Solace Morgan was born a vampire. Raised in foster care, she has always tried to keep her abilities secret, until an eerie encounter with a faceless man prompts her to run away. Finding others with similar gifts, Solace soon becomes caught up in a strange, more vibrant world than she ever knew existed. But when the mysterious
Professor Lukin takes an interest in her friends, she is forced to start asking questions of her own. What happened to her parents? Who is Sharpsoft? And since when has there been a medieval dungeon under Hyde Park?
Scott: Solace & Grief is your first published novel, congratulations. Can you tell us what it’s about?
Foz: Solace & Grief is a novel about friendship, choices, shenanigans and vampires. It’s also about finding your way in a group environment, and the kind of things that friends get up to en masse. If there’s one thing in YA fiction that often causes me to raise an eyebrow, it’s the overabundance of scenarios in which the protagonist hangs out with only one or two people, because while that’s certainly a valid occurrence, I don’t think it’s a majority experience. Then again, I speak from the biased position of always having belonged to rather sprawling groups of friends at school and university, which is why I’ve made Solace part of a wider social scene. For me, there’s something very interesting about the way people act in groups, the dynamics that underlie different relationships, and hopefully some of that has found its way into the novel.
Scott: Tell us a little about who Foz Meadows is?
Foz: I’m the kind of person who owns more geeky T-shirts than any other item of clothing and reads while walking down crowded streets. In no particular order, I enjoy: mythology, cheese, karaoke, British radio comedy, quoting, webcomics, anime, sarcasm and video games. I have two cats, and married a philosopher on purpose. Also, I talk a lot.
Scott: Are you a big reader of paranormal fiction yourself? What are some of your own favourite written works within the genre?
Foz: I certainly am! On the steampunk side of things, I’ve really enjoyed Stephen Hunt’s Jackelian series, The Glass Books of the Dream-Eaters, by G. W. Dahlquist, and more recently Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest. In YA, I’ve really been hooked by Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy, and Lili St Crow’s Strange Angels series; Seanan McGuire has also been an excellent find. I could go on, but that would essentially involve describing the contents of my bookshelves, and then we’d be here for days!
Scott: Tell us a little about what the writing process involves for you. How many hours a day do you write? How long did it take to write Solace & Grief and how long did it take to find a publisher?
Foz: My writing process tends to be made up of peaks and valleys. During a peak, I’ll manage anywhere between 2,000 and 10,000 words a day, which pace I can usually maintain for about two weeks before exhaustion sets in. On those rare occasions when I don’t have any other commitments, like university assignments or regular employment, it can last for a month or more, which sounds really impressive until you realise that it’s only ever happened twice. A peak will end when I hit a plot wall, run out of steam or choose to renew my acquaintance with my game consoles. The corresponding trough will then last for about the same amount of time – two weeks to a month – depending on how stuck I am. Once the characters start to itch at my head, I’m off again. The first draft of Solace & Grief – which, bear in mind, sucked – took about six months to complete. Most of it was written during downtime at my then job as a legal secretary. It was another year months before Ford Street first picked up the manuscript, and then another six months of rewrites, editing and changes.
Scott: Tell us what happened when you found out your manuscript had been accepted? It must have been pretty exciting getting that letter.
Foz: Very much so! I was working a different office job by then, and when the email came in, I sort of screamed, or at least made a very high-pitched noise indeed, before leaping up and doing an extremely geeky ra-cha-cha victory dance alongside the photocopiers and skipping a bit. (Seriously.) When my boss asked me what had happened, I said that I was being published, and could I please have permission to leave for the day and go drink some champagne, as I would be completely useless at anything helpful. To which she said, congratulations, and yes, see you tomorrow. And I did, and it was awesome.
Scott: Were you a member of any writer’s groups or associations before Solace And Grief was published?
Foz: No, but I joined the SuperNova writer’s group only a week or so after Solace was accepted, having randomly met one of the members at work. They’re a fantastic bunch of people, and I’ve really learned a lot from all of them – am still learning, in fact. It’s the first time I’ve ever been able to sit down with a group of writers and talk shop, too, which is immensely satisfying.
Scott: With popular authors such as Charlaine Harris, Stephenie Myer etc publishing vampire novels and subsequently their stories being made into movies and tv shows, do you find your new novel compared to these?
Foz: Only in the sense that people have heard of the big names, and will therefore ask if Solace falls into the same category. It would be fantastic if the series ever won a quarter of the repute that writers like Harris have earned, but even so, I’m still just overwhelmed with the novelty of being able to walk into a bookshop and point to something that I wrote, and which people are paying money to read, and which, more importantly, they seem to be enjoying.
Scott: Is this the first novel you have written, or have you got a filing cabinet full of other stories at the ready? If so, are they vampire stories to?
Foz: Solace & Grief is my first published novel, but it’s not the only one I’ve ever completed. It was directly preceded by the Great Unpublished Fantasy Epic I wrote and rewrote from when I was 13 until my second year of university, and which I was actually submitting to publishers at the same time as Solace. As is, I don’t think I’ll ever do anything with it, but I’ve already concocted a plan to scavenge the best bits, magpie-style. I don’t have any other vampire stories planned, but there’s a been completed first draft of a murder mystery/fantasy/SF novel sitting on my hard drive since December last year that I’m itching to do something with, and several folders full of other urban fantasy ideas just waiting to be written. There’s so many stories I want to tell, I’ll be lucky to fit them all in!
Scott: Are you planning on writing a sequel or sequels to Solace and Grief?
Foz: Yes. I’ve nearly finished the second volume, The Key to Starveldt, and the final book, Falling Into Midnight, is already mapped out. After that, I have some very tentative ideas to revisit some of the characters from the series in later stories, but right now, I’m just focused on completing the trilogy.
Scott: How has becoming a published author changed your life?
Foz: My life is a lot busier than it used to be! Given that I still work full time, it’s sometimes hard to fit in work on the next book, interviews, events and articles around petty things like sleep and recreation, but if high school taught me anything, it’s how to live as a voluntary insomniac, so I seem to be coping. On a lighter note, there’s an enormous sense of confidence and satisfaction in knowing that I’m capable of producing a book – and more, that I’m being given the opportunity to do so again. Even with all the sleeplessness, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Scott: What was your first book launch like? Was it anything like you expected?
Foz: Yes, in the sense that it was fantastic fun and really brought home to me the idea that I’d written an actual book. No, in that my teenage fantasies tended to involve cocktail dresses and thronging queues formed by an adoring public. What can I say? I’m a fantasist.
Scott: Why do you think the paranormal romance genre has breathed life into the book industry? More people seem to be reading now as a result of these novels.
Foz: There are any number of reasons, but offhand, I’d say it has a lot to do with narrative flexibility. Urban fantasy is a good gateway genre: there’s enough familiar elements to relax the novice reader while still containing new ideas and concepts. Then, too, I think there’s more romantic leeway in paranormal books than pure romance, at least as far as the story arc goes. The one constant in romance novels is the happily ever after, which, while satisfying, is also – of necessity – predictable. By contrast, paranormal romance isn’t exactly one thing or the other, which allows a bit more tension as to how things will turn out. That’s a powerful combination, and one that is definitely being reflected in book sales.