Monday, 24 January 2011

Author Interview: Andrea Eames

Andrea Eames is the lovely lady behind the blog A Cat of Impossible Colour. Her debut novel, The Cry of the Go-Away Bird, is out in February, published by Harvill Secker. Andrea is always inspiring; her evocative writing is a pleasure to read and her love of vintage style is infectious! I’m delighted to welcome her to my blog, and to ask her some questions...

How entwined are your own personal memories with Elise’s story in The Cry of the Go-Away Bird?

Hmm, this is always a tricky one to answer – the book is fiction, but I have drawn extensively on my own memories and experiences, and those of my friends and family, to create Elise’s story. This makes the narrative and my life a little like a set of Christmas tree lights that have been sitting in a closet for a year – knotted and twisted and fiendishly difficult to disentangle.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I have wanted to be a writer ever since I knew what a story was. In that way, I think I am very lucky – I never wondered what I wanted to do with my life (although I did sometimes wonder if I would be able to do it!).

Can you pinpoint a turning point for your writing career when it all started coming together?

I think it was the moment when I realised that I had to rewrite The Cry of the Go-Away Bird before it would be good enough to submit. It was heartbreaking but also invigorating to slice and hack into the words I had laboured over, and to restructure and re-imagine the whole thing. I knew it was the right decision, and it was an important lesson for me to learn as a writer. And I signed with an agent only days after submitting the rewrite.

How long did it take to write The Cry of the Go-Away Bird?

It took me about nine months to write the first draft, three months to write the second and then another three months to rewrite it pretty much from scratch! Once you factor in all the editing time (my own edits and my publisher’s) and the copy-editing, the entire process took almost two years. The publishing industry is a slow-moving land mammal, and you have to be patient.

What was the hardest thing about writing The Cry of the Go-Away Bird?

  1. Reliving some of the more difficult events that inspired the book.

  2. Just learning how to write a novel! I had written ‘novels’ before – several – but The Cry of the Go-Away Bird really taught me how to construct a story brick by brick (or Bird by Bird, if you read Anne Lamott!) in a way I had never before truly understood.

  3. Pushing through the times when I thought that it was the worst book in the world and I was a terrible person for writing it. These feelings are pretty universal among writers, thankfully, and never really go away (not-so-thankfully).

  4. Querying! Anyone who has gone through the process knows how devilishly difficult and discouraging it can be.

Having said all that, I LOVED writing the book just as much as I struggled with it.

How long did it take you to get an agent / publishing deal?

I started querying for this book in September 2008, signed with my agent in the following April and signed with my publisher (Harvill Secker, a division of Random House) in June. I rewrote the book during this process, though, based on agent feedback and my own improved perspective, and it was a very different book in June than it had been in September.

The Cry of the Go-Away Bird hits the bookshops in February 2011. How will you celebrate the occasion?

I have a tradition of always buying a new vintage dress to celebrate momentous occasions in my life, so I will have to ferret about London for my Book Launch Dress! My editors are also taking me and my agent out for drinks a few days after the launch, which will be so much fun. I can’t wait. (Although I am sure that, as well as celebrating its release, I will also be hiding under a duvet cover cowering in terror for some of the day, as well!)

What can we look forward to with your next book?

Well, I started out intending to write a historical novel about the Second Chimurenga (also known as the Bush War or the Liberation War) in 1970s Zimbabwe, but I ended up writing a book about witchcraft, black magic, family and reincarnation. My books never listen to me!

You have a flair for vintage clothes – what era most captures your imagination?

Thank you! That’s very kind. I particularly love the 1950s for its feminine glamour and the fun prints and colours that were popular at the time. I like nothing better than a really, really full skirt, perfect for twirling! It makes me feel like a character in a Technicolour musical.

What is your favourite item and why?

There are several that hold special sentimental value, and every vintage item I own has a story – which is why I love vintage so much! My husband bought me a beautiful white pencil dress for our anniversary that I wore when I first met with my publishers – that is a precious one. I also have a red polka-dot dress (pictured above) that has been with me on many adventures, and a gorgeous orange one that I found for a few pounds in Oxfam; these two never fail to lift my spirits and make me feel optimistic and energetic.

Picture the scene. You are curled up with your favourite comfort read, favourite drink, and favourite snack to hand. What are they?

