|Original cover, no longer available|
Ms. Langrish took great care crafting these odious uncles. Very little redeemed them. They were careless ruffians with uncouth manners, being incredibly selfish and they clearly believed the world had done them wrong and therefore everyone (and the world) owed them. It is not a far stretch of the imagination to figure out the kind of life Peer would lead with them. He effectively becomes their slave and he has to labour in the mill whilst they go about their business of being scruffy individuals.
What is the hardest part of the writing process?
Making a start! You know, in the fairy tales, when the princess has to climb the glass mountain? That’s the way it feels when I set about writing a new book. There’s this ghostly, glassy, perfect pinnacle rising up and up ahead, wreathed in mists and it can be very daunting. It’s so difficult things getting the beginning right, and I can never go on until I’ve got it right, it’s like a launch platform. I generally go over the first few pages anything up to thirty times before I’m happy with them.
What about the folklore in your books – do you do much research?
I do, and I love it. That’s one of the best parts, spending hours wrapped up in old books of folklore and fairy tales. For ‘West of the Moon’ I read widely in the Norse tradition – not myths about gods, but tales of trolls and neckans and water spirits - for example the fearsome draug or draugr (pronounced roughly droirer with a rolled r) who sails the seas in half a boat with a crew of drowned men. His scream foretells storms and doom. And there’s also a Native American element of folkloric personages, mainly from the traditions of the Mi’kmaq of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, including the jenu: a sort of cannibal ice giant. I spent about six months in the Bodliean researching those tales!
How would you finish this sentence: A successful author is someone who…
How do you measure success? Somehow it keeps moving ahead of us, like the horizon you never quite reach. Before I was published, success meant simply that – getting into print. Then, of course, you start to measure success against better sales, or higher profile, or awards. But in fact, I’d say a successful author is someone whose books you want to re-read.
What are you writing next?
I’m about to begin taking the first few slippery steps up the glass mountain. My next book (or two: this may well spill over into a duet or a trilogy) will have a very different kind of setting: a drowned London three hundred years into the future. I have some strong characters I’m getting to know, and there’ll be mythical and folklore references as well as a sci-fi feel. I’m very, very excited about it…
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Please take the time to think. Thinking is just as much part of creating a novel as actually setting the words down. Don’t feel pressured to start too early, and don’t feel guilty if you’re not hammering out those two thousand words a day. (Me? I sometimes don’t write more than fifty. Or I end up with fewer words at the end of the day, because I’ve been cutting and unpicking.) Often, if you get stuck, it’s a sign that you’re veering off course with the book – maybe trying to force a character to do something they wouldn’t. Give yourself time out. Go off and do something different and let your subconscious mind come up with the answers.