HAZEL GAYNOR: HAVING A BEST SELLER DOES NOT MAKE IT ANY EASIER TO WRITE THE NEXT BOOK
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
I never liked titles of my articles or interviews with many words. An exception is a must for our next guest – New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor. She wrote the amazing story of Maggie, one of Titanic survivors. The Girl Who Came Home became one of the best books for 2014. The novel was republished by HarperCollins in April and received great positive feedback (4.4 out of 5 stars from almost 1800 Amazon reviews).
One other thing that I rarely do in the introduction section is to comment something about the following interview. Hazel Gaynor earned my respect with the way she speaks about her books and the entire process of research. I recommend you to check her great blog Carry on Writing. Inside you may find a lot of shared personal experience.
To conclude we also have great news about lady Gaynor’s next novel A Memory of Violets. Are you curious to know more? Well, it’s time for our next interview, which became one of my favorite in the blog.
– Your second book A Memory of Violets is another history novel, which will be released on February 3 2015. What the readers may expect?
– A MEMORY OF VIOLETS is set around the lives of flower sellers in London at the turn of the century. Although fiction, it is based on facts surrounding a man called John Groom and a charity he established to help the flower sellers who lived and worked on the streets around his home. The novel tells the story of Tilly Harper, a young woman who finds the diary of an orphaned flower seller who was separated from her sister in Victorian England, and her journey to learn the fate of the long lost sisters. I hope that readers will be immersed in the evocative streets of Victorian London, and that they will also enjoy getting to know my cast of characters as Tilly unravels the mystery of the diary and the lost sister. While the novel is an emotional read, it is ultimately full of hope and redemption.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– I’ve been interested in London’s flower sellers since reading the play Pygmalion and playing the role of Eliza Doolittle in my high school musical production of My Fair Lady when I was seventeen. I wanted to learn more about the real Eliza’s and my research led me to the harrowing accounts of child flower sellers, many of whom were orphaned, blind or disabled. In 2012, I visited the London Metropolitan Archives to learn more about John Groom and his Flower Homes and discovered the incredible stories of the young children and women he assisted.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– The biggest challenge with historical fiction is always striking the right balance between fact and fiction. I wanted to tell my own story and create my own characters and circumstances, yet set this against an authentic background of Victorian and Edwardian era England. Sometimes it is hard to know when to stop researching and start writing! I have to remind myself that I am a novelist, not an historian. My aim is to write a memorable story with compelling characters, set against an authentic historic background. Because the novel spans several decades and has lots of characters and twists, it was also challenging to map everything together – it felt a bit like doing a difficult jigsaw at times.
– Tell us something more about your main characters? Are they close to someone from your real life?
– With the exception of Albert Shaw who is based on John Groom, my characters are all drawn from my imagination and from researching actual accounts of London’s street sellers. My main character, Tilly Harper, may have a little of me in her. Her home is the Lake District in the north of England. We spent many family holidays there when I was a child, so I have a particular fondness for the landscape. Florrie and Rosie – the orphaned sisters – are based on actual accounts of children who sold flowers on the streets. There is a character, Queenie, who is named after my great aunt, and a character, Marguerite, who is named after my grandma, who is 95 and still going strong!
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– I first started writing ideas and notes for a novel about the flower sellers way back in 2002, but I began to seriously research and write the novel in 2010. I then started to write THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, a novel set around the Titanic, so that took over for a while. But I knew I would always return to the story of my little flower sellers. I am very excited to see the book finally hit the shelves in February.
– The Girl Who Came Home became a huge hit and is still one of the hottest titles on the market. Do you remember the first time when the story started to form in your head?
– Since I was a teenager I’ve been fascinated with Titanic and I always said I would write a novel about it one day. Having written a blog and freelanced for the local press for several years, I finally found the time and the confidence to tackle a novel. When I started my research, I came across the record of a young woman from a small parish in County Mayo, Ireland. From there, I discovered the stories of a group of Irish emigrants – now known locally as the Addergoole Fourteen – who travelled together on Titanic, and I knew I’d found the inspiration for my novel. Initially, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME was self-published in 2012 to coincide with the centenary of the sinking. A year later it was read by an agent in New York and was picked up for publication by HarperCollins. It has been so amazing to see the book on the shelves this year, on both sides of the Atlantic and to see it do so well has been a complete joy.
– The level of reality in the book is very impressive. What kind of researches you did to paint in your book so real events around Titanic?
