Karen Gregory Interview.
Questions asked by Poppy Nwosu.
I recently read your YA contemporary debut novel, Countless, which I found extremely moving.
It deals with anorexia and teen pregnancy, both topics I must admit sounded quite heavy for me to read, yet I flew through this and found myself thinking about it for days afterwards.
It is a beautiful book with a deeply flawed, fragile yet unbelievably strong protagonist. One aspect I really liked about your story was just how quiet and real it seemed, avoiding the pitfalls of overly dramatising events.
For me, it made each small (and huge) conflict within your novel all the more devastating.
It’s a really interesting question in terms of what comes along as you’re writing an initial draft and then how you shape it later. I wrote the first draft of COUNTLESS pretty quickly and the rawness of it wasn’t something I consciously chose; Hedda’s voice basically came out that way. However, once it got to the revising and editing stages I put a lot of thought into trying to get the balance right between portraying Hedda’s thoughts and emotions around her eating disorder in what I felt was a realistic, but sensitive way. But yes, Hedda’s voice did feel quite natural to me and clicked quite early on.
The simplest answer is because this is what came to me when the initial idea appeared. I had the basic structure in my head right from the beginning, and that didn’t change much during the editing. For me, the most important part of the story was an exploration of different forms of love and so if it had ended when Rose was born, I would only have told part of the story I wanted to tell.
Ah, I have a fun story about this! I actually wrote COUNTLESS while I had another book out on submission to publishers. It was a way of coping with the anxiety and constant inbox refreshing and I think that might have had something to do with the initial tone of the book! At that point I had an agent and of course wanted to be published, but I really wrote the first drafts of COUNTLESS for me, as a story I felt I had to get out. Once I was working with Bloomsbury, I then needed to edit with the reader in mind, which was a completely different challenge.
Not so far in terms of my writing process, other than my time can get quite squeezed on occasion! There is a certain amount of pressure which comes from working to deadlines, rather than being able to go at your own pace. I’ve always been a bit of an inconsistent writer – I might write nothing for a month and then splurge out several thousand words in a weekend, which is not always possible once you’re under contract. Luckily, I find deadlines very motivating as my issue is always getting started! Once I’m going, I’m usually fine.
One of the biggest things over the last couple of years has been working with my amazing editor, Hannah. I’ve realised that whenever I get edit notes I go through a process that begins with denial, makes a few detours into tears and general freaking out and then one day it all clicks into place and I know what I need to do. I actually love the editing process, despite all this!
Writing and publishing are two separate things! They both have different joys and challenges, but the main thing is to love the writing because that’s the bit you can control.
SKYLARKS is a contemporary f/f love story which looks at social injustice, the poverty gap and activism. It’s set in a fictionalised area around Avebury and the Marlborough Downs and is definitely very close to my heart. I loved writing Joni and Annabel’s story so I’m really excited it will soon be released!
Thank you for having me on your blog and for all your fab questions!
Thank you so very much for your time Karen, I am so happy to have you here! :)