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A Day in the Life: Meet Victoria Doughtery

One of Twelve Acclaimed Authors Participating in Book Club Gold

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Victoria Dougherty to describe a day in her life.

Victoria is the author of The Bone Church, Welcome to the Hotel Yalta and Cold. She writes fiction, drama, and essays. Her work has been published or profiled in the New York Times, USA Today, The International Herald Tribune, and elsewhere. Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing, and acting in several Czech plays.

Her blog – COLD – features her short essays on faith, family, love, and writing. WordPress, the blogging platform that hosts some 70 million blogs worldwide, has singled out COLD as one of the Top 50 Recommended Blogs by writers or about writing.

In April, together with eleven other authors, she is also taking part in a promotion called Book Club Gold. But more on that later.  

Q: Firstly, welcome Victoria. That’s some mix! If you were trying to describe your writing to someone who hasn’t read anything by you before, what would you say?

I write about lovers, killers, curses and destinies. I think that’s a lot more accurate a description than to say I write thrillers and historical fiction with paranormal elements, which I do. Or young adult novels and epic romances, which I will. Regardless of the genre, my writing, I’m told, is pretty distinctive in style.

Q: Joanna Russ wrote, “Not only is female experience often considered less broad, less representative, less important, than male experience, but the actual content of works can be distorted according to whether the author is believed to be of one sex or the other.” Would you like to comment?

It’s funny, I have a lot of male readers, and I also tend to write very real and prolific female characters. My female readers love my female characters. They relate to them and understand what’s going on in their heads and why. My male readers, I think, are a bit disturbed by the women I write. I don’t mean “like” in a critical, literary sense – I mean like them as human beings. This could be because I don’t shy away from showing my characters’ scars and men expect a slightly more romanticised female protagonist. One male reader actually told me, “I found myself falling in love with Magdalena [from The Bone Church], but I didn’t want to. I knew she would hurt me.” 

Q: Writing is undoubtedly a lonely occupation. P D James says that it’s essential for writers to enjoy their own company. Are you a natural loner?

I’m a writing cliché in this regard. In other words, a very quirky woman who spends entirely too much time in her own thoughts. Thank God for my demanding and loving family. They pull me out of my world of make-believe.

Q: How does your home and its environment influence your writing?

I live in a two-hundred year-old house in central Virginia. It has been a general store, county seat, theatre, bar, train station, Civil War morgue, rooming house, musicians flop house (I’m told Art Garfunkel used to party in our house during the 1960s), until finally morphing into a single-family home. When an Uber driver dropped my son off at home recently, his mouth dropped open and he said, “Oh, man – you live there? You know that place is haunted don’t you?” My son said, “Have you ever been inside?” The Uber driver replied, “Yeah, man, but I don’t want to talk about it.” How does that influence my writing? Hmmmm….

Q: Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer? Or, put more simply, what is the question that keeps you writing?

To me, the most interesting question is, “What if the worst thing you could possibly imagine happening to you happened, and how would you handle it?” And by the way, I’m not at all implying that a story which revolves around this question need be a tragedy. Often, it’s quite the opposite, as terrible things can also bring love, passion and purpose into our lives with gale-force winds.

Q: Hilary Mantel says that a Catholic upbringing is the only qualification a writer requires. Do you have any writing qualifications?

Yes, I grew up in a family that was both Catholic in faith and catholic in interests and experience. Both my parents and grandparents escaped Communist Czechoslovakia, in 1967 and 1948, respectively.

My grandfather was an Olympic hockey player and my grandmother, his chic, educated wife. They could boast acquaintances as notorious as the Czech actress, Lida Baarova, also Josef Goebbels mistress, and as illustrious as Vaclav Havel’s elders.Having been anti-Nazi, using their influence to smuggle Jewish friends to safety under the occupation, they were no friends of the new Czech Communist government at war’s end, and barely escaped the country with their lives.

In a tragic series of events, they left their three young daughters, including my mother, behind the Iron Curtain, in hopes that the Red Cross would be able to secure their release.

This was not to be.

