Visiting Spacedock 19 today is writer, Peggy Bechko. Her books have been published since she was 22, and she has sixteen novels out there. She’s done Contemporary Romance, Historic Romance, Western & SciFi Fantasy in books. Screen scripts have included SciFi, western, horror (vampire), drama, children’s fantasy & animated. She’s also ghostwritten on, of all things, “ghosthunting”. Ooo!
Her novel Stormrider is Sci-Fi and fantasy: Stormrider, young woman Janissary, quests for justice and peace on her rebellion-torn world, several continents away from what she considers home, and for the missing Amulet that can choose the leader of the worlds in concert. Stormrider is cast adrift in a sea of intrigue, mysticism and magic. Isolated, she is dependent upon her own wits and skills to survive.
MP: Welcome to the lounge, Peggy. Care for a drink? I’d stay away from the chocolate if I were you.
MP: One thing fantasy, historical fiction, and westerns have in common, is they take us to worlds we normally can’t touch. We can’t go to the past and we can’t go to another world. Do you find world-building easier for fantasy or in the other genres?
PB: I can’t say I find any of them ‘easier’. They’re just different. There’s a lot of research that goes into any of them really. With historical fiction and westerns it’s a bit more direct since, as you say, it’s in the past and details are readily researchable. That means, however, you have to watch the details.
You’d be surprised how many letters you can get from folks who read a historic novel and then point out some detail they don’t think is right (sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong). But, if you throw a vampire into a western that churns up a lot of detail dust. The setting remains the same, ‘the west’, but the reality line begins to blur. On the other hand when writing Science Fiction or Fantasy (and really I don’t like seeing them lumped together, yet can understand the underlying reasons) you have a lot more freedom.
With SciFi, of course there are many elements that are reality and must be taken into account although with Quantum Physics in the mix, hmmmmmm. Anyway, in that realm, both Sci Fi and Fantasy it’s more like building a world from scratch while using some underpinnings of what everybody perceives as reality (which of course is a whole ‘nother question when dealing with weird physics these days – what the heck IS reality?) The real key, I think, is staying true to your story and your world.
MP: I learned in philosophy class that we’re all just swirling atoms in shopping carts drifting down the Delaware River … Maybe. I was half asleep when the professor said that. You write many other things besides fiction — screen plays, non-fiction, ghost writing. How did you get involved in these other projects?
PB: LOL – it was just one thing after another! And BTW I DO feel a bit like flotsom drifting down the Delaware River at times. Seriously though, as I was drifting along as a novelist and earning some money, but not enough to support me entirely and still juggling part time jobs I began to think it would be nice to do some sort of writing as my part time job – one that paid a bit more than novel writing.
So I started looking around and in short order found myself taking classes on copywriting (advertising) pitching articles to magazines and then online, connecting locally to take on some ghostwriting and then, finally, discovering my mentor in screenwriting, Larry Brody, a Producer and Screenwriter (who runs http://www.TVwriter.net) who was teaching a class at the local college.
I took the course, we became friends and he truly helped me hone my screenwriting to where I’ve optioned a number of scripts and had a half hour animated script for a series produced over in France. It was called Diabolik and mine was one of many episodes, but it made me feel great. Since I’ve always written by viewing the pictures in my head adding screenwriting to my skills seemed a natural. I share your ‘easily bored’ problem so I enjoy doing different things.
MP: I know script writing is hard to get into and requires a whole different skill set. You’ve had a script optioned. Would love to hear more about that.
PB: Well, I was greatly inspired by Mr. Brody who pretty much held my hand and taught me the basics both of screenwriting and pitching to producers. There are books on screenwriting though that’ll teach the basic format and length (generally a max of 120 pages – less is better. Screen time is about 1 minute to 1 page of script). And there are free screenwriting programs availble online.
Anyway, from class and mentoring (with his continued encouragment) I dove into the Hollywood Creative Directory (very expensive book, but you can get it at libraries) sought out production companies that matched what I was doing and started submitting. I also entered the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship awards and reached the finals, after which that script was optioned. It’s a killer process when you don’t live in southern CA.
I also flew to LA to a pitch opportunity once and pitched a couple of times at conferences where there were producers about. There are also opportunities online. As a lark I answered an ad by a German producer looking for scripts in English in kids genre and ended up optioning a script to them. Very nice-payment wired directly to my account.
It’s definitely a long, grueling process with lots of rejection and disappointment along the way, but I’m still doing it and enjoying it. Wouldn’t want to give up my novel writing though!
MP: That sounds more grueling than submitting novels, however, the shorter length is appealing. How do you juggle all your writing projects?
PB: Actually screenwriting was and is more grueling – but also a lot of fun, and screenwriting teaches the writer to ‘write tight’.
Novels are a whole other ball of wax. The writer can get into much more detail and into their characters’ heads, as I had the fun of doing in my fantasy Stormrider http://amzn.to/pjY0HP (Kindle) http://bit.ly/9R0Gcn (Smashwords) and my historic romance set in early 1600’s New Mexico, Cloud Dancer http://amzn.to/LMkCUT (kindle) http://bit.ly/mSefTW (smashwords) and the writer has the opportunity to get better acquainted with his or her reader (like the wonderful comment I received from actor John Cullum declaring Stormrider “exciting” and “couldn’t put it down”), than the screenwriter has to connect with an audience. Each one is different and I greatly enjoy both novels and screen scripts for entirely different reasons.
As to how I juggle it all – sometimes I don’t know! It takes organization and, for me, a schedule. Frequently I’ll work on two or even three projects at once, alternating between them. For me, that keeps things fresh. But at times I feel as if I’m accomplishing nothing, then suddenly everything seems to reach completion, one after the other, and I begin a new slate of projects. I admit I can get scattered at times, which is bad and I then have to allow a bit of procrastination time and get back on track. Everything seems to take more time than I anticipate, but when I’ve had them I’ve never missed a deadline and when I don’t have one imposed from the outside, I set one for myself. Hope that’s not too convoluted and answer to your question.
MP: Well, thanks for joining me in the lounge of Spacedock 19 today, Peggy. Come back any time. I’d love to chat with you more about your projects and your jewelry making.
PB: Thank you, I’ve enjoyed it very much and I’ll be following along at Spacedock 19 to see what fellow wordsmiths you have come in for a visit. Very exciting that the web has helped to take away some of that isolation we writers have dealt with in the past. A big shoutout to all your readers and please feel free to visit me any time.
Peggy’s blog: http://www.PeggyBechko.blogspot.com
And website at http://www.PeggyBechko.com
Peggy also makes jewelry and has an online shop at http://www.Silverstreak.etsy.
I’m being interviewed over at Darke Conteur’s. Pop by for a visit.
Stephen Tremp names me author of the week. What a great honor.
Peggy interviews me on her blog, Peggy Bechko.