Interview With V.R. Friesen
Author of Gravity Girl and the Gravity Shattered series
I discovered V.R. Friesen's work thanks to a newsletter interview by Suzanna J. Linton. V.R. Friesen's novel Gravity Girl caught my attention immediately and I couldn't wait to read it. I'm happy I did!
I posted a review of Gravity Girl a short while ago. Spoiler alert: it's very positive and I find many things in Gravity Girl to inspire me in my own work in progress.
My next wish was to ask the author a gazillion questions popping to my mind as I read her gravity-defying, imagination-gorged fiction. There was no room for them all in this interview, so I went for a dozen.
By the way, right now I'm smack in the middle of reading the second book in the series, Gravity Curse - and loving every bit of it. I'm at this point now where I can't get enough of the story, its world and its characters. I'm thinking I might even skip a writing session or two so I can get some more reading done... Surely that's no good? Or is it?
V.R. Friesen has been writing stories since shortly after she learned the alphabet. She grew up on the beautiful East Coast of Canada and now lives on the equally beautiful (but in a different way) West Coast, in Vancouver, BC. She can usually be found drinking chai lattes, playing Dungeons and Dragons, cheering on her favourite basketball team, or reading voraciously in science fiction, fantasy, young adult and dystopian fiction. Website: www.vrfriesen.com Social media: @vrfriesen.writer
V.R. Friesen, What led you to write Gravity Girl and the Gravity Shattered series?
It was a picture I saw on Pinterest, one of those manipulated photos where a girl is asleep in a hallway…on the wall. My “what if” engine went into overdrive. What if gravity didn’t work right? The following deluge of questions and speculations rivaled the Niagara Falls—why? How? Consequences? How would people live? React? Adapt?
I wanted my main character to have a direct connection to gravity, beyond just navigating it as a grav-walker (scavenger). Controlling gravity would be an epically cool superpower—almost too cool. I wanted to turn the idea of that superpower on its head and make it so dangerous and uncontrollable that it risks Jasper’s life every time her gravity changes.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is special?
Pulls off death-defying stunts on a daily basis with style and sarcasm? Turns her brother’s hair prematurely grey? Demonstrates to all the hero-worshipping kids in the zones why you shouldn’t idolize a hot mess?
Jasper Pine is a grav-walker, eking out a risky livelihood as a scavenger in a city full of treacherous and unpredictable gravity zones.
She is also host to an alien gravity-controlling bacteria with no reliable cure. Once it matures, she will shatter gravity on a huge scale. She’s known for some years now that the only sure way to prevent this is her death. So she lives her life on the edge, wild and reckless and messy. Knowing every daring stunt might be her last. Knowing that it might be for the best.
Until one day, hope emerges in the form of a feral young boy with a secret and a handsome ex-soldier on a mission. The boy doesn’t trust Jasper, and the feeling is mutual. She definitely shouldn’t trust the soldier or the nefarious men who sent him, no matter how kind his eyes. Trust is all around a bad idea. But at this point, what’s she got to lose?
Only her death wish. And her heart.
What are your writing goals?
In the short term, finish the Children of Gravity series. In the long term, BUILD AN EMPIRE. No, but seriously, I want to improve both my craft and my process so that I can produce books almost as fast as they form in my mind at a level of quality that makes readers squirm with impatience for each new release. And finally, I need to master marketing, which is antithetical to my natural personality, but I’m determined, so I’ll get the hang of it eventually.
And THEN the empire!
What inspired you to become a writer in the first place?
Honestly, nothing; I always knew I was one! I wrote my very first story when I was just six years old, a few little paragraphs about some kittens. One of my older sisters revealed an amazing thing called quotation marks to show dialogue—blew my mind! The key point for me was not that anything inspired me—it was an uncontrollable, innate urge since before I even understood punctuation. It’s more crucial that no one along the way discouraged me. No one pressured, hovered, interfered, or tried to steer my course. They accepted that I was a writer and left me alone to do my thing. That insatiable need to create stories never left me and I never stopped writing, but in the last decade I finally implemented some discipline and dedication and got serious about it.
