Interview with writer Abigail Gibbs (Canse12)
- Most people on Wattpad will know of hit writer, Abigail Gibbs or more known as Canse12. Abbie became known with her hit book ‘Dinner with a vampire…’ a fantasy/romance novel that has been read over 11 million times with over 64 million votes. At only 16, she has achieved a lot on this website.
1. When did you decide that you wanted to start writing?
When I was nine years old. I had spotted a Jacqueline Wilson writing set (oddly, I never really read any of her novels. I thought they were too girly!) in the supermarket and dropped huge hints to my mother that I wanted it for my ninth birthday. I think she was a little sceptic (see too girly) but I did get it in the end, much to my excitement. The fact that it contained a purple notebook with matching pen and stickers was all the motivation I needed to sit down and write. Over the course of the next three years, I wrote one hundred pages in it. I’ve never stopped since!
2. What is your writing process?
I almost always write on my bed, just because it’s comfy and my room is the place where I can escape from my (crazy) family. I can always be found drinking a cup of strong black coffee and/or a bottle of Diet Coke too. I’m a bit strange because I don’t like to write on paper, although I do have a notebook that I carry around to write any ideas down in. I don’t really have any real eccentricities when I write, but when I edit, I have to take two strands of hair from around my face and tie them in a knot at the back of my head. I’m not exactly sure why, it’s just a habit I have gotten into.
I’m nocturnal, so I tend to write at night. Most of my best writing is done between the hours of 10pm and 3am, which is a bit problematic as it means I keep really unsociable hours. It’s got to the point now where I just don’t sleep at weekends/during the school holidays. That’s really great if you want to nurture a walking dead/vampire look, which goes with my pale skin, so I’m cool with that.
3. Do you plan out your books, or do you just go with the flow?
Go with the flow, definitely. I find my characters just lead the way and I’m left running along behind with my laptop shouting ‘wait up!’ Of course, I do know where I want the story to go and I try and have an idea of the shape and pace of the story. Just how that shape and pace is executed is down to my characters. I’m quite paradoxical, really. When it comes to pretty much everything else in my life, I’m obsessively organised. I guess writing is my creative and arty outlet. You know. Expressing oneself and all that.
4. Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m actually quite versatile in my style, although that doesn’t always come across on Wattpad because I only have a select number of works posted. However, something that is probably common to everything I write is that it is description-heavy. I like to create atmospheric scenes and I do that by writing long, flowing sentences (usually with lots of ‘ly’ adverbs that I have to edit out later on). Something I’ve also noticed whilst writing ‘Dinner…’ (my main work on Wattpad) is that I use a lot of dialogue. That is probably because the characters express themselves a lot through what they say and besides, most of them are teenagers and teenagers talk a lot. Or maybe that is just me.
5. Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
In ‘Dinner…’, I can’t say I’ve gone through anything that Violet has to endure. But the relationships and characters are based on my own experience. The obvious one is Kaspar’s darker side, which is based on a guy I knew. The love triangle between Violet, Kaspar and Fabian was again inspired by something similar that happened in my life and Lyla’s abrupt hatred of Violet is based on something that happened within my friendship group a couple of years ago. On a brighter note, aspects of Cain’s lovely personality are based on my best guy friend.
6. Do you see writing as a career?
In some shape or form, yes. I intend to publish and it would be lovely to make a living from fiction writing, but of course, the number that can actually do that is small. But I love writing and reading in all forms, so anything along those lines would be the perfect career for me.
7. Which of your characters is your favourite?
Autumn Rose for her demureness. She is a complete contrast to many of the vampires, and in particular, to Violet. Autumn is far quieter and perhaps colder, meaning making her a likeable character (important, even though she played a relatively small role in ‘Dinner…’) was a challenge. Of course, Kaspar is great fun to write about too. Outwardly, he’s a bit of a jerk that enjoys sex and making other people miserable a little too much. But inside, he’s a child desperately grieving the death of his mother and struggling to come to terms with the responsibility on his shoulders. Again, developing such a character is a challenge, but a fun one.
8. How do you deal with negative comments?
It depends on what type of negative comment it is. If it’s constructive criticism, I take it on board because I know it will help me to grow and improve as a writer. I can deal with harsher criticism too because I know not everybody will enjoy my work as we all like different things. I just take a break by going outside or hanging out with friends and then return to writing.
But I will be honest and say I find it extremely difficult to deal with personal attacks. I’ve been called a bitch, a whore and a twat (amongst other things) and insults like that generally leave me crying and shaken up for several days. I’m not used to it, I suppose, because I’ve always been the type to keep my head down at school, etc. I just don’t know how to react and it confuses me as to why people do it.
