It gives me much delight, ladies and--er--girls, to bring you an interview with the beloved author Amy Dashwood. (Usually "beloved author" refers more to an author's work than the author themselves, and in this case I mean more of the latter, since the former is at this time unknown to most. But I would definitely say it's accurate either way.) I had the very great pleasure of proudly seeing this young lady through a good portion the writing of her novel, and now that it's actually published I've been so excited one might think it was mine or something. So I can only imagine how excited she must have been. :D Okay, I'm going off on a rabbit trail there. Forgive me. Anyways, when my dearest Miss Dashwood announced that she was planning a "blog tour" for Only a Novel, I never even considered the option of not hosting her on my blog. Unless she refused my invitation. Which, of course, she did not. So here we are, and now that I've talked your head off, we can proceed!
What was the most difficult/trying thing about writing your novel?
Gack. There were a lot of those. Um... probably the biggest one was description. I have a really hard time with description, and as you may have noticed, OAN doesn't have a whole lot of it. Another difficult thing, odd as it may seem, was figuring out where to put the chapter breaks. :P
And since I do occasionally touch the optimistic side--what was the most enjoyable thing about it?
Writing dialogue. I adore writing dialogue. Especially when Lavinia was around--that was swellissimus. And writing Elizabeth and Lavinia's letters to each other was fun too.
Tell us about your pseudonym.
Well, my real name is actually Amelia ----. (Did you really think I was going to put my real last name up here? :P) I was nicknamed Amy when I was a baby, and that's what most people call me. When I first started blogging, I chose the name "Miss Dashwood" as a pseudonym because I didn't want my real name on the Internet. (I had originally intended to use "Miss Elizabeth Bennet", but lo and behold, that one was already taken. Hi, Miss Elizabeth, if you're reading this!) Then, later, my parents gave me permission to reveal my first name, and most of the people who read my blog started just calling me Amy. When I was preparing OAN for publication, I decided to use my blogging pseudonym as the name that would appear on the book, because you suggested it. :D And plus, I knew there was a chance some of my blog readers would buy the book, and I wanted to be able to promote it on my blog without revealing that my last name is really Wigglewump. (Oops.)
Well, Miss Wigglewump, what made you choose the particular time era of your book (early 1880s)?
Heehee. Funny story here. I knew that my heroine, Elizabeth, had to have some reason for being left destitute after her grandmother died (because she had to have some reason for getting a job as a governess, you know). It didn't seem very practical to say that her grandparents just spent all their fortune on bubble gum and left Elizabeth with no inheritance. So I did a little research and found that there had been an economic depression in the mid-to-late 1870's, following the collapse of the Vienna Stock Exchange in 1873. Bingo-- I set my story eight years after the Exchange collapse, and Elizabeth had a perfect reason to be penniless.
Delightful! I never did know that. Something else I've been wondering: did you see the actress Romola Garai as your character Lavinia before or after you started writing her?
They were almost simultaneous occurrences, really. I wanted to create a friend for Elizabeth, someone who could help her get settled in England and give her a taste of society, so to speak. So I invented Lavinia Solange Vivian Bancroft on a day when I had very little time to write and a lot of words to accomplish. I was writing as fast as I could, and dashed out Lavinia's first scene like the hounds were after me. As I was writing, I kept seeing in my mind a picture of Romola Garai in costume as Gwendolen Harleth (from Daniel Deronda 2002), and it just seemed to fit Lavinia so perfectly that I decided to cast Miss Garai as Lavinia from that day forward.
Did any of your characters change at all after you'd found actors to suit your idea of what they should look like?
Rodney did, in fact. :D Originally, he was supposed to be JJ Feild (who played Henry Tilney in the 2007 NA adaptation). But that face didn't seem quite right, and I was racking my brains for someone else when I hit upon Anthony Howell, who played Roger Hamley in Wives and Daughters. After that, Rodney stopped being a goofball and started just being... a nice, funny person. I'll admit, I rewrote all those early scenes he was in. :D No one saw those but myself, and I'd like to keep it that way. He was AWFUL in the beginning. Incredibly annoying.
Ha! Now I am curious about the original Rodney. So, a bit of spontaneity here--which minor character in your book is the minorest of all? That is, who appears the least or has the littlest significance?
