Interview with Hazel Statham

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Yesterday, you read my review of Hazel’s new novel, My Dearest Friend (scroll down to the post below if you haven’t yet read it). Today, you have a chance to sit in on a chat with the author.

DE: What is it about this time period that intrigues you?

HS: I love the romance and elegance of the Regency and Georgian periods and it is this that inspires me to attempt to recreate it in my work. History has always fascinated me but it is these two eras that I find the most inspiring.

DE: What sort of research do you do for your books?

HS: I have several reference books and have been an avid reader of Historical Fiction since in my teens. Also, the internet is an invaluable tool and I can spend hours perusing the various historical reference sites.

DE: Have you ever come across a piece of information while you researched one book (such as an anecdote or the contents of a letter) that inspired something completely different, and how did you follow through with it?

HS: Very often I find just snippets of things that start the creative process going. The theme for ‘The Portrait’ came from just one line from a song in the film Hawks : ‘I want to be the man that you think I am’. This inspired all kinds of ideas. The beginning of My Dearest Friend came from a dream, which I expanded on. One element of the story came on me quite by surprise as I just found the words coming out of the sergeant’s mouth and then went with the flow. It just added extra depth to the story.

DE: Do you find anything particularly liberating in this time period? If so, what?

HS: It takes me away from the harshness of the present century and allows me, if only briefly, to escape into the world of my characters and live within the mores of the age. I hope this is what my readers experience too.

DE: One of the things I particularly enjoyed about the book was how the friendship developed into love, instead of love following irritation. What inspired you to make this choice, and did you get a hard time for re-inventing the formula in such a positive way from anyone?

HS: I’m pleased you enjoyed the book. I don’t write to a formula. I write what I would like to read and develop the plot accordingly. In fact, when I was writing Robert and Jane’s story, I wasn’t aware that I had strayed from the norm. I know now that I diverted from the usual guidelines for the genre, but was unaware of it at the time of writing, I don’t think I’ve followed it with any of my works. Each one has its own story to tell and none are similar. I guess I wasn’t aware that I was taking a risk in their composition. As yet, no one has commented on it

DE: What are you working on now (if you’re at the stage where you can talk about it)?

HS: My current work-in-progress is going slowly at the moment as I have a lot of research to do. It’s still a Regency but that is its only similarity to anything else I have written. I can’t really divulge its theme, only that it is the story of a young bride who absconds from her husband after just one month of marriage. Her reasons are what drives the story. However, you can be assured of a happy ending.

Thank you, Hazel!

Bio: Hazel Statham lives in Staffordshire, England. She started writing at fifteen and has written on and off ever since. She has always been fascinated by history and writes mainly in the Regency and Georgian eras, although she has been known to occasionally stray into Medieval times. Writing is a compulsion she just can’t ignore and her work has been mainly influenced by Heyer, Bronte and Austen, although over the years, she has read many authors who have inspired her. When she was a child, she often told herself stories and this just progressed to committing them to paper to entertain family and friends. However, there have been gaps in her writing years where marriage and employment have intervened, but now that she no longer works, she is able to return to her first love and devote her time to writing. She had her first two novels published in 2005.

She has been married to her husband, Terry, since 1969 and have a grown daughter and beautiful grandson. Apart from reading and writing historical novels, her other ruling passion is animals and until recently, she was treasurer for an organisation that raised money for animal charities. She currently shares her home with a lovely yellow Labrador named Lucy, who is her constant companion. Lucy is a real sweetie, but it’s not always easy working at the computer with a large Labrador trying to get on your knee!

Her website is www.hazel-statham.co.uk

Her books is available at the Wings Press website.

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To read more about the ups and downs of the freelance writing liffe, visit Ink in My Coffee.

Rue the Day by Cat Muldoon

Rue the Day: The Undercover Heir Book I
By Cat Muldoon. KY: Wings ePress Books. 2007. ISBN 978-1-59705-218-4. Digital Format $6. Paperback $11.95.

