...Creating Beautiful Books

Meet Rebecca Laffar-Smith, writer

Rebecca Laffar-Smith is one of our Writing the Dream contributors. An author; a publisher; a mother. Rebecca loves bringing the joy of reading to children, exploring magical words of wonder and darkness, and fairy tales of happily ever after romance. As you can imagine, that leaves her torn between her three passions. She writes science fiction and fantasy under the name Rebecca Laffar-Smith, romance under the name Serenity Bly, children’s books under the name Bec J. Smith, and publishes books for children with language and literacy difficulties at Aulexic. Visit her website.

What are you working on now? Describe it in 15-20 words or less.

I’m writing my first Choose Your Own Adventure. It’s a fantastical pirate-themed series of adventures for middle grade readers.

Where did your desire to write come from?

I can’t say I really know where it came from. I’ve wanted to write stories for as long as I can remember, from the time I knew what stories were and was learning how to put words on a page. I keep coming back to it because I have a yearning to be heard. I feel like stories are a wonderful way to enrich the world.

What do you think about the phrase ‘write what you know’?

I think there are two schools behind the idea. One is that you should only write about the things you already have experience with, and the other is to immerse yourself in your subject matter so that your writing is authentic. I feel we are living in a world where we have the opportunity to ‘know’ about anything at all we might like to write about which gives us a lot of freedom.

As a writer of first drafts I am, however, an advocate of writing what you want, and getting to know it later. I find first drafts are best when written from passion and fancy. I believe research can be done after, to fill in the gaps of what you do need to know, rather than holding off beginning until you feel confident you know enough to begin.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

The writing. For me at least, I find writing the first draft the hardest stage. I know other writers love that part and find editing hard. I recently shared with others that I have aphantasia, it’s a condition where I can’t visualise things in my mind’s eye. So, when I’m writing I’m pulling together concepts but I can’t “see” it in my mind. I’m so envious of writers who talk about their experience of writing a first draft as “watching a movie” in their mind and just putting words to what they’re seeing. I can’t do that; I can’t “see” my stories as I’m writing them. I think this is part of why I find that first draft so hard. Once I have a foundation to work with I find it easier to shape the story and make it sing which I suppose is why I prefer the editing stage over the writing.

What would you like your Facebook Page status to say in 2018?

Wow! I really have no idea. Even just two years ago I could never have imagined I would be where I am today so I’m a little afraid to speculate on what might be two years ahead of me. Perhaps, “So thrilled to be celebrating Aulexic’s third anniversary! Special thanks to the authors, illustrators, and fabulous Aulexic team who have made the publishing house a wonderful success. Here’s to many more bright and happy futures, and to continuing to transform the lives of children around the world.”

What inspires you in life?

My children are perhaps my biggest inspiration at this stage of my life. The writing and publishing I do now are primarily for them and for other children like them. Knowing we can make a difference to the lives of children who struggle with language and literacy gives me a purpose that, every day, motivates me to do the hard work involved.

What is your favourite quote?

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Toni Morrison

What is the best book-to-movie you’ve ever seen, and why? And the worst?

The best is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The creators of the movie did a fabulous job cutting out the cruft and waffle that bogs down the books and makes them challenging to read. Tolkien was a brilliant storyteller and created a fabulously rich world but his background as a historian tended to cause a bloating of info-dump in his novels. The books are fabulous, if you have the staying power to keep reading through the excessive description and world-building. But the movie adaptation cut out everything the reader didn’t need and gave the audience the rich fullness of the stories that were buried in the books.

The worst, for me, was Eragon. I was in my early twenties when, having been a lover of the books, I watched the movie. I came out of the cinema in tears. I think the reason it so deeply cut me was because I could imagine being Christopher Paolini whose book was slaughtered in the adaptation. So much was changed or chopped that the heart of the original story was lost. That day I vowed that if ever a book of mine were to be adapted for the screen I’d want to have a strong voice in the production, like J.K. Rowling had with Harry Potter, so that the core of my book was the core of the movie.

Since that experience, I’ve learned to consider every movie and book as distinct works of art. The producers and directors and writers involved in creating book-to-movie adaptations add their own creative insight and interpretation so that it’s never the book on the big screen, but a unique variation that can and should stand alone.

What’s the last thing that made you laugh?

My children and I have recently been playing a video game called Ark: Survival Evolved. In it, we’re primitives trying to survive on an island in an age when dinosaurs walk the Earth. Thankfully, we’re pretty savvy primitives so we’re learning to make tools and to tame and domesticate the dinosaurs. Recently, we tamed a giant brontosaurus and almost the second we had it under our control, my son wanted to know if we could build a base on top of it so that we’d be able to stay mobile and high off the ground away from any other dinosaurs.

Sadly, for all involved, we weren’t able to build the foundation of a building on the back of the brontosaurus, but my son assures me he’s seen it done in a YouTube video so maybe we just need to build a saddle first or something. We’ll figure it out.

Still, the idea of building a base on the back of a brontosaurus certainly made me laugh and is one of the many wild ways his mind works that keeps me endlessly entertained.

In a letter to your 16-year-old self, what advice would you give?

By sixteen I was actually starting to come through the rough patches and the only advice I’d have for my sixteen-year-old self would be to keep on keeping on.

At fifteen however I was in a really bad place. My Bipolar disorder was just breaking out and so I was in the crazy turmoil of highs that made me reckless, (drinking, skipping school, blowing off my friends,) and the lows that had me suicidal, (curled up in a ball, tuning out the world, and thinking it would be better off without me). To that fifteen-year-old self my letter would be short but say:

“I love you. I see you. You matter. Tell someone.”

And the words I’d leave with any teenager would be, “Stay tuned! Life gets better than this.”

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