Today’s interview is with indie author Becket, whose books include The Blood Vivicanti series and the Key The Steampunk Vampire Girl books, including the recently released The Tower Tomb of Time. When not writing, Becket works for author Anne Rice and is supplementing his education with a degree in psychology.
I had the chance to email Becket and learn a little bit about him, his books, and what it’s like to work for Anne Rice. It was definitely an enjoyable correspondence.
RU: So Becket, you’ve had quite the interesting life, working as an author, working for an author, and at one point you were a Benedictine monk. Makes me curious about what else you’ve done, so could you give us a brief history of yourself?
Becket: I entered the seminary when I was 21 because I wanted to deepen my relationship with God as well as be a minister of hope, faith, and love. I spent three years in the seminary, during which time I also finished my BA in music composition. Then in the summer of 2000, I entered a Benedictine monastery, St. Joseph Abbey in Covington, LA. The spiritual charisma of the monastic life appealed to my personality type. The monks lived a very silent life, guided by two principals of work and prayer. During my first year in the monastery, Anne Rice requested a harpsichord for a book signing in New Orleans. We monks had a very nice one; and the abbot asked me to deliver it because of my musical background – I had studied the instrument in college, along with several others. That was when Anne and I first met. We developed an email rapport over the next few years while I was earning my MA in theology. When I completed my degree in 2005, I decided that it was time for me to re-enter lay life and, needing a job, I emailed Anne, asking her fi she had a job on her staff for a former monk with a few degrees. She replied with a job offer. I’ve been with Anne ever since, studying the craft of writing under her guidance while also earning an MS in psychology.
RU: What is it like, working for Anne Rice? Besides the amount of jealousy you must receive from fans including myself, I mean.
Becket: What is it like, working for Anne Rice?
Working for Anne Rice is like working for a childhood hero. I first read Anne’s books when I was a teen. Being a lonely adolescent, an outsider, Anne’s words spoke to me powerfully – because her words have a wonderful way of showing empathy for the outsider/reader. Many days she and I talk about literature and the book publishing business. It is a continual learning experience. Every day I learn something helpful and significant about my writing, about the publishing of my own books, about my own capacity for problem-solving, about many things. But every day is a new experience because every day I’m presented with a new challenge. Before I started working for Anne, I had never used Photoshop. So to assist her as best as I could, I learned many new skills, such as photography, shooting video, proper lighting, sound engineering, etc. I also learned several programs in the Adobe Creative Suite, namely Photoshop, Illustrator, and even Premier Pro and After Effects. Most of those programs I use every day, whether it is creating an app for Anne, or posting an image, or editing a video for Youtube. And today all those programs have helped me greatly in my own work; they are invaluable book publishing tools. A successful indie author cannot live on Word alone.
RU: Tell me about it. iMovie and Photoshop have been great tools in the past for me. Now, you’re new book is the latest adventure for your character Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl. Tell us about her and the new book.
Becket: Key’s new adventure picks up where the last book left off: Key has just escaped from the Dungeon of Despair. Yet unlike the last book, which takes place over the course of 250 years, the course of this book happens in a single night. Key gets to do what she has not done in over two centuries: She gets to explore the City of the Dead. She rides a Hobbeetle, she meets the Worm King, she visits the Grave of the Grim Goblin, whose not as grim or dead as some people might think, and she does so much more! Ultimately she finds herself at the Tower Tomb of Time, which allows her to visit the moment when she was first made a vampire. She discovers the mystery behind her mom and dad’s disappearance, as well as the reason she was taken to the City of the Dead in the first place. In other words, The Tower Tomb of Time explores questions that were raised in The Dungeon of Despair.
RU: Some people would hesitate to write a vampire novel these days when most people associate vampires with Twilight. What made you decide to write about vampires?
Becket: Before there was Twilight, there was Anne Rice. She was ground breaking (and indeed she still is) in the sense that she made the vampire a Byronic hero – someone whom we could easily identify with. Moreover, being a vampire isn’t the story of Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl – which is fundamentally the case with Bella, the heroine of Twilight. Bella actively seeks to become a blood drinker. Key, on the other fang, like Anne’s Louis or Lestat, never wanted to be a vampire at all. Becoming what she is happened to her, and then lots more terrible things happened to her, and so she has to make the best of her situation. That kind of narrative ambience is what I strove to create when I wrote Key. I hope readers will associate with her story and say to himself or herself, “I know how she feels being in the Dungeon of Despair, or confronting the Worm King, or revisiting a past that was hitherto forsaken.” Additionally, I hope readers would also feel inspired by Key’s successes and victories over personal demons. Key’s story is a coming of age story.
RU: What is your writing process like for you?
Becket: Generally my process begins with an idea, which usually comes to me while I’m writing another book. I write down that idea, and if it stays with me for some time, I will jot down notes about potential plot development, prose style, themes, and so on. When I finish one novel, I immediately begin another; there is no waiting for me. I write every day. It is a routine. And the routine for starting new novels is grounded in two goals: (1) the long-term goal of my book, and (2) the short-term goal of my daily writing. My long-term goal is the size of the book that I want to write, and I generally determine that by comparing it with other books. For instance, I know that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is about 25,000 words. So if I am seeking to create a children’s story, such as Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl, I will make the long-term goal of my first draft comparable to 25,000 words. My short-term goal is the amount of words that I will write in a day. On average my goal is at least 1000 words a day; usually I write more, often twice as much; and some times I write fewer words. The point isn’t perfection: It’s progress. As long as I am writing, I am coming closer to the completion of a book.
RU: I admire your tenacity. Now what are some tips you might have for other self-published authors, such as myself, on writing and getting your work out there?
Becket: The beauty of indie-publishing is in the word “indie” – independent. This is a quintessential word to keep in mind because, if a writer gets embroiled in the industry of professional book publishing, that writer would lose some degree of control. The writer would usually not be able to control, for instance, interior or exterior formatting. In other words, you would probably have little to say in the creation of your book jacket. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard professionally published authors complain about their book jacket, how it does not look like the story they told. Other authors have complained about the struggle they have with their editor or copy editor, how important words will be edited out, or how sometimes sentences or pages completely rewritten. There are some authors who want to be controlled like that. And that is good! Great books have been written with the help of excellent editors. But finding such an editor is like finding love in your life: It usually happens when you least expect it. Being an indie-author means controlling every element of your work. I like this, not micro-managing, but being purposeful and meaningful with every element that I produce.
RU: I love that independence too. It’s gone well for me. So what’s next for you, Becket?
Becket: The Blood Vivicanti Parts 5 and 6 will come in March and April. And after that, I will be publishing a book titled, The Door to Heaven, which is about a boy whose life is changed forever when he encounters an old man’s face on the doorknob to the Door to Heaven.
RU: That “Door To Heaven” sounds very Stephen King-ish. Last question: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take three books with you, which books would you take?
Becket: Well, I am a man of faith and prayer, so I would probably take the ESV Bible (because I like that translation), The Imitation of Christ, and a book of blank pages, so that my mind could fill it up with my own stories.
RU: I love it when authors say they want to bring a blank notebook with them. Shows their true writing spirit, in some ways. Well, thanks for joining us, Becket, and best of luck to you.
If you’d like to find out more about Becket or check out some of his books, you can check out his website, his Facebook page, Twitter feed, and get personally autographed copies from the Changing Hands Bookstore.
Our next scheduled interview is March 31st with author and dear friend Angela Misri, who will be talking about her debut novel Jewel of the Thames. So get excited for that!