Utterly delighted to welcome a newcomer to the Bingergread Cottage today. My pal Laura Huntley is releasing a new book with Crooked Cat – so we are now stable-mates as well as friends!
Come on in, help yourself to tea or coffee – there are cold drinks in the fridge, and move Lily off the sofa. Hope you aren’t allergic to dogs!
Thank you, Ailsa. It’s lovely to be here. Hello, Lily, I will squash up next to you. Ooh, is that cake?
Yes, it’s one of my sponge-specials with home-made jam. I think you and I have appeared in anthologies before, haven’t we Laura? Tell me though, is this your first full-length work?
We have indeed. I have been lucky enough to have short stories in several anthologies now. But, yes, this is my first novel. It came as a shock that I could write a much longer piece after concentrating on flash-fiction for so long. I think everyone who knows me is shocked that it isn’t horror, which seemed to become my speciality for a while.
I know. Finding oneself capable of doing a “whole grown-up book” is amazing, isn’t it? Without giving too much away, what can you give us as a teaser?
I took off my sandals and sauntered along, just breathing in the crisp sea air. The frothy waves lapped at sandcastles and filled holes that children had dug. I carried on until I was next to the bright multi-coloured beach huts, and then ascended the stairs. I found a seat, a little higher, and I perched on the end, not really knowing what to do next.
And suddenly, as I looked up, he was there: the impossibly gorgeous boy from earlier.
Fortunately he had put a t-shirt on, otherwise I don’t think that I would still have been able to breathe. He was all the more attractive closer up. He sat down on the end of the same bench and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Nervous butterflies crashed around my stomach and my veins felt like they were buzzing. I desperately wanted to look at him but I didn’t dare, so I glanced in the opposite direction, pretending to be looking at something interesting in the distance and silently cursing myself for my utter ineptitude. I thought back to the girls at school and their seemingly easy confidence and natural ways. I wished that I could be like that. I could say something funny and flirtatious if I were like them. Instead, I was cringing and ill at ease and more than likely suffering from ruddy cheeks. I thought that I should just get up and walk on, anything seemed more advantageous than how I felt sitting there, but then I thought that would look seriously rude.
“I don’t bite,” he said. I was so shocked that he had spoken to me that I couldn’t react. “I’ll leave that to Dracula.”
He smiled, nodding in the direction of the eerie churchyard, a place of wonderment and pilgrimage for all intrigued by horror – and, of course, by the notorious Count himself.
I smiled at him, mainly because that’s what his smile made me do. It was beautiful and warming and kind of irresistible. It started slowly, just a hint of one and then grew until his face could not be any more dazzling to my eyes. I begged my mind not to totally dessert me. I sneaked a quick look into his eyes, and they were so unbelievably dark that they looked black. That struck me as mighty peculiar, and I turned away quickly, feeling perturbed by such an oddity.
“Are you on holiday?” I asked, looking at my feet.
“Kind of. I’m just passing through.”
I covertly glanced at him when he wasn’t looking. I admired his cheekbones and kissable lips and I felt as though my body was on fire. I couldn’t remember ever feeling this way, though I hadn’t ever met anyone like him before.
Aaaarrrgghhhh! I find this strangely difficult to answer. I feel like I simply sat and typed up a story that had been buzzing around my head, without feeling the need to pigeon-hole it at the time. Black Eyed Boy was predominantly written with a Young Adult readership in mind. It could be called a romance, a paranormal romance with a twist of fantasy and coming-of-age drama. It is all of those things, I think. Errm, is Lily eyeing up my cake?
Yes she is and if you really want to have her attached to your ankle, just give her a tiny corner of cake. Yes, I know that – genre? My story, what else? Inevitable question – what inspired you to write this? How much is based on your own experience or that of those around you?
A few years ago, my young cousin, Emily, seemed quite insecure about herself. She strongly disliked the colour of her (vivid and beautiful) red hair. I decided, there and then, that Emily would form the basis of my main character and that those luscious ginger locks would be celebrated.
The other elements came together later, the idea just hit me one day and I ran it by my good friend, Jane. She thought that it was a unique storyline and so I wrote it.
Much of the story is completely fabricated but, I can relate to my character rather a lot. I have certainly experienced my share of bereavement and so many emotions she experiences are all true and real to me.
Is it a stand-alone? Can we expect a sequel, or even a prequel if you are like me and write back-to-front?
I am writing the sequel now and, I can definitely see a third book on the horizon afterwards. Like you, I can envisage writing a prequel one day, set through the eyes of Dylan (the black eyed boy). I think that could be a fascinating project. Delicious coffee, Ailsa. May I please have a refill? Perhaps just one more tiny slice of cake?
Just help yourself, hon. As we say in Scotland, “Eat up, hen, yer at yer Auntie’s”. Is there anyone you really like or dislike amongst your characters?
What an interesting question. I love Emily, warts and all, I want her to win so very badly. If I was a teenage girl (I totally am, in my head, it is just the pesky mirror doesn’t agree) I would be utterly smitten with Dylan. I think he’s rather dreamy.
Billy, however, is a funny one. I fall in and out of love with his character all the time. He can be the sweetest, kindest and most loyal friend. And, also a complete jerk who I wish to slap across the face.
I believe this tale comes from Whitby of beloved memory to me. I used to go there for dirty weekends with my then-husband (giggle)
The book is set in North Yorkshire; the quaint old seaside town of Whitby (my most favourite place). I love the atmosphere there and I long to live there one day. It was so much fun being able to write about it. I could hear the Seagulls, smell the fish and chips, feel the cobbles of the old streets underneath my shoes, take in the breath-taking scenery and it felt like a genuine luxury to sit down and write every day.
Thank you so much for having me over, Ailsa, it has been such a pleasure to be in your marvellous company. And, you too Lily, of course. I will remember to bring you a nice doggy treat next time.
You are more than welcome, Laura and Lily seems to have become rather attached to “Nice Cake Lady”. Do come back any time for a chat but before you go – the usual links please?