– I knew I wanted to explore the experience of a third class passenger on Titanic, the aftermath of the disaster and how such an event can have far-reaching repercussions on a survivor’s life. My research took me to newspaper reports, survivor letters, books, museums, websites – there is a vast archive of information about Titanic. I also travelled to Addergoole, in County Mayo, to meet local historians who told me about the fourteen members of their small community, and what it meant to the family and friends left behind when the Titanic disaster happened. It was a very emotional novel to research and write.
– What was the feeling when you see your name under New York Times bestselling list?
– I was on holiday when I heard from my editor that THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME had made the New York Times best sellers! I was so excited. To know that so many people had picked up my book is just incredible, and I’m so grateful. Hitting the best sellers is one of many goals I think most writers aim to achieve. To have done it with my first novel made it all the more special. My agent sent me a lovely framed print out of the listings – it hangs above my desk and I look at it often and smile.
– Your opinion on the Titanic movie?
– I love the James Cameron Titanic movie! I first saw it on New Year’s Day in Sydney in 1998 and I cried the whole way through. I’d never seen anything like it, and to see the events play out so vividly on the big screen was amazing. That said, I do love the black and white movie A Night To Remember, based on Walter Lord’s classic novel of the Titanic.
– Who are you?
– I often wonder! I think I now describe myself as a mum and a writer. I am originally from Yorkshire, England, but have lived in Ireland for the last twelve years with my husband. We have two amazing children, aged 7 and 9, who keep me very busy when I’m not locked away in the attic, writing.
– What are your writing habits?
– I try to write during the mornings between 9-2pm when the boys are at school. After that, the house becomes a bit chaotic! Sometimes I can work on publicity or admin in the afternoons, but most of my creative writing is done during the peaceful hours of the mornings. I tend to read research materials on an evening, after the children have gone to bed. It really is a case of write whenever and wherever I can, regardless of what mood I am in, or whether the words are flowing. I just have to sit down and get on with it.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– I really believe that word-of-mouth is the best possible promotion for a book. Readers who love the book and tell their friends – that’s fantastic. Book clubs are also amazing for giving a book wings. My publishers do an amazing job of connecting with book bloggers and reviewers and I try to engage with anyone who contacts me on social media or through my website. I hope that as I write more novels, readers will get to know me and my writing style. It would be amazing to get to the stage where readers are looking forward to my next release.
– Do you have plans for a third novel? Unveil something around the story?
– I am currently working on book three, which has the working title of ‘THE MUSE’. The novel is set in London in the roaring twenties and tells the story of a young chambermaid at the Savoy Hotel who becomes a renowned stage star. I’m so excited to be writing in this era. It’s a fascinating time of change being just after the end of the Great War and there’s great scope for wonderful characters, glamour, emotion, romance and humour. Watch this space!
– I browse your blog Carry on Writing and find my favorite post “Ten truths about being a writer”. It was written almost a year ago. Did you add some more truths since then?
– I think they are all still true! It was a fun post to write and I love contributing to the writing.ie website. Perhaps I would add one more truth: having a best seller does not make it any easier to write the next book!
– What were you working before starting a writing career and how it helped you to form yourself as a successful author?
– After graduating from university I worked for a number of financial services and law firms in London, Sydney and Dublin. I really believe the experience of a corporate career: networking, handling tricky boardroom meetings and delivery big presentations has helped me with the publicity aspects of being an author.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– Hmm, good question! I would ask: Which classic and contemporary novels do you wish you had written? My answer would be Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) and The Miniaturist (Jessie Burton).
– Thanks for your time and the great interview.
– Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog. Wishing you a very happy Christmas!
– I wish you all the best around Christmas holidays and another bestseller in 2015 🙂
Credits for author photo: Deasy Photography
About Ognian GeorgievOgnian Georgiev is a sport journalist, who is working as an editor at the "Bulgaria Today" daily newspaper. He covered the Summer Olympics in Beijing 2008 and in London 2012. The author specializes in sports politics, investigations and coverage of Olympic sports events. Ognian Georgiev works as a TV broadcaster for Eurosport Bulgaria, Nova Broadcasting group, TV+, F+ and TV7. He is a commentator for fight sports events such as boxing/kickboxing and MMA. In May 2014 Ognian Georgiev released the English version of his book The White Prisoner: Galabin Boevski's secret story.
Posted on December 19, 2014, in Author, BESTSELLER, Books, Interview and tagged A Memory of Violets, author, bestseller, book, Hazel Gaynor, interview, The Girl Who Came Home. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.