Louise Gornall’s #OwnVoices debut novel ‘Under Rose-Tainted Skies’ was one of my favourite books of 2016. It was also one of the first books I reviewed upon deciding to go down the book blogging route, so you could say it has a special place in my heart. Needless to say, I could not be more excited not only for ‘URTS’ to finally get its release in the USA (so you Americans can bask in all its wonderfulness), but for the lovely Louise to join me on Most Ardently Alice today. So, without further ado, here is my interview with the pinkest, kindest author I know. I grilled her about how she got published, the roots of ‘URTs’ and that second novel we’re all dying to read!
Helloooo, Louise! Welcome to Most Ardently Alice! Please tell us a little about yourself and your debut novel ‘Under Rose-Tainted Skies’.
Heyyyyyy! And happy New Year. Thank you heaps for having me over. Well, my name is Louise, and I write YA books for anyone who wants to read them. I like cats and unicorns and magic and mermaids. My debut novel, Under Rose-Tainted Skies, is about a girl called Norah, who battles daily with OCD and agoraphobia. Norah’s life is pretty secluded, until the new boy next door shows up at her door, wanting to make friends and simultaneously throwing her careful existence into chaos.
Had Norah been stuck in your head a while before you finally put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), or was it more a case of wanting to write about your experiences with agoraphobia first and foremost?
Norah was born from a pretty defamatory diary entry I’d written, about my incapability to live like a “normal” person. I’d been angry, upset, and as a result, I’d just kind of let myself have it on the page. After writing an exhaustive list of all the things I was failing at, I left the piece of writing alone. Didn’t think about it again until I was cleaning off my desktop a week or so later. When I read over it, I started adjusting things, defending myself… editing. The piece kept growing and growing until it became this story of a girl who was doing the absolute best she could with the hand she’d been dealt. The rest, as they say, is history.
How long did your first draft take to write once you got started?
About 10 weeks. That’s entirely unusual for me. I’m a slowwwwww writer. In comparison, the book before Rose took me 8 months to write.
Did you always intend for ‘URTS’ to be something you tried to get published, or did it just happen?
It was never meant to be published. It was a story, and I was building it, sure, but the content was full of secrets I’d been keeping for years. Secrets about myself and how odd/quirky/bizarre my mental health could be. It was actually my sister, Rach, and my best friend, who we’ll call Luke, that gave me the courage to hand it to my agent.
Tell us about your journey to publication.
My journey was a little unconventional. I actually got my agent (Mandy Hubbard) when she put out a call on Twitter. She was looking for a writer to collaborate with on a story she had in mind. There was an audition process, for which participants had to send in a couple of writing samples. After a few rounds, Mandy emailed me to set up a call, during which she offered representation. I almost died!!!! Alas, the book we wrote together didn’t sell. That was actually one of the things that prompted the aforementioned diary rant. I convinced myself that I’d blown my shot at ever becoming… well, anything. I kind of broke down in an email to Mandy, but she picked me up, as she always does, and told me that we were together for life. She said that as soon as I was ready, I should send her my next book. That book would be Rose. I was TERRIFIED to go back out on sub, but within a week we received an offer on it. Another would follow a day later, and another shortly after that. I feel very lucky.
What’s the scariest aspect of having your first book baby out in the UK already? Does its US release feel any different?
For me, it’s definitely the thought of my friends and family getting a hold of it. Inevitable, of course. I thought I’d amply prepared myself, but man, the day before its release I had a meltdown of nuclear proportions. Honestly? The US release doesn’t feel much different. Bigger maybe, but I am just as excited/apprehensive as I was back in July.
And, on the flip side, what’s the best thing about ‘URTS’ being out there in the world for people to read?
I so desperately want those who suffer with the same conditions as Norah — as me — to read this book and finish it feeling less alone. I also want people, those who think mental illness is fixable with a breath of fresh air, to see the magnitude and understand the scope of what sufferers have to go through.
How does getting published in the US (and other countries) come about? Does it go hand in hand with being published already in the UK or does it depend on yawn-worthy things like numbers and sales?
It’s all about your wonderful foreign rights agent, traipsing around the world, attending book fairs and whatnot, where they can then pitch your book to foreign pubs, for foreign markets. Of course, sales numbers and a wicked reputation help. Awards, too. But, as with all acquiring editors, what they want most is a great story.
In regards to books post-debut: is future publication a done deal or do you go through the entire process again?
It really depends on the terms your agent has laid down. Like, if your contract promised two books, two books is what you have to deliver to your publishing house. My book deal was for one book. I fulfilled that obligation, so now I’m technically publisher-less, which basically means yes. It all starts again!
Tell us about that glorious second book you’ve been working on? Can we expect to get our hands on it?
My second book is another #OwnVoices novel. It centres around a girl who’s had major spinal surgery that’s altered her body quite considerably, and now she can’t get comfortable in her own skin. Enter: A boy, a bully, and the sudden fascination with having sex in senior year.
Thank YOU! It’s been a pleasure.