Please welcome one of the ladies from YAFF (YoungAdultFictionFanatics). One of my good friends and critique partners who has been a blessing to me from the moment we were introduced.
Welcome. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Thank you for having me, Traci! I’m thrilled (if a little nervous) to be here! No-one’s ever interviewed me before, (though I have interviewed other people – it’s much easier asking the questions than answering them!) I’m a mum of two and live with my lovely hub, kids, big, soppy dog and two tanks of tropical fish in a little cottage on the south coast of England. We’re a merry little band of pirates, interested in just about anything and everything, (our dog, Chewie is particularly interested in FOOD and how to eat as much as possible, and CATS and his deep-seated fear of them). I’m a freelance copywriter and when I’m not working or doing family stuff I write stories for my inner teen.
How long have you been writing?
Years and years – I used to write wild little sci-fi stories as a kid and it just went on from there… including some extremely bad poetry in my teens, and an EPIC Dallas fanfic when I was about 16. I stopped writing fiction for a long time when I worked in newspapers and magazines, then started up again about 10 years ago. My first attempts were pretty awful, then I met the ladies at the Young Adult Fiction Fanatics critique group who took me under their wing, showed me where I was going wrong (everywhere!) and pretty much taught me everything I know about writing, for which I will be forever grateful.
What’s your story about?
Without giving too much away, because as much as possible, I want the reader to experience everything at the same moment the characters do, it’s a Gothic adventure, set in 1816, which combines mystery, romance, and horror and a fair bit of chasing! Some of which involves angry mobs and pitchforks.
I love your gothic setting. What inspired you?
I’ve been hooked on all things Gothic since I was little – I remember making plastic kit models of Dracula with my dad when I was about five, and the only doll I had was a Frankenstein’s monster ventriloquist’s dummy! I’ve always loved castles and ruins and wild landscapes – not really ever been one for lazy holidays, I’m more, “where’s all the weird stuff, let’s go see it!” I used to stay up for all the old horror movies they showed on Saturday nights, got into the literature via an English teacher who gave me a copy of Matthew Lewis’ The Monk, and was a total Goth right up until my twenties. All of this kind of came together for Bolted.
Is this a standalone or do you plan a series?
Well, if enough people like Bolted, there’s another two in the pipeline, and that will be it. The story will be done.
What goes into your world building?
Lots and lots of thinking and reading! I don’t write anything down; it’s all in my head. I’ve been to one of the locations Bolted is set in, and the rest, I did by reading books and using Google Earth a lot.
Who are some of your favorite writers?
Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Angela Carter, Kate Forsyth, Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling.
What do you consider first? Characters? Plots?
I had a very early version of the characters, then both characters and a very skeletal plot fermented away in my head for about six months before I started writing. It started off as a challenge to see if I could write short chapters of about 1,500 words, each one ending with a cliffhanger. It took me a while because I’d write them into these corners and never really know how they’d get out of them. I knew where they were going but not how they’d get there! I had to figure it out alongside my characters.
What are you reading?
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry., which totally deserves all the great reviews it’s been getting. It’s a delight!
What are you working on now?
A prehistoric zombie apocalypse. History, but not as we know it. Hookline is (until I think of something better) Melting icecaps, Global tension, Teen romance, and a zombie apocalypse. Welcome to 12,500 BC.
What does your favorite workspace look like?
I’d like to say it’s really tidy and organised but actually it’s horribly messy and a bit dusty!
What do you need to write? Beverage? Pen and notebook? Computer?
Computer. And silence, which is weird because I have tinnitus and so have a constant high pitched whine in my head, but when I’m thinking, any outside noise is a total distraction.
If you were transported to J.R.R. Tolkien’s world, who would you be?
Probably Goldberry, Mrs. Tom Bombadil. I don’t really see myself as a main character!
