The Heiresses Q&A
Q. Where did you get the inspiration for The Heiresses?
A. This is extremely embarrassing, but I think it was actually from watching a Dr Phil show, years ago. I can't say too much as it will spoil the plot completely, but I saw a segment that involved a family and their genetic makeup and asked my husband (a medical specialist) about it all that evening. This led me to wondering how this family's scenario might have played out if genetic testing was not available to them, which is the case in The Heiresses, set in 1920s London.
Q. What other novels in the New Adult genre would you compare The Heiresses to?
A. I think the obvious comparison is Anna Godbersen's The Luxe series, because of the historical setting and the saga-like plot. I love all her books!
Q. What's The Heiresses about?
A. The Heiresses revolves around triplets Thalia, Erato and Clio. Estranged since birth, they are thrust together in glittering 1926 London to fight for their inheritance. They quickly learn they can't trust anyone in their new lives – least of all each other.
I had an absolute ball writing The Heiresses with all its dramatic highs and lows. I was even lucky enough to be living in Cambridge at the time, so had the advantage of being able to research in London whenever I needed to.
Q. Who are your favourite authors?
A. My very favourite author is P.G. Wodehouse. So much so that for Christmas I received the five book The Jeeves Omnibus set because I'd worn my old five book set out! Some other favourites are Stella Gibbons and anything at all Mitford.
Q. How long did it take to you to complete The Heiresses?
A. The Heiresses was a little different for me because it was contracted from only a short writing sample and a series guide. I wrote it very quickly, in under nine months (altogether, it's roughly 120,000 words). Usually I wouldn't be anywhere near this fast!
Q. What was the hardest part about writing The Heiresses?
A. The most difficult part was the historical research. Although I love to read historical books and watch documentaries and historical dramas on TV, I hadn't actually written anything historical before. When I started writing, I found myself stopping after every second sentence or so to research this point and that point. After a while, I realised I had to write on and put little 'x' signs where I needed to research and go back later to do all my research in one session, or I'd never get anywhere!
Luckily, I wrote The Heiresses while living in Cambridgeshire in the UK (I usually live in Australia), so could pop on a fast train and be in London in under an hour to research anything I liked. Being so close to London was an enormous bonus – from the London Transport Museum, to simply walking around Belgrave Square, it really brought the story to life for me. I even managed to crash the village set of Downton Abbey, which was a hugely exciting day, despite the fact that it snowed (Australians don't do snow well…)!
Q. Why New Adult?
A. I think it's just a fascinating time in life -- a time that's difficult to bridge and often scarier than any other change you've been through. You don't necessarily feel like an adult, but you have sudden adult responsibilities (working, studying in the kind of way where no-one cares if you go to classes or not, maybe being a parent if you have children early…). Everyone has a different experience and everyone deals with that experience differently. There are endless story-telling opportunities!
Q. What do you feel the major differences are between New Adult and Young Adult?
A. For me, it's all about bridging that gap between childhood and adulthood and the more I see people discuss New Adult, the more this is firmed up in my mind. I do think people focus too much on the sexual content of books when talking about the New Adult genre. For me, The Heiresses is New Adult because of how the girls deal with the sex they are having in the book (and, to be honest, there isn't a whole lot of sex) and how it changes them from girls into women, along with all the other happenings in their new lives.
Q. So much New Adult work is self-published. Is there a reason you chose the traditional publishing route?
The Heiresses was a bit of a different publishing experience for me as my agent approached me and mentioned St Martin's Press was actively looking for New Adult ideas that could work in serial form. I had the basis of an historical idea that I'd been thinking about for years and the timing was great as Downton Abbey (set in a similar time period) was really taking off. Thus, The Heiresses began to take shape very, very quickly. I'd love to say all my ideas pull off so easily, but unfortunately that's not quite true (I sold my first chick-lit novel out of the slush pile and agent-less in 2000 and have many a manuscript in my bottom drawer)!
Q. Most New Adult books seem to be set in college. Can you tell us more about writing historical New Adult?
A. As it happens, when I first had the idea for what would become The Heiresses (years ago), there was no such term as New Adult. The idea itself meant that the story required three 18-ish year-old heroines (they needed to be able to inherit money, be of marriageable age, live away from home and be generally young and fabulous in 1920s London etc.), so it simply happened to fall into the New Adult genre naturally. As for the world, I've always adored reading about London in the 1920s and it's a perfect fit for the New Adult genre -- the years between WWI and WWII were a very heady, unstable time to be young in England, with death looming and a 'live for the moment' motto.
Q. What are you reading at the moment?
A. I'm actually on a short New Adult/Young Adult reading break (might have gorged myself a little there) and am reading Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which is absolutely fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.
Q. What are you writing now?
A. I've just finished a contemporary New Adult novel. While it's set in the present day, it's not college-based, but is about a charismatic modern artist and a young woman who becomes his muse. It's set in Paris, London and New York. My next New Adult novel will most likely be historical, though.
Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring New Adult writers?
A. Read widely and write what you'd love to read. I think it always shows if you're writing something you're excited about, rather than trying to write to a trend.
Having failed at becoming a ballerina with pierced ears (her childhood dream), Allison Rushby instead began a writing career as a journalism student at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Within a few months she had slunk sideways into studying Russian. By the end of her degree she had learned two very important things: that she wasn't going to be a journalist; and that there are hundreds of types of vodka and they're all pretty good. After several years spent whining about how hard it would be to write a novel, she finally tried writing one and found it was quite an enjoyable experience. Since then, she has had nine novels published. She keeps up her education by sampling new kinds of vodka on a regular basis.
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