Something that's been rather "in the works" in my brain lately is An Authoress Among Us. Every so often I will find the blog of a delightful young lady who writes with wit and style far beyond her years, and I want to share her works with each of you. With the help of my sister Bree — creator of the banner you see above — I am now ready to officially set off in this endeavor.
For this first interview, I am welcoming Rachel Heffington, authoress and devoted scribbler at her blog, Inkpen Authoress.
1. Welcome, dear friend and fellow authoress! Please be so kind as to share a little about yourself:
Hello everyone! I'm Rachel Heffington--a young lady just shy of twenty years old. I am a devoted scribbler, a Christian, a lover of all things old-fashioned, a dreamer, and an entirely hopeless romantic. Apart from writing I love to sing, laugh, dance, and have fun with family and friends. :) I think I view the world through a pair of Dickens-styled spectacles--at least, I'm always looking at people and seeing characters for my next stories. I am like Elizabeth Bennet in that fashion--loving to study the character of all my acquaintance. :) If you'd like to read any about me and my writing there's always a sunny corner for you over at my blog: The Inkpen Authoress.
2. At what age did you discover your love for writing?
Mine was a funny little progression--I have always loved to read--I am quite mad about it, really. I dabbled in the most horrid of horrible poetry-attempts until I was about twelve years old. I am not sure what struck me, but it must have been a galloping case of Inspiration, for I began my first novel and I finished it too, which is saying a lot for most young writers. From there my "career" just blossomed and galloped and reached and stretched until I have three finished books and several in progress under my belt. (Though I only show people the third--the other two are so very juvenile. :D)
3. What is your favorite writing medium (journaling, novel-writing, short story, poetry, etc.)?
Oh, novel-writing by all means--that is, if I had to pick just one. I find it refreshing to the mind to scribble out a pretty little ditty now and again or to write a bit of Nothingness that I call a short story. :)
4. Good books can be so inspiring when it comes to learning how to best write certain scenes. Is there any particular writer whom you most admire? What works of his/hers do you like the best?
Oh Great Scot. I knew this was coming. I knew it. This Favorite-Author question that I find more awful and impossible than cutting off any one of my twenty fingers or toes! :D However, all jesting aside, I must categorize my answer two ways: Favorite Authors and Authors I'm Most Like.
As far as Favorites go, I'd definitely have to say C.S. Lewis and Charles Dickens. There is something about them that just gets to me. There are dozens more that I love to death, but these two shine out like burning planets amongst the myriads of stars.
The Chronicles of Narnia echo deep into my soul. They make me feel that Heaven is just a tad nearer than I took it to be.
Dickens is entirely different, and yet his stories [because my brain runs like his] fascinate me; the intricacy of the plots, the depths of the characters, the humor of the prose. It's brilliant.
And then we come to the authors my writing most resembles. I would have to label these as Eleanor Estes, Louisa May Alcott, and Edith Nesbit. I love E. Nesbit's The Railway Children--it is a charming tale: one that I could read over and over. I love Estes' Moffat books, and L.M. Alcott's Eight Cousins.
5. What do you do when that fearsome epidemic masquerading as writer's block threatens to call on you?
I hang up a "Private Propert: No Trespassing" sign. If the epidemic is impolite enough to trespass anyway, I ignore it and keep writing. If all else fails I take a break from writing. A defined break such as: "I will take three days off." Something that I can hold myself accountable for. Then I focus on living life to the fullest during those moments. What is it one wise man said?
"You can not sit down and write until you have stood up and lived." :)
6. What do you consider the best time of day for writing? Please explain your answer.
At present I wake up at 6:30 a.m., pull the laptop onto my covers, sit up, and type away until I've reached my daily goal of 1,000 words. That usually takes me slightly under an hour, and surprisingly, it has worked--I never thought my mind would function that quickly--perhaps my dreams flavor my writing and make it more than it ought to be. ;) The early morning works best for me because in a family of 12 people, there are few quiet moments once everyone is up. However, I find I write best at whatever time of day the mood seizes me--my brain is tops midday, though I seldom get the opportunity to write during that part of the day, even though I am graduated.
