This week, I’ll be sharing interviews from authors whose work is featured in Southern Owl Publications’
upcoming release, Midnight Oil: An Anthology.
Today’s interview is with yours truly, Skyler Rankin. Here are my answers to the Midnight Oil interview team’s questions:
Skyler Rankin, Author
Recording at the studio at Woodland Media Creative Services
1. Inquiring minds want to know what makes you tick. Tell us about your life.
I have a day job working as an administrator with a university, and like most other independent writers, I spend my downtime penning stories. There’s not a huge amount of downtime, unfortunately. I’m also taking some online classes to finish a degree, so yes, I often bite off more than I can comfortably chew. I’m an empty-nester, and I live with my husband and a small herd of domestic pets. We have two cats, a dog, and a plethora of woodland creatures who have declared themselves my wards by eating anything I attempt to grow. I’m a creative person who has a hard time focusing on one thing at a time, which means I have multiple projects going on at once.
2. What was your life like before you became a writer, and how did you get your start as an author?
I began writing early in my pre-teen years, and I always knew I wanted to be an author. I had really practical parents though, who preached the importance of having a real job. Even though it was a tough reality to accept, writing is hard for multiple reasons. First, you craft your stories, which is far more challenging than it sounds, and then you work to publish. Back then, electronic publishing did not exist, and vanity publishing was frowned upon, not to mention expensive. Getting published meant typing your work out on a manual typewriter, sending it off and waiting, and waiting, and sometimes getting no response at all. For many years, I lived on my academic and non-fiction, and now that I’m nearing retirement, I hope to continue with my first love, fiction.
3. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a pantser, a plotter, or something else?
I really appreciate the power of an outline for keeping my work on track. However, there are times that spontaneous writing just feels better and more natural. I’ve carved out my own style which usually begins with a rough outline, following it through to get the story down, and then going back over it to add the flavor that pantsing can provide.
4. Do you have a favorite writing project or a book that still haunts your dreams that you would like to share?
I have so many projects haunting my dreams that it’s hard to pin down a favorite. Time would help. Between working my day job and taking care of my personal life, there’s little time for writing, especially when indies must also do most of their own promotion as well. And while it sounds like a complaint, the truth is, I’m happiest when writing, and nothing thrills me quite like knowing I’ve given someone a fantastic story.
5. Tell us a little about your story in the Midnight Oil Anthology.
Baked is a novella, a mini-mystery centered on characters in the fictional town of Mariner’s Bluff on the shores of Lake Erie. The main character, Trina Sharp, is a former investigative reporter disgraced by having lost her job with a major newspaper. Down on her luck, she retreated to Mariner’s Bluff and took a job at the local paper, a position well below the considerable talent she thinks she’s lost.Newcomer Jacki Vickers opens a bakery. To the dismay of local officials, she plans to sell gourmet muffins with a special ingredient, marijuana, for medicinal purposes. She’s skirting the law, and locals are concerned the business could taint their image as a family-friendly vacation spot.
The timing is especially unfortunate, given the town’s first big fall festival featuring a huge bass fishing tournament that is garnering national attention. In spite of Jacki’s gutsy move, or perhaps because of it, Trina finds Jacki fascinating. Jacki rebuffs Trina’s interest and keeps her at arm’s length.
A young man is found shot dead in the middle of town, just a short distance from the bakery, and evidence of Jacki’s wares is found on the body, along with something else that threatens to put her away for a long, long time. Like a hound on a blood trail, Trina’s passion for the mystery takes over as she hits the investigative trail. Jacki needs her help more than she wants to admit, but she still pushes Trina away.Clearly, Jacki is more than a businesswoman who landed in Mariner’s Bluff to open a bakery, but what? What is her connection to this young man, and what might she have done that may lock her away for life? Is it Trina’s attraction to Jacki driving her need to solve the crime, her need to redeem herself, or a little of both?
As with most of my stories, I envision images for the characters and settings. I roughed out a mock-up cover for this novella to help me set the tone for writing. If the story were released on its own, the cover would look something like this:
6. Do you have works in progress?
Yes, several. I’m working on the sequel to Viral Dawn, which will be entitled Viral Storm. The story picks up with heroine Casey Williams after she is infected by a zombie’s bite while trying to evade military detection in her effort to leave the country to expose the damning evidence she has against BioGenetics, the company that manufactured the deadly virus. Kyle Carter, her new love interest and former soldier, refuses to leave her side even though she threatens to expose their location to the enemy if he doesn’t.Instead, he catches her off guard and gives her their first kiss, one that seals his fate to hers by infecting him as well. The two are now off to procure a new vaccine in development that is rumored to stop the disease. Casey and Kyle, so smart and resourceful, are now racing against time where little is in their control. They’ve made a suicide pact should the virus affect them before they reach their only hope.
Will they make it safely to the research facility before the military or BioGenetics’ contracted guerillas find them? Will they succumb to the virus before they can get help? IF they make it, can they obtain the vaccine before the developers find out who they are? What about the friends they left behind? Can they make it to Canada and expose BioGenetics in time to take the heat off Casey and Kyle?I recently updated the cover for Viral Dawn, and I think it is a more precise reflection of the story:
7. What are your plans for your next book?
After I finish Viral Storm, I may or may not do a sequel. It depends on what Casey wants. Meanwhile, I have another suspense mystery mapped out that involves the whiskey industry in Kentucky. The tentative title is Barrel Proof.
8. Do you have an especially interesting research experience to share?
I take lots of really odd pictures. Whenever we go on vacation or even when I’m out and about doing daily work, if I see something that looks like an interesting story or that might make an interesting cover image, I snap a photo and keep it…apparently forever. Sometimes other people look at me funny when they see me taking pictures of something really strange like a dilapidated building or a section of a wall. They probably think I’m crazy, which is just a synonym for writer.
9. How do you stay in touch with your muse?
Okay, I have to say that sometimes my muse is bossy. She used to be really elusive. I could sit for hours or months and get no good ideas. Now that she’s older, she just comes on out and beats me into submission. In Baked, for example, I had every intention of making Trina’s story all about the mystery. Period. My muse informed me, and Trina was backing her up on this, that Trina was gay, and this story would have a romantic interest between her and Jacki. I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t sure I could pull this off, but they wouldn’t back down. In fact, when I tried to take the novella in another direction, they just left and would not come back until I committed to the story.
Eventually, I gave up because I just work here. I have to admit. They were right. It’s a better story. As an FYI, they gave in to me when I reminded them this was a YA-to-adult book, so they cooperated in keeping the story tame in the romance department.
10. What do you think has contributed the most to your writing style?
For so many years, I’ve focused on what other people tell me to write or what satisfied the need. At times, I think I did this to the detriment of my own voice. At this point, I’m writing the way I think and feel is best. I’m letting the words and phrases flow instead of analyzing everything in light of others’ advice. This isn’t to suggest that others can’t be helpful or that advice I’ve received in the past was necessarily bad, but in the end, it’s the writer’s story. I’ve found I have to listen to that inner voice we call the muse. If I don’t, she and my characters will gang up on me.
11. How can readers follow you online?