You are very welcome, Meghan, please introduce yourself:
“My dearest darling …” That was how my grandfather began all of his letters to my grandmother while he was stationed in Okinawa in World War II. I never knew my grandfather, but I’ve poured over his letters. I used to draw lines up the back of my legs, just as my grandmother had as a young woman whose nylons had been donated to make parachutes, and I’ve endlessly pestered my paternal grandfather for stories of his childhood and service. The worn letters and patiently-told stories cemented my interest in history, especially in the WWII era.
I found my first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at a friend’s house and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. I flew an airplane before I learned how to drive a car, did my undergrad work in a crumbling once-all girls school in the sweltering south, spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, finished my graduate work in an all-girls school in the blustery north, and traveled the world for a few years. Now I’m settled down in the foothills of the Appalachians, writing my third and fourth novels, and hanging out with my standard poodle.
Did you read much as a child? Are you an avid reader now? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
Some of my earliest memories are of reading. Learning how to read wasn’t difficult for me, and I remember the wonder of those first days of reading. I’ve always felt that there is a magic to the written word and a brilliant enchantment to reading: I was able to breach time and continents and worlds in books. I’ve carried that love with me into adulthood, and reading is still one of my favorite pastimes. I’m an eclectic reader; I don’t stick with a single genre. I will say, though, that even though my current work in progress is set in World War II, much of the literature I read about the era is nonfiction rather than fiction.
Are you self-published or traditionally published?
I have two novels out under a pseudonym that were traditionally published, and I imagine I will follow the same course with my work in progress.
Which genre do you write in and why?
I began my writing career in the romantic suspense genre. I cut my reading teeth on Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, the Hardy Boys, and the Bobbsey Twins, so I have long thought mysteries to be a great tool for exploring human nature and psyche. Adding that additional layer of emotion with the romantic element grew naturally from the stories.
Historical fiction has long been my passion, though, and my current work in progress, as well as the stories I have lined up next, all fall within the genre. I’ve always loved studying history, but many history tomes are dry, dusty reads that give no glimpse of the humanity involved in the events of the past. They tell the facts but not the story. And there is always a story. Historical fiction allows both the author and the reader to step through time and become engrossed in the stories of different eras.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
I’ve always loved C.S. Lewis’s words from An Experiment in Criticism:
“But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”
Since reading that passage years ago, I’ve kept that kernel of truth in mind both as a reader and a writer, so in that regard, C.S. Lewis has influenced my writing.
Mary Stewart has probably been the biggest influence on my writing, though. I came across her books at a young age, and she has always been one of my favorite authors. She was a pioneer in her genre, and her work was both erudite and vivid: the detailed settings, the classic heroines, the subtlety of the romance, and the suspense. I wrote her a letter about ten years ago and received a beautiful handwritten response that I still have framed.
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
I think our roots always influence us. Our countries and cultures help shape our worldviews, which influences the way we think, the values we hold, the stories we want to hear and want to tell.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
For me, the most difficult aspect of writing is getting that first draft on paper. It’s not really an issue of writer’s block or a fickle muse, but more of an issue of research and being a perfectionist. I don’t like to start writing in a period until I feel like I have accumulated all possible knowledge of an era, which of course isn’t entirely possible. I have to remind myself that even the experts don’t know everything about everything. I overcome it by setting pen to paper—I always write in longhand—and making notes to myself as I go along about what I feel needs more research.
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
I don’t think I do have a favorite time of day to write. I can write anywhere and anytime, as long as it’s quiet.
What is the best thing about being an author? And the flipside – what is the worst?
I think the best and worst aspects of being an author are two sides of the same coin. On the one side, you’re able to make all of these connections with fellow authors, bloggers, readers, and researchers. It’s a profession in which the world is connected through the pages one writes. But on the other side, the craft itself is a solitary labor. A labor of love, but an isolating one, and I think most authors feel that dual nature of connectivity and loneliness.
Is social media an essential chore or something you enjoy? Which forum do you prefer?
I’ve come to think of social media—my preference is Facebook—as an enjoyable tool. It’s very much a marketing tool that can be used very effectively to connect with fellow authors and readers, and those connections are what make the tool so enjoyable.
If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?
My graduate work was in library and information science, so when I’m not behind my desk, I’m quite at home in a library, archive, or museum. I love storehouses of knowledge and have always gravitated toward such work. I interned at a nature and science museum while working on my masters, and it was there that I fell in love with paleontology. I would take my lunch breaks in the bone room while working there, so if I weren’t writing, weren’t working in the field I’m in now, I believe I’d enjoy spending my days caring for the bones of creatures long since gone from earth.
It’s the last day and the earth is facing oblivion – what book would you read?
I’d read a book on how to stop the coming oblivion. My reading and writing list is too long for the world to end.
Please tell us what you are working on at the moment.
My current work in progress is about a Welsh sheep farmer who is a veteran of World War One and whose son is a conscientious objector in WWII. After the Somme, my protagonist swore he would never set foot in France again, but after almost three decades, he’s forced to renege on that vow to save the son he thought lost to him.
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