7. Do you outline your books or do you prefer to begin writing and let the plot sort itself out?
Eeesh. Um...a bit of both, I think. My first book (mercifully) had a very simple plot that lent itself to filling in with inspiring floods of writing. :) But through that I did find that it is good to plot your story--at least the bones of it. That is the approach I took with my current project: The Scarlet-Gypsy Song. I had the idea of where I wanted this story to go, and yet I left plenty of room for inspiration and spur-of-the-moment ideas. It seems to be working, for I only started this book in the last few days of November and I hope to finish it at around 70,000 words at the end of this month. :)
8. Of all the characters you've invented, who is your favorite and why?
My style resembles Dickens' in that most of my stories are character-driven. And as my books seem to be overrun with hoards of children, I find I love so many of them it is hard to choose. However, several stand out:
Dill Vervain Octavius Seasoning--the middle child of five in my children's novel: A Mother for the Seasonings. [The story is set in a British colony in East India during the Victorian-era] He's such a duck. He is droll boy who is always hungry, frank, funny, and loveable. He's also a tad naughty, and lent so much flavor to the plot. :)
Aunt Regina--the Seasoning's aunt. As one woman put it: "She's like...like Mary Poppins--only better!" I am not at liberty to say more.
Cora Lesley--the heroine of my unfinished Depression-era novel: Puddleby Lane. Cora is sweet, dreamy, impractical and yet sensible. There is a peculiar mixture of sense and sensibility in her--half girl, half woman--that endears her to me.
Adelaide Macefield--One of the six children in The Scarlet-Gypsy Song. I have split between her and Darby (her younger brother) for who holds the candle of Best Kid in this book. I love them both. Adelaide is spunky, witty, sarcastic, and yet very loyal and loving when you are in her good graces. She's one of those girls who has not yet found the balance, but is a darling all the same.
Diccon Wanderlands nee Quarry--the half-brother of Sir Randolph Fitz-Hughes in The Scarlet-Gypsy Song. He is a man without a country, without a family, without anything in the world except a high sense of honor and valor. Poor guy. He isn't sure where he belongs, and yet there is that indescribable something about him that denotes a hero. :)
9. What are your opinions on romance in books? Do you see these standards acted out in the literature sold today?
I think a bit of romance in a book can add a deal to the plot and your warm-fuzzy feeling at the last page. However I am not a fan of romance novels in general. I do, however, love Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell. I think the quality of literature a hundred years ago was far superior to most written today. Therefore, the romance in some of those classics was not the same old boy-girl-physical-attraction you'll get in most of today's romance novels. There was something deeper the hero and heroine looked for in each other: strength of character, personality, values, etc. That's the sort of romance I would deem worth writing and reading. So if you are mature enough to write a thread of romance in a realistic, pure way, do so.
10. What are some of the writing projects on which you are currently working?
The Scarlet-Gypsy Song, as I already mentioned, is the main W.I.P. I have only about 10,000 more words to write, so I'm pretty excited--riding high on that wave of the light at the end of the tunnel. :)
In the wings I have Fly Away Home, [a 50's era novel] The Traveler [a bit of nonsensical, Dickensian, travelogue] and Madeleine. (Which is only a name at present.) I am also doing research for a novel set in France during the Revolution.
11. As a Christian, is your faith a central theme in all of your books? Why or why not?
Yes. I would definitely say that. If not blatantly Christian in topic (The Gypsy Song is rather a fairy-tale) I tote my world-view into everything I write and I am careful to measure it up to my standards and keep things in line. I like to keep Light and Dark very clearly defined--and I like all my writing to urge people further up and further in. :)
12. Could you be persuaded to share an excerpt (or three) from some of your works?
You must know that is my one weakness--dribbling excerpts all over creation. :P I will give you a smackeral of The Scarlet-Gypsy Song, as it rather overwhelms my head right now:
Cecily paused on the staircase. Her hands were icy-cold. She clasped them together and tried to squeeze warmth into their slender tips, but her very marrow was chilled by the realization of all that had happened. It was useless. And it was all rather awkward, this plight of having to explain to a father that his children had been meddling in something that wasn’t there’s and consequently were never to be heard from again. “Oh drat meddlesome children,” she whispered to herself, gathering skirts and her hair into her arms and trundling down the last three stairs and across the black-and-white tile floor.
* * * *
Diccon slung his pack onto the ground and lay on his back. The rain poured onto his face, but he liked it. He liked the raw feel of water against his skin. He liked to stare straight up into the heavens and watch the droplets careening down to pelt him, imagining they were a thousand arrows and he, an invincible soldier deflecting each of them. It was for such a challenge he was born. A thousand arrows he could take. But days on end of dull pillaging, eating through the borders of Scarlettania like a termite chews through a wall of a cottage? Scarlettania, whose people barely knew the meaning of war, much less the art of it? It would drive him to madness, as it had driven Fitz-Hughes.
