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Debut Authors of ’18: Rachel Dacus

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!)

This one struck my interest immediately, just from content and themes. I cannot wait to dive into it!

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GENERAL

– Author Name: Rachel Dacus

– Book Title: The Renaissance Club

– Book Genre: Time Travel with Romantic Elements

– Release Date: January 16, 2018

– Publisher: Fiery Seas Publishing

THE BOOK

The Renaissance Club is the story of May Gold, a young art historian who falls through a fold in time during a tour of Italy. May’s luck accident brings her face to face with the artist hero she’s specialized in, and dreamed about, 17th century genius sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini. The meeting turns her life in the present upside down and forces her to decide if her adventure in time will ruin her life, or lead to a magical new one.

TEASER TIME:

“Sorry!” she said, backing up.

Signorina, watch where you’re going!”

The young man in black frowned and didn’t apologize. With his long, dark hair and white sleeves rolled up on muscular forearms, he looked like an art restorer. A black jacket was draped over his shoulders. He held a long wooden measuring rod, the kind used by architects centuries ago. Maybe he was rehearsing for some sort of pageant.

“Ladies are not allowed here while I’m working,” he said stiffly. He aimed the rod at the nearest column and sighted up along it.

“I know you!” she exclaimed. She knew him well.

He straightened his jacket and bowed. “Everyone in Rome knows Cavaliere Bernini. But you may not be here. I need silence. I have a very big work to complete.”

His finger pointed up at the four twisted bronze columns, where May was astonished to see no bronze canopy on top. Tons of bronze had simply vanished. She looked back at him. Bernini lifted the instrument and peered up at the nearest column. Her living, breathing idol moved to one side to get a better angle. Lean and strong, he was even more handsome than in his self-portrait.

Now he was so intent on his investigation that he seemed unaware of her and the fact that her pulse was pounding. How had she come here, and where exactly was she?

He lowered the measuring rod, framed the air with his hands, and used his fingers to make rapid computations. He stared at her so intensely that she shivered. She remembered that searing gaze in his self-portrait.

“You’re disturbing me, signorina.” He turned away, clearly expecting her to leave.

How could she possibly move? Here was her genius, his hair curled with wiry energy, materializing the restless mind under it. His prominent cheekbones gave him the Neapolitan look that had embarrassed him and made him fabricate a Florentine heritage. He made a few quick calculations and looked at her again, eyes narrowed.

“I won’t say a word,” she promised.

He was obviously contemplating how to throw her out. Bernini wasn’t much taller than she was, but he made every inch of the difference count. May stared back, as defiantly as she could, while stunned and unable to forget the many times she had imagined his powerful arms pulling her close. She stared back, asserting herself silently as his historian. Historians didn’t blink. Though most never met their subjects face-to-face.
– Where did you get the idea?

An art history tour of northern Italy, much like the one depicted in my story, kindled a wish to meet some of the great artistic geniuses behind the Renaissance. Though I know in real life, time-travel isn’t possible, I found a way to meet one of the most spectacular artistic geniuses who ever lived—by recreating him as my hero!
– What’s the story behind the title? 

No one has ever suggested I change the title since the first query I sent out or the last editor at my publishing house. The title comes from the touring group, who named themselves The Renaissance Club.
– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

An older woman, a member of The Renaissance Club, also has an adventure in time on the tour. It changes her life and her view lof her employee, our main character.
– Tell us about your favorite character.

Though May and Bernini are my main characters, the story couldn’t exist without time travel guide George St. James. Based—amazingly—on a real person (and I won’t say whether he could go time traveling or not), George has his own complicated backstory and reason for helping others to realize their full potentials. The time traveling quirk he developed as a child was something he had to learn to tame, and like the person he’s based on, George became a master at turning unusual ways of looking at life into a way to serve others.
– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? 

