Sit Down Saturday with Georgiana!
Today I’m grabbing my decaf tea (Yeah…no more caffeine for me) and chatting with Georgiana Derwent.
Welcome, Georgiana! Thanks for being here!
Me: What books/authors have influenced your writing?
Georgiana: The most obvious one is probably LJ Smith. Her Vampire Diaries series was the first vampire series I ever read (nearly fifteen years ago now – scary!) and although I’ve read lots of others since, they and some of her other books like the Forbidden Game have always stuck in my mind as the perfect example of what a paranormal novel should be like.
More obscurely, there’s a book I love called Prep, about the experiences of a scholarship girl at an elite boarding school, and that influenced some of the less paranormal aspects of the series.
Me: How did you come up with the title(s)?
Georgiana: Originally, I wanted to call the first book Blue Blood. It works on a couple of levels, as all my vampires are aristocrats, who are traditionally said to have blue blood, and because blue is the colour of Oxford University, the setting of the novel.
I was almost ready to publish when a bit of last minute checking on Google established that there was already a vampire series called Blue Bloods, about posh American vampires, so I had to quickly change the title to the slightly less inventive Oxford Blood. Infuriatingly, I then discovered there is another book called Oxford Blood, set at Oxford and featuring an elite dining society like the Cavaliers. However, as it doesn’t feature any vampires and was written in the eighties and is now quite obscure, I decided I could get away with it. Besides, I couldn’t face another name change.
Screaming Spires is a play on the traditional description of Oxford as “the city of dreaming spires.” Rather bizarrely, my old boss came up with that one.
Me: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Georgiana: Absolutely. Most of the scenes in the books that don’t directly relate to vampires are based fairly heavily on exaggerated versions of stories from my own time studying at Oxford University. This blog post shows some of my real pictures of scenes in the book: http://georgianaderwent.com/2013/02/20/the-illustrated-oxford-blood/
Me:What book are you reading now?
Georgiana: This – http://georgianaderwent.com/2013/06/18/top-ten-tuesday-summer-reading-list/ – was my reading list for the summer, and I’m currently about half way through it. Rivers of London was particularly good, so I’m about to read the sequel, Moon over Soho.
Me: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Georgiana: The writer of the aforementioned Rivers of London, Ben Abromavith, is really pretty good. I also loved R.L Fevers His Fair Assassin Series. I believe she wrote some children’s books in the past, but she’s new to YA.
Me: What are your current projects?
Georgiana: Right now I’m desperately trying to finish Ivory Terrors, the third and final book of The Cavaliers Trilogy. I think I’ll need a little break to recover after that, but I’ve got a few new ideas in my mind for afterwards and I’m excited about writing something different.
Me: Do you see writing as a career?
Georgiana: I think any author who claims not to sometimes daydream about writing full-time and making a living out of it is either lying or doesn’t love it enough. That said, I’m a qualified lawyer and I enjoy the day job too, so I’m although it can be tiring writing or promoting after a ten hour day, I’m not desperately trying to use writing as an escape.
Me: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Georgiana: Nothing dramatic – I’m pretty happy with the series. Based on a combination of reviews and having had time to reflect though, I think I’d change some aspects of the heroine’s personality, make the relationship with her initial love interest a little less “love at first sight,” and perhaps include more description and more character building for the minor characters. Occasionally, I wish I’d written the series in first person, but I think if I had, I’d be longing for a third person narrative.
Me: How did you get started with the writing venture?
Georgiana: My mum has always loved writing and as soon as I was old enough to read she encouraged me to write little stories. I wrote my first novel when I was about eleven and another that was a bit more developed when I was seventeen. I never had time over my five years of university and law school to write anything apart from academic essay, but when I had a few months of time to kill between finally finishing studying and starting work, I decided to finally start writing again. My first attempt was a serious, pretentious novel about Oxford and class and gender. I got about two chapters in and realized that I’d much rather by writing something fun, so I took some of the ideas from that book and added sex and vampires!
Me: Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Georgiana: I think I’m very good at plot and dialogue and I tend to be able to write quite fast and fluently. The things I want to improve going forward are my prose style and my descriptive ability.
Me: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Georgiana: Quite simply to write. Don’t worry too much about structure or whether what you’re writing is good or bad. If you have an idea in your head, just sit down and get some of it on paper. Afterwards, you can add or delete or edit or even rip it up and start again – but you can’t edit a blank page. Don’t sit there agonizing over a scene and trying to make it perfect first time, just get the scene finished and move onto the next one. You can improve on it once the first draft is finished. Every word you write, however awful, takes you one step closer to having a completed novel, and also makes you a marginally better writer.
That’s my number one tip, but I’d also say that once the first draft is finished, you need to edit and edit and edit. And then you need to get other people’s opinions and you need to listen to them.
Finally, the one that everyone says. Read as much as possible across a wide range of genres and styles and try to think what makes the books you like work. Just because you’re writing paranormal romance doesn’t mean you can’t pick up some great ideas from a sci-fi novel or a postmodern masterpiece.
Me: What genre do you like writing the most?
Georgiana: Everything I’ve ever written (apart from the two chapters of the abandoned literary novel mentioned above) has been broadly fantasy or paranormal. I’d also consider writing something historical or futuristic at some point, but I’ve very little interest in writing about ordinary people in the here and now. Even if I tried to write something quite literary, modern and serious, I think it would have to have some sort of magical or fantastical element or at the very least involve people with very unusual lives.