Blimey! I have LOADS…just some, in no particular order…The Wicker Man, The Thing, Alien, The Great Escape, American Beauty, Star Wars, ALL the Avengers movies, Modesty Blaise, Barbarella, Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, Star Trek (the JJ Abrams one – that’s quite a big influence on Bolted in terms of pace and storytelling) also The Voyage Home (because it’s sweet and funny) and First Contact, because the Borg are so blummen creepy! The Italian Job (with Michael Caine) and I have to admit I’ll always watch Titanic when it’s on and without fail cry at the end.
Which house would the hat sort you into at Hogwarts?
I’d like to say Ravenclaw but it would probably be Hufflepuff.
What world would you choose in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials?
Golly, it’s been a while since I read it…I wouldn’t mind living in the botanical garden at Oxford, though.
I just finished Mary Stewart’s Merlin series. Are you an Arthur or Merlin fan? Or both?
Probably a bit of both. My inner historian is really interested in Dark Ages Britain, (and I have a story bubbling away that’s set there as well) my storytelling side loves the legends and my traveling side loves going to all the places associated with them. One of my favourites is the Forest of Broceliande, in Brittany, which has a lot of Merlin sites; I spent a while there a few years ago and had a proper explore. It was awesome and I’ll never forget how clear the sky was at night.
The beach or the countryside?
Countryside. Especially if there are castles or ruins to visit!
Fairytale or contemporary?
Fairytale. Because they’re so much more than fairytales.
Where can others contact you? Blog? Twitter? FB? Pinterest? Tumblr? Etc.
Goodreads (just starting out here…) https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32862673-bolted
And finally, you can buy Bolted for just $1.21/99p at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bolted-Penny-Randall-ebook/dp/B01M8L43XK
Austria,1816. Two prisoners seize their chance to escape when villagers storm a twisted scientist’s remote castle. But outrunning the mob and their bloodthirsty hounds is only the beginning.
For Elsa, the past is a puzzle with an answer her enemies will kill for. For Igor, it is a nightmare of knives and blood…and a terrible guilt that will haunt him forever. For both, the future is a journey fraught with danger, towards a destination where a quick death may be the best they can hope for.
How can you outrun your demons when you’re headed straight towards them?
Frau Lipzinger bends down with difficulty and holds the candle to the base of a fire already laid in the grate. The moss must be damp, because it takes a while to catch, and while she’s huffing at the fireplace, I inch past her to sit on the bed. Igor remains standing, hands deep in his pockets, his attention fixed on a gloomy portrait of an agonised Christ above the fireplace, the room’s only decoration.
Frau Lipzinger hauls herself up. “I’ll get that nightdress,” she says.
She’s back in a minute and lays the voluminous garment at the foot of the bed, then turns to Igor. “I’ll go fetch that water now. You, young man, can wait outside.”
Igor blanches. “Oh yes, of course.” He disappears out the door behind her.
The fire hisses. It’s giving off a lot of smoke but very little flame. I kneel and blow on the kindling, trying to encourage a brighter blaze. After a minute or so, the wood begins to crackle and a glow at the back tells me it’s finally caught properly.
I stand and shrug off my cloak, then unbutton the shirt. It sticks to my back and I peel it away like a snake shedding skin. I roll my shoulders and pick up the nightdress. It’s so big, I wonder if it’s possible to get lost in clothing.
Behind me, the door opens. Frau Lipzinger is talking to Igor. “I can get you another,” she says. “But it’ll -”
She takes a deep, wheezing breath and I think she’s about to cough again. But the sound she makes is a broken, raw scream. Metal clashes against wood and water splashes on floorboards. I turn, clutching the nightdress to my chest. Frau Lipzinger kneels on the floor, sobbing and crossing herself.
Ashen faced, Igor steps over her.
“My God, Elsa,” he whispers. “What did they do to you?”
Author bio: Penny Randall studied history at Oxford before embarking on a relatively short and rather unspectacular career in journalism. These days, she’s a freelance copywriter and author of teen fiction, working from her home in the Sussex countryside, where she lives with her lovely husband, children and very large and soppy lurcher dog, Chewie.
Thank you for guesting, Pen!