Abigail Gibbs is being hailed as the new Stephenie Meyer. Her debut novel, The Dark Heroine: Dinner With A Vampire is coming out in paperback next month, she’s already working on the sequel – and she’s only 18!
We asked her about the Dark Heroine series, her tips for budding writers and why she loves vampires – read all the answers below.
Have you always loved writing?
I have always loved reading, but I fell in love with writing on my ninth birthday, when I was given a Jacqueline Wilson writing set. Over the next couple of years I wrote one hundred pages of a science-fiction story, and after that, you couldn’t stop me. I started two more novels after that, before moving onto The Dark Heroine: Dinner With A Vampire at age fourteen.
What was the inspiration for The Dark Heroine series?
I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Twilight Saga, particularly the romance element. However, whilst I was hooked on vampires, I wanted to write something a lot darker and bloodier; something that would make people just a little bit uncomfortable with vampires. So I sat down and wrote a scene where thirty men are brutally killed by six vampires…
Other elements of the story, such as the dimensions, the Sage and the magic were inspired by one of the earlier, unfinished novels I had written about aged twelve. Those ideas were still swirling around in my mind and gradually merged with the vampire theme – that unfinished story is the basis of the second book in The Dark Heroine series.
How long did it take you to write the first book, Dinner With A Vampire? In a nutshell, what’s it about?
It took me two years to write Dinner With A Vampire. It took so long because I was mainly focusing on a pesky distraction: school!
The Dark Heroine: Dinner With A Vampire is the story of Violet Lee, the sole living witness to a mass murder in the streets of London. Kidnapped by the culprits and thrown unwillingly into a political minefield, Violet soon learns that her kidnappers are not murderers… they are predators. Stuck in her deceptively lavish prison, Violetgradually begins to question her allegiance to humanity, especially as she gets ever closer to the dark and dangerous Kaspar Varn…
Do you have a writing technique?
I don’t stick to any particular regime with my writing, preferring to write how and when inspiration hits me. However, I do find I tend to write more creatively (and just generally, write more) very late at night, or more accurately, very early in the morning. My technique really is to write whatever comes to me, though for Book Two, I have stuck to a rough synopsis/plan.
How did Wattpad help you and the story?
Wattpad is a fantastic community of readers and writers, based online, that has been instrumental in the success of The Dark Heroine. The site allows interaction between writer and fans, and therefore the praise and criticism helped me to find my ‘writer’s voice’, as well as improve my grasp of spelling, punctuation and grammar – very important things for a young writer to get their head around! Furthermore, the members of Wattpad loved The Dark Heroine so much that by the summer of 2012, it had gained 17 million reads (or ‘hits’)! Last year, this brought me to the attention of my literary agent, who approached me, and later, helped seal the deal with HarperCollins.
Did you ever find writing it difficult? How did you overcome these difficulties?
Writing is an extremely solitary experience, even when you do write online, as I did. Sometimes, all that loneliness can be overbearing and I find it can give me writer’s block. I might sit down for several hours and only write a single paragraph. The best thing I find is to get away and do something entirely different (exercise works really well for me) and take a break. Usually, that works and I can get writing again.
Criticism – particularly when published and a vampire writer – can be tough to deal with. Nobody likes being told that what they have spent so much time and love creating isn’t any good, and personal attacks are even worse. But, as my agent said,“…this is just static in an otherwise magnificent broadcast signal”. In other words, focus on the good.
How did you feel when you signed the deal with HarperCollins?
Ecstatic, especially when six figure sums were mentioned! HarperCollins were also on my wish list for publishers because they are quite forward-thinking (see the website Authonomy, and the imprint Avon Impulse) so I couldn’t believe my luck!
Write what you want to write. This may sound obvious, but all too often young writers feel they should write something completely original and different. Never mind the fact almost everything has been done in some form at some point anyway, but if you don’t actually enjoy writing your story, then it will be apparent to the reader. Enthusiasm shines through.
I would also recommend finding yourself some readers, whether that’s your best friend, brother, teacher or a bunch of fans on an online community such as Wattpad. Not only will they encourage you to write more, but a second (or third of fourth) pair of eyes is invaluable when trying to shape the best story you possibly can.
Also, if you think you might like to publish, be aware of genre and the average word counts for that genre, but don’t get too hung up on trying to make your story into something you think a publisher will like. Editors are voracious readers too (mine is a writer as well!) and what they are looking for is a great story they loved reading. Write for your readers, and you write for editors too.
Who’s your favourite author? What’s your favourite book?
I can hit two birds with one stone for this one. My favourite author is J.K. Rowling, and my favourite book is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I have read it no less than eighteen times. Sadly, I’m still awaiting my letter from Hogwarts.
What’s your ultimate ambition?
To be able to live comfortably off my writing, and have a cute little cottage in the English countryside where I can write and write and write to my heart’s content.
You’re heading off to uni soon – are you excited?
Extremely, though it’s nerve-racking too, as I am going to have to finish writing the sequel to Dinner With A Vampire and edit it, all whilst studying!
The Dark Heroine: Dinner with a Vampire is out in e-book now and will be available in paperback from 11 October. Check back for our review soon!