Thursday, July 19, 2012

Interview with Miss Dashwood

Today I have a surprise for everyone. I have the great pleasure of hosting Miss Amy Dashwood (of Yet Another Period Drama Blog and The Quest For Stories) as she is on her blog tour promoting her newly released book Only A Novel, which you can purchase at in paperback and on Kindle. I have invited Miss Dashwood here for an interview, and she has graciously accepted.

*sets out tea and cookies*
Thank you for joining me here today, Miss Dashwood. Why don’t we start off with you telling a little about yourself.

Well, for starters, what I know about myself isn’t really worth telling, but if you’ll let me tell you what I imagine about myself… oh, very well.  I’ll stick to facts.  If you insist.  But I’ll try to make the facts interesting.

I am… saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, homeschooled since kindergarten, the oldest of five children and a blondish brunette.  I enjoy vacuuming and hate cleaning bathrooms, I adore carrots and abhor string beans, fall and spring are my two favorite seasons and I firmly believe that time spent reading is never time wasted.  Also, I’ve never broken a bone.  There.  That was a bit of randomness for you. :D

Could you give me a synopsis of your new novel?
Elizabeth Markette has always led a quiet and privileged life under the guardianship of her wealthy grandmother.  But when her grandmother dies and leaves twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth alone in the world and nearly penniless, she’s forced to earn her own living for the first time in her life.  Taking inspiration from her favorite British novels, she sets sail for England to seek a position as a governess.  Before she can do that, however, she is rather abruptly and overwhelmingly befriended by a lonely and slightly eccentric young socialite, Lavinia Bancroft, who introduces her to the sparkling world of London society.  Yet Elizabeth still feels the need to make her own way, though once she actually acquires a position, she begins to have doubts as to whether she’s actually qualified.  The children she’s teaching don’t seem to like her, the housemaid seems far too eager to be friends—who wants to be friends with a housemaid?—and the stable hand keeps interfering with the children.  Elizabeth’s one hope and consolation is that somehow, some way, Mr. Darcy will come riding out of the mists very soon indeed to save her from a life of respectable servitude.  There’s just one problem—where is he?

What inspired you to write Only a Novel, and did anything add inspiration while writing it?
My first degree of inspiration, so to speak, came in the form of reading far too many Sherlock Holmes mysteries when I was fifteen.  (Yes, I’ve read all four novels as well as each and every one of the short stories.  Any fellow obsessive fans out there?)  My writing tends to be influenced by what I read (do tell!) and I started to get wisps of ideas about an American young woman who went out to work as a governess for a family on a cold and lonely English moor.  No, there was no Hound of the Baskervilles, but there could very well have been.  :D  That story never really went anywhere, but then when I started contemplating NaNoWriMo in November 2011, I dug out the idea and revamped it with the title “What Would Elizabeth Bennet Do”?  This time around, the story focused on a rather different heroine with a deep-set love for Jane Austen’s books.   Eventually the title got re-worked, of course, but Jane Austen (and Elizabeth Bennet) remained a constant source of inspiration.

Who would you say was your favorite character to write and why?
That’s honestly a tie between Rodney Burke (the stable hand) and Lavinia Bancroft (Elizabeth’s best friend).  They were both tremendously fun to write, simply because they are both in the habit of saying ridiculous things.  

Could you share a brief snippet or favorite line from your book with us?
 Elizabeth swallowed hard and forced herself to smile and greet the children.  “Good afternoon,” she squeaked.  Ugh.  Hastily, she cleared her throat and tried to look like an intelligent human being. She achieved this effect by elongating her neck and widening her eyes—but now she felt even more like an imbecile than ever and quickly rearranged her face back into its previous expression, intelligent or otherwise.

What is your ideal setting for when you write? That is, do you like to write at a certain time of day, in a certain place, where it is quiet? What works best for you?