9. What was the hardest part to write in ‘Dinner…’?
The rape scene was quite hard to write, for obvious reasons. The chapter where Ilta is killed was also challenging because I was actually quite disgusted at what I was writing. I never intended for it to be that gory and graphic – Thyme drinking the blood of her own nanny and the idea of only Ilta’s bones remaining once the Varn’s had finished with him came as a complete shock to me. I hadn’t planned that. I’m quite glad it turned out like that though as it serves as a reminder that ‘my’ vampires aren’t cuddly, nice vampires.
The more recent chapter where the Varn’s find out that it was Violet’s father who ordered the Queen’s murder was a real problem for me. Trying to create a real sense of Violet’s fear, hatred, love and regret while she is dragged outside to die gave me a case of writer’s block on a scale I hadn’t experienced before. All I had was the question ‘how would you prepare to die on a perfect autumn morning?’ (inspired by Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Shooting Stars’, if you’re interested) bouncing around in my head. I mean, how would you?
10. Have you got any up-and-coming novels that you are planning?
Chances are, there will be a sequel to ‘Dinner…’. I’m not sure whether I will choose to post it on Wattpad or not, or even which idea I have that I will follow. But I have plenty of different ideas for all sorts of things, both ‘Dinner…’ and non-‘Dinner…’ related, so Wattpad won’t be shot of me that easily.
11. How personal is your writing?
Too personal, put it that way.
12. If you could work with any author, who would it be?
Virginia Woolf, although that is clearly a problem as she is dead. I just completely admire her work and would fan-girl squeal at the opportunity to work with the person who wrote the line “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” So true.
I’d love to work with Bruce Chatwin too (again, dead). I’m related to him by marriage (name-dropping here) and I really want to see if he really does look like my uncle (in photos, he is the spitting image). I’d also love to hear him talk about Patagonia and I would just have to tell him that one of my characters is called Kaspar too (In ‘Utz’, his last novel, the main character is called Kaspar. I didn’t know that until a couple of weeks ago and I was quite chuffed).
J.K Rowling would be amazing too, but I’d probably just collapse when I met her, if I’m honest.
13. How did you come up with the title?
Gosh, that was a long time ago. It was actually a joint effort between me and a friend, Jaz, who also named Fabian. During a MSN conversation (that’s what teenagers used to IM each other before Facebook, for all you young whippersnappers) I was complaining that I couldn’t think of a title for a new story I had started. After telling her it was about vampires, she instantly came up with ‘Dinner with a Vampire’. I loved that, but I love long titles (problem? *Glare*) so added ‘Did I Mention I’m Vegetarian?’ because the main character is vegetarian, as am I, and I am absolutely not promoting vegetarianism at all. ‘Dinner with a Vampire’ is also an Italian horror movie, so I wanted to avoid confusion.
14. Do you have any other advice for other writers?
Only write what you want to write. Don’t feel as though you have to try and write something ‘original’. Everything has been done before. So if you want to write about vampires, then go for it. Chances are someone is going to say ‘people only read your story because it’s about vampires’ or something like that, but I’m sure people said that to Bram Stoker and to Stephenie Meyer. One is a literary legend and another is incredibly rich. Need I say more?
15. If you could have a meal with any of your characters, who would you take and where would you take them?
I would take Declan as I am in love with Irish accents and could listen to him talk all night long. I’d probably take him to a pub called the Dartbridge Inn, which is on the edge of Dartmoor, Devon. It’s really quite quaint and they make the most delicious vegetable lasagne ever. It’s proper pub food, which you just can’t beat. I don’t think they serve blood though. Maybe he could just have a steak, extra raw?
Aha. Do you know what it would be? A dinner with a vampire. And do you know what I would be able to say? Hey, Declan, did I mention I’m vegetarian?
16.What was the funniest thing you have ever experienced?
This changes weekly. I’m very fortunate to have a bunch of friends who make me laugh constantly. But one of the funniest things to happen to me reasonably recently was when I was interrogated by the Stasi. (Not what you think). This is a long story, just to warn you.
In history, my class is studying the division and reunification of Germany 1945-1990. Part of the course is learning about East Germany (the GDR) and the extent to which East German citizens were repressed under the system (which was communist, FYI). As part of the government’s attempts to keep control of the people, there was a branch of government known as the Stasi, who were a sort of secret police. Obviously, this is an incredibly sensitive issue as many people were detained, interrogated and blackmailed by the Stasi. My history teacher, Mr C, was aware of this and thought it was important that history ‘comes to life’.
