Curbing curiosities, or an interview with S.M. Beiko and an excerpt from her book Scion of the Fox

 

scion of the fox

Scion of the Fox (The Realms of Ancient #1)

By: S.M. Beiko

Publisher: ECW Press

Publication Date: October 17th, 2017

As the winter ice begins to thaw, the fury of a demon builds — all because one girl couldn’t stay dead . . .

Roan Harken considers herself a typical high school student — dead parents, an infected eyeball, and living in the house of her estranged, currently comatose grandmother (well, maybe not sotypical) — but she’s uncovering the depth of the secrets her family left behind. Saved from the grasp of Death itself by a powerful fox spirit named Sil, Roan must harness mysterious ancient power . . . and quickly. A snake-monster called Zabor lies in wait in the bed of the frozen Assiniboine River, hungry for the sacrifice of spirit-blood in exchange for keeping the flood waters at bay. Thrust onto an ancient battlefield, Roan soon realizes that to maintain the balance of the world, she will have to sacrifice more than her life in order to take her place as Scion of the Fox.

American Gods meets Princess Mononoke in this powerful first installment of a trilogy sure to capture readers’ imaginations everywhere.

 1) What is on your desk or where you write? What do you need to write? Do you have a writer’s survival kit?

 

My former desk was my grandmother’s 1911 Singer Sewing cabinet, but it got a little cramped after several years of use (though I did appreciate that the wrought iron pedal still worked, and I’d pump it when I was staring into space). I’ve recently upgraded to a nice, huge swivel drafting desk, with a side extension, set up in front of a huge window overlooking my backyard and the forest beyond it. More space means more things I can put on it, so I am constantly trying to clear it off.

 

It currently has a set of bookends my best friend had custom made, with the foxes from my book cover, holding a few of my favourite things—an Ogham Tree oracle card set, a book on moon lore, and a big hardcover called The Scottish Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. My laptop is a wandering vagrant as I sit in various places throughout the day to work, but my podcast microphone and drawing tablet take up permanent residence here. As well as a Haunted Mansion coaster that reads ‘Dear sweet Leota, beloved by all—in regions beyond now, but having a ball’ for my twice daily cuppa (coffee and tea.) And, a new addition: a Pop! Vinyl of Marvel’s Loki.

 

As far as what I need to write—a good ambient playlist, total stillness, and as clear a workspace as possible. Clutter does drive me a bit bananas. I don’t really have a ‘survival kit’ per se because I work from home and everything is accessible should I need it (coffee, snacks; though I rarely eat, and often forget to, when I’m on a writing tear.) But having a view into my yard has been essential to getting projects done, I have to say. Even at night when it’s pitch dark and moths are fluttering just outside of it.

 

2) What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Which do you prefer: drafting or revising?

 

I used to be a perpetual, die-hard pantser. Left everything to the last minute, believed strongly in the ‘when it comes to me, it’s meant to be’ type method, leaning more on inspiration than discipline. But that just left me with a pile of unfinished, unrealized projects. I had to do a major pivot, though, when the sequel to Scion of the Fox got pushed up rather drastically. I drafted the whole 130,000 word monster in 30 days somehow—but the only way I made it to the finish line was by planning and having a solid road map to follow. I would’ve been lost without that.

 

Drafting is always fun because you’re running the race, just enjoying the thrill of the ride. But revising is where the best work happens—and often where you are kind of surprised at yourself for writing certain things a certain way. I love that. So definitely revising!

 

3) What is your number one writing tip?

 

Finished Not Perfect. You can apply this to any artistic endeavour that has room to be moulded, built upon, refined, redacted. But true magic happens in that phase where you know where things have gone, and perhaps their outcomes, but you start asking yourself questions you may not have before. And suddenly your original intention has another layer. But you can’t necessarily get to this stage with something that is unfinished, without that frame work. Finishing things also teaches you discipline and gives you the confidence going forward that you are capable of seeing things through, rather than having a bunch of good ideas trapped in limbo.

4) Describe your book in 5 words or less

 

Gods, Monsters, Winnipeg, and teenagers.

5)  A book goes through a lot of different versions and rounds of editing before it’s complete.  What are some “fun facts” or behind the scenes info you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book? (~3 or more)

 

Hmm this is a good question! I’ll try to answer it without spoilers.

 

  • there used to be a more ‘romantic’ subplot for the main character but it was taking up too much space, so it got turned into a heavily antagonistic relationship instead. It was much more fun this way.
  • In the original draft, no one died. That’s not very much fun either (and means there aren’t any real stakes!)
  • There wasn’t as much background about Roan’s grandmother, Cecelia, or her mother Ravenna for that matter. But it became essential to establish their stories so they could be expanded upon in books 1 and 2.
  • There were A LOT more swears. I have a potty mouth.6) Do you have a special story, a discovery you made while doing research, or an innocuous thought that grew into something bigger that is behind your inspiration for the book?

 

There’s a big sport/fitness complex called The Rady Jewish Centre that overlooks the Assiniboine River. I used to live in the neighbourhood and would go to the gym after work. One night, walking home to my apartment along the river, a red fox leapt out of nowhere in front of me and disappeared into the woods. The inception of ideas, for me at least, involves asking a lot of wild hypothetical questions, and this one came automatically to mind: “What if that fox followed me home and passed along an epic mission?” Et voila.

7)  Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble?

