Our very own Laura Tims sat down (in a virtual sense) with fellow Freshman Fifteen member Victoria Aveyard and asked her some questions about her forthcoming debut, THE RED QUEEN (Harper Teen/HarperCollins, January 2015).
In THE RED QUEEN, society divides not on race, gender or orientation, but on the color of your blood. The Reds, normal humans, struggle to survive in the shadow of the Silvers, superhumans with terrifying abilities that allow them to rule the world. But when Red thief Mare Barrow discovers impossible abilities of her own, she’s thrown into the Silver world where everything is a threat and anyone can betray anyone.
“In the stories, the old fairy tales, a hero comes. They crawl out of the darkness, somehow still shining, somehow still untouched by the dirt and the blood, and they save us. But all my heroes are gone or dead. No one is coming for me.”
Sound amazing? We think so too.
As someone who started out in screenwriting, was there a particular moment you realized you wanted to publish a novel?
I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but I never thought I’d be particularly good at it or actually finish one. But by the time I had finished college, I’d written five completed screenplays. I decided to take a crack at writing a novel on the off chance that I was finally ready for it, and The Red Queen happened!
Is there anything, or anyone, in particular who inspired your main character, Mare?
Mare is definitely an amalgamation of a lot of people – my mother, my friends, definitely me (she’s short) – and I can’t put a point on one particular person. Writing in first person means a lot of my own personality came out, but Mare took on her own voice that really surprised me. I do, however, have a character who is a direct copy of my good friend Morgan. I even cut this character’s hair off because Morgan has beautiful, perfect, princess hair and I feel like she needs to pay for it in some way. Honestly, her hair is just rude.
What’s the biggest way that your book deal has changed your life?
It puts a lot of things in perspective in terms of how much control I have over my life. That’s a great thing, but also a very difficult thing. No one is telling me when to work. It’s all on me. I’ve also become very aware of the value of time. My time is definitely the most important thing to me, and there’s a lot of stuff I just don’t bother with anymore because it’ll waste my time. I could be working, or doing something I actually enjoy, rather than worrying about a bad friend or something. Realizing that time is finite has been strangely liberating.
Have you ever been drawn to writing any genres besides fantasy?
I do love contemporary, and paranormal, and both together! Historical fiction is also another great love of mine, but I’m daunted by the research required to do a proper one. Oh, and zombie lit. I adore zombie books. Maybe I’ll get my chance to hit on them all?
What’s the hardest thing about writing a series?
There’s always the danger of writing yourself into a corner. I think LOST ran into a lot of those issues towards the end, and that’s always been my warning. You don’t want to have too many loose ends, but you also want to leave the door open in case you want to return to the series later on. It’s very difficult balancing act that I’m hopefully getting the hang of.
How long did the first draft of THE RED QUEEN take you to write?
I pitched the book in May 2012, finished the outline in late June, and finished the first draft in January 2013. So a little more than 6 months of hard writing? I do remember that October 2012 was a bleak month of almost no writing, and December and January were workhorse months. I completely disappeared. I actually think I was possessed by the story at a few points.
Being pre-published is a stressful time for many writers. Is there anything about this period of time that presents a challenge to you?
Of course, you get sick of waiting for the book to be published, but at the same time, you’re grateful that there’s still a year to go. I’m so happy I have so much time to get the second book rolling, while my editor Kari and HarperTeen have all the time they need to make sure TRQ is in perfect condition. I’m always asked why a book takes so long to publish, but honestly, it needs every second. But I want it now. No wait, no I don’t.
If you could give one piece of advice for writers trying to improve their first few pages, what would it be?
Drop us into the world. Give us only exactly what we need to know. The first pages are no place for info-dump. They are for character and hook. We are fish on the line, and if there isn’t a hook in the cheek by the end of page 5 (sometimes page 1 for me), we’re swimming away. Never thought I’d write such a weird fish metaphor, yet here I am.
After growing up in small town Massachusetts, Victoria moved across the country to attend the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She graduated with a BFA in Screenwriting, which is exactly the degree being sought after in a recession.
She tries her best to combine her love of history, explosions, and butt-kicking heroines in her writing. Her hobbies include the impossible task of predicting what happens next in A Song of Ice and Fire, road trips, and burning through Netflix.
Fun fact: In July 2012, she drove from LA to Massachusetts with her dad in three days and managed not to kill anything. She still has a chip in her windshield from falling rocks in Colorado to prove it.
You can find Victoria online: