Funniest and probably most flatteringly awesome—a young reader told me my first novel Winds Cove was in her apocalypse-survival bag alongside her Bible.
If you were an architect what type of house/building would you design? Explain your answer, please.
A Gothic castle ruin complete with crumbling stone and sweeping staircases to nowhere, though we’ll defy logic and allow a single surviving stained glass window. Preferably portraying a nighttime forest scene with perhaps a single bluish moonbeam. It will be predominantly open-air but there will be at least one roof in tact to shield me from my mortal enemy, the Vulture Sun. There will be plants and trees and vines swarming around it. And I will write there. Everyday.
Why Gothic? I am rather Gothic by nature—not just in the wearing-all-black kind of way (my mother and husband have all but given up trying to get me to integrate color into my wardrobe just as I have all but given up trying to explain the wonders of the gloriously rich and varied black spectrum) but also for the darkness and therefore contrasting light of the era, for those delicious angles and sharp points, for the soaring aesthetics. And let’s not forget those flying buttresses. Why ruins? Well, I’m a tragic romantic and few things are more tragically romantic than the decay of a work of art. I also love contrasts—manmade structures being reclaimed by Nature; beauty and decay; shadow and flickering, gleaming light.
Do you ever laugh or cry while reading your own books? Explain.
Absolutely. I cry at odd parts. Sad and moving parts, sure. But also sometimes at other parts that would likely strike most as definite-not-crying scenes. The reason behind this is often wrapped up in music. I often use music to trigger scenes and then that music is forever associated with that scene. And then there’s my own little quirk—I don’t always cry at sad parts or happy parts, but I often tear up when I see something that captivates me—some exquisite beauty like spotting Leo in the night sky after reading “The Lion, The Unicorn, and Me” by Jeanette Winterson on Christmas Eve, or a creature running the race of their lives like a horse racing across a meadow or down an Australian mountainside or down a homestretch or a cheetah running for her life or my late Greyhound Kingsley surging across the trespassed-upon-softball-field (Shhh!), racing flat out. So combine that quirk with the appropriate epic music and you’ll find me with tear tracks on my face after reading a scene I wrote where somebody runs fast. My husband’s looks of alarm have changed to baffled head-shakes over the years. I like to think it helps me maintain my mystery.
And laughing—yes yes yes. The reason for this is simple. I am not a funny writer. I can occasionally make my friends laugh on Facebook, sure, but the art form of comedy has always eluded me in the storied written word which is why I gave up trying to be funny in my novels. So when I come across something funny in my stories, I laugh out loud in surprise and delight to find a humorous gem in my own work. Even though I’m the one who wrote it, it’s always unexpected.
What is the last book you read? Why did you read it?
The Peter Pan graphic novel adaptation by Renae de Liz. Gorgeous GORGEOUS artwork. For “real” books, the last book I read was Alexander Key’s Escape to Witch Mountain, one of my all-time favorites, to help me transition from writing the reimagined faerie tale I’d just finished to the science fantasy novel I’m currently working on. Before that Raven Black by Ann Cleves, and it was for my bookclub. And the title was “Raven Black” so…
What author, living or dead, would you most like to meet and what would you ask them?
Either H. Rider Haggard or Alexander Key.
I can’t think of any particular questions I would ask them—Since he was a real-life Victorian adventurer, I think I’d like to go on safari with Mr. Haggard so long as he didn’t shoot any lions and I was allowed to wear pants, and I’d like to stargaze with Mr. Key and wonder about the Universe together.
Who wrote your favorite book, the one you have read over and over again? What makes this book your favorite?
Okay, after serious thought and consideration, I’ve managed to narrow it down to a 6-way tie…
Alexander Key’s Escape to Witch Mountain—I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this one. It was my gateway as a child to the Science Fiction genre and began (along with Superman) my lifelong obsession with super-powered humanoid aliens. Because I’m cool like that. I was especially drawn to the themes of isolation, special gifts, and finding a home in this world. Or in all the worlds for that matter. Mr. Key’s novels always held a sense of wonder for what else might be out there in the Universe and a loathing of how Mankind has come to treat each other, our fellow creatures, and our own world. His books are filled with magic and mystery, and they continue to bring me a fiercely deep and quiet joy. Escape was the first of his that I read and remains my favorite, but I adore all of his books and reread them every chance I get.
Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond—the “discovery” of my beloved New England, painted in all her glorious dripping greens, the New England people at their best and worst, and again the themes of isolation and finding home. I never get tired of this book.
H. Rider Haggard’s SHE—oh my goodness, what’s not to love about this one. A lost civilization hidden away in a volcano caldera in an uncharted region of Africa ruled by an immortal queen, the original power-woman Ayesha, SHE Who Must Be Obeyed. And incidentally the inspiration for Disney’s Evil Queen in Snow White. This story is brimming with adventure and magic and deals with themes of the literal power of beauty and immortality. It also contains my favorite love story of all time.
Mary Stewart’s Thornyhold—I read this every Halloween along with Irving’s “Sleepy Hollow.” It’s not really especially Halloweeny. But it’s about a lonely artist-girl who inherits her great aunt Gilleis (rumored to be a witch, albeit a good one)’s cottage Thornyhold tucked away in the English countryside of a crumbling estate with animals abounding and a dashingly handsome writer for a neighbor. The lovely writing, the wistfulness of the heroine, the wonderful Wonderful house and its wonderful wonderful gardens and animals, and the touch of magic sprinkled here and there make it a treasured story that resonates with every fiber of my wistful being and make for a cherished reading day that I look forward to every year.
Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca—The haunting atmosphere, the isolated protagonist, the gloriousness of Manderley, and the sheer brilliance of a villain you never even see. I cannot read this one enough.
Terry Brooks’ The Elfstones of Shannara—Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara was my gateway to the High Fantasy genre and so is the one I typically think of for my top faves but to be honest the sequel Elfstones is the story that haunts me still with its glorious arcing theme of sacrifice.
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C.M. Huddleston's Review of Beauty & the Beast by Rebecca Hammond Yager
First a bit of background, I had never read Beauty & the Beast, or seen any of the movies. So when I started reading Rebecca Yager’s retelling of the story, I started with a fresh mind. Now any other version, movie or book, is ruined for me. Rebecca’s version flows with captivating prose, snappy dialogue, and characters to make you weep, laugh, wonder, and dream. Her story telling wisdom and art are superb, and I could not have asked for more. I can’t wait until her next retelling or her next book. Sit back and enjoy this marvelous version of an old classic - you won’t regret it.