What books have influenced you and your writing the most? Who do you consider to be a role model or mentor to you?
I’ve been a voracious and relentless reader since I was a child. There were periods of my life where I could be reading a book a day. Nowadays that’s more like one or two a week. Books are LEGO bricks and I’m a giant sculpture built of thousands of them. I truly couldn’t pick one that’s been most influential for my writing. All of them—even the bad ones—taught me something and built me into the writer I am today.
As for role models, in recent years I’ve come to greatly admire YA fantasy author Maggie Stiefvater. I particularly adore her Raven Cycle series, and her standalone The Scorpio Races always leaves me powerfully homesick for a fictional island. I took her writing seminar and came away with many useful tools and new ways to look at the process of writing, especially on the subject of mood, which I’d never thought about before. The specificity of her characters and settings, her deliberate use of language to establish mood, and the chemistry between her characters are all elements I now focus on in my own work.
What is the hardest part of being a writer or the writing process?
This answer varies with the writer and where they are in their writing journey. My answer now is different than it was a few years ago and very different from ten years ago.
Ten years ago I couldn’t finish anything to save my life. I’d get a quarter or halfway in and then realize I needed to change so many things about the plot that I’d scrap everything and start over. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) taught me discipline and how to set the inner editor aside so I could power through and FINISH a novel.
But then my issue became the revision stages where I was trying to find my Perfect Story, and so I’d rewrite and rewrite endlessly. I wrote four complete versions of the Gravity Shattered series. Each version had something I loved about it that I’m sad couldn’t make the final cut. But I finally learned: There are no Perfect Stories, only different stories, and if you don’t choose one and go with it, you’ll be stuck in place forever.
Nowadays, one challenge I’m noticing is guesstimating the length of a proposed plot idea. When I initially outlined Children of Gravity it was meant to be three books. After writing the first 50,000 words, I realized I’d grossly underestimated how many books I’d need to tell the story I wanted. So I divided my plot up into six books, which turned out to be slightly more workable. I’ve written two of those books now, and they are already quite large, to the point where I almost want to split them down smaller. But I’m slowly learning how much I write and how many events/plot points I can fit into one decent-sized story (and it’s always fewer than I think). This knowledge helps me in the outlining process which helps me in the writing process which ultimately, hopefully, will help my overall efficiency in producing books.
In your newsletter, you often refer — in an original way! — to having a considerable number of siblings. Is Gravity Girl connected in any way to your personal life or family situation, and if so, how?
The main way I’ve included my family life and/or background is in my inclusion of the Mennonites in the Yorky community. I was two when we moved to Canada, but my parents and older siblings grew up in Belize, carving out farms in the jungle, living in the early years without electricity and other modern amenities. So I thought it’d be a great idea to include some Mennonites in the story because they’d know how to farm and build and preserve food without electricity. Their skills would be crucial in helping people survive after the Shattering destroyed their city and cut them off from the rest of the world.
The character Esther Kornelsen and her many sisters are a nod to my heritage and background. (And Ben’s outdoor shower in Gravity Curse is based on one that my Dad built in Belize.)
What role does research play in your writing? Do you have any resources you would recommend?
When it comes to research, my approach is a little haphazard and fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. I’ll go to look up one thing and then spiral down a rabbit hole for hours on end.
I researched gravity of course and, as I am no theoretical physicist, it soon had my head spinning. But I was amazed to find out that despite all the theories out there, there is still a lot about gravity that hasn’t been explained. Excellent—that gives me room to get creative!
I also researched (terrestrial) bacteria to get an idea of how graviteria (the alien “bacteria”) might function, and boy oh boy, was that a delightful rabbit hole! Bacteria is fascinating! There are types of bacteria that can survive outer space, can digest plastics and harmful chemicals, can be used to store information that would survive a nuclear war, can heal themselves and may hold the secret of stopping aging, and so much more! I also researched how single-celled organisms (which don’t have brains) can still communicate, share information, and work together, which also gave me lots of ideas for how the graviteria might have intelligence.
