Please welcome Lauren Owen to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Quick was published on June 17, 2014 by Random House.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Lauren: Thank you! I started writing when I was quite young, just for fun – I didn’t know that you could be a writer as a job, I just found it really enjoyable to come up with new ideas for characters and stories.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Lauren: I love to plot, and I have a lot of fun writing elaborate plans before I start writing. I definitely like to have a journey mapped out before I begin. But once I do actually commence writing I usually deviate wildly, and have to rewrite my plans to match what I’ve written.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Lauren: The most challenging thing is probably pushing through moments of doubt, the writing slumps. There are times when I feel like I’m getting nowhere – the best solution is to carry on writing, but that feels like the last thing I want to do. If I can’t bully myself into pushing on, I find the other thing that helps is spending a lot of time reading.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Lauren: I am very influenced by the writing of the nineteenth century, which I loved growing up – many of my favorite authors are drawn from this period, including Charlotte Bronte, Wilkie Collins, and Oscar Wilde.
TQ: Describe The Quick in 140 characters or less.
Lauren: A gothic mystery set in late-Victorian London. A woman searches for her brother, who has vanished under sinister circumstances.
TQ: Tell us something about The Quick that is not in the book description.
Lauren: Two characters visit the premiere performance of Lady Windermere’s Fan in London, and Oscar Wilde makes a brief cameo appearance.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Quick? Why did you set the novel in Victorian London?
Lauren: I find the Victorian period absolutely fascinating – particularly the later decades of the era, where a lot of the old certainties were beginning to crumble, and new ideas and inventions were emerge. The Quick is to a great extent a response to the gothic fiction of this era – books like Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and The Beetle, which brought the gothic genre to late-nineteenth-century London.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Quick?
Lauren: A lot of my research was done in the library – I was lucky enough to have access to the British Library some of the time, which was a wonderful opportunity to look up details on 19th century life. I also visited a couple of places in London which still have some similarities to their Victorian incarnations – the Natural History Museum, and Kensal Green graveyard.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Lauren: Liza was one of the easiest characters to write, because in spite of her unusual circumstances she also has a number of typical child feelings – she wants to be important and brave, she wants approval, she’s frightened, she wants her mother.
Mould was one of the harder characters to write, simply because his narrative strand includes a lot of explication – I ended up having to cut a lot of superfluous detail.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Quick.
Lauren: Two of my favourite lines from Chapter One, which I think illustrate the relationship between the siblings Charlotte and James, and one of the major themes of the book:
‘They would lie all night like that, snug as the pair of pistols that lived in the blue-lined case in Father’s study.’
‘The library was full of treasures.’
TQ: What's next?
Lauren: I’m currently working on a sequel to The Quick, which will continue the story into the next century.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Lauren: Thank you!
Random House, June 17, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 544 pages
For fans of Anne Rice, The Historian, and The Night Circus, an astonishing debut, a novel of epic scope and suspense that conjures up all the magic and menace of Victorian London
1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Alarmed, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine London that greets her, she uncovers a hidden, supernatural city populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of the exclusive, secretive Aegolius Club, whose predatory members include the most ambitious, and most bloodthirsty, men in England.
In her first novel, Lauren Owen has created a fantastical world that is both beguiling and terrifying. The Quick will establish her as one of fiction’s most dazzling talents.
LAUREN OWEN studied English Literature at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, before completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where she received the 2009 Curtis Brown prize for the best fiction dissertation. The Quick is her first novel. She lives in northern England.