It wasn’t until 1967 when my mother, a designated enemy of the state by that time, was able to escape Czechoslovakia and reunite with her parents in America.

Some months later, I was born into this two-hanky drama: one of heroes and villains, cowards, redeemers and the redeemed, those who were beyond hope, and those who pulled victory from a hat just as it looked like it was all over for them.

Obviously, that kind of immersion has informed my fiction.

An heiress who can’t seem to keep her legs closed. A Russian plan for dominating the space race. An assassin with a penchant for rich food and sadistic murder. When you’re alone in the cold, passion and betrayal are commodities and love hangs on by an icy thread. From the author of The Bone Church and Cold, comes a white knuckle tour de force of Cold War noir.

“Dougherty creates a very authentic and moody feeling that will leave you cold and moved at the same time, and definitely entertained. Another master piece.” Amazon reviewer

“I am convinced that, were it biologically and chronologically possible, Victoria Dougherty would be the love child of John le Carre and Quentin Tarantino.” Amazon reviewer 

Q: Zadie Smith says ‘It’s an unfortunate thing, but it turns out that the perfect state of mind to edit your own novel is two years after it’s published, ten minutes before you go onstage at a literary festival. At that moment every redundant phrase, each show-off, pointless metaphor, all the pieces of deadwood, stupidity, vanity and tedium are distressingly obvious to you. Two years earlier, when the proofs came, you looked at the same page and couldn’t see a comma out of place.’ Is reading your own work aloud part of your editing process? If not, how do you go about it?

Perhaps I’m a bit of an oddity in this respect, but I love editing. I can’t wait to get to that part in the journey of a novel. It’s where most of the magic happens as far as I’m concerned. Where I find links between characters and events that I never even knew were there. It’s a treasure hunt. 

Q: With mainstream authors such as Margaret Atwood championing Wattpad ( one of the key trends of 2013 has been a return to the serialisation of books. Have you experimented yet?

Yes. I’m loving Wattpad. It’s where I’m experimenting with young adult fiction, putting up a novel called Dodgeball chapter by chapter. Read it here, if you like. 

Q: How important is historical accuracy when writing fiction and how faithfully does your writing stick to the written record?

I try to be faithful enough not to angry a reader, but loose enough not to bore one. The big facts I leave alone, but the smaller details are a bit more up for grabs as far as I’m concerned, as long as they wouldn’t actually alter the course of history.

Q: Is there a phrase or quote about writing that you particularly like?

Ben Franklin said:

“If you would not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten
Either write things worth reading
Or do things worth writing.”

Q: Name your top five authors.

Vladimir Nabokov

Bram Stoker

Diana Gabaldon

Raymond Chandler

Milan Kundera

Q: Dare I ask, what are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just finished a new Cold War historical thriller called, The Hungarian, and am in the process of editing a young adult novel called Dodgeball and finishing a first draft of an epic romance. Phew!

Q: The bestselling book of all times in Britain is E.L. James’ “50 Shades of Grey”. The BBC even reported that the trend towards erotic adult fictions was “cannibalising” other genres including science fiction and fantasy, sales of which have decreased by 25%, and that horror was down by 30%, which may prove that the Brits are more into “saucy” than “sorcerers”. Have you – or have you felt any pressure to – succumb?

No. Trends come and go. Great stories stick around. And I can already see how erotica is starting to lose some of its star power. It’s just the natural course of things. Like vampire novels and wizard stories. There will always be a readership for these, but people get worn out by one thing. As far as the mainstreaming of erotica/porn goes, I bet the next big romance will not be erotic at all, but sensual. I mean, really, how much XXX can you read until it all starts sounding the same?

Book Club Gold

Which brings me neatly round to Book Club Gold. We are twelve authors who believe we have something very special to offer book clubs. A very different book for each month of the year. And between 7th and 10th April, they’re FREE. Just visit this page and click on the covers .To make life easy we’re also offering questions to kick start your meetings.

Still not sure if it’s for you? To find out more about the authors and the books on offer, watch the trailer here. 

Not a book club member? We know you’ll want to talk about these books. If you’d like to hook up with other readers who are taking the Book Club Gold Challenge, you can do so at