The Writing Life of: Virginia Crow
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Virginia Crow. Virginia Crow will be sharing with us details of her writing life, telling us all about her new book ‘The Year We Lived‘, which was released on 10th April 2021, and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Virginia Crow lives in the far reaches of the Scottish mainland where she divides her time between Orlando (her spaniel), writing, and teaching music. Here, she soaks up inspiration from her landscape and, in return, produces stories crafted of cunning words and fiery adventures.
A published author of historical fiction and co-founder of Crowvus publishing, she always endeavours to be cheerful and is often to be found off on a tangent.
1) Did you enjoy writing when you were a child?
I have always enjoyed writing and come from a large family who all feel exactly the same. I owe a lot of this love to my parents who taught each one of us that imagination was not only wonderful but also imperative to a fulfilled life. I still have a story from when I was very young – fully illustrated, of course! – and another from a school assignment when I was 11… I think I disturbed the teacher with that one, although I did get an excellent mark.
2) Which author shaped your childhood?
This is an impossible question because there were just too many! I tended towards favourite books rather than favourite authors. I adored Alison Uttley’s Little Grey Rabbit stories, Susan Hill’s Tales from Codling Village, and then as I got older, I really got into the work of Robert Swindells and Robin Jarvis, so a bit of a change of direction there!
3) What motivated you to begin your first novel?
I don’t think I really expected to finish a book, so this question is quite tricky. I had, for the best part of a decade before, started upwards of ten books and only finished one. The commencement of Day’s Dying Glory, a story about three sisters during the Napoleonic Wars, was an absolute curveball. I had never written Historical Fiction and, although I loved history, had never really considered the early nineteenth century as anything other than Jane Austen’s realm.
I have, however, always had a deep love of Romantic poetry, and this was the direction and the world into which I immersed myself. Four years and six books on from publishing and Historical Fiction has become my thing, and Day’s Dying Glory is now the second book in a growing family saga.
4) Do you plot your book, or are you a pantser?
I tend to know the ending of a book and just let my characters get there. In my latest book, The Year We Lived, I knew exactly where it was heading (because it features the mother of all twists!) but I allowed the characters enough individuality to make their own way there.
5) What is your average writing day?
At the moment, there is no such thing as average! I am in the middle of a house move, so writing time is mostly snatched minutes here and there. When the world is back to normal, I will be back to writing in the morning and working (as a private tutor) in the afternoon and evening. Fingers-crossed that won’t be in the too distant future!
6) What is the best thing about being an author?
I absolutely love getting reviews! It is the greatest feeling in the world to know someone has enjoyed your creation, connected with it, and emotionally drawn something from it. I write to share my stories, so all I really want is to know that people have loved sharing their adventures!
Publisher – Crowvus
Pages – 319
Release Date – 10th April 2021
ISBN 13 – 978-1913182274
Format – ebook, paperback
It is 1074, eight years after the Battle of Hastings changed the cultural and physical landscape of the country forever.
But England is about to be shaped by another legacy: one which is truly immortal.
Liebling of the Hall, Edith, knows the year will be cursed as soon as the yule block burns out prematurely. Nonetheless, when she meets a mysterious figure in the Fens who claims to be a changeling, she finds herself falling in love with him, ignoring the concern of her brother, Robert, and continuing to visit. But when her brother’s nemesis, Henry de Bois, kidnaps her on one of these visits, events are set in motion which will change England forever.
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7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
As a writer of historical fiction, research is paramount. I love the research bit, and tend to go off on all sorts of tangents, then tangents of tangents, when I am looking things up. Most of my research is done online. For my later historical fiction, I used the British Newspaper Archive and National Library of Scotland, but those were not much good as I delved back into the 11th Century for The Year We Lived.
One invaluable tool was the availability of PhD papers. I know this may sound like dry reading, but many of them are succinct and reliable. I take pride in my research, and all those tangents invariably return in throwaway remarks which (I hope!) bring the reader further into the time and place.
8) How long did it take to go from the ideas stage to writing the last word?