Cat Muldoon has created an alternate universe that sometimes collides with ours. Lynne searches for her runaway cat, Bree, in the fog. After spending years in foster care, Bree is her one true comfort. She finds Bree, but is also found by Cian, who claims to be her kinsman and calls her “Aislinn”, the name her mother called her years ago before disappearing in a similar mist, abandoning Lynne. Cian has come to return Aislinn to her true home, the land of Faerie, because her mother, Neala, is very ill. The weaker Neala grows, the weaker Faerie magic grows; both Cian and Aislinn’s father, King Nevin, are afraid of a coup attempt to restore the magic.

Forced to hide her identity as the Princess, but brought forward as a representative of the House of Lynx with the right to take over the Queen’s care, Aislinn is plunged into politics, intrigue, magic, and machinations unlike anything she’s ever known. She must find a way to restore the Queen’s health and defeat whoever is trying to destroy the kingdom. With allies such as Cian, his lover the bard Eliatha, the healer Rhoedrie, her guardian Fiona, the silversmith Bryan, the Selkie Khadri, and, of course, Bree, Aislinn has to learn the customs and nuances of Faerie to save both her mother’s life and her parents’ kingdom. She learns that the fey rely on intuition and consider her blocked and somewhat damaged; whereas she can combine the intuitive street smarts she picked up during her hard-knock life, and combine it with her use of the five traditional senses to come up with solutions and ideas to dilemmas facing the kingdom.

Deeply rooted in Celtic, animal totem, and Selkie mythologies, Muldoon has spun a tale rife with love, lust, greed, and the need to discover who one can trust and whom one can love. Beautiful touches such as the strong characterizations of the animals and clever uses of traditional knot work and herbs add both depth and whimsy to the book.

Bio: Cat Muldoom sharpens her claws and her wit daily. Her varied interests include singing, teaching, cooking, archery, and tai chi. Most of her stories are romance, paranormal, futuristic, science fiction, fantasy, and suspense. But with Cat, you never know what she’ll dream up next. Several projects are in the works. And yes, Cat adores felines. She has two of them. Visit her website at www.CatMuldoon.com.

To purchase the above book, visit Cat’s website, or visit Wings ePress

And come back tomorrow, for an interview with the author!

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Want more on the ups and downs of the writing life? Visit Ink in My Coffee.

Great Gfit Books for Writers

If you have a writer or an aspiring writer on your gift list this year, a book that helps inspire them on the tough days is always a good choice. Below, I’ve listed some of the books to which I return year after year.

Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See. She talks about how to make the time to write, how to balance writing with everything else, and keep your sanity throughout the process. She’s also a big advocate of writing 1000 words a day for the rest of your life, a technique I’ve found helpful.

The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman. This volume is a must for the freelancer, with great advice on how to set up your business, how to find work, and how to set up your systems to save time and earn more money. The writing is charming as well as instructive, lively and practical all at once. Fiction writers can also apply many of the techniques to their work.

Sometimes the Magic Works
by Terry Brooks. His essays on his process and his sense of humor about how he discovered what works and doesn’t work for him make this one of the best and most refreshing books to read when you’re discouraged.

Thunder and Lightening by Natalie Goldberg. This is my favorite of her writing books. It has wonderful techniques to open up your writing and make it simultaneously personal and universal.

Escaping into the Open by Elizabeth Berg. Berg is one of my favorite novelists, and this book, about her writing process, is filled with wonderful ideas and wonderful exercises. She also has recipes in the back of the book – her blueberry butter cake is one of the best recipes I’ve ever used.

The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. Most of her books don’t work for me, because they are for someone trying to find the way back to art, and I live my life in art. But this one is more practical and concise, with tangible techniques you can apply not only to writing, but to anything about which you’re passionate.

Write Away by Elizabeth George. I find her journal entries about her books fascinating. George’s process is much more structured than mine, but I find it fascinating. The book has many wonderful suggestions to incorporate into your own process.

The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner. Lerner is both editor and writer, and guides writers step-by-step through the process of polishing and honing a manuscript until it’s good enough to submit.

Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton. This is the most well-known of her journals, and still my favorite. The writing is beautiful, and the way she describes both her daily joys and frustrations are touching. One can learn as much about what not to do as what to do from the book.

My Staggerford Journal by Jon Hassler. In 1975, Jon Hassler took a sabbatical from his teaching job to write a novel. This thin volume tracking his progress is one of the warmest and most inspiring books I’ve ever read.

The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates 1973-1982 by Joyce Carol Oates. This large volume only came out this year, but I can tell I’ll keep going back to it year after year. Her insights and meditations on life and writing are fascinating. She is one of the most prolific and versatile authors of our time, and her process is astonishing.

There are hundreds of writing books out there, but these are my favorites. Enjoy!

Visit Ink in My Coffee, my site on the ups and downs of this freelance writer’s life!

Gift Ideas For Writers

What do you get the writer on your list? That’s always a dilemma, especially for our loved ones who have no idea what we actually do for a living.

Here are some ideas you can print out and hand to those perplexed dear ones, giving them some ideas to relieve their stress during the season. This can also give you some ideas for the other writers on your list:

Gift Cards. A couple of years ago, gift cards were all the rage; now, “style gurus” are starting to sniff and look down their recently upgraded noses at them. But a gift card is a great way to let the writer pick what he or she needs. Some great gift card sources: Staples, Borders, B&N, any bookstore that will give you a certificate, Starbucks, a high quality paper store, restaurants, Jet Blue (yes, they do have gift certificates), a music store, or the local yoga studio (if the person is into yoga. Be very careful about giving someone fitness stuff for the holidays unless you know they want it. Otherwise, the person will wonder if you think she’s fat). Note that I left Amazon off the list – since they’ve twice now held my materials hostage, wanting me to pay higher shipping costs than originally quoted, they are no longer on my list.

Mixed CDs. Do you know what kind of music your writer uses as background for writing? Mix a CD especially geared towards the writer’s interests. It’s a personal gift, and will be appreciated. My MP3 player can record directly from my CD player, so if I want to, I can add it to my play list in addition to having it at home on the machine.

Baskets of Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate, fruit, cheese, chocolate. Geared to your writer’s taste, of course. The small sizes in the gift baskets are great for noshing during marathon writing sessions.

Museum membership. Writers need to get out of the house sometimes, and a museum is a great source of inspiration. It doesn’t have to be an expensive city museum. Most towns or universities have local museums with frequently changing exhibits at a reasonable price.

Stamps. In spite of so much online submission, there are still places that only accept snail mail. And that adds up.

Bookmarks. Most writers I know use multiple books at a time, whether it’s for research or pleasure. There are never enough bookmarks around.

Socks. Some people will shudder with horror at this one, but if you’re sitting at your desk writing for long stretches, your feet can get cold. Unless you have a dog willing to sit there and be your foot warmer, socks are a safer option than the electric heater.

Soap. Because sometimes we’re so into our work, we forget to shower.

Paper. A couple of reams of paper might not seem romantic, but when you’re on deadline at 2 AM, it’s snowing outside, and you run out of paper, that spare ream is a godsend.

Ink cartridges, See above.

Photo albums. So now I have a digital camera that takes gorgeous photos. And I print them out and they sit around in boxes because I never “get around” to buying a photo album. Frames are good, too, if you know of a particular print that inspires your writer. There’s nothing better than getting stuck in the middle of a sentence and looking up to see my favorite photo or picture above my desk.

Lamps/light bulbs. The right lighting can make or break a writing session. A lamp that’s fun as well as functional is even better.

Calendars. No matter how much all this is electonicized, some days the power goes out, the battery dies, and you need to have it written down elsewhere. I have all sorts of calendars – one enormous desk blotter type will all my deadlines, the Llewellyn calendar for which I write for the astrological correspondences, the purse calendar so as things come up on the go, I write them down. I sit down every few days to make sure all three are coordinated.

Blank books. As plain or fancy as you want, writers need notebooks in all shapes and styles to jot down ideas. From purse size to sketchpad size, they’re important.

Other Books. Most writers (the good ones anyway) read incessantly. They love to receive books. A beautifully bound copy of a favorite book is always appreciated, as are books on writing and inspiration. Your local independent bookseller can help you.

Pens. A writer can never have too many pens, and it’s Murphy’s Law that whatever pen you pull out of your bag will run dry at the crucial moment.

