Rather later than I intended, and with apologies to Rachel for the delay, an interview with Rachel Green. Rachel is the author of the fantasy novel An Ungodly Child, which makes Heaven, Hell and potential Armageddon the funniest they’ve been since Pratchett and Gaiman wrote Good Omens. In addition, she maintains a constant stream of poetry and artwork on her blog (http://whenthedogsbite blogspot.com. /) as well as a separate blog for the tea obsessed demon Jasfoup. Having run into her on a couple of writing forums, it seemed like a good idea to ask her some questions on everything from why she manages to write so much to how exactly you prepare the perfect cup of tea.
The obvious (and possibly obligatory) question- Is writing something you've always wanted to do?
Actually, no – I trained in fine art and graduated with first class honours in painting. There are still a few of my paintings in private collections but I couldn’t sustain a living out of it. Oddly, I sell more paintings now than I did then.
I began writing in the late nineties. You wouldn’t believe some of the rubbish I wrote then.
You manage a pretty constant stream of poems in addition to your other writing. Is there some trick to being so prolific, or is it just something that comes naturally?
I wouldn’t call myself prolific *grin*. Any secret I have is mainly because I like my routines. The first thing I do every day is write four short poems (cinquain, haiku, tanka, fib) then Jasfoup’s diary, Laverstone tales, then the novel in progress.
An Ungodly Child is grounded pretty strongly in the more obscure bits of Christian mythology. Did you find yourself having to do a lot of extra research for that?
Sometimes! I have to admit, I know an awful lot about the Bible. I was raised by a devoutly Catholic mother, went to Sunday School, the whole works. I know my subject quite well.
I do have to look up specific texts, mind. I can often remember a law, but not where it was quoted.
Did you have more fun writing Jasfoup or writing Harold?
I can’t honestly answer that. They both exist as foils against the other. I love them both. I have to admit, though, that Jasfoup has his own blog and Harold doesn’t.
There are also some very memorable minor characters in the book. Did it take a lot of time putting them together?
A lot of the minor characters come from flash fictions and ‘grew’ into novel worthy status. When I copy-edited An Ungodly Child, a good many characters became streamlined into a few. The ghost in the Manor, for example, was not originally the angel Sansenoy.
Several parts of the book seem to be pointing in the direction of a sequel. Is there one in the works?
A sequel? *grins* If AUC sells well enough to interest a publisher in a second, I have a further two already written and am 5/6 of the way through the third. I’ve also written two Laverstone novels featuring characters other then H&J. Book two introduces the werewolf Felicia and her sister Julie.
There seem to be a lot of moments where reasonably ordinary people end up getting the better of the supernatural. Was that deliberate?
Mostly, yes. Although I poke fun at religion, Jasfoup is by definition a product of Christianity. By virtue of the mythos of the Bible, mortals are ‘better’ than the supernatural (cf the Fall of Lucifer). So mortals outwitting (ofter unknowingly) the supernatural is par for the course. Sometimes vampires aren’t chic.
Does working with the visual arts equate in any way with writing? What's the difference between the two (apart from the words, obviously)?
Ooh, good question! There are certain similarities. The need for space (literal and metaphorical) to explore the creative process, the work, the period of reflection, altering and never being satisfied with the final product.
You seem to show up on a lot of writing forums. Is there something about the idea of online writing communities you particularly like?
I find writing forums to be (mostly) very supportive places. There are one or two that I’m a member of but never got involved with because it was too much work to get into the ‘inner circle’. Others I’ve put a lot of work into and have become a core member. What I like about them is the chance to know people by their style of writing without being influenced by them as a person. I’ve met a large number of the people since and there isn’t one I haven’t liked.
How does the work of promoting a book compare to the work of writing it in the first place?
It’s much harder. Writing is a mostly solitary process. Promoting the book is far more gregarious. I actually have a lot of difficulties in that area (I’m a bit of a hermit) so it becomes hard for me to promote my book. Dog bless the internet.
I know you have an interest in martial arts, and in assorted pointy objects, so was it hard restraining yourself when it came to the action scenes?
Not really – When I write the fight scenes they are far longer and often full of technical terms. When I edit I cut the scenes in length and make everything simple. Most readers won’t care what the name of a particular rapier move is called, other than lunge, parry and kill. I do try to keep it simple instead of delving into esoteric weapons, although Lucy, in Halcyon Days, has a penchant for bo-shuriken.
As Jasfoup's creator, you'll probably know; what's the best way to make the perfect cup of tea?
It rather depends upon the tea! A standard black leaf tea, such as you get in the supermarket, requires a warm pot, two or three teaspoonfuls of tea and water that’s just gone off the boil. Steep the leaves for three minutes. Put milk into the cup first, then add the tea, followed by sugar to taste.
A green tea follows the same process, but is generally drunk from bowls without milk. There is a huge variety of tastes and colours and I could never hope to try them all. I occasionally talk about tea on my blog.