Interview: Charles Finch

charlieCharles Finch was kind enough to agree to an interview. He’s one of my favorite authors and his first novel, A Beautiful Blue Death, was nominated for an Agatha Award and was named one of Library Journal’s Best Books of 2007, one of only five mystery novels on the list.

Q. You chose the Victorian Era as the foundational time frame to your novels because it serves as a reflection of contemporary issues in a literary framework. Notwithstanding the connection, given the opportunity, would you travel back in time to the Victorian Era? Would you want to live there, or just visit? Why or why not?

I would love to travel back in time to the Victoria period – briefly. One of the things I try to emphasize in my books is that no matter how civilized life was, it also had a brutal, unpleasant side, with widespread illness and poverty, early deaths, and every stripe of prejudice…and think of all the things you would miss from the modern era! Could I check Facebook? If not I think I’ll stick with our time and have fun daydreaming about theirs.

Q. At the end of The September Society, Charles Lenox agrees to run for Parliament with Lady Jane’s blessing as well as his brother, Edmund’s support. His dream of standing for Parliament finally comes true in book 3. Did you already know at the end of A Beautiful Blue Death that Lenox’s dream would come true? As for yourself are you politically inclined, and do you have any aspirations in that sphere?

From the start I really liked the idea of pulling Lenox away from his work as a detective, and I planted the seeds for him to enter politics in the first book, yes. But actually I wasn’t sure whether Lenox would win his election in Stirrington until the day when I wrote the chapter! I like to make big decisions like that one by feel.

I love politics, and I’ve worked in it before. But I’m happy writing.

Q. You’ve previously named Elizabeth Gaskell as a source of research for your work. Which of her novels did you rely on the most, and how do you feel about her writings? Did the underlying themes relating to the social and political strata of British society impact your writings?

Some time ago I read North and South, and I loved how astute it was about exactly the political and social calibrations you mention. She was much more sophisticated than Dickens, for instance, who wrote from a more emotional angle. Gaskell is definitely the writer I try to think of when I’m writing about class clashes…

Q. If the opportunity ever comes, would you sell the rights to the Lenox series for either television or film? How often have you “cast” it? Who’s your ultimate dream cast?

I would love to sell the Lenox rights, preferably for TV – I agree with the cliché that suspense novels work for film, mysteries for episodic TV. My friend and family love to cast the books, and on my Facebook fan page I think the fans ended up casting Jeremy Northam as Charles Lenox, Jennifer Ehle as Lady Jane, Andrew Lincoln as Graham, Matthew McFayden as McConnell, Aaron Johnson as Dallington, Imogen Poots as Toto, Kenneth Branagh as Edmund, and Stephen Fry as Shreve. Can’t argue with those picks!

Q. A couple of the books were written while you were a postgraduate student. How did you balance coursework and writing? Did your fellow course mates know? What was their reaction as well as that of the faculty?

I definitely tried to keep those two parts of my life segregated – the faculty didn’t know, and only my friends among the course people. I never found it hard to balance the two; in fact, if anything I’m happier when I have a couple of different projects to shift between.
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Interview: Colleen Hoover

colleenColleen Hoover is the New York Times bestselling author of two novels, Slammed and Point of Retreat. Colleen lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys (Simon & Schuster biography).

Q. For our readers who may not have heard of you, tell us a bit about yourself.
First and foremost, I am a mom to three of the sweetest and meanest boys. They are 7, 9 and 11. I’ve been married to my husband for 12 years. I just started writing last year, and what a year it’s been.

Q. As a first-time author, how many projects and stories did you discard along the way to Slammed?
Slammed was actually the first real attempt I ever made at writing a book. I would write silly stories and poems for friends, but nothing more than that.

Q. Who is the biggest literary influence in your life?
I have some really close writer friends that are huge influences in my life. To get where I’ve been in less than ten months takes more than just one person. Without their support and having paved the way before me, I would have no idea what the hell I was doing.

Q. Which of your characters would you like to meet in person and why?
I would love to meet Will, of course. But I would feel bad for wanting to steal him away from Lake.

Q. Is anything in Slammed or Point of Retreat based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
It was mostly imagination. The snow man scene actually happened with my own kids, though. It rarely snows in Texas, and when it does it isn’t good enough snow to build a nice snowman. They made one on that was lying on the ground in front of my car tire. They poured red Kool-Aid all over it and made it look like an accident. It was hilarious, I couldn’t not include it.

Q. The slam poetry incorporated into your novel has been praised. What sort of process went into the creation of such poetry?
There wasn’t really a process to it. I would write a scene, then write the poem that I thought would fit best in the scene. I remember the pink balloon poem I wrote on my lunch break at work. I think slam poetry is a beautiful art, but at the same time actual slam poets use a style that is incredibly poetic and beautiful. I tried to capture as much of it as I could, but it’s hard to put something on paper that should be performed live.
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Deborah Harkness Q&A

imag0302On August 1, 2012, I had the honor of attending a reading & signing by author Deborah Harkness. I walked on clouds for weeks afterward. She read two sections from Shadow of Night & answered some questions regarding the series. She was very kind and I wish I had more time to talk to her, but there was a line behind me.

Located below are the questions asked by those in attendance. Permission was granted by Harkness to post the q&a (thank you!). Some of the questions are phrased in a way that is meant for her to answer, but instead of “I” you’ll see them answered in third person. The reason for this is partly because of the way my notes were written. I was scribbling like crazy in the background while she spoke.

Please note:
There is a spoiler at the end. I asked this question to her privately. I’ll make sure to remind you as you read that there is a spoiler before you get it to, so if you haven’t read Shadow of Night, you won’t hate me for spoiling it. Other than that the rest of the questions / answers are spoiler free.

How did you come up with the concept of A Discovery of Witches?
It was while she was on vacation, at the airport she saw a series of books on vampires living amongst us. She began to ask questions, such as, if vampires lived how did they keep their identity secret? What profession would they be in? She began to ask family members and friends these questions. She then began to write down ideas and from there began to write A Discovery of Witches.

Do you share any similarities with Diana?
She laughed when asked this question because she says she gets asked this a lot. They are both historians with an interest in Elizabethan England with regards to alchemy. She too like Diana has spent countless hours at the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Diana comes across a long lost manuscript, Ashmole 782, and Harkness herself found an ancient once thought to be lost book of spells, Book of Soyga.

Which character is she more like?

Diana’s aunt Emily.

Why does Matthew know every famous historical figure?
Matthew knows everyone because he’s actually based in part on a real life person. George Chapman wrote a poem called “The Shadow of Night” (which book 2 gets its title from) and dedicated it to a fellow poet by the name of Matthew Roydon. There’s no known information about Roydon and Champan was familiar with group members that made up The School of Night. Harkness came across Roydon’s name while writing her master’s thesis. When she began to write A Discovery of Witches it made sense to use Matthew Roydon as part of Matthew Clairmont‘s past (readers know that he is Roydon) because there’s no information about him. What if Roydon was a vampire? Part of how she thinks and weaves pieces of the past in her books.

Why write about Diana’s life being difficult in the 16th century?
Life for a woman in the 16th century was more like a never ending family vacation. Add the mixture of being a witch, then you know life would be extremely difficult. As historians we think we know history and how to act, but put in that situation, in a time period we’re familiar with and we come realize we don’t know that much. She wanted to showcase that.
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