* * * *
The general made a movement as if to spring on Diccon, and his mouth was a narrow, malignant slit in his face, but the knife-point kept him at bay. “You have no right. You are a paltry excuse for a soldier of Clan Fitz-Hughes. You are a half-breed!”
“A half-breed, my Lord, is far superior than a half-wit, or a half-truth. You, General Moorcroft, appear to be both.” Diccon coolly pushed the knife a bit harder against the man’s chest. He leaned close until he could smell the scent of stale tobacco and salt-pork in the general’s hair. “You will gather the men and announce my command over this army now. For all they—or anyone else—knows, the message was an order from Fitz-Hughes to invest me with your powers. Understood?” Diccon glared at the man, commanding his gaze.
Fitful blue stars collided with the staid grey of the general’s eyes in a storm of emotions, but Diccon saw no sign of resistance in them.
“As you say, soldier,” the general said. He held both hands out at his sides, and plastered a faint smile on his lips.
* * * * *
The fire in Bertram’s eyes mounted and he grabbed her shoulders. “Don’t you see, Adelaide? Everything here that is beautiful, everything that you are so caught up in enjoying now will be gone presently.” His voice was so grown and manly that it hardly sounded like Bertram at all.
“I still don’t see why it concerns us,” Adelaide said, not because she meant it but because she was cross at Bertram for feeling something other than she felt, and for her inability to fathom it.
“Addie. It’s all because of us, you see. If our father hadn’t written up trouble for the King and Miss Woodruff and everyone else, and if we hadn’t got in here, none of this would be going on.”
* * * *
“Rise, children of Macefield. Rise and look upon me.” The voice that spoke was golden, heavy, and regal like the mane of a lion. The children scrambled to their feet with a deal of noise on the tile floor. When Bertram looked cautiously at the king he was unnerved to see that something—a sort of curtain, you might call it—had been dropped over his eyes, and they were flames no longer but eyes only. That was the bit that made everything worse. It was like looking at a massive tiger and being told he was dead and stuffed ten years ago, when you saw its tail flick a moment before. They might want you to go up and put your arm around it to take a photo, but you know it would be certain death to do so. Bertram felt just that way about this king, and he considered bowing a third time, but thought against it.
* * * * *
“You’re a goose, Charlotte Macefield,” she said.
“Ducky-luv? Is that you?” The plump voice echoed off the walls of the passage until it seemed that dozen beaming, fat Agneses were encamped around her like the angels Bertram liked to tell her about.
“It’s me, Agnes,” Charlotte called over her shoulder. She kept her eyes on the carved wood, trying to find a meaning out of it. Bertram, Adelaide and Darby were clever; they would be able to figure something out—or make something up—but she could think of nothing but the fact that she had to know. And since—as one of the characters in Nannykin’s favorite book had said—“You can’t just come in wanting to know, you know,” wishing she could was no use at all.
13. Have you published any of your writing before? If not, do you plan on doing so in the future?
I am "published" in the newspaper my sisters and I write, as well as in a magazine for Christian girls put out by my friend. However I am not conventionally published, though I earnestly hope to be someday. :) The publishing world is big, confusing, and scary to poor little me. :D
14. And finally, do you have any wisdom for young authors that you would care to share?
One of the things that grew me most as a young writer was joining a small Christian critique group online where I got experience critiquing and accepting criticism. I can recall sitting in front of a critique and the tears welling in my eyes as I saw it covered in red remarks--criticisms, hints, helps, and corrections. But let me tell you, it was worth it. It grew me by leaps and bounds and it helped me keep from any vanity in my writing. :P
Also, please avoid using adjectives that end in "ly" overly much. Oops. There I go. :P Also, go easy on the exclamation marks--they are the definitive mark of a young writer.
Last but not least, read read read other writers. This, perhaps, ought to go first. It is so important to read something beyond what you write--even in a different genre entirely--one can get staled by the air in one's own brain you know. Read something you've never read before. It'll jolt you out of apathy. :D
I hope this interview was not to long for you readers--as you can see, I love writing and I find it easy to ramble. :P And thank you, Elizabeth Rose, for having me here at Living on Literary Lane. :)
Thank you, Rachel, for dropping by for tea! 'Twas a pleasure having you!