Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Interview: Elizabeth Richards, Author of BLACK CITY

Hello Lovlies! Today, we have a special guest: Elizabeth Richards, author of Black City: Book 1 of The Black City Chronicles (Putnam, November 2012). I'm really excited about this series, and Elizabeth was nice enough to answer a few questions for us. Ok, so maybe it's more than a few, but like I said, I'm really excited about the book and she is super nice. So, check it out.
Picture taken from Elizabeth's Website: The Red Pen of Doom
To start off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a debut author, whose first novel BLACK CITY, is out this November with Putnam. It’s a dystopian fantasy set in the fictional nation of the United Sentry States, where humans and Darklings are recovering from the aftermath of a brutal and bloody war. BLACK CITY is dark and political, but with a tender love story at its heart. I really love blending genres and BLACK CITY does that, mixing dystopian fantasy with a dollop of paranormal romance and a sprinkling of steampunk.

Prior to getting my book deal, I was a videogames reviewer, writing for UK magazines such as P2 and CUBE, and I also sailed the Seven Seas as a travel editor (despite the fact I suffer from severe travel sickness and suck at geography. Not the best career move…).

There’s nothing I love more than curling up with a good book and a hot chocolate. I enjoy fantasy and adventure novels the most, and am obsessed with all things Harry Potter! My all time favorite authors are JK Rowling (obviously), Anthony Horowitz, Suzanne Collins, Maggie Stiefvater, and Stephenie Meyer.

What are your favorite kinds of scenes to write (humorous, action-packed, romantic, etc) and why?

Action-packed scenes, definitely.  I love fast-paced adventure novels, and these are the scenes that really engage me as a writer and get my pulse racing. But I do enjoy kissing scenes too, because I’m always completely in love with my male leads. It’s fun living vicariously through my female protagonists! 

What part of writing do you find most difficult?

I get distracted easily, so that’s the hardest challenge I face each day. I have to force myself to go to the local library to help get me out of the house and away from the internet and bad day-time TV! I’m least productive when I’m at home with all the distractions around me.

Where and in what type of setting do you like to write?

It depends on how lazy I’m feeling. I try my best to go to my local library, which is a shrine to the 1980s, with these amazing murals painted by artists Boyd and Evans. If I’m not there, I’m at home, trying really hard not to watch TV. But given the choice, I’d be writing at my family’s holiday home in  County Sligo, Ireland, which is the most inspirational and peaceful place in the world.

What writer, book or series has been a big inspiration to you and your writing?

JK Rowling has been a real inspiration to me. Ever since my teens, I fantasized about being an author, but like a lot of people I thought it was just a pipedream and I needed to focus on getting a ‘proper’ career, so I put it to one side. But it was always whispering to me in the back of my mind. Then I started reading the Harry Potter series, and everything changed. I became obsessed with the novels, and from there I started reading more MG and YA fiction, and fell totally head-over-heels in love with them. I knew then this is what I had to do with my life. And the rest, as they say, is history.

What was the last book you read that you really fell in love with or that blew your mind?

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. It’s this amazing tale told from the points of view of three women, set during the American civil rights movement. It’s so beautifully written, the characters are brilliant (I have a real soft-spot for Celia), and it really makes you think about how life was during the 1960s for black women, without ever being ‘preachy’. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend that you do, as your life will be all the richer for it.

What are you reading right now and what book(s) have you go your eye on lately but haven’t got to read yet?

I’m currently reading Harbinger, by Sara Wilson Etienne. I’m only a few chapters in, and already I’m hooked.

Regarding other books, oh heavens, I have a whole bookshelf of novels I’m desperate to work my way through! I’ve just been so busy with revisions and working on book #2, that I haven’t had time to do much reading. But next on my list is Blood Red Road, by Moira Young.

Any advice for beginner writers out there?

Find time to write! Yes, I know it sounds so obvious, but you’d be amazed by the amount of people I meet who say they want to be authors, and when I ask them about the projects they’re working on, they say things like ‘Oh, I don’t actually have the time to write.’ Rubbish! If you want to be an author, then you find the time to write.

Experience is also important. So if you’re serious about being an author, start applying for staff writing positions on magazines or newspapers (or if you’re younger, get involved with your school/university newspaper, and if they don’t have one, start one up!), do a journalism degree, write a blog, enter competitions etc. Basically do anything to prove to agents you’re dedicated to writing and that you’re able to work to deadlines. It really will help your query stand out from the crowd.