How do you market or promote your books (e.g. social media, e-mail, blog tours, etc.)? What strategies have had the most success for you?
I am a total newbie at all this—too new to measure yet whether anything’s been a success or not. Only time will tell. I invested in beautiful professional covers and good editing, and would give a lot of credit to both those factors. I’ve had some results from Amazon ads and paid promotional newsletters. I’ve used Rules of Crane, a prequel story, to gain subscribers to my newsletter which I send out regularly. All of this I think is a good foundation, even if it’s not necessarily turning me a profit yet. For now my primary focus is to produce more books and build a readership.
Do you have a writing routine or ritual? Where do you do most of your writing?
My writing routine necessarily has to bend around the demands of my day job, but it is high-priority for me. Typically, whenever I have a free afternoon, I’ll go to my local library, sit in the café and write for a few hours. Sometimes I’ll be there six or seven days a week! They start making my chai latte as soon as they see me at the door. This is my (mostly symbolic) retreat from the distractions of the internet. Obviously it would be extremely easy to connect my laptop to the wifi. But I don’t. I listen to music and people-watch when my mind needs to drift, and this allows me to stay on task.
I will also spend a couple hours writing in the evenings after dinner. At home I write on the couch with my laptop. I have a desk in my room but I tend to use that for my day job related work and don’t often actually write there.
What is the title of your current work in progress? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m currently working on the follow-up series to Gravity Shattered. The series (and probably the first book) will be called Children of Gravity but otherwise I haven’t settled on titles yet. It will take place five years after the events of Gravity Shattered and will pick up the story of some of the younger characters (Grammar, Neverwhen) and their friends.
Now 18, Grammar struggles to fit in to a community that remembers his parents all too well, while dealing with his growing feelings for a friend. Meanwhile, a gang war is brewing and Grammar and his friends are caught in the middle of it.
The isolation of the gravity zones is broken when an unexpected visitor appears at the quarantine gates. The news he brings sends Grammar and Jasper and the people close to them careening into the strange world of downieland and straight into a treacherous web of wealth, politics, secrets, and lies, bringing them face to face with the shocking truth about the alien gravity-controlling bacteria, graviteria.
They’ll have to race against time to stop a plot that could lead to global war…or a shattered planet.
Now I really feel like reading your stories! Where should I start?
Start with the Gravity Shattered books:
Gravity Girl (Book 1)
Gravity Curse (Book 2)
Gravity Tower (Book 3)
You can get the prequel story Rules of Crane for free when you sign up for my mailing list. It can be read before or after the books.
I’m releasing several short stories in 2022, which can be read at any point in the chronology, but which will act as prequels to the forthcoming Children of Gravity series. All three stories feature the characters Grammar and Neverwhen (who appear in Gravity Shattered) and also introduce the members of their feral kid pack, all of whom will feature in Children of Gravity.
The short stories are:
Magpie Goblin Word-Boy
We All Fall Down
The Language of Acorns
The follow-on series of Children of Gravity (picking up five years after Gravity Tower) is currently underway. I’m aiming for release in 2023 sometime. Join my mailing list for updates and sneak peeks and bonus scenes at www.vrfriesen.com!
V.R. Friesen - She/her, coffee drinker, cat mama, basketball fan, very occasional artist, queen of the north, etc. And oh, yeah, I write books. I grew up in Nova Scotia but now live on the opposite coast in Vancouver, Canada. Oceans—I need ‘em. I have an absurd number of siblings, one cat, two kinds of houseplants that (so far) have refused to die in my care, a Toronto Raptors onesie, and a tendency to trample over anyone standing between me and Korean food. I’ve been writing stories since I was so young that someone had to tell me what quotation marks were. Blew my mind. I have loved writing dialogue ever since. My stories explore characters and the density of relationships in which we are all embedded. I focus on themes of healing, hope, the family you find, and the search for connection.
Website: www.vrfriesen.com Social media: @vrfriesen.writer Get the prequel story Rules of Crane for free