Saturday, April 4, 2020

Blog Tour + Interview - Sanctuary by V.V. James

Today I am hosting a Q&A with author V.V. James as part of the paperback blog tour for Sanctuary!
I am so happy to be taking part in this tour, especially given these uncertain times. 
Sanctuary is very high on my to-be-read list and I can't wait to finally read it.

Did you do any research for Sanctuary?

Yes! Setting, and witchcraft, were the two key things to get to grips with. For setting, I went on a writing retreat to an affluent and historic seashore town in New England, and also visited Salem to understand the roots of how witch persecution played out in the U.S. A lot of the specific place details – houses, town geography, coffee shops – were drawn from those trips. 

For witchcraft itself, I’ve been a regular for a couple of years now at rituals and lectures held at the marvellous Treadwells Books, probably London’s most active occult store. I’ve learned so much there from witches of all ages. Check them out online – their events have been suspended due to Covid-19, but they’re just gearing up to get content online, including practical Witchcraft 101s! And because witchcraft is a belief system for many today, I had to be careful ethically – I needed to create a fictional witchcraft that was realistic and familiar, yet not appropriative or misrepresentative of specific practices and traditions. Hearing from people of so many different belief systems at Treadwells really helped me navigate this.


Do you have a favourite character in Sanctuary?

More than one! I love Maggie, the kindhearted, principled, but realistic cop. I also love her dynamic with her snarky boss, Remy, and her enthusiastic assistant, Chester. And there’s something about Harper Fenn that I adore…. Perhaps her defiance. 


What are you most proud of about Sanctuary?

I wanted it to get people thinking and making their own connections about important issues – marginalisation, the structure of power, believing victims – in a way that’s emotionally rewarding yet also an exciting read. At the moment, people are telling me they see echoes of the book’s events in panic around the Covid-19 outbreak, so its obviously rewarding to know that readers are finding it relevant and thought-provoking. But I’d also be thrilled to know that its simply providing some much needed escapism right now!

Where is your favourite writing spot?

I only have one writing spot – my desk! Which is also my dining table. And my office. It’s a lovely oak table and I have some beautiful woodblock prints hung above it. It’s the literal and figurative heart of my tiny flat, and I find it peaceful and inspiring. If I’m away for a long time, I can work on my laptop if I have to. But I’ve learned about myself that I’m hopeless at working in public, like coffee shops, and beyond hopeless at ‘writing dates’ with other authors. When I’m with people, I want to talk to them! I put in enough quiet solitary hours at home!

Do you have any advice for new writers?

All the best tips are those I’ve squirrelled away from wiser authors over the years! Two that really resonated with me personally are John Scalzi’s ‘bumglue’ – aka you’ve gotta just stay in the chair and keep writing. There’s no shortcut. Do the work – yes, it’s hard!

And the one that got me writing my debut, GILDED CAGE, was Antonia Honeywell’s advice ‘Give yourself permission to take your writing seriously’. It was that ‘permission’ which really unlocked so much for me. There’s this idea that writing is such a universal aspiration its almost a cliché, and the odds of ever getting published can seem so stacked against you that’s it’s somehow a self-indulgent thing to do with your time. You could be working harder, studying more, giving your time to others. But actually, if your writing is core to who you are, then you need to acknowledge that and give it sufficient priority, whether at the expense of other activities, or even people. That can feel scary and selfish, but it was what I needed to hear. I quit my job and went freelance to give myself time to write – and GILDED CAGE was the result.

What's your favourite book/series?

I have many favourite books – and favourite authors! Two favourite ‘classic’ writers are poet Emily Dickinson, whose writing is so stripped back, yet so very, very deep, and Yukio Mishima, the master of morally ambivalent characters. With contemporary fiction, I adore dark and wild fantasy: I can’t wait for the sequel to Taz Muir’s GIDEON THE NINTH, while I just binged the whole of Jay Kristoff’s NEVERNIGHT trilogy – which I think might possibly be the best fantasy series of the past 10 years. And I’m loving the current surge in the feminist fantastical – Samantha Shannon’s PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE, Mel Salisbury’s HOLD BACK THE TIDE, and keep an eye out for the shattering SISTERSONG, coming next year from Lucy Holland.

Thank you Vic for your wonderful answers!

The paperback is out now!
Sanctuary is also available in hardback, as an ebook and an audiobook.

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