Probably Mr. Poplar, a guest at Mrs. Crimp's dinner party in chapter nine. We know nothing of him except that he was educated at Eton and looks like a sleepy walrus. I stuck him in so that there would be other guests at the dinner party beside the principal characters. :P
Ah yes, I remember him! I also remember picturing this old guy from Our Mutual Friend (1998). ;-) Now, what about your heroine is the most unlike yourself?
The fact that she was very good at geometry. :D
That made me laugh. A lot. Do you plan on participating in National Novel Writing Month in the future? If so, when?
I don't think I'll be participating this year, because it interfered with school too much last year. But hopefully I'll be able to do it in 2013, once I've graduated (eeeep!).
I'm hoping to do that one of these years. What are you currently writing? "Does genius burn," as they ask Jo in Little Women?
Genius doesn't burn, but inspiration does. For me, that is. :D I'm currently scribbling out ideas for three stories: a happy-feely summertime tale of a girl who goes to spend her vacation with her rather unusual cousins (The Rochesters), a slightly off-the-wall mystery set in a boardinghouse populated with hilarious people who don't get along too well (The Butterwick Boardinghouse Detectives) and the story of a girl caring for her blind sister and getting tangled up with a group of oddly heretical tinker-travelers in the countryside of 13th century France (The Color of the Sky). The Rochesters and The Color of the Sky are very tentative titles right now... I haven't yet hit upon just the right names.
What is your favorite writing quote? Wait, I know how much you adore quotes. Favorite three, then. Oh fine, you can list up to five, if you like.
Thank you muchly for not limiting it to one. You know me well, m'dear. :D I'm going to cheat and kind of list six-- that is, I'll give you five and then provide you with a link to my blog (ta-da!) where you can read one of my favorites in the header. :D
As for the other five (and I'm not quoting Jane Austen here, because her quotes are ALL my favorites)...
- Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.
- Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
- The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes.
- When writing a novel, that's pretty much entirely what life turns into: "House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day."
- But this I know; the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master--something that at times strangely wills and works for itself. He may lay down rules and devise principles, and to rules and principles it will perhaps for years lie in subjection; and then, haply without any warning of revolt, there comes a time when it will no longer consent.
Oh, I love that Agatha Christie one. On to the next--what time of the day is your best, writing-wise?
Evenings. Sometimes mornings, before breakfast, too. But mostly evenings, because in the mornings I have so many other things that need to be done. The only problem is that I'll often get on a roll in the evenings and not want to stop and go to bed. Then when I finally do go to bed, I have trouble going to sleep because my mind's still racing over whatever I was writing about. Ah well, such is the life of a writer. "A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing." (Eugene Ionesco) Oops. There was another quote, and you didn't even say I could. Oh well, "if I am a wild Beast I cannot help it. It is not my own fault." Accck, there I go again. I'll shut up now. I promise.
I know what you mean about writing before bed. ;-) Have you ever entered any (fictional) writing competitions?
Well, Rachel over at The Inkpen Authoress hosted a Valentine-themed short story contest back in February of this year. I entered that (and won! What fun!), but other than that haven't entered any other fiction contests that I can remember. :D
What has surprised you the most, or been the most unexpected, during your "crazy-wild road trip," as you put it in a post on your writing blog?
Hmmm. That's a toughie. Well, I'm always surprised by the ease or difficulty with which my writing flows. I never know when it's going to love me or hate me. Sometimes the words just pour out and I sit back afterwards and think, "Wow, did I write THAT?" and sometimes it's like drilling concrete with a toothpick. And the worst of it is that I never know which one will come each day. :D
Thank you very much, dearest Miss Dashwood, for gracing us today with your illustrious presence! Everyone, be sure to check out her book! I highly recommend it. :)
"Miss Amy Dashwood is a daughter of the King of Kings, a homeschooled seventeen-year-old and a lover of books, period dramas, chocolate, long bike rides, babies, teacups, historical costumes and fiddle music. Only a Novel, her first full-length work of fiction, chronicles a year in the life of Elizabeth Markette, a young woman with a head full of books who takes on a job as a governess after the death of her grandmother. Only a Novel is available for purchase on Amazon, and you can find Amy at either of her two blogs, Yet Another Period Drama Blog and The Quest for Stories."