Monday, 28 November 2011

Author Q &A with Deanna Raybourn

My blog is, as of today, officially one year old. Can you believe it? They grow so fast! As a result I have planned all sorts of goodies to help the celebrations along and they will be appearing throughout the day.

First of all, one of my all-time favourite authors was incredibly lovely and agreed to do a Q&A as part of the festivities. Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis will know I will wax lyrical about her to anyone who will listen – please welcome, Deanna Raybourn, author of the fabulous Lady Julia Grey series, and the standalone novel ‘The Dead Travel Fast’.

“You are perhaps most well-known for your Lady Julia Grey series, the latest of which we were treated to in July of this year. Will there be more books in the series for us addicts? Or are you working on something new and exciting to tempt us with? (and can you tell us a little bit about what you’re currently working on?)”

Whether or not I write more Lady Julia books is up to my publisher! I have a synopsis ready to go for the book immediately following The Dark Enquiry in the series, so I'm good to go when they are. Right now I'm taking a break to write something VERY different! It's 1920s Africa with a flapper heroine. It is such a departure from my comfort zone, but it's so exciting to write. It's called A Spear of Summer Grass and will be out May 2013.

“Can you tell us a bit about your developing process – how the ideas come to you, how you process and develop them?”

It's alchemy and this is probably the question I find most difficult to answer because all I can say is it comes down to how writers process the stimuli that everybody encounters every day. A writer friend and I were tweeting back and forth last month because she was walking across the park and found a wallet and no one had claimed it after several days despite her efforts to return it. We theorized that the owner was dead--killed so the organs could be harvested on the black market, abducted by a jilted lover, had thrown away the wallet in an effort to walk away from the old life and start anew. Normal people might have stopped at, "Gee, I wonder why the wallet's still here." We could have carried on for DAYS with our brainstorming. It's just a weird way of looking at odd little bits and bobs of information and piecing them together in a new way. 

“And indeed about your writing process – do you have specific times of day or habits and routines?”

My process is changing as I evolve as a writer, but one thing that never varies is that I work best in the morning when my energy is fresh. I have experimented this time with adding in a second work session some days. I do have to restrict how much I do at any given time. I don't like to write more than an hour and a half or two hours at a time. When I start a book I have a page minimum each day to ensure I'm making progress; about halfway through that changes to a page maximum so I don't rush the ending. My page counts make certain I'm not wrecking my pacing.

“Does anything in particular stimulate your writing, for example listening to a specific type of music?”

I make a playlist for each book--usually classical and soundtracks. If there are any ethnic or regional factors in the book, I try to get some of that into the music as well to help me set the scene. Of course, I've blown that entirely out of the water with the current book! I have a playlist of African music and 1920s speakeasy tunes, but I've ended up listening to contemporary club music instead. I'm sure I'll use that playlist when it comes to rewriting the book. I think I was so far out of what was comfortable for me, I needed something really driving and fast and in your face to get me through the first draft!

“The level of research involved for your novels must be staggering, do you have any particular sources that have helped you develop Lady Julia’s world?”

The internet. When I wrote the first book, the internet was just beginning to be a good source of information, but since then it's just exploded, and there's almost nothing I can't find out in about four seconds. I hyperventilate with gratitude on a daily basis that I get to write in an era when so much is right at my fingertips. I've also built a modest little library of Victorian research books that I add to with each new book I write. I go through probably 60 research books for each title depending on how much new material I need to learn. 

“Have you always wanted to be a writer – was there something in particular that drew you to it?”

I was always a writer, always making up stories in my head. I toyed with the notion of getting a law degree and I did teach for a few years, but I always knew this was where I would end up. I wrote my first novel when I was 23 and I've been writing full novels ever since, so I've put in a fair bit of time!

“Which was the hardest book for you to write in the series?”

The first book was difficult because it was the first novel I wrote that really worked. And I was writing in a vacuum--no feedback from an editor because it wasn't under contract when I wrote it. The second was difficult because I learned to rewrite on that book--I had an editor by then and she was beginning my education as a writer. And the third was hard because I tore that one apart before I showed it to my editor and put the lessons I had learned from book two into action on my own. Book four was a challenge because it was the first one back after writing a stand-alone. Book five was probably the easiest!

“And which book are you must proud of?”

The one I'm working on now. It's turning me inside out and that's a good thing. I think it's important to be scared and to do it anyway, at least it is for me. That's the only way I grow as a writer.

“What are your favourite authors or books to read?”

Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Bill Bryson, Lisa St. Aubin de Teran, Marlena de Blasi, Alice Hoffman, Dodie Smith, Mary Stewart. And a thousand others!

“And finally, will you be doing a UK tour at some point in the near future?”

I would LOVE to do a UK tour! I do hear from readers there, and I'm a devoted Anglophile so that would be a straight-up pleasure. 

Once again, I would like to say a huge thank you to Deanna, who not only was lovely enough to agree to this, but also continues to share with us her fabulous books and imaginings.

You can visit Deanna’s blog here for more regular news and updates

You can also read my reviews for her latest two books here:
The Dark Road to Darjeeling
The Dark Enquiry

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