Read part one here.
Airship Ambassador: Authors often talk about how elements of their own lives, the reality and the dreams, make their way into their stories. How did this play into Bones
Rhea Rose: That’s such a big question. While everything in the story is fiction, like all stories, everything draws from one’s own personal experiences. Each element of the story would have its own mind map. For example the red barn—in my early twenties I had a personal fascination with decrepit barns. They haunted me. I sought them out and took photos of them. I painted them (on canvas) and even to this day, I still am somewhat of a barn stalker. They affect me deeply. I have no idea why. I’m a city girl, born in the Toronto area and raised there until I was 12(and then off to another city, Vancouver). I’m also deeply drawn to and affected by hydro power towers; I consider these to be the modern day totem pole; who knows why? But I can’t leave them alone. I used to photograph them quite a bit.
I do rely heavily on dreams for my writing but not so in this case, except that I used to have fantastic dreams about space and stars and flying. I am a high school teacher and I’ve lived long enough to see some crazy changes take place in the classroom. I teach in an old school that had a life of its own long before I got there and through decluttering and nosiness discovered an old creed from the 1800’s for teachers and old wooden instruments, like a yardstick for example, lol, and chalk and a wooden protractor. I myself have taught several grades in one classroom which is very much like the old one room school house.
I hated reading Roughing it in the Bush (I might appreciate it more now) at university and Bones was a way for me to make that entire prairie immigrant episode in Canadian history a more interesting experience for me. I love glass and especially black glass; I love dragons and I love travel. All of those elements are in this story.
AA: That has to be the best response to that question I’ve had in these interviews. It’s interesting how seemingly unconnected aspects of our life can come together in unexpected ways to create something amazing. What kind of back story is there for Bones which didn’t make it into the final book?
RR: When a writer is dreaming into a story there are lands and islands that aren’t and shouldn’t be visible in the story itself, only sensed. It’s like the iceberg; the tip of the iceberg—is the part you see, and is attached to all the stuff below that had to be dreamed up in order to give the story some fabric, some legs to stand on. I think my story hints at some of that back story.
Grant and Susanna come from an overcrowded future where having children isn’t permitted. They are trying to save lives in a future that doesn’t have enough room for the population on the planet. They were lovers in their world from the future but are strangers in their world from the past. They’ve made a huge personal sacrifice for a greater cause.
For back story I had to think about who they are in the future, what kind of jobs they had, what could motivate them to act as they had. How are their characters in their future life when they are a couple different from the characters they act out in the story’s present setting?
AA: Things sounded pretty final at the end but might there be other stories with Susanna and/or Grant?
RR: That’s a difficult question. I don’t generally write a short story with the thought of creating a bigger world, or continuing the characters in other adventures, nor do I write a short story from a bigger world I’ve previously created (but now that you’ve given me the idea, I might try it); if I were to use the two characters again they would have to appear in prequels, the times previous to the moment Bones is set in. Perhaps by going to their future and writing up to this short story’s moment, I would get ideas for future based stories with this couple (things that happen to them after this story). I do love their steampunk world.
AA: Happy to help out 🙂 I’d look forward to reading more stories. When people read Bones, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?
RR: To be honest, I never think about that when I create a story. But maybe, at the risk of sounding overly sentimental and patriarchal, something like, we Canadians, whether from the future, past or present, are resilient, loving, smart, creative beings and at times, crazy canucks. We are the best! We’re subtle and caring and we run deep, like a cool, clean stream that everyone wants to drink from in a crazy and polluted world. We try to make things work for everybody, maybe too much so.
AA: Yay, canucks! How long did it take to write, and rewrite, Bones? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?
RR: That’s always a difficult question to answer. In some ways it took me years to write this story, in another it took a weekend, but on average it takes me 3 writing days to write a short story. My writing day generally consists of 2 or 3, 2 hour stints. I write when I can. I have a full time day job. But that first writing is just a rough draft, I then put it away and work on the next one, and so on. I generally don’t rewrite a story until I see a market I think it might suit. Then I look at it again and rewrite.
I will rewrite and transform a story for as long as needed until it finds a home. A few times I went through a stage where every short story I sent out was considered until the very end and then the story wound up being the last story cut. Those stories I send to a group of writing friends who will go through and edit for me and make suggestions.
The scheduling for editing of this story was just fine. I did most of my communicating and rewriting on weekends, usually on Sunday, just like I’m doing for this interview. I block out Sunday for writing. I didn’t find anything difficult with deadlines and publishing for Bones. It’s always fun and a thrill to have your work accepted. I always want my story to be the best that it can be, so I don’t mind doing edits.
AA: It’s also nice to have a job which you enjoy so thoroughly! What kind of research, and then balance, went into creating the Bones world?
RR: I did talk about research in a previous question, but I will say now that the internet is available research is a breeze and it’s fun to do. I remember a time when if I had to research a story I had to go a library. I once went out to UBC to look at their maps of Mars; this was quite a while ago. That was quite the trek, now I can google Mars and look at it in real time. For this short story I had to research steam engines, radium, and where in the province of Saskatchewan are uranium mines located. That’s why I had to set it in Northern Sask. Originally; I set it in anywhere Saskatchewan. When I first wrote this story, I wanted it to be heavily character driven. I spent time on developing the characters, well, as much as one can in a short story. I believe the character development balances out with the rest of the short story elements, which I kept to a minimum.
AA: Research really can be so much fun in itself. Personally, I think it’s fun to jump down the rabbit hole of links, jumping from one page to another, never quite such where the journey will lead. What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the Bones history?
RR: I hope they feel it. I tried to evoke the past by selecting details that are symbolic but not cliché of that era. For example, horse and carriage, bonnet, suspenders, dusty boots, wooden slats, chalk boards, green from a garden, just reading that list starts to take me backwards in time.
Time to pause in our chat with Rhea. Join us again when she talks about publishing experiences, lessons learned, and growing as a writer.
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