A Day. You can make this kind of certificate. Give your favorite writer the gift of a day. You will take over all the person’s normal chores/activities, and the writer can do anything he or she wants, even if it’s not writing related. Time is such a precious commodity, and writers have to fight for it much harder than anyone else.

The best gift you can give your writer is your unwavering love and support. Writing is like living with many voices inside one’s head, walking between worlds, and juggling multiple planes of existence. Letting your writer know you love them, even if you don’t always understand them, is the best gift possible.

(Note: This entry was originally published on December 16, 2006 on the Blogger Version of A Biblio Paradise)

Bookbuyer’s Ramblings

Several weeks ago, the local Library held a “rare book sale” to benefit the library. I put the phrase in quotes, although it was not thus in the listings.

It seems that many of these books were not necessary rare as in, few copies exist in the marketplace. Rather, they were unusual. All of these books belonged to a particular individual, whose wish it was that the collection be sold as a fundraiser.

My friend J. and I rambled through the town’s main street, across the lovely village green, and into the room, where a half dozen tables were scattered, with appropriate signs such as “erotica” “$10” and “signed”. Of course, after flipping through some copies on the signed table, you have to ask, “by whom?” because it wasn’t necessarily by the author.

One of the most interesting things I discovered about this collection is that I already owned at least a third of the books offered for sale. This deceased reader/collector’s taste was as eclectic as my own.

I did end up purchasing two books (for $10 each, in case you’re counting). One was The Fiction Factory, or From Pulp Row to Quality Street, 100 Years of Publishing at Street & Smith, published in 1955. I am obsessed with juvenile series fiction from the turn of the century through the forties (okay, more like the seventies): Nancy Drew, Ruth Fielding, Vicki Barr, Beverly Gray, Judy Bolton, The Adventure Girls , etc., etc., etc. The Strathmayer Syndicate, which originated Nancy and the Hardys and the Bobbseys, Kay Tracey, etc., fascinated me endlessly. One of the best books I’ve ever read on the Syndicate is Melanie Rehak’s Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, which I’ve discussed in Ink in My Coffee, and may discuss in more depth as a “Reader’s Journal” entry.

I’m also enamored of the history of the story papers, penny dreadfuls and dime novels. They are prominent in my western serial The Widow’s Chamber (which ran for two years on Keep It Coming and is being adapted into a novel), and I’m also using this fascination as the basis for another project-in-process, which I’ve dubbed The Fun Project until I’m ready to unveil it properly.

Street & Smith was a primary mover and shaker in the development of the story paper and the penny dreadful. I had to have this book – it’s necessary to my research, my obsession, and not easily available.

The second book I bought day is called In Quest of Clocks by Kenneth Ullyett, published in 1950. It discusses in depth the history of the clock and the interior workings of each clock style. To me, the most intriguing chapter is entitled “Faking and Restoration.”

Do I sense the seed of a new idea? Will I get an idea for a character who creates fake antique clocks?

Both of these books were absolutely necessary to my well being.

Early last week, after an exhausting day spent performing frustrating research in a law library, I stopped at a chain bookstore (oh, horrors) to pick up a Mother’s Day gift for my mother. While there, I grabbed two intriguing books from the bargain rack: A Practical Guide to Buddhist Meditation by Paramananda and The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten by Jeffrey Kacirk. The former will help me as I continue my involvement with 100 Days; the latter just looked like something fun and interesting that should sit on my shelf (shelves) of writing and linguistics books.

I also picked up Caleb Carr’s The Italian Secretary. I enjoyed his novel The Alienist enormously, and read it back to back with EL Doctrow’s The Waterworks, which was a wonderful foray into that period in the history of New York City. I was on my way out of the store and needed a book to read on my commute. Because I’m usually stressed during the commute, I want fiction rather than non-fiction, something in which I can lose myself, but not have to use too much analytical thinking. I saw Carr’s name on the cover, picked it up, saw the single word “Holyrood” on the back, and that was the deciding factor. As someone who loves Edinburgh and spends as much time there as possible, if there’s a book set there, I’ll read it.

And I’ve read it. I’ll share my thoughts on it in a “Reader’s Journal” entry on this blog.

