By Anna Sugden
I'm delighted to welcome back another Lair favourite and one of my 'must buy, must read' authors, my very dear friend Julie Cohen.
So, without further ado, here's Julie!
Hey there Banditas, thanks for having me back in the Lair to talk about my newest book, Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom.
The idea for this book came to me, I seem to remember, when I was out in my garden on a warm spring day, pruning the passion flower. I was thinking about the heroine of the book I’d just finished, Girl From Mars, and how she was a comic-book-loving geek tomboy. It would be nice to have something different for the next book, I thought. Somebody girly and chick-litty who loves shoes and stuff. But there are lots of girly, chick-litty heroines out there. How can I make mine a little bit different?
Then of course it came to me: stick her in a crumbling gothic mansion, full of gargoyles and spiders, with mysterious freakish neighbours who prowl the night!
So I worked up a bit of a pitch for it and developed the character, and then called up my editor to have a chat about the next book, and I mentioned this idea of mine. Sort of a Bridget Jones meets Northanger Abbey. “Sounds great!” said my editor. “Got a title?”
“Um...how about Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom?”
I was joking. Nina’s last name was actually Chatham. I thought my editor would laugh.
“I love it!” she cried.
And thus Nina Jones was born.
The book was really fun to write, especially the gothic parts. I love horror movies and I love dark humour. I researched Gothic Revival architecture and had a wonderful time visiting Highgate, the part of London where the second half of the novel is set, with its famous Victorian cemetery and its vampire legends.
In the first part of the book, Nina is a typical chick-lit heroine, who loves shoes and shopping and, unfortunately, her married boss. And then, through a series of events, she loses everything—her job, her money and most of her designer shoes—and ends up living in her bat-loving dead uncle Arval’s flat amongst the gargoyles and the odd bits of machinery and the kitchen sink big enough to wash a corpse.
Here’s a short excerpt from her first few days in the Temple of Gloom, when she’s reeling from her own personal disasters, and discovers she’s sharing the flat with another inhabitant:
“What’s the attraction of a bath?” I ask the spider. My voice echoes off the black and white tiles on the floor and walls. “I mean I can understand a nice dark corner full of flies. But why a bath? What’s the good of it to you?”
The spider sits there, being hairy.
“I’d like to take a bath, actually,” I tell it. “Three days without bathing is verging on the ridiculous, not to mention disgusting. Especially with all the crawling around in cupboards I’ve been doing. I could grow vegetables in my hair.”
I swear the spider is thinking about all the cobwebs I’ve destroyed in the past few days. And planning revenge. It must be quite a complicated revenge, with lots of cunning plans to think through in detail, because the damn thing hasn’t moved more than three inches in forty-eight hours. Or maybe it goes zinging around the entire flat while I’m sleeping, but I don’t want to think about that.
I’ve been using the loo as quickly as I can, angling my body ready to bolt out the door if the spider moves. I’ve been brushing my teeth in the kitchen sink. But enough is enough. It’s not like I’m planning on going out or entertaining visitors or anything, but I can’t stand myself this dirty, and I am not going to climb into the corpse-washing sink for a sponge bath.
“I really don’t want to squish you. Or touch you. Or think about you lurking in the bathroom while I’m naked and vulnerable. How about I open the window for you, and you go outside?”
This seems reasonable to me, but who understands spider logic? I go to the long, narrow, multi-paned window and open it, a process which requires unscrewing this bit and pushing out this other bit. It only opens a couple of inches, and it’s begun to rain outside. The fresh air is cool and smells slightly greasy.
“There, doesn’t that look appealing?” I say to the spider. It is, I know, quite possibly the only creature in existence who has less desire to go outside than I do.
Got any spider horror stories? Got a corpse-washing sink or a favourite gargoyle? Just want to talk gloom? I’ll choose a commenter to win a signed copy of Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom.
Julie’s website: http://www.julie-cohen.com
To buy Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom with free worldwide shipping:
Don't forget you can buy Julie's other awesome books [Spirit Willing, Flesh Weak, One Night Stand, The Honey Trap and Girl From Mars] at The Book Depository too - all with free worldwide shipping!