The ideal setting would be under a tree, a light and gentle breeze blowing through my hair, a notebook and a pen in my lap and a cup of tea in my hand.  Pause for a moment to appreciate the pretty picture, and then I’ll tell you about my real writing setting: hunched over the computer keyboard (my posture when writing is terrible—I’m working on that), furiously typing so I can finish my train of thought before bedtime.  Somehow I always seem to get the best inspiration late at night.  I’d love to be one of those up-before-dawn writers, but I can never think of anything to say in the early morning.

Do outside sources, such as certain songs or quotes or books, usually inspire your ideas for your stories or do the ideas come to you unaided?
Songs, quotes and books don’t necessarily inspire my ideas for stories (sometimes, not often), but neither do the ideas come unaided.  I drag them in kicking, screaming and biting.  It’s a long and difficult process.  :D

Along the lines of that last question, what are a few of your favorite books?

A hundred and eight counts as “a few,” right? 
…Oh, you meant, like, less than ten.  Fine.  
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Do you have a favorite genre of music?
 Classical and Broadway are my absolute favorites, but I also enjoy sweeping movie soundtracks and I’ve recently developed a taste for opera.

Do you have a favorite worship song or hymn?

Be Thou My Vision, It Is Well With My Soul and In Christ Alone are my favorites right now… but it changes from week to week.  :D

Do you have a favorite food?

Food is good.  I like food.  Muchly.  As to a favorite… um… well, seafood is always amazing, and I really like salads, and eggplant parmesan is beyond delicious.  As far as desserts go, you can never go wrong with chocolate, lemon or strawberries.

Tea or Coffee? And can you give any recommendations on brands or types? Even times when certain types are best?

Bigelow’s “Constant Comment” brand of tea is probably my all-time favorite.  I think of it as a writerly beverage.  :D  Coffee is delightful, but I don’t usually drink it when I’m writing.

What is your favorite season? Why?

Autumn.  I like cooler temperatures, and sweaters are one of my favorite articles of clothing, so I like an excuse to wear them all the time.  Plus, who doesn’t like colorful leaves and the smell of wood smoke and the spice of apple cider?

Which do you prefer: A sunny beach or a wooded lake?

The sunny beach, as long as I have lots of sunscreen, a good pair of sunglasses, and an excellent book. 

Here is a summary of an analogy a friend of mine made about writing styles:
A person who likes to organize and have an outline of their story to follow while writing could be compared to classical music. A person who gets an idea, but flies by the seat of their pants when writing could be compared to jazz music.
Which of these two writing styles would you say you most closely embody?
Heehee.  Well, I’m probably more like the jazz music—although I really don’t like most jazz music and infinitely prefer classical.  But no question about it, I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer.

Do you recommend events like NaNoWriMo?
I do indeed—but I recommend a nice long break afterwards so your brain can go back to normal!  Writing under such a crunching deadline is exhausting.

Any tips on editing?

Try reading through what you wrote as if you’ve never seen it before—imagine that this is a book you’ve plucked off the shelf at the library.  If anything makes you wrinkle your nose or hastily skip because it doesn’t sound right, cut it out.   Be ruthless, but always save your previous drafts so that if you decide to put something back in, you’ll have it available and won’t be forced to tear your hair. :D

Finally, can you give any words of wisdom to the other writers out there, especially those possibly pursuing publication?

Write what you want to write! I know that sounds cliché, but honestly, if you aren’t enjoying what you write, no one will enjoy the reading of it.  Have fun, for Pete’s sake—writing is hard, yes, and there will be times when you want to die, yes, but it’s so worth it.   Stick with your projects, but don’t be afraid to trash a stupid idea.    Also, don’t be afraid of self-publishing.  :D

Once again, thank you for being here today. I had a lovely time hosting you. Please, feel free to take an extra cookie for the road.
Thank you so much for having me—and the cookies were delicious! May I have the recipe?
I'll have to see what I can do about that. ;-)
And thank you all for sitting in on our interview. Don’t forget, you can follow Miss Dashwood at her blogs, and you can purchase her book Only A Novel here and here.
Please, feel free to take a cookie home with you! :- )

"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."

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