Hi Darcia! Welcome to the blog.
Thank you so much for inviting me, Rachel! I’m honored to be here.
Tell us about your book. What makes it special?
The Cutting Edge is my one and only novel of self-indulgence. Like Skye, the main character in this story, I was a hairstylist in a small town. My mother owned the salon I worked in, and I pretty much grew up in the place. Small town hair salons have a unique atmosphere that I thought would work well as a novel setting. I have to admit it also felt great to exorcise a few demons from my working life!
Much of the story here takes place within the fictional salon, which is based on the real one I worked in. It’s set in the same small town I worked and lived in for about 15 years. And all of the fictional clients are blatant thefts of real-life clients. I changed the names and minor details to protect the innocent and hide the guilty.
It’s a scary thought to be at the mercy of your hairstylist… You could walk out with a bad cut or worse! Did you have any difficulties making Skye Summers sympathetic even though she has frequent murder fantasies?
I really didn’t have problems with that. Hopefully, readers will agree! Skye was one of my most enjoyable fictional creations. To be honest, I can’t take much credit. She popped into my head one day fully created. I had little to do with it. (I know that sounds crazy to some people, but my characters often come to me that way.)
I think most people can relate to Skye on some level, particularly those people who have worked or do work within customer service occupations. Despite her growing burn-out and job frustrations, Skye maintains her professionalism, at least on the outside. Her struggle is really about finding where she belongs in life, while at the same time maintaining the responsibilities that come with adulthood. This kind of struggle might inspire murderous fantasies in many of us!
You’ve been a hairstylist, too – what was your biggest pet peeve?
I can only list one? Impossible!
Okay, seriously, the thing that bothered me most throughout my career was the lack of respect for hairstyling as a profession. I don’t mean to imply all my clients were this way, but the disrespect became a recurring theme for me as well as my coworkers. Some people assumed we became stylists because we didn’t do well in school and had no alternatives. Others assumed the career was a stepping stone, and we were earning money to pay for a higher (and more respected) education. Clients were often shocked to learn I held a college degree on top of my cosmetology degree.
Then we had the people who would barter with us on prices. They’d offer to bring their own products if we did the work cheaper. Or they’d offer to slip us ten bucks if we permed their hair at home. You wouldn’t barter with your dentist or your chiropractor, and you wouldn’t ask them to make a Sunday house call. Stylists deserve that same respect.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard a variation of, “I wish I had a job like yours. You’re so lucky that all you do is play with hair all day.” Hairstyling is a profession requiring education and a lot of training. It’s not something “just anybody” can do. And all jobs come with their own special kind of stress. If I could be so bold, I’d like to ask that everyone remembers this the next time they visit their stylist.
Do you find yourself returning to similar themes in your novels, or do you explore new ground each time you write?
This is a tricky question for me. The answer is a little bit of each. The characters are all uniquely themselves, with their own personality quirks and challenges to overcome. The plots for their stories are all different (I hope!). I have a vast array of interests and social concerns, and this shows up in my writing. So, in this sense, I’m always exploring new ground.
At the same time, there is a similar underlying theme to much of my writing. I’m fascinated by the dark side of human behavior. I want to know what drives one person to commit murder, another to self-destruct with drugs, and yet another to become a wealthy entrepreneur. I dig into the shades of gray that complicate life. I want to pull up the rocks and expose the grime underneath. Sunshine and light are beautiful, but not particularly interesting to me. The underlying theme to most of my writing would be ‘exploring the dark side’.
Who are some of your favorite writers?
I find this question nearly impossible to answer properly. I’ve been influenced by a multitude of authors along the way, many of whom I could easily claim as favorites. In naming a few, I’m always afraid I’ll forget someone important. Or that I’ll unintentionally insult someone by leaving his/her name off my list. My best answer to this question, the only honest and complete answer I can offer is this: My favorite authors are those who move me with their words. When I read, I want to be fully immersed in that world. I want to feel the heat on my face, see the trembling of her lips, hear the tapping of the rain against the window. After I’ve closed the book, I want to know what it was like to be that person for just a little while.
What’s your best advice for other writers?
Offering advice is not my strong suit. For the most part, I think we each need to find our own path. What works for me will not necessarily work for someone else. That being said, there are some basics I believe are important.
First, and this might seem obvious, read a lot. I’m often surprised by how many beginning (and occasionally established) authors do not read. Reading, particularly within your own chosen genre, helps build an understanding of story structure and reader expectations. You’ll start to notice subtle things, like the rhythm of the words, and this will undoubtedly make you a better writer.
Second, you really need to lose the ego. Regardless of how awesome you (or your mother) think you are, not everyone is going to like your work. Accept the critique with dignity. Keep the advice that fits you and don’t let the rest destroy you.
And, lastly, I want to mention networking. Writing is, by nature, a competitive career. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support your fellow authors. Find a writing community, either online or in person, where you feel comfortable sharing ideas. If you want to receive support, you need to offer it, as well.
Thank you so much for joining us on the Freelance and Fiction blog!
It’s been entirely my pleasure! Thank you so much, Rachel, for allowing me to hang out here with you. And thank you, as well, to all who take the time to stop by and read my blathering.
You can find The Cutting Edge at Quiet Fury Books. Keep up with Darcia on Twitter and Facebook, or check out her free, no catch involved short stories!
As always, if you liked the post, share the love or get in touch for your own author interview!