How would you describe Gilded Cage in 140 characters or less?In an alternate modern Britain, everyone must perform 10 years’ service to the ruling magical aristocracy. A brother & sister must survive – & make a different world.
Where did the idea of ‘slavedays’ come from?
In the world of GILDED CAGE, the ‘slavedays’ are a decade of labour demanded by the elite 1% from the 99% of ‘us’. In our world, what sets the 1% apart is their wealth and power. I was making a BBC TV series called The Superrich and Us when I thought, one day, that their advantages over the rest of us were so great as to be almost like magic. Lightbulb moment, right there!
So the aristocrats of GILDED CAGE are like our own elite 1%, but with even more power. And the commoners of GILDED CAGE are like the 99% of us, but enduring conditions even harsher. The slavedays are a blend of many things that feel wrong and unjust to me in our society today – especially how they affect young people: How work can be relentless, just to keep your head above water. Pitiful prospects of ever owning your own home. Political disenfranchisement. Unfulfilling jobs that don’t use or value the education you have.
Do you have a favourite character?Impossible question! I love Luke’s honesty and courage, Abi’s intelligence and determination, Silyen’s brilliance and lack of scruples, and Renie’s resilience and cheek. Two characters I came unexpectedly to love writing – though both are far from lovable! – are arrogant playboy Heir Gavar, and deranged Dog.
In your alternate history, the monarchy was removed with Charles I, why did you choose this point in history to deviate from ours?Partly familiarity – I did a PhD on the reign of Charles I. Partly drama and impact – it was the only time since the Norman Conquest that regime change on that scale has happened in Britain. And partly because it fitted the shape of the ‘slavedays’ system. Introduced in modern times, the slavedays would make no sense. But they would have been perfectly logical 400 years ago. The ‘slavedays’ are not enduring slavery, but a form of indentured service (when you’re unfree, but for a fixed period of time), which was commonplace in the seventeenth century.
How has your background in current affairs shaped your writing?It’s given me insights into everything from the harsh realities of life at the bottom of our society today (when I made UK reports for Channel 4 News), to how sexual coercion is commonplace in politics (I made a report dubbed ‘Sexminster’), to how elites live and operate, as with the Superrich series. I couldn’t have written this book and expected it to be convincing without that experience.
The political climate in Gilded Cage hints at the current dissatisfaction with Westminster from many parts of the country. Do you feel fantasy gives you more freedom to explore class and inequality?It’s not a question of having more ‘freedom’. It’s simply a personal preference for fantasy, as both a writer and reader. I wouldn’t hesitate to write a searing critique of contemporary politics and economics in an entirely real-life setting, if I wanted to. But my whole life I’ve loved stories that tell us about our world, while taking us to a different world. So that’s what I wrote in GILDED CAGE.
What was your experience using Wattpad?I used Wattpad for a very specific reason: to get the book written when I was extremely busy at work! I loved the idea of being accountable to readers. So I wrote a chapter a week and posted it to the site every Friday. It didn’t affect what I wrote or how I told the story, but it gave me a deadline that I felt I had to stick to – even if it meant getting up at 5am to write before work!
Can you give us any clues about what the future holds for the Hadleys?Seriously? Clues?
Well, I can tell you the cover strap-line for book 3 is “Not all will be saved”. *looks around* *whistles*
What are you currently reading?A stack of 2017 YA debuts! Right now: Cecilie Vinesse’s SEVEN DAYS OF YOU (an expat teenager’s last week in Tokyo, out March), Laurie Forest’s THE BLACK WITCH (if Hogwarts was a university, not a school, out May) and Heather Maclean’s TOWARD A SECRET SKY (Outlander meets Dan Brown, out April)
What's your favourite cake?My Mum’s coffee cake with chocolate buttons on top. She still makes me one for my birthday each year!
Is there anything interesting/relevant/funny that you've found online recently that you'd like to share?I heart twitter. It brings these things to you all the time. Pictures of 2,000-year-old mummified penguins. Awesome GIFs. Bonkers things that make me snort out coffee. So find me there @DrVictoriaJames if you’re curious what small things amuse my small brain…
Vic James is a current affairs TV director who loves stories in all their forms, and Gilded Cage is her debut novel. She as twice judged the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize, has made films for BBC1, BBC2, and Channel 4 News, and is a huge Wattpadd.com success story. Under its previous title, Slavedays, her book was read online over a third of a million times in first draft. And it went on to win Wattpad’s ‘Talk of the Town’ award in 2015 – on a site showcasing 200 million stories. Vic James lives and works in London.
Gilded Cage by Vic James is the first instalment of the Dark Gifts Trilogy. It is published in paperback 26 January 2017 by Pan Macmillan £7.99