MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR VICTORIA DOUGHERTY
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
Victoria Dougherty. I write about lovers, killers, curses and destinies. In other words, personal essays, Cold War historical thrillers and a new epic fantasy-romantic series. The teaser novel in the series, Savage Island, debuts October 1.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
After writing 3 historical thrillers (The Bone Church, The Hungarian, and a book of Cold War noir shorts, Welcome to the Hotel Yalta), I was itching to do something way outside of my comfort zone and that took me back to the fantasy inspired stories I used to write when I was younger. I’ve also been dying to write a series that’s romantic and focuses on a pair of lovers.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
With my historical thrillers, it was easy. I come from the ultimate Cold War family – daring escapes, backyard firing squads, communist snitches, bowlfuls of goulash, gargoyles, gray skies and bone-chilling cold. My family is so Cold that my mom was named an Enemy of the State in Communist Czechoslovakia when she was twelve. I grew up hearing a lot of very dramatic stories around my dinner table and naturally gravitated towards the thriller genre once I set my sights on writing novels. As for the more recent romance part, that’s a bit of a counterintuitive story. Mostly, my male readers inspired me to dip my toe into that genre. I’ve gotten so many lovely letters from men over the years – telling me their love stories, their most heartfelt hopes and dreams. Over time, I realized that I have a great deal to say about love.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I researched climate in the Sahara 6000 years ago, the ancient Sumerians, the ancient Egyptians, the South Pacific during World War II, archaeology, geology, tattoo artistry, Australian dialects, submarines, spy craft, Cairo in the mid-twentieth century, the culture, history and rituals of Niue. And that’s just off the top of my head.
Can you tell me about your Series?
How about I give you a brief summary of the teaser novel in the series, Savage Island (the first “big book” in the series, Breath, will be coming out next spring)?
The island of Niue, 1944. On this remote island, deep in the South Pacific, about 1,500 miles from its closest neighbor, it hardly feels like a war is on. Angelie, a 17-year-old Australian girl, is waiting out the war on the island, where warm tropical winds blow through her hair almost as gently as native islander Will Tongahai’s eyes graze her body.
But the arrival of an African archaeologist and his German consort unsettle the inhabitants of this tranquil isle, and Angelie begins to wonder if the war hasn’t finally reached their shores.
As Angelie and Will are drawn to the suspicious pursuits of the new visitors – an ancient statue, a fantastic myth – a series of vivid dreams about deserts and long forgotten prophecies ensnares them. The lovers discover that their destiny, one forged thousands of years earlier, is not only bigger than their prospective future together, but makes a mere world war look like child’s play.
Incidentally, each “big book” in the series will be preceded by a shorter novel.
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
Currently, it’s the second “big book” in the series, which I’m storyboarding right now. It takes place in Cairo, 1902 – during the golden age of travel and archaeology – and it’s so much fun! As for my other novels – the historical thrillers – my favorite is The Bone Church.
Where did you get the inspiration/idea for your series?
Two strangely different sources of inspiration: the first was a children’s tale that I made up on the spot for one of my kids. I called it The Sultan’s Magic Slippers. As for the second, it’s my readers. So many of them write to me about their love stories – and not just the guys. It all started on my blog, Cold, where I write personal essays. Every time I wrote about love, I got so many comments and tons of emails. Some so beautiful they literally made me cry.
Was it always meant to become a series?
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I get my kids off to school, hit the gym (otherwise I’d go nuts sitting all day) and then settle into my home office. I usually write on my couch for about five hours, with my dog, Barney, cuddling my feet. If you wish to know a bit more about my home office, you can read about it here: https://victoriadougherty.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/my-life-in-a-9-by-9-foot-cell/
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
Savage Island debuts on October 1 and Breath will be out Spring 2020.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
Very and Always! Sometimes I invent a significance, other times I might come across a name while I’m researching a time or place related to my work. My protagonist in The Bone Church, for instance, was named Felix Andel. Felix because I think it’s a damned interesting name that’s both clever and elegant. Andel because it means Angel in Czech.
