VIP Interview: Becca Syme

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I was first published at a really young age, and I was writing fan fiction and my own fiction since before I was in middle school. So I knew I was a writer for as long as I can remember.

What inspires you?

Learning. My most inspirational moments are all either discovering new things to learn, or meeting people who are really smart and I can learn from them. I love learning new things or being new places.

How much research do you do?

For my fiction, I do a *ton* of research because in the mystery genre, I need to do a new “closed set” each time, so I’m always looking for new places to “host” a mystery. New micro-cultures (like a movie set or a group of gamers) mean new kinds of conflict, and that means I need to know all the tensions and inner workings of that a community. But I love it.

Why do you write?

I really love stories. I’ve been story-obsessed since I was very young. My mom read to me and my sister from as far back as I can remember, and some of the books she read had worlds that were more real to me than the world I lived in, which fascinated me. I knew I wanted to make up worlds forever.

Do you have a writing routine?

Not really. I’m not one of those people who works well in routine (in fact, I often internally rebel against routine because I get bored with it), so I do whatever’s in front of me to do for the day. I will often get up (when I’m in a drafting phase) and write early in the morning, but for some books, I only want to write them at night. I love the unpredictability of it all.

What advice would you give to Aspiring Writers? Emerging Writers?

Iterate. If you’re going to have a long career as a writer, you want to get through the learning phases as effectively as possible. This means we need to try and fail and try and fail and try and fail. Taking the gamified approach (where I allow myself to try and fail) is so beneficial. Being willing to fail is key.

What do you find most challenging about the writing process? Favourite?

Most challenging, if I’m honest, is finding time to write. In the busy lives many of us lead, we have a hard time carving out time, even when we want to be writing or would rather be writing. My favourite thing, though, is also that writing time is scarce. In the past, when I’ve had too much of it, I don’t value it as much. So I love the fact that I can’t just write all day, because I don’t write all day even when I can. So the scarcity makes me value it more when I have it.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started?

That having a long-term career requires failure. If I could have learned to embrace failure earlier, I’d be a lot farther along on my journey. So many of the things I did early on were to stave off failure. But the longer the career, the more failure is involved, and I wish I’d learned the truth of that adage, “A master has failed more times than an apprentice has even tried.” It’s so much truth.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given? The worst?

This is so subjective, because what I would say was the worst for me is the best for someone else, and vice versa. But the worst advice I’ve been given is anything that tries to make me go against what works naturally best for me. When people try to make my process fit their rules, I never do well. But when I let my process and my personality and my wiring dictate how I step out in action, then I’m so much more successful.

All writers have ‘a voice’. How would you describe yours?

Oh, that’s really interesting… I don’t know if I could describe my voice. I think in both fiction and nonfiction, I have a touch of humor, but I also like to hit hard with truth bombs, so not everything is funny. I suppose my voice would be uniquely me. Both funny and serious, in probably equal measure. This is a great question. Now I want to go think about this more.