Friday, October 14, 2016

Chatting about Writing

Much as I try to master social media, I have to admit that my efforts range from spasmodic to nonexistent, with an occasional surge into borderline involved when something happens at Five Directions Press or an editing project I’m tackling proves particularly grueling. I suspect my mixed performance results in part from belonging to the e-mail and phone generation, but it has even more to do with wanting to spend every non-work moment either writing or thinking about writing. Which means that either I’m too busy to post regularly or I’m wandering my imaginary world.

One of the great joys of Facebook—and hosting New Books in Historical Fiction, but that’s another story—though, has been meeting other writers. NBHF connected me with Joan Schweighardt, who became a Facebook friend and then a Five Directions Press author, and Joan connected me with Eleanor Parker Sapia, another author who hosts The Writing Life Blog. This past Tuesday, Eleanor interviewed me for her blog. A few of her wonderfully thought-provoking questions follow, but do click on the link and read the rest. What I’m reproducing here accounts for no more than a quarter of the interview, if that. See it as a taste, to show the range of her Q&A.

While you’re there, don’t miss her interviews with Joan Schweighardt and Gabrielle Mathieu, authors of The Last Wife of Attila the Hun and The Falcon Flies Alone, respectively. And to find out more about Eleanor, watch for my NBHF interview with her, currently scheduled for January 2017.

What inspired you to write the Legends of the Five Directions series?
The series came about because I have spent four decades studying this fascinating place and time: Russia between the Mongol invasion (1237–40) and the reign of Peter the Great (1689–1725). I wanted to share it with people in an accessible way, and fiction seemed like the ideal means to do that. In particular, I love to explore the many different ways that women adapt and grow in societies that restrict their choices and have low expectations of their abilities—historically, most societies. Every one of the women featured in this series, from Nasan, the descendant of Genghis Khan, to Grusha the slave girl, has to address and solve the question of where she fits in the larger world; each one responds in her own unique way.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love every part of writing except the final proofreading. Because I tend to start with sketches and fill them in as I go, I’d say that my absolute favorite part is the second stage, when I can see the broad lines of the story but still have lots of room for creativity and invention. But I find even the revision and pruning stages satisfying in their own way.

C. P., does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Well, psychologically, all my characters—even the antagonists—must represent some part of me, right? I just don’t always want to admit it! Nasan is braver than I am and does things I’d never think of, like impulsively going after men-at-arms with her sword. Her emotions lie on the surface, whereas mine tend, in good Scots style, to remain hidden. She is like me in terms of having a practical approach to life, and she loves to read, which I do, too. But I have worked to make her different from me, unlike some of my earlier heroines (Nina in The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel; Sasha in Desert Flower and Kingdom of the Shades). By the way, it’s easier, in my view, to write a character less like the author; it gives me some much-needed distance to appreciate both her virtues and her flaws.

In other news, Ariadne Apostolou, Courtney J. Hall, and I represented Five Directions Press at our local library on Indie Authors Day (October 8). We got to meet a dozen or so other local authors, had a great time, and even sold some books. Now, that’s my kind of social media. But to be fair, we did post the pictures on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest—even during the event. So maybe the old style and the new aren’t so far apart after all.

And stay tuned for the release of Courtney’s A Holiday Wish on November 3. What better way to spend those cold, snowy evenings than with a Christmas romance? The Kindle edition is already  available for preorder, and the print files are waiting for approval as soon as the date draws a little closer. So add it to your Christmas lists and settle in for a charming and heartwarming story with a heroine whose hopes may have been dashed but whose spirit triumphs even in the chill of a Philadelphia winter. 

To quote Nicki Lynn Barrett, USA Today bestselling author: “Memorable characters, a frantic scramble to put together a Christmas wedding, and an unexpected attraction. A Holiday Wish is a beautiful story about finding yourself again when all seems lost.”

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