Today I’m pleased to welcome Vanessa Ronan to the blog. Vanessa’s debut novel, The Last Days of Summer is published by Penguin on 5 May 2016. Vanessa kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Last Days of Summer.
THE LAST DAYS OF SUMMER begins as the convict, Jasper Curtis, is released from the Huntsville State Penitentiary to move in with his sister and her two young daughters far out on the Texas prairie. It is a story about a dark soul coming home and how this affects the family and the community. Told from four different points of view, it explores the aftermath of crime more than the crime itself, while simultaneously examining themes of forgiveness, redemption, and revenge.
2. What inspired the book?
The Last Days of Summer started as a short story while I was a creative writing student at the University of Edinburgh. The summer before that, I had been traveling with my brother when a news report came on the radio discussing the upcoming release of a criminal who had been institutionalized for many years. The report said that the convict showed no remorse and, it stated that, upon release, he was due to move back to his hometown—the same small town where his crime had been committed. My brother and I looked at each other and said, “Wow. What happens next? What an interesting place to start a story!”
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?
I am very, very much a start writing and see where it takes you sort of writer. I know the direction a story is going, know the general arch—where I’m starting, a few points along the way, have a vague impression of the ending, know the story’s tone—but room for spontaneity is incredibly important in my writing process. I often close my eyes visualize I am the character. Think, “Where am I now? What am I doing?” My scenes then unfold from there. It took me four years to write The Last Days of Summer. I’m hoping that, now that I can write full time, the next one will be written much faster!
4. The Last Days of Summer is your debut novel. What has surprised you about the creative process behind writing and publishing a novel? What do you wish you had known before you first started?
I wish I had known how much social media would be required! I’ve always been sort of old-fashioned when it comes to technology. My family was never one of those families that had all the latest gadgets. Having to now have to keep up to date with multiple social media sites has been fun but definitely an adjustment!
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I love to travel. I backpacked through Europe for six months when I was younger, going to nineteen different countries—through Scandinavia to the Arctic Circle, down the Baltic Coast, through a lot of eastern Europe and then west till I hit Ireland. It truly was the trip of a lifetime! I read a lot, and love films. My husband and I usually go to a couple music festivals a year. Our two cats, Burt and Bo are great company and entertainment.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Only one book for the rest of my life? Torture! I guess I’m gonna go with The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay. No matter how many times I’ve read that book, it never gets old.
7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I actually feel I’ve been quite lucky in of all my interviews in that I’ve been asked some very good questions. I don’t want to disappoint, but I’ve been racking my brain and there really is no question I wish I’d been asked!
Vanessa Ronan was born in Houston and in her 28 years has lived in Texas, Mexico, New York, Edinburgh, and Dublin, where she now lives with her Irish husband. Among other things, she has been a dancer, a PA, a barmaid, a literature student, a dance teacher, and now, a writer. Home-schooled by her literature teacher parents, Vanessa began writing as soon as she learned the alphabet. The Last Days of Summer is her first novel.
You can follow Vanessa on Twitter
About the book:
“After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she’s letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.
Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle. Jasper says he’s all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door…”