A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Today marks the launch of the wonderful BANISHED by the equally wonderful LIZ DE JAGER!
I’ve known Liz for ages now, and I’m thrilled that I get to interview her today… the very day her debut novel is published. I’m so very proud of her and all she has achieved, and I predict great things ahead for Liz and for BANISHED.
Before we start, let’s just take a moment to marvel at that lovely cover…
Gorgeous or what?!
OK, enough of the cover candy. Time to get down to business…
HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, LIZ!! I know copies have been creeping out into the wild for a week or so, but what does it feel like, knowing that today you are a PUBLISHED AUTHOR?
You get the idea.
I do indeed! You’ve created such an intricate world in Banished, how much of the world was traditional mythology and how much was from the workings of your weird and wonderful imagination?
There are things in Banished that is traditional – the Seelie and the Unseelie Court for instance. The presumed good guys and the presumed bad guys. But I didn’t like the idea of there being only two Courts in the Fae world. I wanted these guys to bow to someone else, someone who would be the Ultimate Badass. So I created the High King – Aelfric of Alba. Who is my hot fae prince’s dad and a bit of an unpleasant character for Various Reasons. I also made sure the liberally use the bad guys of the Fae world, the Red Caps. They are just mean and nasty. I also have trolls in the book and they are kinda cool guys who turn out to be the Record Keepers of the Fae. There’ll be more of them in Book 3. A lot of the stuff is made up and just comes from my head, for instance: coffee. I am hugely allergic to coffee but I love the stuff. So I’ve made it that my Fae are all allergic to coffee too but in a way that’s a bit questionable. It’s a drug that’s heavily controlled within the Fae realm. All the laws I made up for the interaction between Fae and Humans are there for a reason, obviously. My werewolves aren’t as prominent in Banished as they will be in books 2 and 3 but I have strict pack hierarchy where they’re concerned and Aiden already sees Kit and Thorn as part of his pack even if they are a stupid Fae prince who has no social skills and Kit who just wants to punch Aiden. A lot.
Who’s your favourite bad guy and why?
My favourite bad guy…I can’t really say as it’s a series thing but in Banished it has to be Istvan. I am not spoiling this as you find out pretty early on he’s the bad guy. The obviously obvious bad guy. The pantomime villain, for a reason. He’s all bluster and noise and distraction. Also: he’s hot. Well, in my mind anyway. He has a curious obsession with Thorn and it’s unhealthy, like all obsessions are.
I love Kit! I remember earlier drafts and Kit came across as quite a bit younger. How and where did you find Kit’s voice?
I found Kit’s voice by throwing caution to the wind. I tried writing her safely, by adhering to what I thought she should sound like, which is why she came across as sounding so young in those first drafts. I mean, when I was longlisted for Undiscovered Voices people were saying to me they thought it was Middle Grade and I was all: wut? What about the violence and the kissing?? And they went: nope, Middle Grade. It told me that I needed to work on Kit’s voice. So I dumped the entire 70k manuscript and started over again. I took a chance on Kit and she paid me back.
Will you tell us a little more about the process of writing and revising Banished?
The original manuscript took me about 2 years to write. It was exciting and fun and I had a great time doing it. Then, as I mentioned in the answer above, I dumped it entirely, rewrote the book in about five months, edited it and sent it off to an agent before my sanity prevailed. She liked it enough to take me and Kit on. I did one huge edit with Juliet – one character had to be taken out entirely as he was just too strong for the book and would’ve dominated it. This meant rewriting it in parts and adding world-building too. Juliet pointed out that whilst it was okay for me to have this whole world in my head, I had to share that with my readers. Huh. Imagine that! We did another edit for continuity and some other issues, before it went on to sub. When it sold to Tor I did two further edits with my editor –lots of tidying up though and fixing logic gaps and more world-building. I extended some scenes and cut down on others quite heavily. It went through two phases of copy edits which I really enjoyed (I know, I’m a freak). And I think that’s it. But maybe there was more.
My writing schedule, because I work full time in the West End as an exec assistant, is crazy: I write for about an hour before work in a coffee shop around the corner from the office. If I get to take lunch I’d write another hour. Then, because I work till six pm, I get home at around half seven. We’d have dinner, catch an hour of tv and then get back to writing till about 11pm or midnight. On weekends there would be at least one day that’s dedicated to only writing. It’s tough going a lot of time, but it is fun. And having this kind of structure actually makes me focus and know I have these allotted hours and you sort of ignore everything else. Yes, even Twitter.