Me: Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Georgiana: Luckily no. I’ve found that there are days when the words come easily and days when I have to force myself to write, but I’ve never really experienced a day when the words won’t come at all.
Me: Do you write an outline before every book you write?
Georgiana: The first two books of The Cavaliers were barely planned at all. I had a basic plot in my head and knew that a few scenes had to happen, but made the rest up as I went along. For Ivory Terrors, I decided to outline it in minute detail, and I’ve definitely found it makes my life easier.
Me: Have you ever hated something you wrote?
Georgiana: There have been lots of things that I’ve gone back to afterwards and edited so hard that barely a word of the original thing remained, but I don’t think I’ve ever go so far as to say I’ve hated anything. It goes back to what I said in the tips section: however bad a page of text is, it’s a lot better than a blank page.
What is your favorite color?
I went through a phase of being obsessed with the colour pink – I had a pink phone, pink bag, pink everything. Now I’m 27 I feel a bit old for that, so I think I’ve moved onto red.
What’s your favorite food?
I love to cook. My favourite thing to make is probably shepherds pie or beef casserole. When I’m not in a cooking mood, I love Singapore Noodles from a local Chinese restaurant.
Puppies or bunnies?
Probably puppies on balance, though kittens are my favourite type of cute animal. I like the ones that look like tiny leopards.
Chocolate or vanilla?
“Have you seen the Old Library?” he asked. “It tends to be deserted.”
“No, I haven’t, show me.”
Tom took her hand, causing her heart to beat faster than ever, and led her to a small stone staircase built into part of the college’s internal wall. He pulled out a decorated key and opened a heavy wooden door at the top.
“It’s very dark in here,” Harriet said.
“Shall I turn on the lights or do you prefer it this way?” Tom asked, still holding her hand tightly. “I rather like the dark, in this sort of situation at least.”
Harriet giggled but insisted on some lighting. Tom let go of her while he flicked the switch. It lit up one bulb, high in the roof, allowing Harriet to see the room but doing little to expel its gloom. She glanced around, seeing a beamed roof, deep windows and row after row of ancient leather covered books.
“This is amazing,” Harriet whispered. “Are we actually allowed to read these?” She hoped he wouldn’t find her excitement too geeky. At school, she’d learnt to hide her love of books, but if she couldn’t flaunt it at Oxford, where could she?
To her relief, Tom replied with equal enthusiasm. “Most of them are first editions and some are almost priceless. But yes, you can read them as long as you’re careful. You just can’t take them out of the room.”
He walked over to one of the shelves and delicately lifted down one of the tomes. “This is an original copy of Don Juan. Do you like Byron?”
Harriet dashed to his side. “Like him? I love him. He’s probably an overly conventional choice of favourite poet, but he’s definitely in my top three.”
“I entirely agree,” Tom said with a smile.
Harriet reached up to touch the book, but Tom lifted it out of her reach, opened it at random and began to read.
She’d expected him to choose a romantic line, which would have been welcome but predictable. Instead, to Harriet’s fascination, he selected a political section.
“You are the best of cut-throats. Do not start.
The phrase is Shakespeares and not misapplied.”
His voice was smooth and enchanting, his delivery flawless. She felt she could happily listen to him read the entire poem, all thousands of lines of it.
“War’s a brain-spattering, wind-pipe-slitting art,
Unless her cause by right be sanctified.
If you have acted once a generous part,
The world, not the world’s masters, will decide.”
Tom looked at her expectantly.
Harriet took a deep breath, thanked her lucky stars that she had a good memory for poetry and hadn’t been bluffing about her love of Byron, and recited the rest of the stanza:
“And I shall be delighted to learn who…
Save you and yours have gained by Waterloo.”
She looked up at Tom triumphantly.
Tom rewarded her with an impressed and slightly surprised smile. She seemed to have passed some sort of test in his eyes.
“I always find that section fascinating,” Harriet said. “People think anti-war poetry is a 1960s thing. It always amuses me that Byron was writing it in the early 1800s.”
She felt a little thrill at being able to comment out loud. Normally, that was the sort of interesting thought that would stagnate in her brain, unable to be shared with anyone. Maybe with Tom, she could talk about history and literature and politics and have her views challenged and reinforced in equal measure.
Tom slid the book back into its place, and Harriet snapped back to reality. What was going on? Surely this beautiful boy hadn’t really taken her to a deserted library to show off the college’s rare book collection.
Sure enough, Tom moved to stand behind her and began to stroke her neck gently. His oddly forward behaviour caught Harriet off-guard, but his touch felt wonderful. She smiled up at him, wondering whether, if he didn’t lean over and kiss her within the next few moments, she’d have the guts to take the initiative herself. She’d had no trouble initiating proceedings with the few boys from school that she’d been vaguely interested in, but Tom was different. She felt as dizzy as the time she’d done a charity sky dive and first looked out of the plane and down into the clouds.
Eventually, he did kiss her, stroking her hair and drawing her to him. As their lips touched, everything felt perfect. Harriet lost any sense of being in the room. She was only aware of Tom.
His soft hands slipped under the collar of her polo-necked jumper. As his fingers found the necklace she always wore, he froze.
Website and Blog: http://georgianaderwent.com/