Chelsea Bee talks about her novel, London Calling, inspired by a study trip abroad.
1. Can you tell us more about your novel, London Calling?
London Calling is about a university student who travels to London, England to study at the Globe Theatre. She’s chosen to go on a full scholarship that she worked really hard to get. While she’s there she’ll be acting and studying at the theatre. At the end of the summer, one student will get picked for a year-long acting contract with the Globe, so there’s a lot riding on her performance. While she’s there, she meets an interesting cast of characters and one boy she gets especially close to. It’s all going pretty well for her until she is assaulted by one of the professors. She immediately wants to drop everything and fly back home, but she’s determined not to let some monster ruin her chance at furthering her theatre career. She decides he has to go instead, and fights for her right to have a safe environment to work and study in.
2. Did you do any specific research for the book?
Yes and no – I went on a study abroad trip in the summer of 2013 myself so I spent a lot of time on the South Bank. I also did a field research project on the Globe so I got super familiar with the building and the surroundings, and I tried to put as much of that in the book that I could. I didn’t have the idea for London Calling until over a year after I got back, though.
3. Was there a particular part of the novel that was really difficult to write for you?
The assault scenes made be pretty stomach sick to write. As a sexual assault survivor, it was hard for me to imagine someone else going through that. The book is entirely fictional, and what happened to Olivia is not the same as what happened to me, but I still know so many people have gone through similar experiences, it was hard to put myself back in that vulnerable mindset. It was also super hard to write the ending and say goodbye to the characters I got to know so well.
4. Do you see yourself in any of the characters in your novel?
There’s a lot of myself in Olivia, for sure. But I also see a lot of characteristics in Olivia that I’ve always wished I had.
5. When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
I used to walk back and forth to work every day, so I had a lot of time to think and listen to music while I was walking. I started rolling around the idea in my head of what it would be like to work at the Globe and it started snowballing from there. I wrote some jot notes down over that summer and decided on a whim a couple days before November 1 that I wanted to start London Calling during NaNoWriMo of 2014.
6. Do you listen to music when writing? And if so, what kind of music inspires you?
I make playlists for each book depending on the tone I want to set. The London Calling playlist has a lot of Walk the Moon, Taylor Swift, and John Mayer.
7. Who are your favourite authors?
Colleen Hoover is a big one for me. I remember reading Maybe Someday, the first novel of hers I read, and I thought this is it. This is how I want my readers to feel when they pick up my book. I’ve been a huge fan of hers since. I also love Sophie Kinsella – her books are like a breath of fresh air. Whenever the weight of the world feels like it’s on my shoulders, I pick up one of her books and I feel like I can breathe again. Sarah Mlynowski has been a big influence of mine as well since I’ve been outlining my upcoming middle grade series (follow my social media for more information on that when it becomes available).
8. What message do you want readers to take away from your novel?
The only thing I hope they take away is that everyone reacts to sexual violence differently, and all of those reactions are valid. Olivia doesn’t react to her two experiences of being victimized the same way because she was a different person for each of those occasions. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to deal with trauma. Some people report to police, some don’t. Some want to talk about it, some don’t. Those are all totally fine! As long as you’re getting as much or as little support as you need or want, there should be no judgement in how you choose to deal with your trauma (as long as you’re not risking your life or the life of someone else – then get help right away!). Sometimes things take a while to process. It took me a decade to report when I was sexually assaulted, and I think that timing worked for me. But overall, I want them to take away whatever they get from it. I want to leave that up to the reader.
9. What’s next for you?
I’m currently editing my next novel, Christmas Mornings. There’s a preview of it at the end of London Calling, too!
Olivia Williams used Shakespeare’s timeless words to comfort herself through childhood sexual abuse, disordered eating, and a toxic relationship.
She thought a summer studying in London in the legendary Globe theatre would be the healing learning experience she always longed for.
Surrounded by new friends, beautiful culture, and budding romance, Olivia knows her life is about to change.
She doesn’t expect this, though.
Chelsea Bee was born in Ottawa, Ontario and started writing when she was fourteen in the small town of Arnold’s Cove, Newfoundland. The first book she attempted was awful and embarrassing, and she is glad that it was destroyed with her first laptop. She gave up for many years, until 2014 while residing in St. John’s, Newfoundland, when she decided three days before November that she would participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). She lives in St. John’s with her partner, noisy calico cat, and anti social hedgehog.