Interview with Sarah Vincent
- I read and reviewed ‘The Testament of Vida Tremayne’ after another author suggested it. ‘Witchcraft Couture‘ and ‘The Testament of Vida Tremayne‘ are very different novels, but both strike me as very literary. If you didn’t have to come up with a straight publishing house genre, what would you call it?
Um, what about ‘Paranormal Page-Turner’? No, that sounds terrible. Some books just defy definition, which is often a reason for publisher turning down great novels and a real shame. TOVT does fit quite by accident into the ‘Psychological Thriller’ category I guess. But you could pre-fix that with ‘Literary’, and yes there’s an element of the paranormal. Sigh. I hate categories!
- I both love and hate novels that don’t leave a discrete ending for the reader. Have you ever felt the need to write sequels?
I’m not a fan of sequels, although they tend to fit with Fantasy, Y/A and Crime genres. They don’t really work for adult literary fiction, which is usually a one-off narrative. I certainly wouldn’t envisage a sequel for TOVT. That story has been told.
That said, my Y/A trilogy seemed to lend itself naturally to sequels, with my three girl protagonists confronted by the ghost of a different historical character in each book: Henry VIII, The Witch finder General, and the poet Byron. The sequels there were purely accidental, at the request of the publisher and in no way pre-planned.
- I hear there’s another novel you’re writing. Tell me about it! Does it have even a working title?
I’m a firm believer in the old writing adage: ‘If you talk it, you won’t write it.’
Let’s just say I’m setting aside my editing and consultancy work for a couple of months in order to write. I do have a working title: Lark Lure. But that will undoubtedly change.
- You have two pen names. Tell me about why that was important to you, and whether it says something more about the genres of fiction you choose to write in.
So many writers now are using pen names. Mainly this is to free themselves from being pigeon-holed into a genre. The pen name Sarah Vincent is simply because I’ve left Y/A behind and am writing for a different market. It’s interesting how a new name brings a whole new energy with it. It can be liberating, having a chance to re-invent yourself. In fact the pen name feels more ‘me’ than my real name nowadays. One snag is that I’ve published a lot of short fiction under my real name. The plan is to bring out a new collection in Sarah’s name, quite soon I hope.
- I hadn’t ever heard of your YA fiction before reading another interview you’ve given. What am I going to like about it? Should I put it on my to-be-read list?
You’re welcome to put my Y/A titles on your TBR list if you wish. The books are called: The Henry-Game, Delilah and the Dark Stuff, and Mad, Bad and Totally Dangerous.
All three were described as ‘wickedly funny’ in ‘The Ultimate Teen Book Guide’. The second book ‘Delilah’ was the one which really spooked readers the most, so if you like to be spooked, you could start there.
Find them here on goodreads
- Some advice other writers have given is that your first novel is best sitting in a drawer for a while, because then you feel stronger about chopping up ‘your baby’. Do you think that was a big part in finally getting ‘Vida’ published?
First thoughts are never the best, and you need a good break from your work in progress to see it objectively. Hence the famous drawer. I’ve never had a problem chopping up my babies. If you get too precious about a novel, it will never see daylight. Simple as that. Not that I’d recommend my approach with ‘TOVT’ to other writers. It spent several years in the drawer, and went through several incarnations. I was lucky to have top quality editorial advice in the latter stages, firstly from the insightful Katherine Price at Cornerstones and then from my agent, the brilliant Nelle Andrew at Peters, Fraser, Dunlop. The end result was completely unrecognizable from my first tentative scratchings.
- Do you still have a copy of your first novel, Curious Connie and Fanny Fanakapan? I’d love to see the original binding.
Aha, my debut novel. Yes, I wrote it when I was six or seven, and still have it in a folder. The knitting wool binding is a bit frayed now and the tissue thin papers are faded. Here’s the cover and an inside illustration!
- A converted coal shed sounds cold, despite the previously cozy contents. I need to know what colour it is. Do you have colourful post-it notes on the walls? How does it meet your writing needs?
It does get a bit cold in winter, despite the electric heater. Picture me typing with a blanket over my knees, feet encased in cosy slipper socks. Not a sexy image but you can’t write with cold feet! Apart from that it’s lovely and bright in the ex-coal shed, with yellow painted walls and two big skylights for the sunshine to pour in. Yellow is good for stimulating brain cells apparently, so I live in hope. No post-it notes, just heaps of manuscripts everywhere, my own and those which I read for clients. Also loads of books. There are books all over the house, but I keep the special ones in my office. I collect art and esoteric books, also collections I’ve had stories in and novels written by friends or past clients. There are quite a few of these and it’s lovely to think you’ve played a small part in helping someone along the way.
One downside of the coal shed is that it’s such a narrow space with high windows, so you do get this feeling of an Anchorite’s cell at times. A small vase of flowers from the garden; lilac, or sweet peas or roses on my desk, is a must.
- You’ve mentioned that you keep a journal. Does it contain such secrets that someone who discovered them would want to write another novel about them?
Oh, no one’s ever asked me that question before. I’ve given orders that my journals should go on the bonfire when my time comes. Not that they contain anything juicy. It’s mainly writing related stuff, novels in progress, the ups and downs of my career, just to keep a track of things. I do find writers’ journals fascinating to read though and I have several collections on my shelves, including Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf. Mine are nothing like as high-flown or interesting I’m afraid.
- This is the second time I’ve heard an author describe the need to write as an ‘itch’. Can you tell me more about that feeling?
The writing itch is very hard to explain. For me it’s really quite nebulous, that vague sensation that a story or novel idea is trying to surface. You have to write something, anything to find out what it is.
- You’re very active on social media. Where does maintaining an online presence and social media outlets come into marketing your branch and your books?
Funny, you should say that, as I’ve never thought of myself as active on Social Media. I’m not even on Facebook, only Twitter and an occasional foray into Goodreads and that’s it. I think it’s probably better to use one platform well than try to spread yourself too thin. Twitter has proved interesting, but I do take long breaks, and love going off-grid for days at a time. As regards sales, yes I’ve met lots of lovely people on Twitter and picked up quite a few readers, which is great.
- Out of the interviews you have given, is there something you wish someone would have asked you? Or conversely, something you wish they hadn’t asked?
I was a writing child, and it would be nice if someone asked about that, as you have about my very first book. It’s also good to be asked about reading, those books that have inspired me over the years. So far, nobody’s come up with a question I’d rather not answer. Give it time!
You can find Sarah on a range of platforms:
You can find more interviews with Sarah:
See my review of The Testament of Vida Tremayne here
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