Behind the Book with V.S. Holmes
This week I bring you the fascinating V.S. Holmes!
Liz - Where about in the world do you hail from?
V.S. - I’m originally from southern New Hampshire--I grew up in a very rural area so a lot of my days were spent exploring the woods and letting my imagination run wild in the wilderness!
Liz - Before we get into your fantastic writing, I have to talk about your other love because I’m totally fan-girling! How long have you worked as an archaeologist?
V.S. - I’m one of those lucky people who loves their jobs! I’ve been working as an archaeologist for the last decade--it was not what I saw myself doing when I was in school, but the minute my trowel hit dirt, I fell in love! I’m fascinated by people--fictional and otherwise, and I think that’s what drew me to both archaeology and writing.
Liz - Has covid impacted this at all?
V.S. - Somewhat--we’re lucky in that, as contract archaeologists, our job is fairly secure. Roads still need improvement, and new housing options are always in development. When we’re in the field, we are often able to keep our distance with one another and while most of us dig solo now, my spouse and I are able to work as a team, since we share a bubble. Where we stay has changed, and the after-work brewery stops are a thing of the past, but with almost our entire company safely vaccinated, we’re looking forward to some added peace of mind as the field season ramps up.
Liz - What was your favourite site to work on?
V.S. - Oh that’s a tough one! We travel to some really neat small towns throughout New England, and there are some incredible places and people I never would have encountered had I a different career path. One project that sticks out as a whole, would be two weeks I spent in surveying for a new hiking trail way up in northern Maine. It was incredibly remote, with no phone or radio signal, and over an hour of driving on logging roads each day. We saw bears with cubs, moose with calves, and even spent one beautiful hot summer evening teaching each other different dances on the porch of our lodge.
Liz - If you could work on any site in the world, or uncover any archaeological treasure, what would it be and why?
V.S. - Oh this is so hard! Since I’m limited to Earth (I’d pick excavating a culture on Jupiter please and thanks!) I’d have to say, I’d love to try my hand at underwater archaeology. I’m utterly terrified of dark water, and I think it would be a really awesome (and nerve wracking!) experience. I would also really appreciate being a part of a large cemetery relocation project. While I’ve worked around and in cemeteries before, I find the process moving and powerful. Death and death practices are very interesting to me, and I’m always honored to encounter the dead.
Liz - I love that you combine your passion for archaeology with your writing, creating an ‘archaeological sci-fi’ fusion. What elements do you bring into your work?
V.S. - The biggest piece of archaeology that I think lends itself well to science fiction is curiosity. All archaeologists are curious, and I’ve found our interests outside of our fields vary wildly, and often each of us was drawn to digging for very different reasons. I love to weave that diverse and collaborate aspect into the world of Stars Edge--and honestly all my work. I also really enjoy the collaborative aspect of archaeology (and frankly, all science is best when based on collaboration, rather than ego) and I want to include that message as well.
Liz - Can you tell us about the character Dr Nel Bently and the inspiration behind her?
V.S. - Dr. Nel Bently is a foul-mouthed, driven, and complex character. The series itself began as an exploration of the social complexities of archaeology as a field--with a few added explosions! When Nel’s dig site becomes the focal point of an intergalactic feud, she’s tossed into a world of high tech and higher stakes. It’s so much fun to write Nel, mainly because she’s so imperfect. She makes terrible choices--and faces the consequences of them--but works tirelessly to be the best version of herself--anger and commitment issues included--that she can be. It’s delightful to write--and discover--her arc as she learns how to channel all that rage and fall in love with not only her mind-blowing, changeable world, but an equally complicated woman. It’s so rewarding to explore her mindset as she struggles against the institutions against her, defends her research, and faces horror and death.
Liz - The fourth instalment of the Stars Edge Series, Heretics, releases on May 8th. Can you tell us about it, and
what fans of the series can expect?
