Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Author Interview: Ceinwen Langley

Today I have an interview with the amazing Ceinwen Langley about her book The Edge of the Woods (you can find my review here). So without furthur ado:

1) Hi Ceinwen, thanks for sparing some time for this interview, can you tell us a little about your book Edge of the Woods which is a standalone novel?
Thanks for having me! The Edge of the Woods follows Emma, a seventeen year old girl on the verge of coming of age, which in her village means having to find a husband if she wants any hope of a decent future. The problem there – other than it being completely unfair – is that she’s not an ideal candidate. Her father died when she was little, leaving them no money to live on and forcing her mother to work as a cleaner (very shameful), she’s headstrong and a little too quick to speak up for herself, and she spends time with undesirables. It’s an uphill battle, and there are only two eligible men her age – not enough to go around. 
Meanwhile, Emma has started to dream about a boy in the woods that surround their village. Ignoring the horror stories and rules about the village, dismissing the amount of girls her age who have disappeared into them over the years, she begins to look forward to the dreams as an escape from her increasingly grim future. But there’s some truth to the myths, and Emma is soon presented with a choice: fight for her future, or run from it. 
It’s a coming of age fantasy with a bit of romance, a bit of adventure, and a lot of drama. It’s pretty fun! 

2) Did you consider a sequel for Edge of the Woods or was it always intended a standalone?
I always planned for The Edge of the Woods to be a single story. As much as I love reading series, sometimes I love devoting an afternoon or day to one complete story, which is hard to come by in fantasy, and as my debut novel, I really wanted to ease myself into the world of novel writing and publishing by writing a standalone. 
But that said, I’ve had so many requests for a sequel that I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it! I don’t want to write one for the sake of it, and I’ve moved on to other projects so it’s not on the cards right now, but I do think there’s potential for future story in Emma’s world, and I know which characters I’d follow next. I promise that as soon as I know what they get up to, I’ll start writing. 

3) What was your inspiration for Edge of the Woods?
I wanted to write a fantasy story with a proactive protagonist, where creepy behaviour isn’t rewarded and with an array of interesting female characters.

4) What scenes were your favourite and least favourite to write?
If we’re speaking broadly, pretty much every scene between Emma and Mama and Emma and Mona were really fun to write. But if I have to choose one favourite scene, and it’s a bit of a spoiler so I’ll keep it vague, is when Emma finally gets Very Fed Up, has a bit of a shout, and picks up the fire poker. I spent so much time building up to that moment that writing it was a really wonderful release. 
As for my least favourites, the scenes with Mayor Jones were pretty unpleasant to write. But the scenes I struggled most to write were the scenes in the woods. Just from a technical standpoint, they were really hard to get right. I didn’t know how to portray Emma’s experience, how to portray the creatures close up, how to shine a little more light on Lonesome from Emma’s fairly constrictive first person point of view. I was rewriting those scenes up until the last possible second, but I’m pretty happy with how they finally turned out. 

5) How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
I don’t intentionally base any of my characters on anyone, myself included, but physical and personality traits do end up sneaking in. Mama sleeps a lot like my Dad used to, Mona has a very similar sense of humour to me, Stranger looks a lot like my dog. Actually, the dog thing was on purpose. 

6) Can you talk us through your personal approach to writing a book?
My general process is pretty simple, and really focuses on editing – which is where I feel I do a lot of my best work. So I usually start with a really broad idea of my setting, my main character or two, and the overall theme of the book. Often I’ll know where I want it to end up, and the journey I want my character to have taken, which helps flesh things out later. 
I take these ideas and I throw them into a word document and flesh out the plot, organising what I know happens in the story chronologically and the emotional arc of my character, and then filling in the gaps to figure out what happens in between and what actions or events lead to one another. It’s like a really intricate puzzle, and it’s actually a lot of fun. But then, I really like doing jigsaws. 
For my first draft, I take the plotting document and write out the scenes as I have them, and any others that arise organically from what I’m doing. This is where a lot of side characters are born, and where I start to really get to know my main characters. My first drafts always come in short, often because they’re lacking the smaller but still important character development scenes and breather scenes. But it’s also I tend to really underwrite my first drafts. Unlike a lot of authors who find they right way more than necessary in their first draft and spend the next few cutting down and honing, I only write the bare bones, skipping most of the description and pretty language and keeping any dialogue - just enough for me to understand what the scene is about and what it leads into and what impact it has on my characters. Once that’s done, then I spend the next few drafts going back over it and filling in the details, really developing the characters and ironing out logic gaps and inconsistencies. By about the fourth draft I send it to an editor, and then I make any changes, send it to some beta readers (I do this the opposite way to a lot of people, who send their story to their betas before the editor) and have about five people – including a proper editor – check it for silly errors. By the end of this process I hopefully have a strong, interesting, error free book. But I also really need a month or so off to rest my brain at the end of it!

7) How and when did you first realise you loved writing and wanted to be an author? What was the first thing you ever wrote?
The first thing I ever wrote was a half-page story about an alien invasion. I was six years old and won ten dollars for it. I don’t actually remember ever realising that I loved writing, it’s just something I’ve always done. In high school I wrote stories for friends birthdays, dabbled in fanfiction and filled floppy discs (which thankfully did not survive the ravages of time) with this terrible fantasy epic. I decided I wanted to be a famous author when I was about ten, and always sort of thought I might write a book ‘someday’ as I got older, but I went into film and television writing when I started University and other than one or two short stories didn’t touch the idea of seriously writing and publishing a novel until the middle of last year. Sometimes I wish I’d started earlier, but I think spending a good few years working in television has really helped my storytelling ability and really killed any urge to write purple prose. 

8) Do you have any more projects in the works or can you share some ideas for future ones?
I have many ideas for future novels, and two first drafts currently in the works. One is a YA fantasy/fairytale novella about a girl who has to save her father from a witch. It’s kind of my tribute to stories and films about brave young girls facing magical odds – Alice’s Adventures, Labyrinth, Studio Ghibli and Guillermo Del Toro movies, which have all had a huge influence on me growing up and become an adult – and a writer. The other is the first book in a YA sci-fi/dystopian trilogy, which I’m really excited about.

Quick Questions
Fan fiction yay or nay? Yay! It’s a great way for fans to communicate with each other and spend more time with a world and characters they’ve fallen in love with, and it can be a really great training ground for newer writers. 
Ebook or paperback? I read both, but given the choice I’ll still go paperback. Unless it’s a George R. R. Martin book. I’ve accidentally smacked myself in the head with those too many times when I’m reading in bed. 
Tea or coffee? Tea – green, fruity or herbal
Zombies or vampires?  In books, TV and film, zombies. In real life, probably vampires. I’d never survive any sort of monster encounter, so I figure vampires are a slightly less terrible way to go.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7935071.Ceinwen_LangleyAbout the Author
Ceinwen Langley (pronounced Kine-Wen) is an Australian television writer and author. 
Born in a desert town with less than 300 people, one TV channel and nothing to do, Ceinwen learned to entertain herself by reading and making up her own stories. The habit stuck, and she's been trying to make a living out of it ever since. 
Ceinwen has worked in development on several local children's shows, taught and spoken at schools and universities and worked as a storyliner and scriptwriter for long-running soap Neighbours. The Edge of The Woods is her debut novel.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20985693-the-edge-of-the-woods

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