The Short Version:
I write young adult fantasy novels about girls who wield passion, swords and magic. I live in Georgia with my husband and our lively Australian Shepherd, Sierra.
The Long-winded Tale:
The very first book I wrote was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I was six, and took it upon myself to also illustrate.
After that, I never stopped writing.
All through elementary, middle and high school, I was a voracious reader, and some of my favorite books growing up were The Chronicles of Narnia, Beauty by Robin McKinley, Mara Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, The Lord of the Rings, the Dear America Diaries, The Saddle Club, and anything by Jane Austen. I have so many containers of loose papers, of abandoned chapter ones, of complete story outlines that never went anywhere, and random scenes I wrote that I simply could not throw away. Most of these early stories were very similar to the aforementioned books that I loved, because those stories impacted me deeply, and I was still trying to discover my own voice on the page.
I wrote a lot through high school. I am the oldest of six children, which means 1) I am very driven and stubbornly dedicate myself wholeheartedly to things and 2) my younger siblings used to spy on me. They claim I was very boring to spy on, because I would literally be in my room writing. I didn’t date while I was in high school, but I played basket ball and volleyball, had amazing girl friends, rode horses everyday, and my literary BF was Aragorn.
When I started college, I was an English major. Between all the papers and literature and part time jobs, I had no time to write for myself. Even so, I soaked in plenty of words and stories. But I soon got asked this question A LOT: “What are you going to do with an English major? Teach? Oh, you’re not going to teach? Well, what on earth are you going to do with an English major?” I did not choose to study English to teach; I chose to study English because I was passionate about writing. But when I answered those people, saying, “I want to write for a living,” they would look at me as if I had just said, “I am going to Hollywood and am going to star in a movie with Brad Pitt.” And yes, I understand why I got those looks. To write for a living is an incredible gift, and requires a lot of grit and determination to get there.
So when I transferred to UGA, I changed my major. I decided I should aim for a major that would give me a definite job when I graduated, and quiet those looks I was getting. I’ve always been fascinated with nutrition, so I chose Dietetics. It was a bold choice, and I am not a risk taker. I floundered through a year of heavily science based classes. But it wasn’t until I was sitting in my Organic Chemistry class (literally, one of the hardest classes in UGA) waiting for lecture to begin did the magic return to me in the smallest of ways. There was a school newspaper crumbled at my feet, and I picked it up. I smoothed away the wrinkles to read an article about Jackson Pearce, who is a UGA alumni and an incredible YA author. I read about her books and why she writes YA, and I thought, Becca, what are you doing sitting in this chemistry class? Why aren’t you writing? Why aren’t you going for it, like Jackson? But remember how I told you I was the stubbornly dedicated oldest? Yeah. I literally had to get a D in O-Chem to realize that 1) I was miserable and failing at this 2) I needed to redirect my life. I tell this story because I want you to know that failures are never final unless you choose them to be, and that sometimes it takes a failure to help you see what path you need to be on.
So I returned to English. And the first thing to greet me when I walked into Park Hall was this: someone had taken a permanent marker, drawn a Hobbit foot on the wall with the slogan “Frodo Lives.” I knew then that I had come home.
I graduated cum laude with my bachelors in English in May of 2012. I went on to work at another college and it was a wonderful job, but I still was not writing.
It was a cold night on January 5, 2015, and I was sitting at my dining room table, working on story ideas. That was when I first saw Brienna talking with this handsome, strict Master Cartier, and she said to me, “The summer solstice is in eight days, and I still have not mastered my passion.” And I was like, “Who are you and what are you talking about?” It was the seed that THE QUEEN’S RISING bloomed from. And once I realized what Brienna was talking about, I drafted the book in a wild can’t eat, can’t sleep forty-eight days.
Seven drafts later, on May 13, I queried Suzie Townsend. She loved it, offered to represent me, and I cried like a baby.
On October 1, 2015, Karen Chaplin at HarperTeen read it and made me a preemptive offer to publish it and two other books. Again, I cried like a baby.
I tell you all of this because I want you to know that THE QUEEN’S RISING would not have happened had I not pursued what I loved. It began when I was six years old, retelling Beauty and the Beast. It was encouraged through all the years I read and wrote, trying to find my own voice. And it was challenged when I realized that I shouldn’t waste four years of my college life studying something I am not passionate about.
Life is too short and arduous to not go for what you love.
Follow your passion.