Interview by Carl Marsh - April 2014
no doubt you are still grinning at finally seeing your book in print, can I ask how you came up with the storyline for the book?
Thank you for asking me! I’d been playing with the storyline for a long time before I began writing this version, so it’s grown quite organically over a number of years. I think it originated with my interest in the school where my father worked whilst I was growing up. The school was based in a large old house – not quite a stately home, but it seemed very grand to me as a child. I was curious about who would have lived there in the olden days. My dad used to joke that the building was haunted, and I think that gave me the idea of a large country mansion with a gothic secret.
The book itself, Hilary Mantel describes it as 'A sly and glittering addition to the literature of the macabre...'; I have to agree with her, such grand words from the grand master of historic story telling, how have you taken these and other high praised comments?
It feels rather incredible – part of me is still waiting to wake up. I still find it absolutely thrilling that anyone would want to read something I’ve written, so to have praise from such an illustrious quarter is just amazing.
The book informs the reader to expect that a trapdoor will open in the story and that the secrets of The Quick will reveal themselves, well I do love it when an author turns a book on it's head, I was just wondering, what sort of reaction have you had from friends and family about this big reveal as I know those nearest and deartest to us can be quite critical/honest?
My family all enjoyed the book, which was a huge relief. They all have different areas of specialization, so it was interesting getting their various reactions. They didn’t have the ‘unexpected reveal’ experience that a lot of readers have had, though. Whilst I was writing the book, I didn’t really see that development as a plot twist so much as a natural development of the story. I began with a vampire plot and then worked backwards, deciding who the vampire’s victims would be, and then giving them lives, pasts, and concerns of their own. I felt that the full impact of the vampire’s deadly attack could best be shown by having vampires prey upon people whom the reader had already got to know. So when I was talking about the book to my family and other people, I always began by describing it as a vampire novel. (And I got some interesting responses, over the years!)
It is mentioned on the book that you are completing a PhD on Gothic writing and fan culture, was the book the reason you decided to study this PhD choice or did the course choice come first and the book after, and how have both interlinked with each other?
I began the PhD after I’d done most of the initial writing of the book – but they’ve both fed one another in unexpected ways. Reading criticism about vampire literature has shown me the enduring appeal of the vampire trope, and hopefully helped me to celebrate that tradition in my own work. My studies have also made me increasingly aware of the importance of reading, writing, and storytelling as themes in the vampire tale. As a writer who’s just starting out, the appeal of the vampire story now seems rather obvious – so many vampire tales are about negotiating with the past, with earlier vampire traditions. It’s easy to make the connection to literature more generally, and to the novice writer trying to find a place for themselves within the literary tradition. The reading I’m doing for my PhD has also given me lots of ideas for later work – I’m really looking forward to pursuing some of the leads I’ve discovered.
What is next for Lauren Owen then?
I’m currently working on a sequel to The Quick, which will follow some of the novel’s characters into the present day – it’s wonderful returning to the fresh, creative stage of first drafting, and I’m really excited to see how the new book is going to turn out. A lot of the novel will happen in Whitby, so I’m looking forward to making a visit – hopefully there’ll be time for some fish and chips and a couple of donuts whilst I’m there.
Here comes Carl's random “off-on-a-tangent' question”; if you could be any animal/mythical creature, what would it be and why?
I’d quite like to be a dragon – plenty of sleep, big pile of treasure, and no one bothers you.
I have really enjoyed talking to you Lauren and I can see you being one of the UK's most prolific writers for years to come...
Thank you very much!