Ooh! Lovely. In the morning it would be coffee, toast-and-Marmite and a Terry Pratchett book. In the evening it would be white wine, chocolate and some kind of fat, engrossing historical saga.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

The book is the hardest part. Work really, really hard to make the book the best it can be before you even start worrying about publication. Be ruthless! And, when you are confident in your work, be persistent. And patient. And drink lots and lots of coffee.

Thank you, Andrea!

The Cry of the Go-Away Bird is out on February 10th. To read more about it, please visit Andrea’s blog A Cat of Impossible Colour; the blurb has definitely pinged my intrigue.

Also, if you have time, pour yourself a coffee and read Andrea’s short story How to Kill a Dead Man. You know that pleasure you get when settling down with a story and realising you are in an author’s very capable hands? Read it and you'll know exactly what I mean. It’s a fantastic feeling and ever since I have been anticipating her first novel – not long to wait now! Good luck with it all, Andrea!

Photographer credit for the top picture: Mark Guerra


Andrea Eames said...

Thank you so much for your kind words, Jayne! x

Bess Weatherby said...

Wonderful interview! I love her blog -- now even more excited to read her book!

Rose said...

you are a very good interviewer! I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for this one- and do update us if you can!

Clair Humphries said...

Brilliant advice, Andrea - and I love your polka dot dress! Thanks for a great interview, Jayne, and I look forward to reading more of Andrea's work.

Rula Sinara said...

Wonderful interview and advice. I absolutely love the cover of your book. Off to check out your blog!

Out on the prairie said...

some fun advice. I like the coffee comment, I call it talk soup, it can really get me typing well also.

Old Kitty said...

I am so interested to know what the title means!!! Guess I'll just have to read the book now!

Thank you so much for such a fab interview!!! I wish Andrea Eames all the best with this fabulously titled book!! I love that she reads Terry Pratchett too with coffee and toast and marmite!! I think I'm in love! In a plutonic Katy Perry way! LOL!Take care

Joanne Ganley said...

Thanks for the interview. I've been following Andrea's blog since the beginning of 2009 and she's been such an inspiration. She also has a wonderful sense of humour. I can't wait to read her book. All those teasers have got me excited!

Cathy Benavides said...

Not only is Andrea a dear friend, but a terribly talented writer! I already pre-ordered my book and I can't wait to read it! I plan on camping at her front door until she signs a copy for me :)

Margo Benson said...

Thank you for posting such an interesting and inspiring interview, full of advice and experience. I adore the title of the book and the cover and am intrigued to understand the meanings. I'll be in line for a copy when it come out.

Maria Zannini said...

What a great interview. And Andrea, I love your devotion to vintage clothing.

Clothing from the 50's are true classics. Très chic.

May I suggest writing a story about hunting for the perfect vintage dress?

Congrats on your upcoming release!

Andrea Eames said...

Bess - thank you!

Rose - she is, isn't she? Jayne asked such great questions.

Clair - thank you!

Rula - Thanks - I love the cover too! They did a great job, I couldn't have asked for better.

Out on the prairie - 'talk soup' - great description.

Old Kitty - haha, thank you! Terry Pratchett is my very favourite author - I have read him since I was eleven.

A Certain Book - aw, thank you!

Cathy - no need for camping! I will sign it in blood if you so wish. ;) See you on Wednesday!

Margo - thank you very much - I hope you enjoy it.

Maria Zannini - there's certainly a lot of material there!

Andrea x

Dolly said...

Love your dress in the photo, and your description of other vintage items. I shall nip over to your blog now to have a look and will read your book. Jayne you asked some fantastic questions, I really enjoyed this post. I am a painter, not a writer, but found it inspirational.

J.B. Chicoine said...

...a very encouraging interview (and sylish, too!)

Andrea Eames said...

Dolly - thank you! I'm glad it was helpful even though you're in a different artistic field.

jbchicoine - thank you!

authorsoundsbetterthanwriter said...

Great interview. Go Andrea. said...

Wow great author photo and great answers. I really want to read that book! If you aren't already I'm definitely awarding you a Stylish blogger award :O)

Angela said...

What a gorgeous picture. I love her big blue eyes!

Wendy Altschuler said...

fantastic questions and answers....very inspiring to those wishing to publish. Thanks!

Deniz Bevan said...

What a lovely interview! A great series of questions, Jayne.
Hmm... a fat historical, eh? Have you read the Outlander series, Andrea? A shameless plug for one of my favourite books!

Andrea Eames said...

C - thank you, lovely lady x

Madeleine - thank you so much!

