My special guest today is novelist Judith Crow to chat with me about her newest YA fantasy, Dance With Me.
During her virtual book tour, Judith will be giving away a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!Bio:
Judith was born in Orkney, grew up in Lincolnshire and now lives in the far north of Scotland. Her writing is inspired by the experiences of her life so far and she loves picking up on quirks and immortalising them in fiction.
Judith’s new book, Dance With Me, combines her love of folk music and creative writing, and finds her main character in a world where folk songs come to life. Her debut book, The Backwater, was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2019.
When she isn’t writing, Judith is a primary school teacher who enjoys crafting and music, as well as being a generally doting spaniel owner.
Welcome, Judith. Please share a little bit about your current release.
Dance With Me is all about Kelli, a teenage girl who has spent the last few years of her life dreaming herself into folk songs. She’s had a relationship with a slightly older boy, but the story starts with her ending that because he’s pressuring her to have sex and she doesn’t want to.
She gets the chance to live her dreams and enter a world where folk songs come to life, but she doesn’t immediately realise that a lot of folk songs don’t have happy endings. So, she’s in a strange world, surrounded by all these things which keep happening around her, and she realises that someone’s life depends on her…
What inspired you to write this book?
This is one of my favourite stories! My sisters and I exchanged story ideas back at the start of 2015. The challenge was to use someone else’s idea to create your own story. I gave my older sister an idea I had about class and loss, and my younger sister gave me the idea of a world where folk songs come to life. I’ve included this story in the Acknowledgements of Dance With Me, because it just sums up my wonderful, crazy family! It’s also the reason that the book is dedicated to Clemency, my younger sister.
Excerpt from Dance with Me:
She kept her thoughts to herself and, apart from stopping to eat and take a comfort break, the journey was non-stop. Her guardian seemed keen to be away from Arlen, and he relaxed with every step his horse took. Eventually though, Kelli saw through the coach window that he was starting to clutch his shoulder, and she decided she had to take matters into her own hands.
She knocked on the roof of the coach, and it came to a jolting stop almost instantly. As Lord Arlen turned around to see why she had caused the delay, she noticed he was pale, and his face was beaded with sweat.
“Come in the coach with me,” she called. “One of the footmen can ride.”
Kelli thought about it for a second, realising there was no way Lord Arlen would stand any loss of pride. “I’m lonely,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
Lord Arlen looked at her. “Why?” he repeated.
Kelli took a deep breath and reminded herself that this was a man she was trying to protect. “Because,” she said, “this is the first time I have been in a coach alone for a year, and it is a lonely thing.”
Lord Arlen nodded and clambered down from his horse, handing the reins to one of the footmen. He climbed up into the coach and sat down opposite Kelli without saying anything. She could see he was in pain but made no comment about it, even when he reached his hand up to his shoulder again and grimaced. They did not talk at all, and Kelli was unsurprised to find she was a lot less comfortable with Lord Arlen in the coach.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m just starting a new novel about Sir Kay – the foster-brother of King Arthur. I’m really enjoying writing it, and doing all the required research, including learning all sorts about different names, which are very important for the story. At the moment, I’m just writing, but I’m hoping it will end up as Middle Grade. I’m not very good at writing for Middle Grade! My writing often turns out to be a little bit too mature for a younger audience. That’s why I love Young Adult so much, because it’s such a transitional point in life, as well as in literature: you’re not a child anymore but there’s also a little way to go until you’re an adult. All of the things which live in this liminal place make Young Adult a fantastically interesting genre to read and write!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
What a tricky question! I’m not entirely sure, to be honest. I used to spend my free periods during sixth form (High School) writing stories and I enjoyed being different in that respect, but I’m not sure I thought of myself as a writer. I think it was probably when my first book was announced as a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards. It’s terrible that I need validation from others to define me, I know, but it gave me such a confidence boost in my writing.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m not lucky enough to be able to write full-time, unfortunately, although that would be amazing! Luckily for me though, I have a super part-time job as a primary teacher in a very small school. There are only thirty-four pupils in the whole school and I teach the upper years (8 to 11 year-olds). The children are such a hilarious bunch, and I get on really well with my colleagues as well.
On Thursdays, I have my driving lesson and do some work for Crowvus, the indie-publisher which I run with my sisters. But that still leaves me a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so I try to squeeze in writing on those days whenever I can!
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m not sure I have one! I do have a tendency to wrap a scarf round my face, so that my head is in a kind of cocoon, so maybe that’s an odd quirk! I find the slight reduction of air means I enter a bit of a semi-sleep state which can help with the writing: almost like a trance! It made me struggle a bit when we had to start wearing facemasks though, as I found myself drifting off into this strange state in the shops!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was two years old, I nearly died after an asthma attack. The result was that I was absolutely determined to be a doctor. It was all going very swimmingly – I was top of my class at primary school and through high school – but then I realised the stumbling block. I am absolutely terrified of needles. That stopped me in my tracks and, although I remain very interested in medical science, I left that path behind me.
I suppose, after that, I wanted to be an actress – I had been performing on an amateur level since I was very little – but doing my A Level in Drama and Theatre Studies put me off that particular career choice!
The one thing my parents specified that they never wanted any of their children to do was become a teacher. They were both teachers and knew that it’s a very unforgiving career. I’m not sure we paid much attention: me and two of my sisters all followed Mum and Dad into the profession!
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Just really my best wishes as we head towards the end of the year. This certainly isn’t the type of book launch I had planned for Dance With Me! As I’m writing this, I have just spent all day in the kitchen baking sweet treats and I’m now surrounded by packing: we’re attempting the first holiday of the year after the first two were cancelled because of Covid-19.
I believe in the power of words, in the power of language and literature to bring us all together. It’s been a year where writers have come into their own – where writing has become so important because we haven’t been able to meet face-to-face. I hope you really enjoy escaping into the world of Dance With Me. Whether the book launch is how I imagined or not, I can’t think of a better time to share a story all about escaping to another reality!
Thanks for being here today, Judith.