Monday, 12 October 2009
Faye L Booth - Interview
Right back at the begining of the year, when the PrestonWN was but a baby and we'd just started this blog, we interviewed Faye L Booth about her Preston-based historical novel, Cover The Mirrors, and her experience of being published by the then-controversial Macmillan New Writing Imprint.
A few short months later and we've got her back to tell us about her next novel, Trades of the Flesh - second novels, and the writing life.
PrestonWN: First of all, congratulations on the publication of your second novel. Tell me a bit about your new book - what is it about and who will it appeal to?
Faye: Trades of the Flesh, like my first book Cover the Mirrors, is a Victorian-set historical novel, although Trades is set at the end of the century rather than the middle. It's even darker than Mirrors, so I imagine it might appeal to those with an interest in the seedy underbelly of history.
PrestonWN: How did the experience of writing Cover the Mirrors differ from
writing Trades of the Flesh?
Faye: I wrote a guest blog about this on Nik Perring's blog, but to summarise, it's actually been very similar. I don't think I've managed to really comprehend the fact that my first novel is out there in the world, never mind my second. So having my second novel published feels much like having my first one published - humbling, awe-inspiring and more than a little surreal.
PrestonWN: What do you think lies behind your facination with the darker side of
Faye: This is a tricky one, because I was born weird, so I can't trace any particular roots or catalysts. I was a toddler when I saw a cartoon adaptation of The Hobbit, and I zeroed in on the character you'd probably expect to be frightening for a small child - Gollum. I promptly named skeletons "Smeagols", and I was fascinated with them too. (The skeletons in Funnybones were Smeagols to me thereafter.)
I read a lot of children's books with witches in them, and despite being a child myself, I was just as enthralled with Roald Dahl's monstrous, child-hating Grand High Witch as I was with friendly witchy protagonists like Meg (of Meg and Mog) and Heggerty Haggerty. As I grew into adolescence, I made my mark in my English coursework by 'sympathising with the devil'; looking at the story from the point of view of the characters that were presented to us as villains or antagonists.
The dark side is interesting to me, I suppose, because it's so prevalent - everything and everyone casts a shadow, literally and metaphorically - and yet we're supposed to pretend that it isn't there, or that we don't have our own darkness. Or perhaps, as the astrologically inclined among my friends and acquaintances like to suggest, I should blame the fact that I made my entrance into this world in late October...
PrestonWN: Trades of the Flesh, like Cover the Mirrors, is set in Preston. What kind of research do you do?
Faye: First and foremost, I look at the old buildings themselves; get a feel for how, say, Fishergate must have looked 130 years ago, before chrome and glass skyscrapers (shudder), bus lanes or Ann Summers. Then I back that up by looking at old photographs - you can find books and frameable prints (like the Frith Collection's stuff) in most bookshops, that depict the area at various points in history.
For facts relating to the area, I use a combination of internet research and local history books (you can often find them in discount bookshops), and I've discovered some delightful snippets of information through these means - examples of historical fact tying in with my planned stories in the most poetic ways. I usually end up making symbolic references to these little facts in my work in one way or another.
Finally, I have a map of Preston that covers four time periods - 1842-52, 1903, 1924 and the present day - so that's very helpful when visualising the area 'then and now', and how it's changed.
PrestonWN: Are you writing anything now? Will your third novel be set in Preston?
Faye: My third novel is already completed, and yes, it is set in Preston (at least partly), at the dawn of the 20th Century. I'm also working on another 19th C novel, and that one's set in Preston too.
I'm superstitious when it comes to revealing information about forthcoming projects, but when the time comes for me to reveal more I will of course do so in my blog.
PrestonWN: Do you write full time?
Faye: I wouldn't say that I write "full time" in the 9-5 sense, but writing is the only thing I do now.
PrestonWN: What advice do you give to our readers who may be struggling to fit in their writing with a full time job or family responsibilities?
Faye: I'm probably not the best person to advise anyone with kids how to juggle parenting and writing (I tip my cap to anyone who does this; I'd never manage!), but the best general tip I can offer for someone who wants to find the time to write is to consider, say, writing in the half hour an evening (or week) when you would normally watch a certain soap, especially if you just watch it because it's the only thing on.
See if you can tell yourself a more entertaining story than the TV does!
PrestonWN: And finally, what are your plans for Halloween?
Faye: I haven't made any yet! Time will tell...
Cover the Mirrors and Trades of the Flesh by Faye L Booth are both available now in all good bookshops - published by Macmillan.
Portrait of Faye credited to Cartmel Photography