I’m pleased to welcome debut novelist Venetia Welby whose book, Mother of Darkness, was published by Quartet Books last week (23rd February). You will find all buying links at the bottom of this post. Thanks for joining me Venetia. First of all, would you tell me a bit about yourself?
Hello. My name’s Venetia Welby. I’m 35, married to Charlie and have a 3 year old son, Hal, and sociopathic cat, Lovecat. I live in Bow in east London, an area I love very deeply, but I was born and brought up near Grantham in Lincolnshire where my family still live. I came here to do a master’s degree in Comparative Literature at King’s College, London after studying Classics at Oxford and travelling widely, sustaining myself with freelance tutoring, editing and writing.
What inspired you to start writing?
As far back as I can remember I’ve always written stories. I have quite vivid dreams and a sometimes distressingly overactive imagination, so perhaps that’s what inspired me initially.
Tell me about your journey to publication
It’s been fairly brutal via two literary agents and much rewriting, but it has a happy ending. Quartet have been brilliant to work with.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
It’s about a young man living in Soho trying to escape the ruins of his short life through hedonism and denial. As the debauchery grows and his identity splinters, he discovers something more exciting than the decaying spirit of Soho around him – he is destined for far greater things.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
‘Mother of Darkness’ was actually a suggestion made by the publisher. Its working title had been ‘Palabra’ and later ‘Night is our Mother’, a line spoken by the Furies in the third play, Eumenides, of Aeschylus’ Orestaia.
How did you celebrate publication day?
I celebrated in the style of my main character Matty, with a drug-fuelled orgy. Only joking – that’s going to happen at the launch party later in the week.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Yes, I’m retracing the footsteps planted by two eccentric, intrepid female ancestors around the world and writing about how the places – and life – have changed since the 1850s. The book focuses on their Iberian journey where I can do short trips by Ryanair and Airbnb rather than steamer and grand hotel, but they went as far as Columbia in one direction and Beirut in another, where the mother of the two died horribly and put an end to their travels.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months?
Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, re-read for the fortieth time. It’s hilariously funny, yet also awful and tragic, a mixture I find irresistible.
What are you reading just now?
The Cat: A Tale of Feminine Redemption by Marie-Louise von Franz. She was a student of Carl Jung’s and I was very interested in their work on the puer aeternus archetype which formed the psychological backbone of Mother of Darkness. Von Franz unravels the symbolism in fairytales, in this case the Romanian story of ‘The Cat’, to unveil complex truths about the female psyche.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
Sum by David Eagleman, a series of speculations on what might constitute the afterlife. It’s suitably detached from reality and frequently makes your brain roll over as your perspective on life is flipped, a feeling I like very much.
Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?
The Patrick Melrose Trilogy by Edward St Aubyn. I’m not very good with actors – they interfere with the way I see the characters in my imagination – but I would like Darren Aronofsky to direct the thing. I think he’s fantastically talented at portraying the inner experience of drug abuse and madness. Requiem for a Dream remains one of my favourite films ever.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
One of my favourites of Roald Dahl’s fabulously twisted short stories is called ‘Georgy Porgy’ (in Kiss Kiss), about a vicar with a horror of people, particularly women, touching his skin. When one particularly predatory one kisses him, she swallows him whole and he is condemned to live inside her. I thought the mother in this, who features in the earlier part of the story when the vicar is a timid little boy, was fantastically cool – irreverent, bohemian, worldly and glamorous. I’d quite like to be like her, except – um— for the violent death and screwed-up son…..
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