Author Beth Revis earned two degrees from NC State’s Department of English: a bachelor’s degree in 2003 and a master’s degree in 2004. She also minored in history. After teaching for six years, her first novel, Across the Universe, debuted on the New York Times Best Sellers list in 2011. We caught up with Revis to learn more about her latest book, Bid My Soul Farewell, favorite moments at NC State, and her advice to budding writers.
Why this story? What motivated you to tell it?
Bid My Soul Farewell is the sequel and conclusion to the dark fantasy duology that began with Give the Dark My Love. Both of these stories were told as a response to grief and loss, although when I started the first book, I did not know my father would pass away before it was finished. As with all fantasy or science fiction, the story is deeply real.
How did this book differ from the other books you’ve written?
After starting my career in science fiction, this duology marked a sharp turn into fantasy, a genre I’d been trying to break into since I was a student at NC State. I wrote my first novel as a sophomore in Lee Hall and started seeking publication soon after. None of those novels — all fantasy — sold. I eventually started teaching high school English after graduating, still writing during breaks, and it was my first science fiction that sold and shifted my career. With Give the Dark My Love and Bid My Soul Farewell, I was finally able to return to my original love of fantasy novels.
How did your NC State degrees impact your career?
This fantasy duology is, in a way, also an ode to academia. The main character, Nedra, attends a prestigious university on a scholarship she didn’t expect to get, one that would elevate her from her humble, small town beginnings. This is a direct reflection of my own life. Growing up near the Appalachian mountains, I had relatively few opportunities to explore different viewpoints and perspectives, uncover new knowledge, and see things in new lights. Attending NC State, particularly my study abroad experience, helped shift that, making me see the world well beyond the little bubble in which I had been raised.
What was your favorite class at NC State?
There are so many! I remember moments more than any specific class. Translating Beowulf. Arguing about Emily Dickinson. Picking apart Shakespeare. And other classes, too — discovering a love of astronomy and trekking out to use the telescopes at night, walking in circles around Harrelson Hall to get to my medieval history class (a class that inspired me to get a minor in history), stuttering through French classes that were, for some reason, located in one of the engineering buildings that had a big display about nuclear reactors. I cannot pick one class at State that I loved the best; I loved it all.
What advice would you give to a budding writer?
Whenever you have the opportunity to try something new or sit down and write, do the new thing. Of course there will come a time when you have to show up to your desk and put the work in to write — and make no mistake, it is work. But stories come from experiences. A life lived well is the greatest resource you have. What I learned at State that helped me more than anything wasn’t grammar, it was the life experiences I gained from meeting new people, doing new things, and seeing new perspectives.
In one word, what do you need to overcome writer’s block?
When do you read?
Whenever I can.
When do you write?
Whenever I can.
What’s next for you? Another novel, nonfiction, something else?
I am always working on my next novel, even if I think I’m not. Most actively, I’m nearing completion on a middle grade fantasy and a young adult science fiction, but I’ve got an adult historical burning in the back of my mind and seeds of ideas that are growing in the shadows.
As the mother of a preschooler, I don’t always have the time or mental space to do everything I want. I read books on audio at 3x speed so I can squeeze in chapters when I drop him off to preschool; I write in the between hours when he’s asleep (rare) or distracted (rarer still). But I wrote my first novels in between midterms and finals at State, and then I wrote more while teaching, snatching hours during lesson planning periods or on teacher work days. Although I’m a full-time writer, I’m also a full-time mother, but I’m used to stealing what time I can and forcing the stories to come then. And I’ve done it long enough to know that the stories will come. They’re one of the few constants.
This post was originally published in College of Humanities and Social Sciences.