What advice would you give to other writers wanting to do the same kind of complex world building?
Play the “what if” game. What if I my character Danny has to stay late after school for some reason? He has to clean out the science class because he stupidly set off some chemicals that exploded (shifty eyes). What if, as he walks through the empty school, he glances into an empty classroom and sees a group of girls sitting in a circle chanting? A figure appears in the middle of that circle and reaches out to the one girl, wrapping wispy fingers around her throat and flings her across the room and she falls to the floor in a slump? Does Danny run? Does he help? Does he believe what he saw? All world building is based on ‘what if’ and ‘how’. I read books by Michio Kaku to figure out how in the Blackhart world the human world (the Frontier) and the Fae world (the Otherwhere) would exist side by side. I kid you not. I was researching string theories and black holes and it was fascinating. Basically what I’m saying is: everything you read or research will somehow form the basis of your world building. We take things in, as we are made of information and we like finding stuff out – just give yourself to play the what if game and see what comes from it.
Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect from book two? Will there be more kissing?
*eye roll* You and your kissing. So yes, maybe* there will be kissing.
There will also be a new character to meet – Dante Alexander. He’s a government agent and, well, Kit’s not nice to him at all to start off with. Aiden and Kit’s relationship has evolved since Banished and they are really good friends. To the point of annoying one another to death so there’s lots of banter. We see more of Kit’s cousin, Kyle and we get to meet the Blackhart matriarch, Aunt Letty who is as frightening as you imagine her being. We also get to visit Aunt Letty’s house and it’s a rather strange place. Poor Kit’s also out of her depth in book 2 – Vowed – she’s not sleeping well, she’s being haunted about the ordeal she went through in Banished and she’s not mentally in a good place. So the case she’s given in Vowed hits her for a six and she flounders. So yeah. Poor Kit. Sorry.
*there is totally kissing, but also stabbing and slicing, so that makes up for it.
If you could import one aspect of the world of the Blackhart’s into our world, what would it be and why?
Dragons? I don’t know. Maybe a hot Fae prince? Okay, seriously, what would I import into the real world? Magic. I’d love for magic to be real. But not monsters. The Blackharts can totally keep those to themselves.
Do you have any superstitions when writing? Any rituals? Do you cast a circle? Go on, go on…tell us…?
So firstly I bleed a dragon to get its blood. Then I boil it in my cauldron (I actually do have one) until it’s thick and gloopy. I have a special crystal pen I use for the next part. I dip the silver pin nib into the ink and I draw a summoning circle, using archaic Babylonian runes which I take hours to craft. I then settle myself in the middle of that circle and I summon my muse. She then totally takes over and writes my stuff.
But no, seriously, my only genuine superstition when writing or starting a new project is this: whatever I’m writing has to have a title. Because if it’s got a title that feels right and sits under my skin comfortably, I feel confident that I’ll finish that project. Another thing I use as a touchstone is music. It is hugely part of how I live and write especially. I have playlists for each book I write and also general playlists for playing my “what if” games. And, I’ve just realised something: I must find the face of my characters too before I can write them. I must know what they look like – because when I know that, I know who they are and I can figure out their backstory.
What are your top tips for writers?
Huge thanks to Liz for stopping by and sharing some of the back story to the wonderful Banished!
Liz de Jager
Liz grew up in South Africa and is the youngest of six kids. In the year 2000 (AD) she moved to the UK with her husband and they now live in Kent with their Jack Russell, Sparrow. Liz ran My Favourite Books book blog for several years and wrote articles and reviews for other online sites about comics, movies and best writerly coffee shops in London. During the day Liz is an executive assistant in London, but her mind is always busy with writerly thoughts and how to get her characters into deep(er) trouble. Her debut in the Blackhart Legacy trilogy will be out in Spring 2014.
Undiscovered Voices 2012 winner, Sharon Jones, has been writing since childhood. While studying for a degree in politics and then a Masters in theology, she worked in two independent bookshops where she developed a love of young adult fiction. Sharon gained a doctorate in the theology of story whilst being den mother to 500 undergraduates and has taught courses on everything from the philosophy of education to the history of Neo-Paganism. Having lived in Liverpool, Cambridge, Warwick and Colchester, she now lives back in her native Lancashire with a giant white poodle, Harvey.