Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Q&A

This Sunday we veer away from the more generalized questions and concentrate on what this month is all about, before I dedicated it to Paul. The Gothic, the macabre, and Halloween!

Have you ever gone to the Whitby Goth Weekend? 

Answer: The Whitby Bookshop – a lovely independent bookstore with a friendly staff and a rickety spiral staircase – has held Brenda and Effie evenings each Beltane and Hallowe’en for as long as the Brenda books have been coming out. Each time it’s during Goth weekend, and they attract a lovely crowd – usually dressed up in Goth and Steampunk finery. I sit on a red velvet chair and read them a bit and do a Q+A and sign all their books.

Question: Authors Bram Stoker, Lewis Carroll, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and A.S. Byatt all have had ties or works set in Whitby. What is the lure of Whitby? 

Answer: Whitby is an amazing place to visit – and it’s one of the most literary spots in the country. The first poet in written English was Caedmon – a cattle drover who lived at the Abbey – so it’s an extremely long lineage of those who’ve sent their characters running up and down those 199 steps. It’s an epic landscape and a cosy town – the perfect setting for the kind of stories I love.

Question: With new adaptations coming out every few years and with the recent success of the National Theatre’s production of Frankenstein, what do you think makes the story of Frankenstein withstand the test of time?

Answer: It’s a great story and has great characters – in both its literary and film incarnations. But it also taps into very big questions about what it means to be a human being and, beyond that, a person. The monster’s quest is about earning the right to be seen as a person in his own right.

The poor, abandoned Bride gets an ever rougher time than he does. Brenda’s search is always about becoming her own woman.

Question: Do you have an end goal in sight for Brenda and Effie, or will they keep toddling along messing with the mystical in Whitby?

Book Six is about to be published – ‘Brenda and Effie Forever!’ And you’ll see that they come to a kind of conclusion.

However… I’m working on something that will take them into a new dimension, of sorts.

Question: Do you ever hypothetically cast your books for the long overdue adaptations? And if so, who would you cast? Because if you don’t, I have some suggestions!

Answer: I try not to while I’m actually writing the things. But there’s lots of fun to be had doing that kind of casting once the books are finished. I love listening to people’s suggestions for Brenda and Effie character casting. I’m not even sure who I think of by now. Who do you think..?

I personally think that Geraldine James would be perfect for Brenda. Sure she's mainly known for the newer Robert Downey Junior Sherlock and Little Britain, but she's a fierce actress and has enough of a presence to do Brenda justice. As for Effie, I always see Annette Crosbie. She always comes across as funny and a little do-lally, but, if you've watched An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, you know she can kick some ass. As for Robert... hard choice, I picture him kind of innocent, like Thomas Howes as William from Downton, but he's too young, so let's go with Arthur Darvill from Doctor Who! I wish he could have ditched Amy and gone traveling with the Doctor alone... but that leaves him open for Brenda and Effie!

Question: October is the best month, ever. Disputable or indisputable?

Answer: I love Hallowe’en – and I think I might like November even more, though. This year’s perfect because the Hallowe’en Goth weekend in Whitby falls on the first weekend in November. I’m a Scorpio – so it’s home to me, really, this time of year. I like frosty blue mornings; misty afternoons with mulchy leaves, woodsmoke, wearing long coats and scarves and drinking spicy tea – and early nights with spooky old films and ghost stories and French red wine.

Question: Best Halloween costume you’ve ever had?

Answer: Best costume? When I was nine we had a wonderful teacher who directed our whole class in a twenty minute long, musical version of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. Many of us were chosen to be trolls and we had marvelous costumes – mostly shredded old clothes – that came out again for that Hallowe’en and traipsing around our council estate, knocking on doors and giving people the screaming ab-dabs.


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