When I was offered the opportunity to work on Rachel Green's Screaming Yellow, I jumped at the chance. Nominally playing fly-on-the-wall in and around Cape Town's BDSM and fetish scene, and being privileged to be on first-name basis with some of our city's more interesting personalities, I looked forward to working on fiction offering themes I'm familiar with. On top of that, who can resist the unholy alliance of a witch teaming up with a Catholic priest to solve a murder?
What I've enjoyed about Rachel's setting is how well realised not only the place is – true British eccentricity and charm all rolled into one – but the characters. Although everything about Laverstone is fictional, it still had me hitting Google. It just has to be real, I told myself.
Screaming Yellow is a novel I can fully recommend. Even though, as editor, I've lost count of how many times I've read through it, I always find some other small detail to have a quiet chuckle about, passages where the author paints characters or bits of dialogue that remain with me. Who'd have thought a small town could play host to a gloriously decadent cast of characters, where a bit of bondage, needle play and polyamory are the order of the day?
So, without further ado, I welcome Rachel to my world, to share a little about hers.
Why Laverstone? Tell us about your town.
Laverstone has been building, location by location, for the last six or seven years. It is a small (fictional) town in the south of England, bordered on the east by a range of hills and in the north by the M4 motorway. To the west and south are chalk downs. It first came into being as the setting for my novel, An Ungodly Child, and has grown slowly every time I add another tale to the mythos. Laverstone is a sort of Glastonbury without the head shops.
Have you had any real-life experiences creep into your writing?
Always. The kinky sections of Screaming Yellow were all based on personal experience and expertise, as was the polyamory and the social mechanics of The Larches. I've written non-fiction about BDSM and my partners and I have taught workshops on techniques. In the other books the fight and sword scenes are all as realistic as I can make them. I am a trained swordswoman and practice jiu-jitsu and budo. The dogs are used to me choreographing scenes with sword or werewolf-repellent silver-topped cane.
Which one of your characters would you have high tea with, and what would you discuss with them... Or do with them?
High tea? There's a phrase I haven't heard since childhood. My first answer is Jasfoup, of course, and I would discuss the nature of Fallen Angels with him, but he only has a bit part in Screaming Yellow so I'd pick Inspector White and take him to the Philadelphia on Old Oxford Street, a little past Meinwen's witchery shop on Knifesgate. He must have some tales to tell, don't you think?
Who are your favourite authors and what is it about their writing that excites you?
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimen are, in my opinion, the finest humorists in print. There isn't a book of theirs I don't pre-order as soon as I can. I've learned a great deal from them both in terms of character, pace and setting.
Iain Banks and Kate Atkinson share similar fields of excellence in their writing. Characters and attention to detail within individual lines. These people don't just write, they compose.
Finally, Agatha Christie. What a marvellous lady. I'd read everything by her by the time I was 12. From her I got the love of the mystery, the chase, the clue and the sheer delight in (literary) murder. Miss Marple is lauded in Screaming Yellow, and Laverstone boasts a public building named in her honour.
What sparked off Screaming Yellow? Was it an a-ha moment or a concept that slowly crept up on you?
It began as an attempt to write a non-paranormal novel. Laverstone is full of ordinary people and I wanted to reflect this in a way that would appeal to those with no interest in demons and vampires. I was also fed up with the way BDSM is portrayed in literature as a bad thing – an immoral, "sinful" pleasure that should be punished. I wanted to show it in a positive light and highlight the love between dominant and submissive personalities. It amused me to have a Catholic priest as a main character. I was raised Catholic.
I also wrote the first draft in a month and asked some friends in the scene to look it over. They seemed happy with it and so I tried to place it. It sat for a few years until a publisher was interested "if I took out all the BDSM". I did but they wanted me to take out the polyamory too, which was integral to the plot. Fortunately, Lyrical Press liked all the sex.
Tell us more about your creative process. Where do you work? Are there any good habits for writers?
I write at home, on a desktop PC and start every day with a series of four poems – a cinquain, a haiku, a takna and a Fib – which I post on my livejournal (friends only but happy to add readers). I catch up online (newspapers and blogs) and write 2-500 words on an ongoing novel at jasfoup.blogspot.com. Later in the day I post a long-form poem (I send these to magazines and anthologies and occasionally publish a chap book) and write for whatever short story or novel I'm currently working on. I walk my dogs and pet my family often. My tip for writing is to have a hobby that's not writing.
My homepage (also includes artwork) http://www.leatherdyke.co.uk/
My Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B0043VKG6U
My livejournal: http://leatherdykeuk.livejournal.com/
Jasfoup's Blog: http://jasfoup.blogspot.com/