We would like to thank YAReads for the opportunity to interview author Katy Scott and Verla, the main character in her new novel, Last House Burning.
About the Book:
When you speak of the Devil, he probably won’t appear. But he may send one of his staff.
In an old house in a deserted, burned-down village, a young woman called Verla lives alone. Year after year she stays there while the world changes around her, no one else ever stepping foot in the village, the people in the nearby towns forgetting she exists. Verla is used to it. It’s the way things have to be.
Until Ben, a bored teenager visiting the area with his family, barges into her life and discovers her terrible secret. As he spirals deeper and deeper into the bureaucratic world of Heaven and Hell that Verla is part of, he realizes he has one chance to help free her from her lonely fate.
But securing Verla’s freedom is going to involve more than just an appointment at the local office of the underworld. Especially when Ben encounters a charismatic American with a suspiciously broad knowledge of Hell, a mysterious elevator with deep and terrifying powers, and a pinstripe-suited demon with an evil scheme that could shake the foundations of Heaven, Hell and Earth.
And things are about to get personal.
Interview with main character, Verla:
What would you order if you walked in a Starbucks?
I’ve never tried coffee before but I’ve heard how good it is! I do know I like hot chocolate, so I think I’d blend the two and get a fancy mocha – that’s what they’re called, right? With some cream fresh from a cow.
What kind of shoes are you wearing?
Lace-up black boots made by Ernest, the village bootmaker. They’re over a hundred years old and still look new. Ernest sure knows how to make shoes.
What is your most treasured possession?
A picture book created by my little brothers. I used to cry when I opened it because I felt so bad about what happened to them, but it’s been so long now that I can smile when I read it.
What is on your nightstand right now?
Well, this is awkward. Okay, I’ll tell you. It’s a note that says “Hey Verla, I’ve gone to get some food. Back in 10.” A certain person left it at my house the other day and, well, I guess I just didn’t want to throw it out.
If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living, dead or imaginary), who would it be?
Jane Austen. I was obsessed with Mr Darcy for years.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
I think it would say “Here lies Verla. Finally.”
What impression do you make when people first meet you?
Usually they remember something else they have to do, and leave. So their biggest impression is probably that I’m very forgettable. Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t had a proper conversation with anyone for years.
Dark blue, like the sky right after dusk.
If you had a free day with no responsibilities, what would you do?
I’d go down to Sydney and visit the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’ve heard so much about it but never seen it! I might even do the bridge climb.
Favorite place you have traveled?
I haven’t gone far at all unfortunately! But there’s a hill near my house where you can see all the stars on a clear night. One day I want to go back there.
What do you like best about yourself?
My resilience. Back when all this first started, if you’d have asked me if I could survive like this for so long, I’d have said no. But I have survived, and I’m pretty proud of myself.
What do you like least about yourself?
My stubbornness. If only I’d just said yes when… well, there’s no use dwelling on it. What’s done is done.
Favorite genre of music?
Classical, of course! I didn’t know there were any other genres.
Favorite subject in school?
Art. I was going to be a famous artist. That didn’t turn out so well.
Righty or Lefty?
Righty. You weren’t allowed to be a lefty when I went to school! They’d tie your left hand behind your back.
Biggest Pet Peeve?
When people leave a round coffee cup stain on the newspaper! Ugh. It’s like they’re trying to make my life even more difficult. I shouldn’t really complain, though. Technically I’m stealing the newspaper from them.
What makes you laugh out loud?
When Ben makes up words in Scrabble and tries to tell me that it’s modern vernacular that I’ve never heard of. A few days ago he put the word ‘omg’ down. That is so not a word. You can’t even pronounce it. “Om-guh”? I don’t think so.
What would your last meal be if you were on Death Row?
Sashimi. It’s on my bucket list of foods to try, so that would be nice timing.
Have any pets?
No. Not even bugs are allowed to exist anywhere near my house.
Do you keep a diary or journal?
No. But when I was about sixteen I wrote a series of stories about myself, except that instead of a village girl, I was a rich young lady out in society with lots of men asking for my hand in marriage. I think the stories are still in my library somewhere. I hope no one ever finds them. How embarrassing.
Interview with author Katy Scott
On Last House Burning:
What was the inspiration?
I was driving along one day and idly wondered what it would be like if Hell got too crowded, and the bosses started using buildings and houses on Earth to put people in instead. It snowballed from there.
Can you describe the process of world building?
For this book, it started off small. A character here, a location there. As the characters and locations got more extreme the more fun I had, and before I knew it I had a whole world built: a world where Heaven and Hell are run like businesses, complete with sexy secretaries and anally-retentive bosses.
What was the most difficult thing about writing this book?
The hardest part was transitioning Ben’s character from thinking that the world was normal, to believing that Verla was who she said she was – and bringing the reader along with it. I wrote and rewrote those scenes several times.
What was your favorite or chapter/ scene to write?
My favourite chapter to write was Saturday Night at the Emerald Club. I’ve always been fascinated with Prohibition and the 20s in general, and I had so much fun bringing a dodgy Chicago speakeasy to life.
Is there a message you want your audience to take away from this novel?
I’d like people to question the reality that they’ve been presented with. Nothing in the book is true, and maybe other things in life aren’t necessarily what we think they are either.
What actor/ actress would you choose to play Verla and Ben?
I’d love Lily Collins to play Verla, and Xavier Samuel to play Ben. Can I cast one extra character? I’d get Lance Gross to play Jamie.
Verla Ben Jaime
Which authors inspire(d) you?
Terry Pratchett, Roald Dahl, John Steinbeck and Marian Keyes.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and goddamn I wish I could write like that.
Do you have a specific time of day you prefer to write?
Yes – nighttime. If I didn’t have a day job, I’d write all night.
Plotter or Panster?
A plotter all the way. I’ve tried being a pantser, and I end up with stories that go nowhere.
Do you have advice for getting past Writer’s Block?
Yes – switch to the next scene and write down some notes for it. It doesn’t matter how rubbish they are. If you can, scribble down a few lines of dialogue as well. Then some more notes, then some more dialogue. Don’t stress about getting it right – just get something down.
What project are you working on now?
I’m writing the second novel in a chick lit trilogy. I’ve already finished the first, and I love it. It’s a massive departure from urban fantasy, but I’m having so much fun. Watch this space!