We are pleased to announce we have a brand new and amazingly talented author with us today! R.R Hood takes daring leaps into darker and extremely thought-provoking content, resulting into a very unique reading experience. We get a behind-the-scenes glance into The Wishing Maiden (which we very much enjoyed and reviewed previously) and a sneak peek to her upcoming horror novel Virtually Reality.
Which of your characters are your personal favourites?
In ‘The Wishing Maiden’, Bron is most decidedly my favourite; I think she actually proves her loyalty to Jacquotte in ways that Lyall isn’t able to. When the plot thickens and Jacquotte is in real danger – more danger than she ever has been, if only because she’s never been so emotionally connected to another person – she doesn’t blindly stay at her side and defend her decision. Bron isn’t afraid to betray Jacquotte for her own safety’s sake, and I think that’s where she really stands out from the rest of the characters and why the friendship between Jacquotte and Bron is so strong. A good friend will be at your side, be you right or wrong, but a true friend will leave your side if they have to, to save you from getting hurt.
The Wishing Maiden herself, Asha, is also a favourite just because of the challenge she provides. She’s a bit of a balancing act; Asha has a lot of motives that are buried under layers and layers of abuse and being used like a tool. At the same time, I am literally writing a walking, talking plot device. As a writer, that was just fascinating, to look back over what I’d written and pick out the bits and pieces of, “Ah, here’s where the Wishing Maiden is speaking, not Asha. This bit of dialogue is Asha.”
In my other completed novel, though, it’s really hard for me to pick a favourite? I think it might be Whiteflower, if I can’t choose the grand master villain. I expect people who do wind up reading ‘Virtually Reality’ to either love or hate her; she’s got that air of ‘the load’ character, a sheltered little girl who needs protecting…but I think she may very well be one of the strongest characters in the book. I can’t cite examples (spoilers!) but I see a lot of characters that are in similar positions to the one she’s in just kind of dissolve into tears whenever things get really hard, and holy shit, does Whiteflower go through hell. But crying isn’t her thing. She bends, but she will not break, and I love that about Whiteflower.
‘Virtually Reality’ has my all-time favourite villain, though. I don’t know if I can ever really top him, and I can only hope readers will have the same appreciation for him that I do, because there’s so much to his motives that isn’t plainly written into the text.
Did you listen to or get inspired by any particular songs while writing?
I tend to compose actual playlists, depending on what I’m writing! They vary, in length and how many songs each one has. For ‘The Wishing Maiden’, though, it was mostly Lindsey Stirling (fantastic violinist, for those who haven’t heard of her, and she does a lot of fun, nerdy musical things). A few of her songs, in particular, have this feel to them that is very ‘Asha’, to me. That sort of…sad, cold, but beautiful sound?
And on the flipside, I had a very… I think the word I’ll use is ‘whimsical’ soundtrack, for ‘Virtually Reality’. That’s all I’ll say, on that front.
For the novel I might start up, pulling it from another story I’ve written in an unconventional format, I’ve got the soundtrack mostly formed. A lot of ‘The Birthday Massacre’, ‘Marina And The Diamonds’… It’s going to be a horror, can you tell?
Are there any details you pulled from real life experiences?
There are a few aspects of characters, in ‘The Wishing Maiden’, that kind of developed based on my life. How I wish people acted, or how I perceive people treating others. I think Lyall is the big one, there – at his core, he is a nice guy, who happens to be in love with a lesbian. The fact that I can sense the eye-roll at the words ‘nice guy’ is exactly the reason why Lyall exists. The core of his character dilemma comes when he thinks he can make a wish and will Jacquotte to fall in love with him, despite the fact that their orientations are not compatible. Now, obviously, that doesn’t work, and on a textual level that’s because he’s screwing up the wording of his wishes, but looking at subtext… Lyall knows it’s wrong to force his feelings on her. There’s this moment towards the end that was really therapeutic for me to write, with him telling her outright that he’d like to dance at Jacquotte’s wedding with Asha. A real nice guy – or, hell, a real good person – would never try to change someone orientation or convince them to love them back. I wish the world worked that way, more often, with people respecting the orientations and lack of reciprocated feelings without taking it personally. He loves her, and he’s just happy to be part of her life. He wishes her the best; we need more of that.
Did you have to do any odd research during the writing process?
Honestly, I can’t remember… ‘The Wishing Maiden’ is one of the stories I’ve had in my head for, I think, fourteen years? So, sporadically, I might’ve checked out a fact or two, but I forget the research process because everything just became so tightly woven into the story.
Now, ‘Virtually Reality’, on the other hand…
Yeah, I can’t talk about the research I did for that one. Without context, I could be arrested.
Is there any symbolism behind the names in your book(s)?
Oh, geez, there’s so much in the way of meaningful names. Because ‘The Wishing Maiden’ is based on fairy tale format, everything in those stories ties into the lesson. The names of the continent and cities/towns, the character’s names, the ship – everything was very deliberately chosen, either for the etymology or the sound. I’d love to list all of them, but it’d take forever, and some are pretty obvious. The big ones are probably Asha, whose name means ‘wish, desire, or hope’, and Jacquotte, who was named for the French pirate Jacquotte Delahaye. Delahaye faked her own death and lived as a man for several years, and was also famous for vivid red hair – it just seemed appropriate.