Where do your ideas come from?
Memory, alchemy, music, mythology…
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
Horror, but I don’t have the courage yet.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The hardest part of writing was accepting the fact that I was meant to be a writer and that I’m simply no damned good at anything else.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I do intend to create one. When done well, I think they’re magic.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
My marriage and my kids. Without them life would be a bore and I would have only had enough inspiration to fill one book 😉
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Living in my imagination. There’s little better way to spend the day.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Writing and getting to travel more, I hope. I never want to stop doing what I’m doing.
Have you always liked to write?
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Don’t give up. Ever.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
Photography – it’s very similar, I think.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I read the first 20 or so, just to get a good idea of the general reception readers are giving the book, and to see what I can learn from their observations. After that, I don’t devote much time to it. As for bad reviews, they can be very informative. They tell you who your readers are and what they want. In my experience, most bad reviews are about the expectations of the reader. In one bad review I got, the reader wrote something like: I hate stories that take place in foreign countries. Someone commented on her review and said: the summary literally told you it takes place in like five different countries. It was so funny.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
I love all of it. I even like the marketing.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
His eyes actually pierce the darkness even though they must be the color of mahogany. But I see these ribbons of amber curling around his pupils, and crimson threads as well. Sumptuous and royal. Damn they’re beautiful. And damn him. He stands there, not at all backing down. Comfortable, immovable, like a Roman sculpture. While I feel as wayward as a mermaid. I don’t know what makes me do it. A kind of fury, I guess. A low rumble of temper that starts like faraway thunder and grows. I veer towards him, taking his face in my hands. I press my small lips against his very plum ones, sweet and wet as if he’s just licked them. And I do it hard. –Savage Island.
Why did you choose to write in your genre? If you write in more than one, how do you balance them?
Balancing them is only hard in as much as it makes me have to pause one series to start writing another. Otherwise, I find writing in more than one genre really stirs the creative juices and makes me better at what I do.
Where did your love of books come from?
It’s not just books. I love stories. Period. I love films, theater, fantasy, tales told around a campfire. You name it.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Many. Raymond Chandler, Milan Kundera, Diana Gabaldon, John Steinbeck, PD James, Alan Furst, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My favorite book of all time? It’s actually Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
Rodki Semyonov in my thriller, The Hungarian. He’s a Russian detective whose focus is purely on solving crimes related to espionage. I love him for his heart, his brilliance, his courage, his ennui, his Russian contradictions. I love him for his brutality. I love him for his tenderness.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to do both. It’s a bit like cooking a great meal for someone. I want to come at them with something they didn’t expect, but at the same time deliver what stimulates their palate.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
My husband, for one. My friends, authors Nick Taylor and Nell Goddin. I’ve got tons of writer friends, actually. Some near and others far. Some I met on line and others I’ve known for years and years. I used to have a writing circle with two of my girlfriends and we’d read on comment on each other’s work. That was very helpful when I was first getting started. Now I use a professional editor for that and mainly bounce ideas off my writer friends, or simply talk about writing in general.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
There would be some level of irony in that title, by the way J
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
I don’t think I’ve been asked this question in an interview, but I’ve had this discussion with friends. The question would go something like this: You’ve written some pretty gritty stories, yet there’s always a thread of dark humor in all of them. What role does humor play in your work and your life?
My answer: Humor isn’t just something meant to make us feel good. It is defiant, subversive and smarter than we are. Through humor we can say things we’re too afraid to say. It allows us to speak truths that polite society won’t tolerate and reminds us that no word or circumstance can hold power over us. Humor is such an essential element to getting us through the hard times, to making us more resilient, more compelling. It brings us together, makes us closer, foments friendships. A sense of humor will make a potential lover want to introduce you to his friends, take you in a twirling, spinning hug, kiss you with joy. Such it its power and damn if I’m not going to use it.
Where can your fans find you and follow??
Tons of places!
My newsletter: https://app.convertkit.com/landing_pages/326254
Cold, the Blog: www.victoriadougherty.wordpress.com
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️