Hello, everyone! Almost recovered from the awesomeness last Saturday? : )
I’m here today with budding authoress Amy Dashwood, who has recently published her debut novel, Only a Novel – which is an unassuming name for such an awesome novel. (Amy doesn’t know this yet, but I got my copy in the mail yesterday and stayed up until – well, I won’t tell you how late, but it was late! – reading her wonderful book! I’ll most likely do a review sometime soon, too, so watch for that.)
Anyway, Amy graciously let me do an interview with her! I’ve been on pins and needles to see her answers to my questions and I hope you’ll enjoy the interview as much as I did!
First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Well, for starters, what I know about myself isn’t really worth telling, but if you’ll let me tell you what I imagine about myself… oh, very well. I’ll stick to facts. If you insist. But I’ll try to make the facts interesting.
I am… saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, homeschooled since kindergarten, the oldest of five children and a wearer of glasses. 😛 I absolutely love communication, whether it be through talking (ahem), writing or blogging—and I do all of those all the time! I wear socks almost year-round, I obsess over chocolate, and I like things that smell good. There, that’s a little bit about myself. 😀 (Oh, and I use far too many smileys for my own good.)
Will you tell us a little bit about your book Only a Novel?
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?
How’d you come up with the title of your book? Did you come up with it in the beginning, before you started writing, or after, when you were finished and knew exactly what your book was about? (It always takes me forever to decide names for my novels…. I’m notorious for having an untitled novel months after it’s finished….)
Originally, my novel was supposed to be titled What Would Elizabeth Bennet Do? Thankfully, my family and close friends talked me out of that. 😀 I usually take forever to title things… in fact, I have an entry in my journal from December 2011 that expresses my frustration at not being able to find a perfect name for “the Elizabeth story”. I hit on Only a Novel after realizing that my story mirrored Northanger Abbey more than Pride and Prejudice—that is, the heroine is much more like Catherine Morland than she is like Elizabeth Bennet. Slowly, she begins to realize that life doesn’t always play out the way it does in books, and that a fairy-tale-perfect story is something that appears in only a novel. (Not to say that real life can’t have a happily-ever-after, of course, but I’d better hush up now before I spoil the ending.)
When did you start writing and what was the very first thing you wrote?
I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don’t know what I did before that. Just loafed, I suppose.
That quote, one of my favorites, is actually pretty true for me. My first work of fiction was an epic tale entitled “The Bobbsey Twins and the Blueberry Contest”, written at the age of five 😀 for a school assignment. It incorporated all of my spelling and vocabulary words and recounted the adventures of—you guessed it—the Bobbsey Twins, as they picked blueberries for a contest. And celebrated Thanksgiving. In the same day. I don’t think I was particularly knowledgeable about fruit seasons as a kindergartner.
Do you write in the same genre all the time, or different genres depending on your mood or what you feel like writing?
Different genres depending on mood and feel-like, definitely. 😀 Sometimes I feel dramatic and sometimes I’m silly and sometimes I’m in between, and I have stories going for all three moods.
Do you have any advice for writers, either novices or experienced?
Can I steal a quote to answer this? Ray Bradbury once said, “Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” My advice to anyone is to write the story that you want to tell. Don’t let it bother you if you think no one else will be interested. Just write it, for crying out loud. The people who like that sort of thing will find it the sort of thing they like, and the people who don’t like that sort of thing… well, did you want their approval to begin with?
And the ultimate writerly question – what’s your cure for writer’s block?
Cure? There’s a cure? TELL ME MORE ABOUT THIS PHENOMENON.
Um, in a more serious vein, I don’t actually have a cure. Sad, I know. I write when I can, and when I can’t, I complain and slam my head into a pillow. And wait until the Inspiration Strikes Again.
Writing questions aside, what do you do in your free time?
You’re going to be sorry you asked. 😀 I adore reading and I do it whenever I can. I spend waaaaay too much time on the computer, what with blogging and e-mailing lovely people and—surprise!—writing. I’ve recently been bitten with the sewing bug, and I also enjoy crocheting and knitting. Cooking is one of my favorite things to do, too, and cake decorating is the one way in which I can be artistic. I go to the library a little too frequently—ahem—and I love taking long walks and bike rides.
How long have you been homeschooled?
The technical answer to this is “since kindergarten,” since that’s when school is supposed to begin, but I think a more honest answer would be “all my life.” My mom’s been teaching me since day one. 😀
(Because we all know it’s virtually impossible to read one book at a time….) What books are you reading?
At the moment, I’m dabbling in… Opera for Dummies, Emily of New Moon, A Tale of Two Cities, The Redemption of Sarah Cain and Sewing and Collecting Vintage Fashions. Eclectic mix, no?
And you like period dramas! What are a few of your favorites?
A few? A FEW? I have to list only a few? Eowyn, how can you do this to me? Oh, all right, fine. Just understand that these aren’t my only favorites… there are SO MANY more, but I’ll spare you.
~Pride and Prejudice (1995)
~Little Dorrit (2008)
~The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)
~Wives and Daughters (1999)
Musicals! Do you have a favorite?
I do indeed! It’s a really, really long one, an operetta of sorts really, based on a very long and classic book by Victor Hugo… you’ve probably never heard of it. Does the name Les Miserables ring any bells? 😉
Cake or brownies? (I love random questions….)
Cake, cake, ‘eavenly cake.
I’ve read that Sir Percy and Mr. Knightley are both tied for first on your Top Ten Favorite Literary Heroes list! What is it about them that makes them tied on your list? Why don’t you like one above the other? (I only put Sir Percy above Mr. Knightley on my list because he saved hundreds of innocent people from their deaths. You can be chivalrous [Knightley, heehee] without saving people, though, and that’s what very nearly kept me from ranking one above the other and, instead, making them tied on my list, too! Ha, ha – my question paragraph might be longer than your answer….)
Asking which I like better (Sir Percy or Mr. Knightley) is like asking whether I prefer strawberries or corn muffins. They’re so very different that it’s practically impossible to compare them, and yet they share the very best attributes and that’s why they’re both my favorite. I admire Sir Percy’s bravery, dauntlessness, and self-sacrifice—yet he’s not quite so realistic, in my mind at least, as some other heroes. (Eeeesh, I’m dreading the slaughter I’m going to face from the Leaguettes after this.) Mr. Knightley, though not perhaps as amazing and awe-inspiring as Percy, is a true gentleman in every sense of the word. When and if I get married someday, I want to marry a man who’s just like Mr. Knightley. (A guy who’s just like Sir Percy would be great too, but face it, there aren’t THAT many guys out there rescuing helpless aristos from the guillotine.) Does that make some sort of sense? Don’t kill me, Janeites. Put down your swords, Leaguettes. Please.
Last question – in a nutshell, please tell us why exactly that you like writing. What inspired you to write?
As to why I like writing… well, “good question.” (That’s code for “Let me stall for time while I think of a good answer.”) There are many, many reasons why I love writing, but the biggest one is probably that it’s just plain fun. Sure, there’s often blood-and-sweat-and-tears involved, but overall, it’s one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things I do.
As to what inspired me to write, the answer is short, sweet and simple: books. I love reading, and from a very young age I was determined to write lots of books when I grew up so I would always have plenty of reading material. As Tori Morrison said, “If there is a book you truly want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Thank you so much for answering my questions!
Thank you so much for hosting me! This was amazing!
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 and you can find Amy at either of her two blogs, Yet Another Period Drama Blog and The Quest for Stories.