I ordered, this week, from Strand Books, one of my favorite bookstores in the world, my friend Chaz’s book The Bridge of Dreams (available only in the US, although he is based in the UK) and Gail Godwin’s journals The Making of a Writer. I’m in search of a good and well-priced copy of The Age of Conversation, but haven’t found it yet.

This rainy weekend, needing something a bit different from my fictional forays of my WIP, I shopped my bookshelves and picked up a book called England My Adventure by Ethel Mannin, published in 1972. She’d been a published writer for 50 years by then, with a heck of a lot of books listed in the front. I like her writing and I want to track down more of her books. I felt as though I was having a conversation with her as I read the book, which is exactly the mood I sought. This book, too, will be discussed in depth as a “Reader’s Journal” entry.

According to the flap of the book, I picked it up for two quid in 2001 somewhere in the UK. For the life of me, I can’t remember which bookstore. In 2001, my only trip to the UK was to the southwest of Scotland, although we landed in London and drove up through the Lake country, doing an overnight in Keswick. I still wear the skirt I bought in Keswick, and I remember both “meeting” the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and visiting the teapot museum. I have no memory of a second hand bookshop. Was that the year we visited Wigtown, and meandered in and out of all those old bookshops? I remember buying brown yarn in one shop, and have the sweater from the trip. But I don’t remember any particular book purchase. Or was it in a shop into which I wandered in Ayr or Glasgow?

I’d have to look it up in my diary from that trip. I usually write down which books I purchase from which shop.

It’s odd, because I often remember exactly where I was standing in a shop when I make the decision to purchase a book.

Today, in between meetings, I climbed through a Revolutionary War recreation on the Village Green to get the library. The horse was not in the least bit startled when the soldiers fired their muskets. I nearly toppled one of the tent poles.

My mission – and it was a mission – was to comb through the book sale shelves and find old guidebooks as reference material for both the current WIP and other projects.

There weren’t any, as luck would have it (shopping when Mercury is Direct is never as useful as when it’s in Retrograde. Everything else is a problem for me during a Mercury Retrograde, but thrift shopping is paradise).

Instead, I bought A French Affair: A British Family at Home in Southwestern France by Michael Kenyon (who’s written something called the “Inspector Peckover mysteries”, which just sends my mind in directions it probably shouldn’t); Calendar: Humanity’s Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year by David Ewing Duncan; Had Enough? A Handbook for Fighting Back by James Carville; and a mystery by an author I know and therefore should have bought at full price in hardcover. Grand total: $5.50.

I am utterly convinced that each and every one of these books will better my life, if only for a few hours. Some will provide reasearch, some motivation, some simple enjoyment. However, it is an awful lot of books to bring in to the house in a short period of time. Especially since in March, on my birthday, I indulged myself at Sandwich’s Library Sale with 17 books (grand total $3.50).

And I’m wondering why I keep having to buy bookcases to keep the books off the floor.

(Note: This entry was originally published on May 13, 2006 at the Blogger version of A Biblio Paradise.

About

A Biblio Paradise is a blog that celebrates writing, writers, and books.  A combination of interviews, essays, and even pieces about local independent bookstores that are particularly engaging, this is a place for those who love reading and writing.

If you are an author with a book to promote and would like to book an appearance, note that we RARELY do reviews.  There are some exceptions, but it’s rare.  We accept blog posts on relevant topics of interested to readers and writers about process craft and inspiration, essays about bookstores or book-buying experiences (400-800 words long), and/or interviews.  At this point, we do not pay for posts; nor do we charge for them. Always QUERY FIRST.  If you just send materials without being asked, they will be deleted unread.  The blog usually books guests several months in advance.

If  you want to do an interview, you MUST provide a media kit.  Don’t tell us to go look at your website.  You must provide the information we ask for, so we can formulate relevant questions.

Materials need to be formulated in .doc (not rtf or docx or anything else).  You may include a short excerpt, buy links, short bio, website information.  JPG of the cover and/or author photo must be sent separately.

If you would like to book an appearance on A Biblio Paradise, please send an email to devon – at – devonellingtonwork -dot – com with “Biblio Paradise Slot” in the subject line.