You see my fondness for symbolic names coming back in ‘Virtually Reality’, but in a different way. Due to the setting, all of the characters have nicknames they chose for themselves – gamers will be familiar with the process of online user handles. That was a fun exercise, because choosing those names was not only about how to make them significant to me, or the reader…those are names the characters chose for themselves.
Who would be your dream cast for your main characters if you ever landed a movie/show deal?
Hm… I have no idea! I did once do a Hollywood-casting of ‘Virtually Reality’ when I was procrastinating writing (Jennifer Lawrence as ‘Wingspan’ and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as ‘Knifebaby’) but it was both wildly unrealistic and not actually as well-thought out as it would be, if the opportunity honestly did arise. Some of the actors I chose weren’t even close, but they were on my mind at the time.
If ‘The Wishing Maiden’ ever went beyond a book, though, I think it’d be best converted into a musical. I don’t know where Bernadette Peters would be cast, and I don’t care; this is my fantasy world, and in this dream, she’s in my show.
Are there any special Easter eggs hidden away in your book(s) or little secrets that were never fully revealed?
There are a ton of little things that aren’t necessarily Easter eggs, or even intentionally hidden, but they’re certainly present and there if you look for them. They might even be obvious to some readers. For example, the prince’s advisor, Balthazar, harbours some lustful feelings for the prince.
There are also plenty of not-quite-stated things about Asha that are hinted at, that readers might be interested to know. The way the wishing process works, for example (minor spoilers!) is that, by making a wish, you are ripping away a piece of her life. The reason she’s lived so long is that a wish was made for the wishes to never end – and, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, Asha thus never ends, for she is the very idea of ‘wishing’, embodied. That’s also why her hair is white! She’s very old, just…forever young and beautiful of face, because someone wished for it.
There are some great Easter eggs and little factoids from ‘Virtually Reality’ I could share, but there isn’t a lot of point without context? Which is a shame! Fingers crossed that it gets picked up by a publisher – still waiting to hear back from one, right now. There are a lot of sexualities that aren’t outright stated but still displayed, however; we’ve got a bisexual main character, and among the supporting cast is a pansexual, homosexual, perhaps a little bit of demisexual-to-bicurious; even though romance isn’t heavily featured, you still get to see glimpses of how these people are affected by their sexualities. In fact, the societal treatment and resulting shaming of a person’s sexuality becomes an extremely relevant plot point, but I won’t get into that.
Tell us a bit about your cover(s) and how it/they came about.
‘The Wishing Maiden’ doesn’t have a very official-looking cover, but it is a fun story as to how it came about. I had a few wardrobe pieces and this long, curly white wig, as well as a pair of really cheap prop handcuffs, courtesy of my Police Foundations-attending brother. So a friend of mine came with me, and we drove out to Aylmer, Quebec. It was fairly close to where my mother lived at the time. I park the car, ditch the shoes, and run out to this arrangement of trees. Barefoot. In snow. We got a few fairly nice shots with an iPhone camera, then bolted back. I…still can’t say for sure whether or not it was worth it…
‘Virtually Reality’, though – I adore my cover for it. That was courtesy of a friend of mine who designs book covers, and I remembered seeing a bit of her work. I’d finished the novel and was just in hyper-drive, fixating on the cover. We discussed some mock-ups, and one of them was just completely perfect, and so the deed was done! I’m still really happy with it, I show it off whenever possible.
What are your current projects?
Right now, I’m in the process of considering which route I want to go in. I have two horror novels I’m considering – one of them is an entirely fresh project, based on this (oh-so-foolish) idea I had to challenge myself, while the other would be converting one of my non-conventional stories into novel format. There’s potential for the latter to be a serial, as well, and so far I have about…three sentences, down on paper?
The other project I’ve been steadily developing is a fantasy series, and the only thing stopping me from working on it is that I have half of a language formed! I’m debating whether or not to go all-out and create some more terminology, or stick with what I have for fear of it being overkill. I’m not too rushed with the idea, though, because these characters are ones that I’ve had fully-formed in my head since I was about sixteen; they’re not going anywhere. I just hope I can do the story justice, once the world is out of my head and in a reader’s hands.
Is there anything extra you would like to say to your readers?
I’d definitely like to give my gushiest, most heartfelt thanks to anyone who’s read ‘The Wishing Maiden’, and throw a few tears in for the people who’ve said such kind things about my work!
I’d also like to encourage anyone with a strong stomach and who isn’t very easily offended to try out ‘Virtually Reality’, when it comes out. Fans of the psychologically twisted who also (like me) want to see a lot more diversity in horror novels, without it amounting to ‘the gay one dies’, should appreciate my intentions behind writing a varied cast.
Of course, when my future works start popping up online as well, you’d all have my gratitude if you felt those are worth checking out, too!