So, at the end of one history lesson on a Thursday not so long ago, my friends were packing up when Mr C asked if I could leave the room so he could have a word with my friends in private. I was a little miffed, but left, figuring he probably wanted to talk to them about their essays. Five minutes later, they appeared, but were very edgy when I asked what it was about. I let it drop when I realised they weren’t going to tell me anything. But that whole day, they acted really weirdly – from the stalls in the toilets at break, one of them asked what I had eaten for breakfast. Of course, that morning I had been in a rush and had grabbed some bread and made myself a philadelphia spread (soft cheese spread sort of thing) sandwich because I didn’t have time to make toast. I answered. Snigger, snigger was all I heard.
Later on, Fliss stopped me in the lunch hall as Mr C was passing and asked me what I thought of his dress sense. I completely freaked. His dress sense is actually quite cool (he’s quite a young teacher) but he’s a teacher! Just no! I told Fliss this. Unperturbed, she carried on and asked me what I thought of his glasses. I figured she must be crushing on him and answered because I thought that would shut her up. I told her that his glasses were alright, but that I don’t really like men who wear glasses (not strictly true). Snigger, snigger, but she dropped it.
The next day we had another history lesson. Ella, another friend, told me she was really looking forward to the lesson. Another of my friends, Daisy, shifted places so she was nearer the front. Next thing I know, Mr C comes in dressed in a Stasi uniform (genuine, apparently). I burst out laughing and went really red because he starts talking in a really convincing German accent (my first serious boyfriend was German, so accents are a long-standing joke with me and my friends). He placed two chairs in the centre of the classroom where there is a big gap and the next thing I know, he turns to me and says “Fraulein Gibbs, take a seat, bitte’. So, still laughing, I have to go and sit in the middle of the room in front of my entire history class.
Mr C sits down opposite, pulls out a piece of paper and says “So, Fraulein Gibbs, I hear you like Philadelphia sandwiches’. And it went on and on. I’m not even kidding. He knew about the glasses and what I thought about his dress sense; he knew about me having friends in Germany (the western part, apparently, which is why I was being ‘interrogated’); he knew I had a story with millions of reads on Wattpad (I go to great lengths to make sure people at my school don’t know about that); he even knew that when I was three and really, really shy, I stood up at a magician’s show and volunteered to be the glamorous assistant. Apparently I didn’t sit down until he picked me. Which was a long time, because he didn’t actually need an assistant.
It turned out he had instructed half the class to spy on me and find out information about random things. He had even (to my complete humiliation) rung my dad up and found out about really embarrassing things. It was excruciatingly mortifying, but it got the point across, anyway. The Stasi could find out anything.
What freaked me out the most, however, is that several days before, in a rather heated debate over categorisation on Wattpad, I called one of the Wattpad Ambassadors/ninjas a member of the Stasi. Was it karma?
It’s funny now I look back on it. Sort of. I think it’s probably one of those moments where you had to be there and not be me. XD
17. If you could meet anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?
Stephen Fry. He is my idol. QI (Quite Interesting) is my favourite show ever! I love how intellectual he is and I admire how he fights his depression. He pretty much epitomises all of the qualities I admire in a person. I’m currently working up the courage to direct message him on twitter. I know he probably won’t answer, but I would still be over the moon if he just read it.
18. What are three things you would like to do before you die?
I have a bucket list actually. Most of it isn’t exactly normal/repeatable, but some of the less weird ones include:
– Convincing somebody I am a vampire Princess and that I am going to whisk them off to my vampire kingdom.
– Steal candy off a baby. It’s not as easy as these villains make out.
– Wear orange contact lenses and see if anybody actually notices.
19. Lastly, can you tell us some fun facts about you?
– I am deathly afraid of blood and for obvious reasons, that is quite ironic.
– I have been a vegetarian since I was six years old.
– I am a natural blonde, but I get blonde highlights, which is really dumb according to my friends.
– My middle name is Anna (my mum’s middle name is also Anna).
– My nickname is turkey, because apparently I laugh like a turkey. Which I don’t, by the way. I laugh like a mongoose.
– I have read ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ eighteen times.
– The only vegetable I won’t eat is beetroot. Yuck.
– I have a phone case with little devil horns and an evil grin on the back. It’s quite cute.
– My favourite saying is ‘oh fey…’
– I think my fans are the most awesome people in the world and they all deserve a double choc chip cookie the size of the moon each. 😉