Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Interview with Amy Dashwood

Hello folks! I've had the privilege to interview a fellow author, Amy Dashwood, who recently published her first book Only a Novel, for her blog tour.

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 Only a Novel?

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.  And then—well, then it just started flowing.  And stopping.  (Insert agony on my part.)  And flowing again. (Insert joy on my part.)  And stopping again… yeah, you get the idea.  And somewhere along the way, the title got re-done as well. :D

I’ve always been fascinated by titles. What caused you to choose Only a Novel?

Elizabeth Markette (the protagonist) tends to view everything that comes her way through bookish-colored spectacles, and she often forgets that life isn’t just like a book.  So when I was brainstorming titles, I had a whole list of possibilities that revolved around books and literature, but none of them seemed quite right.  For one thing, my book was meant to show that life doesn’t always imitate literature, but I certainly wasn’t trying to bash literature in any way (quite the reverse!) Then I remembered Jane Austen’s famous “defense of the novel” in Northanger Abbey, and bang, in came my title.

How long, from initial inspiration to publication, did it take you to write your book? 

About nine months, total.  I’d had an idea brewing in the back of my head since Febrary 2010, but I didn’t start the real brainstorming for the project until October 2011.  So from October ’11 to June ’12 was a little over nine months.

What projects are you working on now?

I'm currently scribbling out first drafts 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.

Have you always known you would be an author? If not, when did you figure that out?

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was seven years old.  That was the age at which I became a really voracious reader, and one day I just decided that when I was grown up I would write Books (with a capital B) so that I would never run out of things to read.  It sounds a bit cheesy but I can honestly say that I’ve never faltered in that decision in the decade that’s followed.

Since you are a fan of Jane Austen, which of her books are your favorite? Favorite character?

My favorite Jane Austen novel usually depends on which of her books I’ve read most recently, but I’d have to say it’s usually a toss-up between Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.  Those two regularly battle it out for the top spot.  Northanger Abbey is a close second, however.  As for a favorite character... wow.  Elinor Dashwood followed closely by Henry Tilney, probably.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Quite a lot!  I’m currently a senior in high school, which means schoolwork has to take precedence, of course.  But in my spare time I enjoy sewing (I’ve recently become quite interested in historical costumes), reading classic novels and Agatha Christie mysteries, cooking, baking, riding my bicycle, going for long walks and singing with my family.

If you could travel back in time, when would you go?

Wow, that’s an interesting question!  I’m really not sure.  I think the time of the American Civil War might be the most interesting, but that makes me sound rather hard-hearted because there was so much devastation in our country at that time... Mmm, perhaps the Regency era in England would be my choice.  Surprise, surprise.  :D

Do you prefer notebooks or word processors on the computer to write?

I’d love to say I prefer a good old-fashioned notebook, but the fact is that word processors get the job done faster and allow for easier on-the-spot editing.  :D

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Pretty much anywhere!  I really like sitting out in my backyard in one of those canvas camp chairs, though.  We have a bunch of them and they’re pretty comfy.  Lying across my bed is a favorite position too.

Yet Another Period Drama Blog 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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