Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Robin Lovejoy

Banshee in the Well on

Written Words of Madmen - Interview with author Robin Lovejoy

In this interview we’re talking to Robin Lovejoy-Tolkien, a young fantasy author from Kensington, London, England. Banshee in the Well is her first book, published on Kindle in January 2012.

WWM: What inspired you to get into writing?

RL: Noses run in my family, and so does writing. One of my favourite books when I was nine or ten years old was STIG OF THE DUMP by Clive King. Although it’s now seen as a ‘modern classic’ a lot people tell me it’s ‘old-fashioned’ and was written in an ‘age of innocence.’ Stig was published in 1963 and people from that generation have said to me that even in those days kids were warned ‘not to speak to strange men.’ But Barney, the eight-year-old main character of the book, does exactly that. He meets Stig, the caveman who’s travelled in time from prehistory, and straightaway they become friends. They have half-a-dozen exciting/amusing adventures, and no way does Stig ever mean Barney any harm.  However, when Barney tells his family about his first meeting with Stig, Barney’s sister Lou says:  “Let's pretend Stig's a wicked wizard who lives in a cave and turns people into stone.”  This is on the last page of Chapter One. Over the years it got me thinking, what if someone takes up Lou’s suggestion and writes a dark version of Stig of the Dump? Would this be sacrilege, or just a reflection that we no longer live in an age of innocence, more like an ‘age of paranoia’?

WWM: How did you develop the idea?

RL: My sister lives in a Newquay, Cornwall, a town brimming with art galleries. One day were looking around the gallery of a gothic type artist and one of his pictures was of a spooky, scantily clad black-eyed female with dark stripes on her limbs. That gave me the idea for Sathra, my eponymous banshee girl character.

WWM: Can you tell us something about the book?
RL: Banshee in the Well is set in Cumbria, better known as the Lake District, one of my favourite places. The main character is Niall Carver, a twelve-year-old farmer’s son. Niall is alone in the farmhouse when he hears a cry outside. He goes to investigate and follows the sound to an old well in the corner of the garden. He rescues Sathra and soon realises that she’s come through a time-warp from the thirteenth century. He thinks it’s going to be fun, having a magical friend for a while. What he doesn’t know is that Sathra must sacrifice him to recharge her magical energy and return to her own time.

WWM: What made you decide to self-publish?
RL: I’ve never submitted my work to an agent or a publisher, but I’ve spoken to quite a few people who’ve tried it and none of them were happy with the treatment they received. It seems that the UK publishers are very risk-averse in the current climate, rejecting fresh talent in favour of celebrity books and TV tie-ins. Then I heard about Amazon Kindle and it was a no-brainer really. Once I’d finished Banshee in the Well I thought: “what the heck, let’s get it out there and see whether anyone likes it.”

WWM: What book are you reading at the moment?
RL: “I couldn’t Put it Down” by Paige Turner.

WWM: Are you working on a new book at the moment?
RL: Not really, I'm watching the sales of Banshee in the Well before deciding whether a sequel is justified.

WWM: What is the last book you read?
RL: "Retired Cobbler" by Eustace L Boots

WWM: Where can people go and read your work?
RL: Banshee in the Well is only available as an eBook via Amazon. But this doesn't mean you have to own a Kindle to read my book. There are free apps that allow you to read Kindle books on any computer, plus other gismos like iPads, Androids, Windows Phones etc.

WWM: Which writer(s) inspires you?
RLT: I can do no better than to repeat what is said in the dedication of Banshee in the Well: This Book is Dedicated to the Genius of Richard Adams, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Geoffrey Chaucer, Roald Dahl, Charles Dickens, Penelope Farmer, Bob Gale, Diana Wynne Jones, Clive King, Edith Nesbit, Anthony Shaffer, JRR Tolkien and Robert Zemeckis.

WWM: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
RL: I’m a great believer in plot and plot structure, as opposed to character-driven stories. I think the most important part of a story is the ending. A book should always build up to an exciting climax and a satisfying conclusion. No one has a God-given right to be a successful author. I had to learn the craft the hard way, and in as much as I’m qualified to give advice I would definitely recommend the following ‘how to’ guides: On Writing by Stephen King, Complete Guide to Writing Fiction by Pat Kubis, How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James Frey, Creating Characters by Dwight V Swain, Creating, Character Emotions by Ann Hood and the Newnovelist computer software.

WWM: Good reviews, mixed reviews, bad reviews - what are your thoughts on each of those?
RL: I love good reviews, and I don't mind mixed ones. As for bad ones - well, it's like telling a young mum her baby is ugly.

WWM: Do you think a mixed review would impact your sales? 
RL: That's a tricky one. I guess if you had mainly good reviews, plus a small proportion of mixed ones, that would be ideal. If you only have a bunch of glowing reviews it looks like you're part of some mutual admiration society.

WWM: If you review other indie writers’ books, what is your approach to reviewing those?
RL: I'm always kind, but usually that's not difficult because most (though not all!) indie books are very well written.

The Written Words of Madmen