This spring's most talked about debut is Lauren Owen's Victorian gothic blockbuster The Quick. Both Hilary Mantel and Kate Atkinson have declared themselves fans and the heat around the book is only getting more intense. Set in Yorkshire and London, featuring a sinister but smart gentlemen's club in St James' it's a little bit Sherlock Holmes, a little bit Tipping the Velvet and an awful lot uniquely creepy. This is an entirely fresh take on the tired teen vampire genre.
ELLE: Was it the gothic setting that inspired you, or was it the characters themselves?
LO: I started with the idea of a deserted house full of dark secrets, because I grew up in a house that was in the grounds of a big girls boarding school in Yorkshire. The characters came from that.
ELLE: They all have exceptionally creepy names as well – August Mould for example.
LO: Well one of my childhood friends had a piano teacher called Mr Mould when I was young and the name really stuck with me.
ELLE: The sense of London as a dangerous place is also great though…
LO: I remember arriving in London as a teenager and being very disappointed, as it didn't look enough like a Sherlock Holmes novel, which I was subconsciously expecting. I was very uneasy about London when I was younger, the amount of everything that there is can be quite overwhelming, but at the same time intoxicating. The siblings in my book feel this too as a result.
ELLE: What about the vampires – are they secondary to the gothic tone or central to the novel?
LO: My main area of interest has long been 19th century vampires, from the beginning of the century with the Byron-esque vampire and how it has progressed to Dracula at the end of the century.
ELLE: Recently vampires have been seen as a teen fad, rather than proper writing. Were you actively seeking to change that and reclaim the original tone?
LO: Yes, there's a repulsive element to the older vampires in the penny dreadfuls with horribly long finger-nails. I was interested in making a vampire that was just repellent enough, as well as one that could walk among regular human beings and not attract a second glance.
ELLE: But did you enjoy Buffy as a teen as well?
LO: God yes I used to rush home from school on Wednesday nights for it! It was a big thing for me. My sister loved it too, it was something we could share and enjoy watching.
ELLE: Do you think modern readers are more accepting of fantastical and the gothic in their fiction because of growing up with Harry Potter?
LO: Yes, when I was writing The Quick I was thinking more about the tone and time of the Sherlock Holmes novels. But I love that there are now people writing mainstream fiction who were Harry Potter fans at the time that those books were originally published. We've got a shared fictional past with our readers now.
ELLE: And how does it feel to be receiving praise for the likes of Hilary Mantel and Kate Atkinson?
LO: That was incredible. Yeah I have those emails in a special file and from time to time I do find myself going back to look at them.
ELLE: What's next?
LO: I'm currently working on the sequel. It's been a lot of fun. I have the material already as The Quick was originally the first half of an impossibly long book. It's going to be set in the late 90s early noughties…
Words by Alexandra Heminsley