I’d certainly spend a day with Bernini. Like May, I’d just watch him work. They said Bernini could chisel marble for eight hours straight without stopping. He himself reported that while working on a sculpture, he was in a state of bliss. I’d like to observe that, though I would need a lunch break! But who knows what would get started by simply observing a charismatic genius. As May discovered, all kinds of delicious complications might arise.
– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

Bernini and George St. James are based on real people. Bernini, of course, on himself, the real 17th century artist who evolved the Baroque style to its height of expressiveness. George is a composite of teachers and tour guides I’ve known.

 

WRITING PROCESS

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

I began with the concept seven years before I sold it to a publisher. That’s a long, long journey, and a nearly gave up toward the end, but because I had such fantastic help from top editors and beta readers, I just couldn’t. I’m really hoping my next book will be a shorter journey!

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

I read everything that can be found on Bernini, attended a year-long art history course on The Italian Renaissance, and completed that course with a three-week tour of the art in Italy made by Renaissance geniuses.

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

I removed one character arcs and demoted a point-of-view character to a much smaller role.

– Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a definite pantser, though I try to hide the fact by constructing careful outlines, spreadsheets, plot graphs, and timelines after the novel is finished.

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

My favorite part is drafting. The thrill of delving into my subterranean imagination, moving into that not-quite-conscious realm intrigues and amazes me, every time I do iot.

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

Revising is definitely the challenging part, because it engages both the analytical and creative sides of the mind, a balancing act that reminds me of juggling on a bongo board—which I once was taught by circus performers in exchange for giving them a few ballet lessons.

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

I write for one to two hours every morning, first thing if possible. Longer if possible. My longest writing stint is probably about six hours.

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

The way I overcome it is by juggling multiple projects. If I can’t write on one, I switch to another and find my flow.

– If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t give up!

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

Too many to count.

– Do you have any writing quirks?

Probably the overuse of the word “awhile” which spell-check keeps telling me should be two words.

 

THE WRITER

I’m a grant writer and fundraising consultant for my day job, the proud pal of a Silky Terrier, who bosses me and my husband around, and a volunteer for several local nonprofit organizations. They work on a local level to move impoverished people back into the mainstream, and provide day excursions to delight children who are living in poverty. Doing all these things keeps me far too active. I’d like to retire and write all day, but I’d never trade away seeing the perfect smile on a child’s face!
– How did you get into writing?

I blame my mother and a wonderful bookstore in Long Beach, California called Acre of Books, which introduced me to the idea that I could own such books as the Oz books, Nancy Drew, and the rainbow fairytale books. I took the owning one step further and started writing books for myself to read.
– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like to feed and watch animals and birds, grow orchids, sew, shop, and hang out in cafes, preferably writing.
– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I write grants and mailings for my nonprofit clients, and have authored four poetry collections, one of which is forthcoming in 2018. I also write plays and have the fun of seeing them occasionally produced.
– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

Because my father was a rocket scientist, my name is on a floating piece of space junk.
– Which book influenced you the most?

Probably Emma by Jane Austen for its witty treatment of an entire village and the best unreliable narrator ever.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

I’m working on The Romantics, the story of two half-sisters who clash over their inheritance, a cottage in northern Italy, with its resident ghost, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
– What’s your favourite writing advice?

Never give up!

– The book you’re currently reading

Currently I’m reading The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown.

OTHERS

Q: Why do you think fiction can change the world?

A: Because stories touch the heart deeply and become part of the reality of our lives, when we move fully into them. Every story has a purpose, and is about human growth, and that’s the force that can change everything.

THE PITCH

When young art historian May Gold slips through a fold in time while touring northern Italy, and comes face to face with her artist hero, 17th century sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, it ignites a powerful attraction that takes her on a romantic and creative journey. This adventure will challenge her to decide what she would give up to be with her soul mate and live a creative life—perhaps even the time in which she lives.

BLURBS

Enchanting, rich and romantic…a poetic journey through the folds of time. In THE RENAISSANCE CLUB, passion, art, and history come together in this captivating tale of one woman’s quest to discover her true self and the life she’s meant to lead. Rachel Dacus deftly crafts a unique and spellbinding twist to the time-traveling adventure that’s perfect for fans of Susanna Kearsley and Diana Gabaldon. — Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author

 

The Renaissance Club is a beautifully written story about a woman torn between two worlds—the present and the distant past. This time-travel adventure kept me guessing until the end about which world May would choose, and if that choice would be the right one. Highly recommended for lovers of time travel fiction or anyone looking for a compelling story about a woman trying to find happiness. — Annabelle Costa, Author of The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend.
BUY LINK

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Renaissance-Club-Rachel-Dacus-ebook/dp/B07832TVWN/ref

 

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BIO

Rachel Dacus is the author of Gods of Water and Air, a collection of poetry, prose, and drama, and the poetry collections Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, The Pedestal, and Valparaiso Poetry ReviewThe Renaissance Club, her time travel novel involving the great Italian sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, is forthcoming in January 2018 from Fiery Seas Publishing. Her fourth poetry collection, Arabesqueis forthcoming in August 2018 from FutureCycle Press.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: racheldacus.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rachel-Dacus-Poet-Writer-514837478526919/
Twitter: @Rachel_Dacus
Instagram:
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/rdacus/pins/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/987726.Rachel_Dacus

 

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH

Clarissa Goenawan — RAINBIRDS

Cass Morris — FROM UNSEEN FIRE

YZ Chin — THOUGH I GET HOME

Jennifer Haupt — IN THE SHADOW OF 10,000 HILLS

Carolyn M. Walker — IMMORTAL DESCENT

Samantha Heuwagen — DAWN AMONG THE STARS

Rachel Pudelek — FREYJA’S DAUGHTER

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Authors of ’18 Interviews: Negeen Papehn

Hello, hello! Welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors. This series 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!)

I finished this a few weeks ago, and let me tell you, this is a good book. Papehn’s writing style was the first thing that struck me: she’s telling a story, not leading you through it. In a world where “show don’t tell” is hammered into any writer’s skull, I was surprised and intrigued by this shift.

At first I thought I wasn’t going to like it… and then I found myself unable to put it down. There is something entrancing and seductive about the way Forbidden by Faith is weaved. I found myself identifying with the main character Sara on WAY too many levels, and I was thinking about her for days afterwards.

Needless to say, I really recommend this. It’s fresh, it’s interesting, I don’t think you’re going to find anything really like it. And here’s what she has to say about it!

 

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GENERAL

– Author Name: Negeen Papehn

– Book Title: Forbidden by Faith (Forbidden Love Series, Book 1)

– Book Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance

– Release Date: February 20, 2018

– Publisher: City Owl Press

THE BOOK

Sara knows her life would be easier if she married a Muslim man, but when has love ever been easy?

Raised by her immigrant Iranian Muslim parents, she’s been taught that a good daughter makes decisions based on her family’s approval, and she’s spent most of her life doing just that. Then one night, she meets Maziar, and her world is turned upside down. She feels an instant electricity between them, and it seems like fate when he tells her he’s also Iranian. Just as her mind begins to soar with the possibilities, he shatters her hopes when he tells her he’s Jewish.

Despite the centuries of unrest behind them, Sara and Maziar embark on a forbidden love affair, attempting to navigate through the cultural and religious prejudices that beat them down and attempt to tear them apart.

Deep within the trenches of her battle, Sara finds herself more empowered and careless than ever before. Angry at and disappointed by the people she’s idolized all her life, she’s determined to forge her own path. But choosing who to be could mean creating a life that’s no longer acceptable to those around her.

Sara feels herself growing into an independent and confident woman, but will it be worth the ultimate cost: her family?

 

Share a teaser from your book.

“I want you back.”

I hadn’t let myself hope he would say that to me tonight. I thought if he didn’t, the disappointment would be unbearable. I realized that hearing him say he wanted us, and knowing that it was impossible, was more than disappointing. It was utterly devastating.

 

Where did you get the idea?

The premise of FORBIDDEN BY FAITH with the clashing religions comes from my own relationship. My husband is Jewish and I’m Muslim. People think this story is the story of us, but it’s not. We’re lucky to have the families that we do. We didn’t have to go to war over a love that was ours, but a fight that spanned centuries behind us. It could have been our story though. So instead, I wrote the story for Maziar and Sara. This is their love story, not mine.

What’s the story behind the title?

I came up with the title, but that was after my editor thought we should change it. It was originally called UNBOUND but that didn’t seem as intriguing. After a lot of brainstorming with my CPs, my editor and I decided on FORBIDDEN BY FAITH.

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

There’s a steamy love triangle that unfolds. Everyone chooses a team by the time they’re done J

Well us about your favorite character.

My favorite character is Bita. She’s my male MC’s sister. I think her evolution throughout the book is pretty spectacular. She starts off being the person you love to hate, but as the story progresses and she’s faced with losing her brother, she begins to question her decisions, and ultimately chooses to change. By the end, you’re rooting for her.

If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

Hmmm… I think I’d spend the day with Ben. He’s a bit dreamy and I have a tiny crush on him, LOL. Maybe we’d go to a baseball game. He’s a big fan. Or maybe we’d do karaoke. That’s a pretty fun scene in my book.

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

A little bit of both. No character is based on one single person, but more of a combination of characteristics of people in my life, past and present. And some of it just comes from my imagination.

 

WRITING PROCESS

How long did you take to write this book?

It took me a year to write it and then another year to have it picked up. By the time my book is published, it’ll be close to three years.

 

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I had to do research on the religions. I’m not very religious so I wanted to make sure I had the details correct. I also researched various aspects of the Iranian culture. Other than that, there wasn’t too much else. My book is based in Los Angeles, so I’m familiar with the location.

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

I did a complete rewrite before I sent it in to agents/editors. I restructured the timeframe of the love triangle and changed the details. There was about ten chapters that were cut and redone. Once my editor did a sweep, we took out a few chapters that didn’t seem necessary.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a total pantser! Sometimes, I think it’s my downfall. I would love to be a plotter, and I try, but my story always has a mind of its own. I end up backed in corners that I have to find ways out of, which slows down the writing process. In the end, though, I come up with a storyline I hadn’t anticipated, which is exciting.

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

My favorite part of the writing process is when my manuscript is ready for the first round of beta readers. I love sharing my work with people. Hearing their reactions and listening to their responses is my drug of choice. And it doesn’t have to just be praise. I welcome their constructive criticism as well. Makes the story better, and makes me a better writer.

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

The most challenging part for me is the beginning. The actual process of brainstorming and coming up with a premise for the next story, one that’s interesting, different, and deeper than just the surface. I’m so passionate about writing; it’s a dream for me. But I’m always afraid I won’t be able to come up with the next idea, and it will all come to a tragic end. I almost paralyze myself with fear. It causes me to get major writer’s block.

 

Can you share your writing routine?

I don’t actually have a routine other than writing in between everything. On my days off I try to carve out a few hours to write, if errands and my children allow it. The days I work, I write in between patients and during my lunch breaks. Weekends are usually up in the air. Any free time I can find, even if it’s twenty minutes, I write. I just pick up where I left off and keep going any chance I get!

The location I write in isn’t always the same. Sometimes I’m at my desk in the spare room, sometimes at the dining room table, and sometimes I escape to the local coffee shop. Just depends on what works for the moment. But, regardless of where I’m sitting, my headphones are on and always blaring in my ears.

 

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

Yes! It’s miserable. I just walk away. I leave the writing behind for a week, give my mind a break by binge watching shows.

If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?

“Hang in there. Even when you feel like you’ve lost sight of who you used to be, don’t worry, you’ll find her again. And when you do, amazing things will happen.”

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

I have one full unpublished manuscript that I need to start submitting soon, titled What Will Be, and I’m halfway through the second book in the Forbidden Love series.

Do you have any writing quirks?

Yes. I’m picky about location. I don’t need to write in the same spot each time, but the space needs to have the right energy. I have to feel the creativity flowing, otherwise I’m too distracted. And I must have a good playlist going. It needs to compliment the scene I’m in, otherwise it throws me off. So sad scenes get a ballad, hot scenes need a steamy 90s R&B song, and so on.

 

THE WRITER

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a mom and a wife. I have two boys, they’re 8 and 10. They’re spectacular little human beings and keep me super busy.  They are in the “arguing phase” of their relationship right now, so it’s lovely. I’m a dentist by day. I know, not a glamorous job, nor is it even close to writing, but I dig it. I get to interact with a lot of people, and I’m definitely a social butterfly so it works for me. Oh! And I love wine, LOL.

How did you get into writing?

Growing up, I sang and wrote music and poetry. But then adult life took over and I lost that creativity. A few years ago, I started getting desperate for an outlet; it felt like I was suffocating without it. A friend suggested I write a book after I told her an elaborate recollection of a situation that had transpired.

Two weeks later, I thought, what the hell, and sat in front of my laptop. The rest is history.

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

I love spending time with my family, reading, hanging out with friends, wine tasting, going on vacations. I’m pretty easy and low key. I’m a social butterfly for sure, but prefer it in casual, intimate settings.

 

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

I used to write poetry and music but I haven’t done that in ages.

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

I can sing. I won a national contest for a song I wrote and recorded with my band in high school. And I was prom queen.

 

Which book influenced you the most?

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes. I was depressed for a week after I finished that book! I loved the reality of it. Just because her MCs fell in love, the path of Will’s decisions didn’t change. That’s how real life goes. When I started writing, I wanted to implement the raw, messy truths of life into my own work as well. And I wanted my readers to believe it, completely involved and invested in my characters, long after they turned the last page.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on the second novel of the Forbidden Love series. I’m very type A, so sadly, I can’t work on more than one project at a time.

What’s your favorite writing advice?

“No matter what happens, you’ve already won. This has become so much more than you ever imagined. Remember that. Hold onto that. You can’t fail.” My boss is one of my biggest supporters and he said that to me when I was in full panic mode over the publishing process.

TELL US…

The book you’re currently reading:

I’m currently reading The Finish Line by Leslie Scott. It’s her debut novel and it’s fabulous.

Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

KITE RUNNER by: Khaled Hosseini

I can’t really explain how this book changed me, but I just know that it did. It opened my eyes to the horror that so many in this world face, and reminded me of how privileged I am to have been born and raised in the States. Things could have been so different if my parents hadn’t come to America so many years ago. This books tragic beauty and heartbreaking devastation has stayed with me from the moment I read it.

PITCH

Sara knows marrying a Muslim man would be easier, but when has love ever been easy?

When Sara and Maziar embark on a forbidden love affair, they must navigate through the cultural and religious differences that divide them, pushing themselves to limits they never imagined, in the hopes of finding true love.

Give one or two of your favorite blurbs.

 

“Much more than a love story… FORBIDDEN BY FAITH is full of twists and turns as two lovers navigate their way through one of history’s oldest cultural divides.”

“A little 50 Shades… A little Romeo & Juliet… FORBIDDEN BY FAITH is sure to keep you turning the page. Although after some of the pages, you may need to take a cigarette break (even if you don’t smoke!).”

BUY LINKS

Amazon: http://smarturl.it/FLove1Amz

BN: http://smarturl.it/FLove1BN

Kobo: http://smarturl.it/FLove1Kobo

Apple: http://smarturl.it/FLove1iBooks

Google: http://smarturl.it/FLove1Google

 

BIO

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Negeen Papehn was born and raised in southern California, where she currently lives with her husband and two boys. She wasn’t always a writer. A graduate of USC dental school, Negeen spends half of her week with patients and the other half in front of her laptop. In the little time she finds in between, she loves to play with her kids, go wine tasting with her friends, throw parties, and relax with her family.

FORBIDDEN BY FAITH is her debut novel.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: www.negeenpapehn.com

Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/NegeenPapehn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NegeenPapehn/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/negeenpapehn/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17379780.Negeen_Papehn

 

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS


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

 

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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