06 February 2014

Q&A with Sharon Biggs Waller (A Mad, Wicked Folly Three-Blog Hop)

A Mad, Wicked Folly
by Sharon Biggs Waller
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Published: January 23rd 2014 by Viking Juvenile
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?
Q&A day (it rhymes. Heh) with Sharon! But before that, have you checked out days one to three of the blog hop? If not, drop by Jess' and Christine's blogs! Oh, and my post too. :D

Could you describe A Mad Wicked Folly in 140 characters? 

Edwardian teen struggles against societal constraints to realize her dream of becoming an artist. Set against the backdrop of the fight for women’s suffrage. Some nudity. 

Outside of researching the era, what was the most challenging aspect of writing A Mad Wicked Folly? 

It was really challenging to weave Vicky’s story in with the suffragette’s in a seamless way. This is where research helps a lot. I knew I wanted Vicky to be an artist, but I wasn’t sure how to mirror her struggle with the suffragettes.  Then I discovered how women artists weren’t taken seriously and how the suffragettes relied on art to get their message out, and there was my answer.  The ending was also difficult to get right.  I think I wrote six different versions!  

What is it about the 1900s in London that piqued your interest? 

I love how women were challenging the status quo in a big way during this time.  I think we forget how hard women fought to get the right to vote and to make their voices heard.  I also love the clothes.  The big hats and the beautiful dresses just amaze me. Mind you, I would not have wanted to wear them! I prefer comfy clothes. 

Do you plan on continuing to write YA historical fiction or are you going to try a different genre for your next book?

My heart really lies with historical fiction but I wouldn’t rule out contemporary novels.  I’m actually working on a historical/contemporary mash-up right now.  

It says in your biography that you were a riding instructor at Buckingham Palace. How awesome! Can you tell us about that?

Sure! My husband is British and when I met him he was a Metropolitan mounted police officer.  I was traveling in England and writing a story on the horses that live in London.  The Met has something like 200 horses in various stables throughout London, so I ended up interviewing Mark.  He was working as in instructor at the Royal Mews for the Civil Service Club as a side job, and when I finally moved to London to be with him, the club found out I was a dressage instructor and asked if I would teach too. It was so much fun.  The riding arena was built in the mid-1700s, and Queen Victoria used to sit and watch her children ride there.  I would wander around the stables during my breaks and look at the horses and the carriages and talk to the coachmen.  I used to feed Prince Phillip’s horse, Phillipa, wine gums.  I really liked her.  She was a really sweet mare. 

What’s it like having a working farm, and having families of animals to keep you company? And how do you balance running the farm with your writing? 

I love my farm but it’s a lot of work, I have to say.  It’s not too time-consuming in the winter but the summer is fairly busy because we have a large veg garden and orchard, and weeds seem to pop up by the minute. But I love starting my day by feeding the animals and I’m always mulling over stories when I’m working with them.  They make me smile and help drag me out of a funk if the writing isn’t going too well. As for balance, I’m open for suggestions! I often feel guilty that I’m not writing more or gardening more or riding my horse or spending time with my friends and family. I wish I had extra time to do everything I love in a day, but unless someone knows where I can find Hermione’s time turner that’s not possible.  

Victoria Darling has been described as being courageous and even rebellious, largely because of how she chooses to go against societal norms at the beginning of the novel. Did you ever do anything as rebellious? 

Well, I’ve never posed nude! I’m not sure if I have the courage to do that.  I suppose I never had to rebel because my parents supported everything my siblings and I wanted to do. I do know what if feels like to want something so much that you’ll do whatever it takes to get it.  My parents couldn’t afford a horse so it was up to me to find a way to get horses into my life. 

You’ve published non-fiction articles and The Guide to Chicken Breeds before, but what’s one initial expectation that you had about publishing fiction, which turned out to be slightly different than anticipated? 

I’ve published three non-fiction books too.  My latest is The Original Horse Bible. 

Happily I can say because of SCBWI I knew what was going to happen.  Also I have some friends who are published and they were great resources.  I suppose I was surprised by the support I received.  I was a jobbing writing before and so I was treated as more of an employee.  Viking has treated me with so much courtesy and respect and I feel like an author now. 

Which character in A Mad Wicked Folly do you most identify with, and why? 

Probably Lucy Hawkins because I can be very forward and direct sometimes!  Lucy is the kind of person that will tell you the truth even if you don’t want to hear it. There is some of Vicky in me, too, especially her stubbornness. 

What’s the one thing that you hope readers will hope to come away with, when reading A Mad Wicked Folly? 

I hope readers will understand that a good life is not down the easy path, and that your passion is worth fighting for. 

Finally, fantasy movie casts are big in YA right now. If you had a choice, who would you want to cast as Victoria, and why?

Fun question!  I’d love to see Carey Mulligan cast as Vicky. I suppose she sticks in my mind because of her character in An Education. Jenny is so like Vicky; the two share a real passion for life and a headstrong personality. 

About the author

Sharon Biggs Waller grew up around artists and developed a passion for Edwardian history and the Pre-Raphaelites when she moved to England in 2000. 

She did extensive research on the British suffragettes for her novel, A MAD, WICKED FOLLY when she wasn’t working as a riding instructor at the Royal Mews in Buckingham Palace and as a freelance magazine writer. 

She also writes non-fiction books about horses under her maiden name, Sharon Biggs. She is a dressage rider and trainer and lives on a 10-acre sustainable farm in Northwest Indiana with her British husband, Mark.

Blog Hop Schedule:
February 3rd: Sab The Book Eater (guest post)
February 4th: Christine @ Bookish Daydreamer (guest post)
February 5th: Jess @ The Reading Nook Reviews (guest post)
February 6th: Q&A on all three blogs
February 7th: Our reviews + GIVEAWAY!!! 

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