Interview with Rebecca Holmes, author of Beyond the Gloaming Pass
Rebecca Holmes is an adult fantasy author from Vancouver, Canada. Her debut novel, Beyond the Gloaming Pass, is a heart-wrenching tale of two women fighting for their place in a harsh world of magic, prejudice, and ethereal beauty. She writes what she loves to read – vibrant worlds, rich cultures and multilayered characters, exploring deeper topics through authentically realized emotions and drawing parallels with the real world. When she isn’t writing or reading, she’s a product manager, ecommerce expert, and avid PC gamer. She shares her home with her mum and her dog – a very cute papillon named Piper.
What is your favourite dragon in literature?
Smaug, from The Hobbit.
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
My first book writing attempts were nonfiction which, looking back, did not make much sense as I practically never read nonfiction. I doubt I’ll ever resurrect those. My first fiction book did eventually become a finished product, but it took me eleven years to get there!
Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?
This is going to sound odd, but… stamina. In the beginning, I found it extremely difficult to write for more than an hour or so at a time. That hour might yield a paragraph if I was lucky, and I’d probably come back and rewrite it later anyway. I had to wrestle with my brain not just to focus, but also to be in the right frame of mind, and to willingly dig into my past experiences to draw up the emotions needed to write convincingly. It was like a muscle I had to exercise and strengthen to the point where I could comfortably pump out a thousand half-decent words in one sitting.
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
Now, I think I probably could – assuming I continue to have the same amount of time and energy to invest in writing. I sincerely hope I do! At times, my day job has grown so all consuming it left little space for creative endeavours. Work-life balance is crucial to keep the creative juices flowing productively, but that’s sometimes easier said than achieved. I have ideas for another four books in the same series as Beyond the Gloaming Pass. I’m in love with the world I’ve created for that series: flawed, but magnificent; harsh, but beautiful. I plan to release one book a year for the next four years!
What kind of research do you conduct while writing your books? How does it influence your writing and shape the story?
My stories are set in a fictional world, which gives me a lot of freedom to create my own rules. However, my goal is for the setting to feel historically plausible. I’ll regularly fact-check historical technology, aesthetics and cultures to achieve that grounded, down to earth feeling in my work as an undercurrent to the fantastical elements. In Beyond the Gloaming Pass, the main characters start off in the city of Tunswick, which is loosely based on Victorian London. I found actual video footage from the late 1800s of a London intersection and used this to paint a more realistic mental image of life in my fictional city. I have some very peculiar Google search history – everything from ‘how to dry fish on a rack’ to ‘common causes of warehouse fires in the 19th century’.
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
I can write anywhere quiet and distraction-free. All I need is my laptop! I used to write in Google Docs, which got the job done but caused me some headaches with formatting later on. Now I use Atticus, which takes care of all the formatting for me and allows me to split into parts and chapters as I go. It’s a lot more organized. Usually I write at home, or in my hotel room if I’m traveling. My most productive hours tend to be late at night.
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
I used a combination of friends who like my genre and people who reacted positively to my postings on Critique Circle. I put my prologue up for review on that site and was able to establish a relationship with potential beta readers that way. I had three beta readers in total who did an excellent job between them.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
My reading is almost entirely digital. I’m a member of Kindle Unlimited and get most of my books from there. The best thing about that is I get to read a lot of indie books and find hidden gems that no one is talking about yet. I often review these on Goodreads, so check out my Goodreads profile for some great indie fantasy recommendations! I love the idea of a home library but it has never been practical. I’ve moved around a lot, and a significant book collection is one of those things that multiplies the pain of moving tenfold. Who knows, maybe in the future my book cave dreams will come true!
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?
I think I’ve always been a fantasy nut as long as I can remember. I’ve sampled all sorts, but I generally prefer the historical kind – whether that’s a version of our world or an alternate world analogous to a familiar time period. I don’t read a lot of romance, and tend to get put off if things get too steamy. Having said that, one obscure book from my childhood that had a huge influence on my writing style wasn’t fantasy at all: Grace, by Jill Paton Walsh, is a novel based on the true story of Grace Darling, an English heroine from 1838. Walsh’s writing style is very unique, and perfectly suited to a first-person narrative from that time period. I think it was her book that started my obsession with the authenticity of historical concepts in fiction.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?
I hate social media too, but as an author I have to do it. The technology aspect is fine – I’m very tech-savvy – but it presents a particular challenge for me because I don’t understand the appeal of using the platforms on a personal level. I’m learning about the world of BookTok right now to connect with other authors and readers in my genre as I’m well aware how huge it’s become. Not somewhere I expect to be spending any time ‘just for fun’ though. I’d much rather be writing or reading!
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?
I don’t mind, and I know the importance of unique content from a search engine optimization perspective. My goal is to always provide uniquely-worded answers and keep it interesting for the reader, even if the general sentiment of my answers is the same from one interview post to the next. For that reason, I won’t copy-paste answers.
About the Book
That barren, supposedly cursed land everyone’s afraid of? It’s inhabited. Sophisticated. They’re doing just fine, and they’re tougher than you. Are you brave enough to venture Beyond the Gloaming Pass?
In this emotional high fantasy adventure, two women fight for their place in a broken continent with broken systems. Years of hardship have put a heavy strain on Rubriel and Molindra’s friendship. When a contract from a wealthy merchant offers a hefty payout for a dangerous mission in a mysterious land, Molindra seizes the opportunity for a better life. Little do they know, that land has ambitions of its own. The pair find themselves swept onto opposite sides of a bitter conflict that spirals rapidly out of control. Will they reunite and save Bantria from the growing threat, or become unwitting agents of its destruction?
Learn more and purchase this novel at the following links: