Tag Archives: 2018 debut

Author ’18 Interviews: Clarissa Harwood

Alrighty, hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

Clarissa Harwood’s debut — Impossible Saints — just hit the world on January 2nd. It’s historical fiction, involving all sorts of themes that tickle my interest. You’ll see why below!

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GENERAL

Author Name: Clarissa Harwood

Book Title: Impossible Saints

Book Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Publisher: Pegasus Books

THE BOOK

The setting is 1907 England. Lilia Brooke, an agnostic militant suffragette, believes marriage to a clergyman is a fate worse than death. Paul Harris, a quiet, intellectual Anglican priest, is well aware that falling in love with Lilia is incompatible with his ambition to become the next cathedral dean. Lilia and Paul must decide which compromises they’re willing to make and whether their love is worth fighting for.

 

Book Teaser:

“How well do you know Whitechapel?” she asked.

He hesitated.

“Have you ever been there?”

“No,” he admitted, “but I don’t need to go to Hell to know I don’t want to spend time there.”

She laughed. “That’s a terrible analogy.”

“Don’t you think you could better achieve your ends by adding a little prudence to your fearlessness?”

“You sound like my mother.” She tapped her foot impatiently. “Why is it that men’s courage is called bravery but women’s courage is called recklessness—or, even worse, foolishness? If I were a man, would you urge me to be prudent?”

“I certainly would,” he said firmly. “Not everything is a question of sex.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. Everything is a question of sex, but because you’re a man, you don’t see it.”

 

Where did you get the idea?

The genesis of the novel was a scene that popped into my head about twenty years ago: it was as vivid and detailed as if I were watching a movie. I saw a confrontation in a meadow between a studious boy who didn’t know how to play, and a fiery girl pretending to be Jeanne d’Arc, leading her army of brothers. That scene haunted me for many years before I finally gave in and started writing Paul and Lilia’s story. The scene doesn’t appear in the finished novel, but both Paul and Lilia refer to it and remember it as their first meeting.

What’s the story behind the title? (e.g. who came up with it, did your publisher change it, etc.) 

The original title was Marching as to War, but by the time I signed with my agent I had changed it to A Battle Worth Fighting. I was quite attached to the latter title because it’s a direct quotation from the novel, but my editor rightly pointed out that it sounded more like nonfiction than fiction. The final title, Impossible Saints, was the result of a fun brainstorming session with my editor and my agent. While the others enjoyed my contribution of The Suffragette with a Priest on a Train, it didn’t make the cut!

 

No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket

My protagonists’ choice of heroes says a lot about them. Paul’s hero is the Victorian founder of the Oxford Movement (and ultimately Anglo-Catholicism), John Henry Newman. Lilia’s hero is early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

 

Tell us about your favourite character.

It’s tough to choose a favourite because I love Paul and Lilia equally. I used to tell people that Paul is who I am, and Lilia is who I want to be. This isn’t really true, though, and my husband keeps telling me that I’m Lilia, even though I don’t see her qualities in myself. The novel is told from the points of view of both Lilia and Paul. Because this was the first novel I wrote that includes the point of view of a male character, I was nervous about expressing a man’s attitude and thoughts convincingly, so I deliberately gave Paul my personality (INFJ, for Myers-Briggs fans). Over the course of multiple revisions, he changed and became his own person, but I still identify with many of his strengths and weaknesses. Lilia is much braver and more outspoken than I am. She’s also an extrovert and has much more energy for people than I do. But I admire her and her convictions!

 

If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? (P.S. Please keep it to PG-13)

I’d be happy to spend a day with either Lilia or Paul, but Paul is harder to get to know and I could see myself becoming frustrated with his reserved nature. The two of us might just sit in opposite corners of a room reading books! It would be more interesting to follow Lilia around, hearing her speeches and watching the effect she has on the people around her: she’s very charismatic and passionate about women’s rights. Maybe she’d let me be her personal assistant!

Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

The only real person who makes an appearance in Impossible Saints is Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), the best-known British militant women’s suffrage organization in the early 20th century. I’ve already mentioned that I based Paul’s personality on my own, and I do rely quite a bit on the Myers-Briggs personality typology when I create characters. If I’m struggling to understand a character’s motivations, I’ll often ask someone with a personality similar to my character’s for help.

WRITING PROCESS

How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

The novel took about twenty years from conception to publication. The first draft took me a little over a year, but I’ve written so many drafts since then that I’ve lost count. I gave up on it several times and wrote other books, but I kept coming back to it. You can read more about the timeline, including signing with my agent and getting the book deal in this blog post.

 

What kind of research did you do for this book?

As a doctoral student and later an English professor, I specialized in nineteenth-century British literature, so the poetry and fiction of that era always sparks my research and leads me to primary sources. An early influence on Paul’s development as an Anglican priest was Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers, with its delightful melodrama surrounding the lives and loves of cathedral clergy. Poets associated with Anglo-Catholicism inspired Paul’s story too, such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Christina Rossetti. First-person accounts of the suffragettes’ destruction of property, hunger strikes in prison, and the brutal force-feeding they endured, especially Emmeline Pankhurst’s My Own Story and Constance Lytton’s Prison and Prisoners, were especially influential in shaping Lilia’s experiences.

 

What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

Deciding what to include and what to exclude is always difficult, but I’m fortunate to have people with great editorial eyes looking at my work—critique partners, beta readers, my agent, and my editor at Pegasus.  I’ll admit I was dismayed when Laura, my agent, first suggested killing off a fairly major character in Impossible Saints, but Laura has an uncanny ability to detect which elements of a story should be left in and which should be left out, so I knew I could trust her judgment. I was also disappointed when I realized on my own that I had to kill off my only Canadian character and put a New Zealander in his place! It’s obvious to me now that both “murders” improved the novel.

 

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

My natural tendency is to be a plotter, but I’m trying to let my inner pantser come out more often! I never plot a novel in great detail, though. Before I start writing a novel, I usually write a brief synopsis. Writing a synopsis for a finished novel is painful, but writing one early in the process is a helpful exercise to work out what the important turning points and key scenes will be. Of course, the synopsis I write at the beginning bears little relation to the one I write at the end, but that’s as it should be!

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

I love revisions, whether I’m doing them on my own after having written several drafts, or whether I’m doing them based on my agent’s or editor’s feedback. There is no “terror of the blank page,” so I don’t experience writer’s block when I’m doing revisions. I already know the story and the characters, so I don’t have to create anything from scratch. Instead, I’m adding layers and depth, polishing something that is already a solid story.

 

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

The first draft! How I hate the first draft! I hate not knowing my characters. They aren’t my friends yet, and I miss my old friends from the previous novel. The characters in a first draft are people who’ve dropped out of the sky and are ordering me to tell a story I don’t know.

Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

I’m very fortunate to have flexible hours in my day job (I teach online courses at my local university), so I can work at home most days and organize my time the way I want to. Mornings are my sacred writing time: I try to write for at least an hour or two every morning. But my writing routine is quite different depending on whether I’m writing an early draft or a later one. I give myself a minimum time period when I’m working on a first draft (only ten minutes if I’m really struggling). When I’m working on a later draft or revisions, I give myself a maximum time period: otherwise I miss appointments, meals, and sleep because all I want to do is write!

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

Yes, usually when I’m working on a first draft or if I’ve been away from the manuscript too long. I’m a recovering perfectionist, so my first step is usually just reminding myself that it’s ok to “write crap.” In fact, this is how I wrote my entire dissertation! When my writer’s block is really severe, I use the ten-minute minimum time period I mentioned before and let myself make point-form notes if I can’t form complete sentences. Another trick I use for severe writer’s block is stolen from the movie The King’s Speech: to work on the king’s stutter, his speech therapist had him shout out swear words to loosen him up. I do this with writing if I’m really stuck: I just write long lists of swear words!

 

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I wrote two novels as a teenager that were awful. I rewrote one of them in my twenties, but it was still pretty awful. I’ll call those my three practice novels. Then I signed with my agent based on a finished novel that didn’t sell, and I recently finished a sort of sequel to Impossible Saints. That’s two finished unpublished novels. I also have two unfinished first drafts of new novels.

Do you have any writing quirks?

Ha! Is there a writer who doesn’t have writing quirks? I look like a maniac when I’m revising a novel because I often talk to myself loudly and gesticulate wildly. Fortunately I’m usually alone at home when I do this, but not always. I also do my best writing when I’m “inside the purr machine,” which is on my sofa with one cat on either side of me and another behind my head.

THE WRITER

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love reading, watching movies, going for long walks, traveling, and making snow women.

 

Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I’ve done my share of academic writing as an English professor, but these days most of my academic writing is making comments on student papers. My comments are usually pretty dull, but occasionally I feel inspired to write things such as “Your essay is like a garden with some lovely flowers but far too many weeds.”

 

Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

Songs by the 70’s Swedish pop group ABBA are the soundtrack to my life.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

What are you working on right now?

A historical novel about a Victorian woman mountain climber.

 

What’s your favourite writing advice?

Don’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration comes after you start writing, not before. The best writing advice I’ve heard for writer’s block is “butt in chair” and “lower your expectations.”

TELL US…

The book you’re currently reading

I always have several books on the go. This week they are a nonfiction book about scandalous Victorian court cases, Peter Pan because I’m teaching it this week in my Children’s Literature course, and Song of a Captive Bird, a novel about the 1960’s Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad that I’m reviewing for the Historical Novel Society.

THE PITCH

Give us a short pitch of your novel

England, 1907. Lilia Brooke bursts into Paul Harris’s orderly life, shattering his belief that women are gentle creatures who need protection. Lilia wants to change women’s lives by advocating for the vote, free unions, and contraception. Paul, an Anglican priest, has a big ambition of his own: to become the youngest dean of St. John’s Cathedral. Lilia doesn’t believe in God, but she’s attracted to Paul’s intellect, ethics, and dazzling smile.

As Lilia finds her calling in the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, Paul is increasingly driven to rise in the church. They can’t deny their attraction, but they know they don’t belong in each other’s worlds. Paul and Lilia must reach their breaking points before they can decide whether their love is worth fighting for.

Give one or two of your favourite blurbs.

“The perspective is refreshing in that the church is not the villain, nor are all the suffragettes cardboard cutouts. One interesting aspect is the novel’s exploration of the contrast in ideologies between the more conservative, peaceful suffrage groups and the militant, property-destroying Women’s Social and Political Union. This parallels the spectrum in today’s protest-heavy atmosphere, lending the novel contemporary social relevance in addition to its romantic plotline.” – Booklist

“Harwood brings us vividly and convincingly into the past, as we see the whirlwind of social changes in early twentieth century England through the lives of two passionate and authentic characters.” – Jessica Brockmole, internationally bestselling author of ‘Letters from Skye’

BUY LINKS

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Impossible-Saints-Novel-Clarissa-Harwood/dp/1681776243

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/impossible-saints-clarissa-harwood/1126706953

Chapters Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-CA/home/search/?keywords=impossible%20saints%20harwood

 

Clarissa_Harwood Authors18

Photo credit: Anita Watkins Photography

BIO

Clarissa Harwood holds a PhD in English Literature with a specialization in Nineteenth-Century British Literature. In addition to being a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Clarissa is a part-time university instructor and full-time grammar nerd who loves to explain the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. She lives in London, Ontario.

Social media:

Website: www.clarissaharwood.com
Facebook: @ClarissaHarwoodAuthor
Twitter: @clarissaharwood
Goodreads: Clarissa Harwood

 

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

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Debut ’18 Authors Interviews: Pamela Kopfler

I mentioned last week that I was starting a new blog series, and here it begins! To help my fellow 2018 debut-ers, I’m implementing a new blog series dedicated to author interviews which intersect with my genres or interest, or just plain sound interesting. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each one I post struck my interest in one way or another… and I decided I must share.

Pamela Kopfler has a cozy mystery that just released, titled BETTER DEAD. Cozy mysteries may not be my usual style of reading, but the premise sounded so funny and interesting I decided I’d better read it anyway. It’s sitting on my kindle right now, and I’m pretty excited to start it!

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A feisty B & B owner believes her cheatin’ husband deserves to choke on his divorce papers and spend eternity roasting in hell after nearly bankrupting her Louisiana bed and breakfast. At least, she’s half-right when he turns up dead, but she’s dead wrong when she accidentally calls him back from the grave. Unfortunately, he has unfinished business. Unless she wants to be stuck with her ghostly ex forever, she has to wedge him through the pearly gates by cleaning up the mess he left behind—a smuggling ring he started behind her back at her B&B. Now she has thirty days to solve her not-so-dearly-departed’s murder or she’s stuck with him for life. Or worse, she may be doing life.

TEASER

Holly Davis wanted a divorce, not a funeral.

The young widow eased her desk drawer open and removed two files. The first held the divorce papers her husband hadn’t lived to receive. The second was filled with every reason to divorce him in full-color, glossy prints. She strolled to the fireplace of her bed and breakfast and dropped both files onto the cold ashes.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

Where did you get the idea for your book?

The inspiration for BETTER DEAD came during a writers’ retreat at Nottoway Plantation in Louisiana. The organizer challenged the authors to write a ghost story in the spirit of Lord Byron’s challenge to Mary Shelly to write a supernatural story at a retreat in 1816. Shelly gave us the classic Frankenstein. Pamela twisted Frankenstein and added a funny bone when she remembered a lament of many women going through divorce. It would have been easier if he’d just died. But what if he did die and he came back as a ghost? That thought sparked the premise for BETTER DEAD.
What’s the story behind the title? (e.g. who came up with it, did your publisher change it, etc.)

The title came with the inspiration for the Better Dead. Titles always come to me with the premise. I’m not sure I could write a book without a title. I’d feel all wishy-washy about it. A title is like a rudder steering the story and keeping it from drifting in the wrong direction. Thank goodness my publisher liked the title too.
No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

Everyone knows everyone’s business in a small town but not their secrets.
Tell us about your favourite character.

Ha! Just one? Impossible. Burl, the not-so-dearly-departed, was so much fun to write. I had to keep reminding myself he was dead. Miss Alice almost sat on my shoulder and fed me lines. Of course, Holly’s nose for trouble kept the me busy. Nope. I can’t pick just one.
If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

That’s another tough one. I’d take Holly on a road trip to New Orleans and try to keep up with her. If we made it back alive, I’d have another story to tell.

 

Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

All of my characters are conjured up from that child within that still pretends.

 

WRITING PROCESS

How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

It took seventy-eight days to draft Better Dead. The revision took much longer, but I don’t remember how long. Revision is something that is never really complete.

 

What kind of research did you do for this book?

Oh, it was grueling…I visited many historic homes that had been converted to beautiful bed and breakfasts, sipped lots of cocktails, and ate some of the best southern style food on earth. Don’t pitty me too much though. (Excuse me while I bless my own heart before you do.) Actually, that part of the research was serious fun! Other than that fun B & B research, my family has orders to bleach bit my computer to hide my search history.

 

What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

I cut ten thousand words. I had a subplot that my editor felt needed to go and she was right. I hope to add some snips from the editing room floor to my newsletter. I really did cut my darlings.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Both. I have a general idea of the whole story and an opening when I put my keys on the keyboard. After I get the opening down, I write a short synopsis just for me. As the pages pile up, sometimes the plot changes because I’ve found a better twist, so I go with that.
What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

Revising. It’s like makeup. Everyone looks better with a little lipstick on.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Starting, hands down. Once I am writing the real world fades away, and I’m in a timeless place where the story comes to life.
Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

It’s not pretty, but it works. First, I’m easily distracted, so write alone in a room, any room. I face a wall and listen to Bach or ambient sound on and wear noise-cancelling headphones. All notifications are turned off on my computer, and I don’t answer calls except designated rings. My best writing times are first thing in the morning or late at night.
Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

I think writer’s block is fear and almost every writer has that, even if they don’t admit it. I pull up my Kevlar panties and tell fear to suck it up because no one is going to die if I write a bad page. The power is in my bowed up pinkie finger. Backspace, baby, and that bad page never happened.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Write like you know what you’re doing and one day you will.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have one dusty novel rotting away on my hard drive. I call that one my training wheel novel and it will never make a two-wheel track to publication. I have one women’s fiction complete that I hope to home soon. My work in progress, Downright Dead, is book two of the B & B Mystery series coming later in 2018. Book three, Hog Wild Dead, is a twinkle in my eye.
Do you have any writing quirks?

Yes, but I’m, um, recovering. I have a sticky note compulsion that I’m trying to break. I also often say the dialogue aloud. That’s another reason I write alone in a room. Mumbling about murder in a coffee shop could get me in a world of trouble.