Also, learn about the industry. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to know about the market. So if you want to write YA then make sure you know who all the movers and shakers are in the YA world, and work out where you fit in. Show a real passion for it. Follow agent and editor blogs, join forums such as absolutewrite.com/forum or querytracker.com, become a member of respected writing bodies like SCBWI, and get involved. The more you network, the more opportunities will come your way.

Be stubborn, have faith in yourself, learn, take criticism with grace, and develop a thick skin.

And finally, write from the heart. Write what you love, don’t try to follow fads and trends, and don’t be put off when people say ‘such and such was SO last year’.  Just be true to yourself and your voice. Good writing always wins out in the end.

Now, a little Red Pen of Doom told me you’ve got a book coming out in November!

I’m so excited about the release of Black City. I haven’t been given an exact date yet, but hopefully I’ll find out soon. I wish I had a time machine so I could fast-forward a few months and just see my book on the shelves!

Can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from Black City when it’s released?

Deep in the heartland of the United Sentry States are the burning ruins of the Black City, a melting pot simmering with hostility as humans and Darklings struggle to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a brutal and bloody war. A wall now divides the city separating the two races. Trapped on the wrong side of the wall is sixteen-year-old hustler Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling who’ll do whatever it takes to survive, including selling his addictive venom ‘Haze’ to help support his dying mother.

Then there’s Natalie Buchanan, the daughter of the Sentry Emissary, who feels imprisoned by her life of privilege and fame. When their paths cross, they instantly detest each other but Ash is shocked when his once still heart starts to beat. Bonded by a mysterious connection, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed. Then Haze users start dying all over the city and Ash discovers the terrible truth behind his and Natalie’s mystical connection. Suddenly, city walls and the threat of execution become the least of their problems.

What was the inspiration behind Black City and the characters?

Bizarrely, the inspiration behind the character of Ash was a movie called Charlie Bartlett. As I was watching that movie, Ash just formed in my mind. I knew I wanted him to be a drug-dealer, messed-up, a little snarky, totally gorgeous and a reluctant hero. The movie, of course, is nothing like my book, so it’s a bit strange that it was the spark that started everything, but I guess you never know when inspiration will strike!

The themes, plot and settings of Black City evolved over two years of constant redrafting. It started life as a paranormal romance based in modern day Britain, and somehow evolved into a dark dystopian fantasy, set in the fictional nation of the United Sentry States. Sometimes your characters just lead you down a different path and you have to follow it. I’m so glad I did.

The big question Kim and I always have to know…is there a cute/dangerous/mysterious boy?

Ha ha! Yes, there’s a very cute, dangerous and mysterious boy in Black City called Ash Fisher. He’s one of the two main protagonists of the book (it’s a dual-narrative). He’s a twin-blood Darkling who sells his addictive venom Haze to support his dying mother.  He’s incredibly damaged, oh-so-beautiful and quite the bad boy.  

There’s also another super sexy, mysterious boy called Elijah who is introduced in the first book. He plays a key role in the sequel, but you’ll have to find out more about him later…
Oh goody, goody, goody! I think I love Ash already! We love our fictitional boys here!

Just for fun….

Can you give us 4 random facts about yourself?
I love volcanoes (not in a sexy-time way, but I do find them fascinating).
I have an unhealthy obsession with Daniel Radcliffe (in a sexy-time way).

I’m an identical twin!
I have a heart-shaped birthmark on my left foot.

Dogs or cats?
Dogs. They’re amazing, and I’m still trying to convince (my severely allergic) husband that a pet dog is a fab idea. Although I’ve warmed up to cats since my sister got one. They’re quite endearing.

Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate! Om noms.

Sugar or salt?
Sugar! I’m a complete chocoholic. It’s my ultimate vice.
Coffee or tea?
Neither, bleurgh. I’m actually a hot chocolate drinker, which at my age (31, eeeps!) is quite embarrassing. But I’ve never developed a taste for either beverage. It’s just icky brown water to me. At a push, I’d have a Mocha with loads of sugar.

Pink or blue?
Pink! Yes, it’s such a cliché but I love, love, love pink!

If you could be asked any question, what would that be? What would your answer be?
Do you have a super awesome official website?
It’s currently in development, and I’m hoping to launch it in April 2012. In the meantime, you can get all the latest Black City gossip at www.facebook.com/OfficialElizabethRichards  or you can visit my blog at http://theredpenofdoom.wordpress.com 

Thanks so much for joining us Elizabeth!

And tomorrow we are going to have a little, ok, a HUGE surprise for you guys! So check back tomorrow for some FANTASTIC bonuses.

Find Elizabeth On

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