Just about a year, which is perfect really, since the book lasts for a year! I had a great idea to write January in January, February in February, and so on… But I got halfway through February and other stories took over. The Year We Lived went onto the back burner until September then, by early November, I had completed the first draft. When I get stuck into writing, I can’t leave it alone – I have a really obsessive nature!
9) What made you choose the genre you write in?
If, ten years ago, you’d told me I would be a published historical fiction author, I would never have believed you. But I love finding those gaps which exist in history, and all the stories you can imagine which filled those gaps. I took this to a whole new level with The Year We Lived and created a plot-twist which (according to the reviewers) has kept everyone on their toes. There is also the added buzz when you can imagine that your characters could possibly have existed. After all, who can prove they didn’t?
10) How did you come up with the name(s) for your lead character(s)?
The final character to get their name was Edith, who is the main character, and for most of my planning she was just referred to as ‘Little Sis’. The Year We Lived was actually the product of a dream I had, so I knew exactly what each character looked like and sounded like based on that dream. Names are very important in The Year We Lived. They were not chosen randomly!
11) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
Each one of the characters in The Year We Lived is fighting a battle, although not all of them know entirely what they are fighting for. Norman lord, Henry de Bois, is searching for the fabled hall of Robert, a Saxon thane. But, in many respects, it is their siblings (Henry’s brother Philip and Robert’s sister Edith) whose personal battles the book focuses on. Throw in there a changeling and guilt and grudges from the past, and you have a book where no one is exactly what they seem – they are so much more!
12) How did you feel when you had completed your book?
I wrote The Year We Lived as a Christmas present for my sister, so the main emotion I felt was excitement and that whole I-can’t-wait-ness which accompanies anyone opening a present I get them! I was so excited to know what she thought of the book – especially the twist at the end – that I found it very difficult to keep the whole thing a secret for the next five weeks! The good news is: she really enjoyed it and, despite having read virtually all my writing up to that point, she still didn’t see the twist until the last couple of chapters. At that point, I may have allowed my excitement to turn to accomplishment!
1) Do you have a favourite quote you live by?
In my school leavers’ book it says: “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow”. I think that is still pretty much it! That being said, writing is one of those things I don’t put off. I believe entirely in inspiration and, when it takes hold, there is no way I want to wait until tomorrow!
2) Do you have any pets?
Oh yes! Meet Orlando, the Sprocker Spaniel. He governs my life and is without doubt the most demanding pet I’ve ever had! But he is much loved and has a cute habit of curling himself around my feet when I’m writing – or pretty much any other time too! Everyone seems to love him though – one judge even gave him third place in the ‘Dog the Judge Would Most Like to Take Home’ category, despite the fact he had tried to bite her. He’s just got one of those faces, I guess!
3) What’s on your current reading list?
At the moment my next reading will be Heartstone by my sister, Clemency Crow, which is coming out in time for Christmas. I was very fortunate to be a reader for the Wilbur & Niso Smith Foundation Author of Tomorrow award at the start of summer and then, in October, I’m on the judging panel for the Crowvus Christmas Ghost Story competition.
4) Your book has been made into a feature film, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what would you be doing?
In all likelihood I’m one of the nuns! I’d probably be the one who keeps smiling too much, though, as the thought of being on the big screen is just too exciting!
5) If you could travel to the fictional world of any book for the day, which would you choose?
This is such a great question, but I’m not sure I could choose one single world for one single day! I’m much more inclined to imagine myself in different time periods of our world than any others. But, after much deliberation (which, since you are reading this after I’ve written it, you mercifully haven’t been subjected to it!) I think I would go with Narnia. Enough area to have an adventure, but largely doable in one day.
6) There’s a penguin sitting in your writing chair, what is the first thing he says to you?
“Give me the good stuff.”
At first, I assume this is motivational speak for “do your best writing”. Then it transpires that, in fact, the feathered gangster will not move until I have removed the fish from my freezer. A problem with living near the sea, I suppose.
I would like to say a big thank you to Virginia Crow for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.