 

THE WRITER

Tell us about yourself.

My husband and I have a blended family of five, which is sometimes a circus and sometimes wonderful, but always a blessing. I count my days on earth by the lives dogs adopted. My current fur baby is a solid black standard poodle who thinks he’s the sixth child. Between you and me, he is.
How did you get into writing?

I took the scenic route, as I often do. I was hosting a home and garden show on a local TV station, telling Southern anecdotal stories on a local NPR affiliate when I met Mr. Deluxe, my current husband. After a year of our long distance relationship, he popped the big question, but someone had to move. That someone was me. The only marketable skill that survived the move was my ability to write, so write I did.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read a good book. Walk my big black poodle. Try a new restaurant or an old favorite.  Paint. Cook. Decorate. Garden. Watch the Tigers or the Saints play. Travel. I don’t get to do these things as much as I’d like, but each interest fills the well that spills out stories.
Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I write an occasional blog and have a non-fiction book simmering in the background.
Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

At an air show once, I was invited to fly in an old World War II double-winged, two-seater plane that had been used to carry injured soldiers in its belly. I jumped at the chance, and it was so worth it. There was no pressurization and I felt like Snoopy and the Red Barron as the wind whipped through my hair.

WHAT’S NEXT

What are you working on right now?

Downright Dead, book two in my B & B Spirits Mystery series.
What’s your favourite writing advice or quote?

“We are all apprentices in a craft where on one ever becomes a master.”

Ernest Hemingway

 

Give us a short pitch of your novel

Have you ever heard a woman going through a divorce say, “It would have been easier if he’d died?” Have you said it? Thought it? But what if he did die?

Better Dead is a romp of a mystery about a B & B owner who wants a divorce. She gets a funeral and thirty days to solve her not-so-dearly-departed’s murder or she’s stuck with his ghost for life.
What are your favourite blurbs for BETTER DEAD?

Better Dead is written with an incredible Southern twist, as charming as the author herself! Page turning, fun, and filled with suspense–and very unique characters! As the saying goes, a “keeper,” and just the beginning of the series!”

Heather Graham, New York Times Bestselling Author

 

Better Dead was impossible to put down—a sassy Southern romp of a read.” ~~ Susan M. Boyer, USA TODAY Bestselling author of the Liz Talbot Mystery series.

 

“Better Dead is brisk, witty, full of unexpected happenings and wonderfully real characters. Pamela Kopfler has given us a fresh new heroine in bright and funny Holly Davis, deftly mixing homicide and haunting with Louisiana charm.” Carol J. Perry, Author of The Witch City Mysteries.

 

And without further ado… BETTER DEAD buy links! 

Amazon: https://amazon.com/author/pamelakopfler

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Pamela+Kopfler/_/N-8q8

BAM: http://www.booksamillion.com/search?type=author&query=Pamela+Kopfler&id=7071813415350

Target: https://www.target.com/p/better-dead-paperback-pamela-kopfler/-/A-53068142

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/author/pamela-kopfler/id1246309242?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?Query=Pamela%20Kopfler&ac=1&acp=pamela%20kopfler&ac.author=Pamela%20Kopfler

 

BIO

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Pamela Kopfler is a novelist, Southern-fried and sassy. She writes award-winning humorous mysteries with a kick of Southern sass. Her debut novel, BETTER DEAD, is the first in her B & B Spirits mystery series, to be followed by DOWNRIGHT DEAD, and HOG WILD DEAD. (Kensington Books) She is a four-time Golden Heart® finalist and a Daphne du Maurier award winner.

She can stir up a roux, mix a cocktail, and loves swapping stories. Putting words on the page keeps her alligator mouth from overloading her hummingbird heinie in real life. She marks her time on earth by the lives of the dogs she has loved­­––who often show up in her stories.

Pamela lives in South Louisiana where the spirits are restless, the food is spicy, and the living is divine.

For lagniappe (a little something extra), sign up for her newsletter at https://pamelakopfler.com ~~ Unique cocktail recipes, finger-licking-good Southern recipes, and other goodies.

Website:  https://pamelakopfler.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pamela-Kopfler-Author-1976343685981613/
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/pamelakopfler
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pamelakopfler/
Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/pamelakopfler/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16661977.Pamela_Kopfler