Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams.
I had the pleasure of meeting her at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con, and we have been amusing each other on Facebook ever since.
For what age audience do you write?
I write contemporary fantasy for adults and young adults, with a healthy dollop of horror. Because I can’t resist adding things that scare me.
Henry: dol·lop (ˈdäləp) noun (not to be confused with dalek) – a shapeless mass or blob of something, especially soft food. Or HORROR!! Healthy dollop: a larger shapeless mass or blob, when a normal-sized blob just won’t do.
Tell us about your latest book.
The tagline on the back cover – which I love! – is “Stephen King’s The Gunslinger meets Breaking Bad.”
Many Westerns begin with the story of a stranger coming to town, and this story is no exception. Geologist Petra Dee arrives in the tiny town of Temperance, Wyoming, to find clues about her father’s disappearance decades before. In the course of her investigation, Petra stumbles across a string of weirdly desiccated bodies that she can’t explain with science. She finds herself in a war among the local cattle baron, his undead minions, and a drug-dealing alchemist. It’s very weird west meets contemporary fantasy.
Henry: A geologist named Petra!? As in Petra-fied? Better call Saul!
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I’ve been accumulating books on alchemy for many years, and I was thrilled to finally be able to put them to good use. The whole history of alchemy is fascinating to me: the intricate symbolism, the obsession with immortality, the idea that rocks could be changed to gold. The theme of this book deals with the first of seven processes in classical alchemy, the calcination process, in which all that is known is reduced to ash in the crucible of the alchemist’s lab.
Henry: As writers, we go through a similar process wherein all of our first draft is reduced to ash in the crucible of our word processing software and self-doubt.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
The most challenging part for me is always getting started. Staring at the blank page scares the daylights out of me. It’s a vast void that could become something awesome, or something really terrible.
Henry: Writers vary wildly on this score. For me, the most challenging aspect is knowing when to STOP revising. Was that a valid piece of feedback, or should I stick with my original vision? Vacillation, recrimination, excessive Twinkie consumption. You know the drill.
Read the rest of this interview at Henry’s blog on KidLit, Fantasy & Science Fiction.