V.S - Heretics, specifically, follows Nel as she returns to Earth in search of killer sound waves. She discovers she no longer fits in the place that made her. Add to that allies she can’t trust, enemies who now might be friends, and one, really big boom, and you’ve got Nel’s next adventure! I like to explore how our personalities differ from what others and ourselves expect them to be, a theme very close to my heart as a queer person. With all the books, I wanted to debunk the racist ideas behind “ancient aliens” theories while still combining science fiction and archaeology. On a larger scale, all of Nel’s stories explore the ideas about how where we come from impacts where we’re going, and decolonizing archaeology and science.
Liz - When working on a series, do you plan each book out individually? Or do you plan the whole series before writing the first book?
V.S - So all of my series started as standalones! Once I got a better grip on the story, about halfway through the drafting process of book one, I realized the story I wanted to tell was going to take a bit longer--a lot longer in Nel’s case, as there will be a total of six books! Once I realize that, I outline a rough arc, deciding where I want the main characters to end up--assuming they survive--and the general theme and tone of the series. The details are fleshed out as I go, however.
Liz - Your debut book in 2015 was Smoke and Rain – can you tell us about it?
V.S. - Smoke and Rain is the first book in my Blood of Titans: Reforged series. Caught in the crossfire of a war between the gods and their creators, Alea, Arman, and Bren must face the grief and monsters within themselves if they hope to survive the coming terror. I delved into the psychological side of war from the perspective of those who cause it, fear it, and live for it, with a dash of magic, betrayal, and, of course, monsters!
Liz - How long did it take to write your first novel, and how has your process changed/evolved since?
V.S. - Oh many years! The first four Blood of Titans books took over a decade to craft, and they underwent myriad revisions--for which I’m thankful. My process is still on the slower side, but over the course of my professional writhing career, I’ve gone from a hardcore plotter, to more of a discovery writer. I think we’re all a bit of hybrids, in this way, but I’m enjoying letting my creativity take the reins in new ways these days.
Liz - Can you tell us about the Blood of Titans series?
V.S. - Blood of Titans world, which is a dark, atmospheric second-world fantasy where mortals play at gods and gods pray for mortality. I really enjoy playing with concepts of divinity and destiny. While the current arc is complete with Blood and Mercy--a cataclysmic end to a chaotic revolution--I’m looking forward to returning to the world soon with some new characters, old favorites, and the addition of a raptor cavalry.
Liz - You also host the Amphibian Press Podcast—which I’m honoured to have been on. What was the inspiration for this fantastic podcast and where do you see it going in the future?
V.S. - The umbrella of Amphibian Press began as a collaborative effort between myself and my former business partner. She liked to experiment with various marketing tactics, one of which was the podcast. It had a very different feel, back then! When we parted ways, I decided to continue with it, not so much as a marketing tactic, but to connect with the incredible author community. It’s changed since then, as I’ve honed my skills and determined what I’d like it to look like in my hands, but I’m so happy to have had the privilege to talk with so many amazing authors and creatives!
Liz - If you could feature any author in the world on your podcast, who would it be and why?
V.S. - I would really enjoy sitting down with V. E. Schwab to talk about how she stays sane and honest and vulnerable while being such a powerhouse. I’d also love to chat with S. T. Gibson about the intersection of faith, horror, and romance.
Liz - What upcoming projects are you working on?
V.S. - I’ve got a few! I always have to be working on multiple projects, partially as a palate cleanser, partially for job security. My main project is revising Fugitives, Nel’s fifth book in preparation for its release in October. I’m also outlining/drafting my next fantasy series, which returns to the Blood of Titans world. You can expect a slightly different flavor of fantasy, as the world develops industrial technology.
I also have what I call my “sandbox” project, which is a complicated, queer, gothic fantasy that is the darkest, sexiest, most raw thing I’ve written to date. I’m enjoying stretching my creative muscles, and am looking forward to taking it on submission soon!
Liz - Where can readers follow you?
V.S. - I’m on most of the main social medias--Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook--and I also have a fan Discord if folks are on there. If you’re interested in getting your hands on Advance Reader Copies or even being written as a side character in the next book, you can join my Explorers through my website!