I have a special treat for you today - an interview with my fellow Unbound author, Kate Dreyer. Kate's debut The Fox of Richmond Park is available to pre-order now at https://unbound.com/books/the-fox-of-richmond-park/ Welcome Kate, and thank you so much for joining me! I'm really excited to kick off my series of author interviews with you.
1) To start with, could you introduce yourself and tell us about your current project?
Hello! I’m Kate Dreyer and I’m currently crowdfunding my book, The Fox of Richmond Park, which is an animal story for grown-ups, born from my experience of living and working in London.
It’s the story of one Londoner who just happens to have fur and four legs. The main character, Vince the fox, has had enough of the Richmond Park deer bossing him around, so he leaves in search of his grandparents’ home. He doesn’t know the way, but Rita, an adventure-seeking magpie with an ill-advised love of singing, tags along to help. Together the pair traverse London, helped by the urban creatures they encounter along the way: Westminster's bumbling peregrine falcon, the timid family of hedgehogs in Regent's Park, Soho's hipster rats, and the occasional human.
2) Would you mind sharing an excerpt with us, or a favourite quote?
This is a short extract from where Laurie, a female fox, shows up:
“That was--” Laurie began.
“Horrifying?” Vince said.
“I was going for brilliant. Maybe cunning. Both, really.”
“Oh. And I was--”
“Useless.” She laughed, then wiped the blood from her eye with a paw. In any other situation, he would have smiled at the way her long tail shook with her chuckling, but he was too exhausted.
As her words sunk in, Vince looked past the bloodstains and took her in, completely, for the first time. Her dusty, dark brown fur was patchy in places, ears badly torn, her tail thin and sparse, and scars dotted her bloodstained legs, chest and face. She was like no fox he’d ever seen before.
“I’m no pretty countryside vixen, I know,” Laurie said. “But I’m alive. Which is more than you would be if I hadn’t shown up. Anyone else would’ve just left you for dead. Anyway, I should get back to my bins. Smelled some good fried chicken, but it’s probably gone now. Ho hum.” She turned to leave.
But the entire first chapter is on Unbound here: https://unbound.com/books/the-fox-of-richmond-park/
3) What was your inspiration for The Fox of Richmond Park?
I’ve always loved animals and spent much of my childhood reading stories about them, so after getting back into writing as an adult, it was almost inevitable that I would end up writing my own animal book.
What I (and most people) love about animal stories, like Watership Down, are the new perspective they provide. A car or train becomes a monstrous death machine, the search for food is relentless, and there are enemies around every corner. However, other animal stories are often set in the countryside where the characters are under constant threat from predators and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. In London, though, crossing rivers and roads are no big deal for an urban fox and there are no hunting parties or farmers with shotguns, so the dangers Vince faces are completely different, although sometimes just as terrifying.
I also wanted to comment on current concerns, like the housing crisis and racism, so these are woven into the story as well. It’s not super serious though, there’s a lot of humour too. It’s different, but I hope people will take a chance on it and enjoy it.
4) Do you have any other projects on the sidelines?
No other writing, as I'm putting all my energy into the novel at the moment. Non-writing wise, I volunteer at London Zoo on Mondays, so if you’re visiting, come and say hello!
5) What draws you to the genre you write in? Have you always been drawn to it?
I wrote a couple of young-adult novels before this, but this is something new for me. To be honest, I'm not sure what genre an adult story about animals even falls into...
6) Who/what is your writing inspiration?
For this particular novel, I've been inspired by books like Watership Down, Animal Farm and, of course, The Animals of Farthing Wood
I often go back to Stephen King's 'On Writing' to read about how he got stared as an author, too. I admire him, because he clearly knows his strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and he writes what he loves. I'm not even a huge horror fan, but I do love Stephen King.
7) What do you do if inspiration just won't come?
It's a pretty boring answer, but I usually read a book, or maybe go for a walk. Something that takes my mind completely off my story.
I've always got a few different books on the go for various moods. At the moment I'm reading Tarka the Otter, for a bit of animal inspiration, and I just got Chris Packham's autobiography, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, for my birthday, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into that.
8) Which part of the writing process is your favourite, and which part do you dread?
I prefer editing to writing, which manifests itself in my extremely slow, yet polished first drafts. I can't plough ahead for more than a thousand words before I have to go back and change things. I am getting better, and now make more notes as I go, but editing what's already there is always easier than extracting new words my from my brain.
9) What is your number one distraction
Twitter, definitely. It's addictive. I wish I wasn't so obsessed with checking it, but it's where I get most of my news so I feel a bit cut off if I don’t.
Oh, and my cat, who won't sit still unless I pay him attention.
10) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
For this book I had a rough idea of the beginning, middle and end, with locations that I wanted my characters to visit, and some characters I wanted to include. I used Google maps to plot how they could logistically do what I wanted them to do, then put it all in a spreadsheet with some very brief notes.
Everything else is made up as I go along! I don't think I could plan any more than I do, because so much of it gets changed as I write. It’s sounds ridiculous, but you really don’t know what your characters will decide to do!
11) Tea or coffee?
Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, alcohol of some kind in the evening.
12) What are the most important thing you've learned about writing, editing or publishing (or all of the above!) since you started your journey?
That I love writing, even though its hard.
13) What's your favourite quote on writing?
Can I cheat? This isn’t strictly about writing but it’s one of my favourite quotes, and it definitely applies!
"You might be more talented than me, You might be more smarter than me. But if we get on a treadmill, there are either of the 2 things that's gonna happen. Either you get off first, or I die on that treadmill. It's that simple." - Will Smith
I like the idea that hard work can accomplish anything. You could be the best writer on the planet, but if you don’t put the hours in, or you give up, then you’ll get nowhere. It’s pretty simple.
14) What is the best piece of advice you've received?
I’ve received a lot of great advice from the members of a writers’ forum that I joined a few years ago. Two things that stick in my mind are:
- First drafts will always be crap
- You can’t edit a blank page.
To be honest, I could probably merge these together into: JUST WRITE!
15) Where else can we connect with you?
Please make my Twitter obsession worthwhile by following me on @KateDreyer (Link: https://twitter.com/KateDreyer)
Read the first chapter of The Fox of Richmond Park and pledge your support at https://unbound.com/books/the-fox-of-richmond-park/
Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed here, Kate. I know how exhausting the campaign in and how hard it can be to fit everything in. I wish you the very best of luck!
If you have any questions for Kate, or for me, leave them in the comments, we'd love to hear from you!