Members Q&A with Vera Nazarian

Northanger Abbey and Angels and DragonsWelcoming back Vera Nazarian to answer questions posed by our members! And be sure to check out Vera Nazrian’s guest post for a chance to win a very special autographed copy of  Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons. (See link at the end of the this post.)

What reference or research materials did you use for the supernatural elements in Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons?

Lots of oddball research went into this one! Part of the fun that happens in the book is based on our heroine Catherine Morland and other characters searching for “secret clues.” So I looked up all the “horrid” novels by Ann Radcliffe mentioned in that infamous reading list by Isabella Thorpe, and then doodled their names on a piece of paper to come up with funny words and concepts for the secret clues. For my ancient dragons, I also researched Australian fauna and its the migratory patterns (which incidentally came in handy for my upcoming book Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy’s Dreadful Secret), and the voyage of Magellan, and also looked up the Hebrew history of the concept of nephilim as the children of the fallen angels.

How come your angels seems so faerie like?

The immediate inspiration for my angels was the notion of having “an angel (or devil) on your shoulder.” It has to be a little one, right? Maybe a couple or three inches tall, no more?

My angels are tiny beings that can grow at will to be any size, and in fact when Catherine is threatened by the demon legion, they grow in size to several feet in order to defend her. The same goes for the belching demon who is just a little guy, and can fit on Isabella’s shoulder if necessary. Having them this small also allows for lots of slapstick fun as the angels tumble around and fall into teacups, get stuck in Mrs. Allen’s hairpins, and get tangled up in ribbons at the milliner’s.

Could you tell us about the scholarly footnotes? How did you come up with them and what inspired you?

OMG! Okay, let me tell you how this all came to me. I was watching the Keira Knightley movie version of Pride and Prejudice, and there is one scene where Mr. Collins is preaching a sermon, and the congregation is half-asleep, and then he stumbles on the word intercourse so that it has the wrong and highly inappropriate meaning, which wakes everyone up and raises some brows among his flock—resulting in much giggles for the modern viewer (at least a silly person such as myself who likes to giggle at all kinds of things).

Ding, ding, ding! Immediately, a bell went off in my head!

And I thought, there are so many other such terms with “mutated connotations,” especially in 18th century period literature, where the original meaning has evolved to connote something else (usually with wicked double-entendre), and a modern reader can have a giggle if we read it as the modern idiom instead of the original form.

And so I decided to create an “idiot editor” meta-character. He’s a sort of mad scientist and oddball fool who “footnotes” all such spots in the text and then adds inane commentary—also footnoting other random places where there could be double-entendres, plays on words and other random silliness.

This Scholarly Footnotes feature first appeared in Mansfield Park and Mummies (where I made veiled references to everything from Indiana Jones to Star Wars, and Seinfeld), and has since evolved… Wait till you see the footnotes in Pride and Platypus! There are now several inane idiot footnote editors and they all come to blows and have “footnote fights” and extraneous dialogue via footnotes, so it’s like another story running in parallel to the main text, that you get to read purely via the footnotes! It’s absolutely crazy and hilarious! But, you’ll just have to see for yourself.

Vera NazarianDo you have a writing ritual?

It is called, open the damn file and stare at the screen, and focus! Seriously, not these days. When I know I have to work, I simply get to it (moaning and groaning). The hardest part for me is always that first step that defeats entropy and procrastination that weighs down all of us writers like a boat anchor.

I usually begin the night’s writing by reading a few pages or a scene or chapter most recently written in that WIP, so that I can do a rolling edit and then continue directly into new material.

Name five things within reach on your desk.

We-e-ell… There isn’t really a desk.

Having worked for decades at a day job in a hard office chair and now unable to sit in one for more than a minute without agony, and due to chronic carpal tunnel, I write on my lap from an easy chair, with a Microsoft Natural split keyboard attached to a computer (laptop or desktop) that itself sits perched on a skinny rolling bookcart stand.

Yes, I know it’s weird. The closest things in the vicinity are an extremely tattered hardcover volume of the complete novels of Jane Austen, my car keys, a stack of random papers, a plastic key-chain calculator, and a fat sleeping cat.

Index cards or Post-it notes or both?

Neither! I’ve tried both at some point, and found that really works well for me is a single blank sheet of paper upon which I either write down bullet-point outline items (usually one-liner plot points) that must appear in the work in progress, or else, if it gets really weird and complex, draw a bubble flowchart diagram with arrows. In general I am a very linear writer, so separate bits of paper will only make me demented and impede progress.

Do you have a favorite color for notes, clothes, or in general?

I am a diehard purple-aholic, and have been since grade school, when I used to wear only shades of purple. Lavender is my absolute favorite color. However I like my paper to be plain white, since I am also blind as a bat and need all the reflectivity I can get from my visual surfaces.

Anything special you’d like to share?

Yes! Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy’s Dreadful Secret is coming very, very soon, and I am soooo excited! It’s mad, wacky, oddball, romantic, and it has were-creatures and crazy Australian wild animals! Stay tuned for more, in the next couple of weeks, over at the Supernatural Jane Austen series website!

Check out Vera Nazarian’s earlier guest post for a chance to win a special copy of Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons.

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