock bottom before you can go up and rebuild.

If you were to go back, is there anything you’d like to change in the story?
Yes. There are things, but that is also part of the learning process. It’s learning how to say, “The book is done. It’s the best that I can do.” Eventually, it has to go to print. You can’t keep it forever.  That’s why I don’t reread my book after they get published because I don’t want to see those little things that I would have do ne differently. I don’t want to  torture myself that way.

Is there someone in particular that stirred up the writer in you?
When I was a kid, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote “Little House on the Prairie” books. They are partly based on  her own life. I always thought it was really cool. The premise is, she was a little girl in the United States when the Westward Expansion was happening back before cars. Her family moved out to the woods and they built their own log cabins and they have their own pigs and cows. All of the book talked about her childhood out on the Prairie in Wisconsin. I remembered thinking how fun it would be to write your own life and have other people hear your story.

Now, that you mentioned it—if you are going to write the story of your life, what would the title be?
That is a good question. I don’t know! I have to think about that and the editor would probably change it anyway! (Laughs) People would probably be bored reading a book that’s
entirely about my life… Which is why I write fiction because I can make it so much more exciting and dramatic even if  I do put little pieces of me  in there.

Is there a message in your books that you want readers to grasp?
I’m happy when readers say the book took them away from their  problems for five hours while they were  reading it.  I want to entertain readers.  I love it when “Hush Hush” is the first book they finished reading and it turned them into avid readers. I just love that.

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
Read everything you can get your hands on, not just the genre you want to write. I learned so much in telling and crafting a story by reading science fiction, horror, fantasy, historical—read everything. If possible, get a critic group—the kind of like my writing class—people you can share your work with and you’d trust their opinion. These people  can really be there to cheer you on and support you while you’re writing. It has to be someone you trust, not just your family who’ll say, “Oh this is perfect, this is wonderful and there’s nothing wrong with it”. That doesn’t help you and neither does “This is horrible, no one wants to read this.” You need to find that balance in people who can improve your writing.

We heard that there is going to be a film made out of it. How true is this?
The film rights have been auctioned, so  there’s a chance it will be made into a movie.  I also heard that they already have a screenplay. That’s all I know .

What’s your say in this?
The movie people can do their own interpretation of my story.

TAGS: author, book, Cebu, writer
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