 

This character is the same person for me, and continues to be: Eli Rathgar. He’s such a stuck up, psychopathic arseface, and writing villains is a lot of fun…until you start asking ‘but what made him this way?’ Then you get really excited and interested in delving into the more ‘human’ side of the evil, except when you have three books to explore their arc you struggle with how much to let out at once, or trying to balance the character’s impulses with your own as the author. I found when I was stuck during parts of Bloodlands that I’d write Eli parts and the snark-injection kept me on the straight and narrow. Now that I’m writing the culmination of who he is and who he has become in book 3, it is killing me to keep it to myself.

8) If you could ask a character of your choice from SCION OF THE FOX one question what would it be?

 

Again it would probably be Eli, and this is an actual question Roan asks him later, but: “Man. Why are you such a dick?” (I told you I had a potty mouth.)

9) What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?

 

Ahhh I don’t want to throw down too many spoilers, but it’s definitely the chapter “The Gardener and the Targe.” Two main characters end up in the Bloodlands with varying limits put on them, and their dynamic is my favourite (you can probably tell by this interview alone.)

10) Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book? Or a scene that made you very emotional?

 

The ending—right after the climactic battle and a little bit onwards when we see what happens to Roan afterwards. I’d always known it was coming, and had planned it that way, and I had to hold back quite a lot to deliver any impact. Restraining oneself from a happy ending is always a nice challenge though.

 

 

11) What are the top five things we should know as a reader before starting SCION OF THE FOX (about the main character, their love interest, the antagonist, their world/home town, their situation, etc)

 

  • Winter in Winnipeg is a state of mind. It is harsh and bleak and cold, but damn do we make the most of it (so do giant resident demonesses, apparently.)
  • Maybe don’t blindly say “yeah sure!” to a potentially life-threatening/city-razing mission despite how cool it sounds out of the mouth of a talking animal (ahem, ROAN.)
  • Love should be friendship on fire, not a giant half-Owl dude intent on murdering you for ‘the greater good.’
  • I took five fairly innocuous, common Canadian animals and made a mythology out of them. I’m certainly not the first person to do this, especially as a white colonial descendent on Indigenous soil. If you enjoy stories of animal gods and tricksters, I highly recommend studying, learning about, and speaking to Indigenous Canadian and American folks about their rich culture, without which Canadians wouldn’t have any source identity (but that many of us often overlook in the quest for our own.)
  • Disabled characters and characters of colour are important. Having characters your readers can see themselves in is I have received some pretty great notes on this from readers and I am in no way perfect but I’m glad that Natti, Phae, Barton, and even Roan with her eye issues stood out to people as a positive, though in 2017 we should be seeing way more varied characters in fiction than we currently do (though I am seeing a lot of great books out there!) Writing these characters has put me in an entirely different headspace in terms of my own limitations as a creator, as there are things they have to deal with that I have never had to due to inherent privilege. I hope more writers take an honest look at their representational limitations they’re imposing on their work in a time when Othering has become so pernicious, socially speaking.

 

12) What is next for you? What are your currently working on?

 

I’m currently working on the edits for Scion’s sequel, Children of the Bloodlands, and during the recent 3 Day Novel Contest I started a working (very rough) draft of the final book in the series, The Brilliant Dark. Other than that, I’ve written another YA fantasy titled The Stars of Mount Quixx that I’m tweaking, which might turn into a quintilogy if I’m not careful…I’m also working on a few short fiction pieces for a change of pace in the adult market. Always have something in your trunk—that’s my current motto.

 

 

Prologue

 

It was snowing — no real shocker in February. Plows and salt trucks couldn’t keep up, the snow disposal sites and the boulevards piling high. These were the Martian conditions we were used to in Winnipeg. No one batted an eye.

I rode my bike through the bad weather. It made me feel independent, stronger than I really was. People call winter cyclists crazy for good reason. I stood in the seat, tires gripping the fresh powder over the train tracks on Wellington Crescent. But I didn’t see her in time, and I lost control, twisted, and flew over my handlebars, joining her prone body in the road.

I couldn’t move, face to face with blank eyes and icy flesh. The girl was dead, yeah, but well preserved, the weather doing double duty as a morgue cooler. The frost had kept her pretty face safe, made her look carved out of ice and porcelain.

Stumbling to my feet, I struggled to move my numb hands. She’d made a snow angel before she died, wings scuffed around her broken arms, crooked legs frozen mid-dance. Her mouth was open in a hollow scream.

This was the first dead body I’d ever seen. I hadn’t even seen my parents’ bodies after the accident, so it felt as though this one belonged to me. Her hair was red. Her knees were knobby. And her eye had been gouged out — we could almost pass for sisters. Even though it was a horrible thing to see — like looking into a death mirror — I knew this body was meant for me to find.

I didn’t scream. I didn’t do anything. I should have, because reacting in the slightest way would’ve eked me out as “a stable human.” But let’s face it — I was too far gone for that.

Before any cars could pull over to see what the lone girl by the train tracks was staring at, before the police and the ambulance and the news trucks could appear to wrap the girl in a cocoon of speculation and black plastic — before they found out it was my fault — all I could do was grab my bike and ride away until my legs were stone, trying not to think of all the things that were coming for me in broad daylight, or how my brain buzzed with two words: You’re next.

 

Excerpted from Scion of the Fox by S.M. Beiko. © 2017 by S.M. Beiko. All rights reserved. Published by ECW Press Ltd. www.ecwpress.com

S.M. Beiko has been writing and drawing strange, fantastical things since before she can remember. She currently works as a freelance editor, graphic designer, and consultant and is the co-publisher of ChiZine Publications and ChiGraphic. Her first novel, The Lake and the Library, was nominated for the Manitoba Book Award for Best First Book as well as the 2014 Aurora Award. Scion of the Fox is the first book of the Realms of Ancient trilogy. Samantha lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author info and image were provided by the tour organizer.

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