Angela - that's very sweet of you to say, thank you.

Wendy - thanks! And best of luck (if you're entering this crazy writing/publishing world).

Deniz - I haven't! I'll have to check it out. And thanks for your comment on my blog, too - I hope your writing is going well.

Unknown said...

What a great post. Thanks to you both for sharing!

I love the cover for The Cry of the Go-Away Bird and now I can't wait to read it.

Creepy Query Girl said...

wow, thanks for introducing us to Andrea! What a fun interview for a fun lady! Off to check out her blog!

Carol Kilgore said...

I love reading author interviews. Congratulations on your book, Andrea. I hope it becomes a runaway bestseller for you. Thanks for hosting her, Jayne.

Andrea Eames said...

Shirley - I hope you enjoy it! x

Katie - thanks so much!

Carol - that would be lovely - fingers crossed. :)

Laura S. said...

Andrea's novels sounds wonderful. I'm adding them to my to-read list. And I love her vintage style!

Talli Roland said...

Wonderful interview, with great questions! Love the info about her vintage dresses. And yay for coffee lovers!

Anonymous said...

Jayne: I'm glad you stopped by my blog and commented. That got me over here! Wonderful guest interview. I love the title of Andrea's book. And the book sounds like a good read. I've written it down on my list of books to buy! And have gone over to meet the author on her website.
Ann Best, Author

Andrea Eames said...

Laura - thank you very much! I hope you manage to get hold of them. The book's available on Amazon UK and Canada, if that helps.

Talli - I doubt I would achieve anything if it weren't for coffee!

Ann - thank you very much!

D.J.Kirkby said...

Fabulous blog and book title! Thanks for this inspiring interview. I'm going to check out Andrea's blog now.

Misha Gerrick said...

Great interview!

Just dropped by from Lee's blog to say hi.


Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Great interview, Jayne, I love the titles of Andrea's works (and her blog)! And your interview really piqued my curiosity about this new (for me, anyway) writer. Thanks for a good share.

Missed Periods said...

Great interview. I love reading about authors' experiences. (And I love vintage clothing too.)

Jayne said...

Andrea – thanks for a great interview! It’s been fab having you here over on my blog.

Beth – thank you!

Rose – In the deep mists of time, I used to interview celebs for a living. I had the luxury of only picking folk that intrigued me – so much fun! Glad to see haven’t lost the knack for questions. :)

Clair – I have polka dot envy! Glad you enjoyed the interview.

Rula – Thank you!

Out on the prairie – Talk soup! Fantastic.

Old Kitty – The title is intriguing, isn’t it? Love your comment so much!

Jayne said...

A Certain Book – Hello Joanne. I think I found your blog via Andrea’s (or vice versa) around the same time and was so glad to have discovered both of you. She has got a fab sense of humour, hasn’t she? I’ve been looking forward to her book release for ages.

Cathy – You lucky girl, a signed copy no less?! Fantastic!

Margo – Thank you! The title and the cover work very well, don’t they?

Maria – Thank you! Clothes from the 50s for women were so wonderfully feminine.

Dolly – Thank you! So glad you liked this post and found it inspirational. Creativity always inspires me, no matter what medium.

Jayne said...

JBchicoine – I found it very encouraging as well. Not to mention stylish!

Authorsoundsbetterthanwriter – Thank you!

Madeleine – I am very much looking forward to reading her book. Talented and stylish!

Angela – She has a lovely author pic. I love author pictures! I expect that is because I covet one.

Wendy – I love reading about how people got where they are – usually lots of hard work, which is inspiring to hear.

Deniz – Thank you so much! I’ll also look out for the Outlander series, sounds good!

Jayne said...

Shirley – Thank you! I love the colours and the perspective used for the cover of Andrea’s book.

Katie – Go check out her blog, it’s lovely!

Carol – Thank you! I think it will be a bestseller, first of many.

Laura – Her vintage style is very inspiring!

Talli – Thank you! Coffee lovers unite!

Jayne said...

Ann – Thank you for coming by! And yes, it sounds like it will be a very good read indeed.

D.J. Kirby – I have blog title envy. (It appears to be a day of envy!) Both titles are so interesting and intriguing – they reel me in.

Misha – Hello to you! Nice to see you here, will repay the visit!

Elizabeth – Glad you liked it! Andrea is one of my favourite bloggers – and a very talented writer.

Missed Periods – Thank you!