Laura Hile is the author of Mercy’s Embrace, a three-book novel, of which the first two books are now available. So Rough a Course (Book One) and So Lively a Chase (Book Two) tell the story of Elizabeth Elliot, the older sister of Anne Elliot, the heroine of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and how she comes to fall in love with Patrick McGillvary, the man she vows to hate. I just finished So Lively A Chase and I’m eagerly awaiting publication of the third and final volume in this wonderful story.
In the meantime, I thought my blogger friends would be interested in meeting Laura, whom I first met about ten years ago, when we were both writing fanfiction at the Derbyshire Writers Guild and Bits of Ivory, the now-defunct story board at the Republic of Pemberley. I fell in love with the story that she and Susan Kaye were co-authoring, Love Suffers Long and Is Kind, a Persuasion alternate universe story, and I have been following her writing career ever since.
If you would like to win a copy of So Lively a Chase, here's what you can do:
1) Leave a comment for Laura on this post for one entry.
2) Tweet about this post for another entry.
3) Become a follower of my blog for yet a third entry.
Make sure you provide me with your email address so that I can notify you when you win. The winner will be announced on Sunday, April 11 after 5 pm (MDT).
For those of you who don't win the freebie, visit the Austen Emporium and check out the great Austen-inspired books there plus other Cafe Press goodies:
Welcome, Laura. I want to congratulate you on the publication of Mercy’s Embrace. It’s really a thrill for me to interview you on my blog today.
As you know, Jane, I spend my days shut up with middle-school students, helping them cope with the agonies of pre-algebra, English grammar, sentence diagramming, and the like. While I do enjoy their company -- thirteen-year-olds are an endless source of comic inspiration! -- it is a pleasure write this for you today. Thinking readers! Civilized manners! Culture and refinement and peace! For a weary middle-school teacher, these are heady themes ...
Now that the formalities are out of the way, can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write about Elizabeth Elliot of all characters? Before I read your story, she was one of the characters that I truly loved to hate!
Ah yes, our Elizabeth is a real stinker, isn't she! And I was in there with you, Jane, hating away ... until one day I realized that Elizabeth is an eldest daughter, like me. She has an ill-concealed superiority complex...and I do, too! In fact, if I'd been born beautiful, I would have been just as awful as Elizabeth! I suppose this is why she is easy to write -- she's me! I should also add that Austen's Mary Musgrove is easy to write...
I began dabbling in Austen fiction in 1999, when the the Internet was young, for the sole reason that I wanted to accomplish something! Seriously. At that time I was a stay-at-home mom. My sons were in elementary school (and younger) and the cycle of household chores was never-ending. Every single thing I did -- even at work! I delivered a daily newspaper, The Oregonian -- had to be done again and again! The woeful state of my checking account meant that any hobby I took up had to be cheap. Writing qualified! The wheezy 486 desktop computer in our bedroom was perfect for my purposes, and dial-up Internet was a gateway to the wide world. Ah, the thrill of posting a story installment on the web! I watched the chapters pile up in my notebook. Here was accomplishment!
These days my sons are older, and I'm teaching full time. I've exchanged household chores and newspaper delivery for needy students! The time available for writing is much less, and my brain is weary and cluttered. On Saturdays and during school vacations (when I am, in theory, able to think) I write like mad.
I discovered Elizabeth Elliot's potential while working on Love Suffers Long and is Kind with Susan Kaye. What could be better than a beautiful, opinionated woman in want of a fortune? Although I've made Elizabeth more intelligent than Austen did, she's not as smart as she thinks. She's a well-bred Regency "Lucy Ricardo" whose schemes go sadly awry.
I never thought of Elizabeth Elliot as Lucy Ricardo, but I can see the connection! That's hilarious.
What is the title of the third book in the series and when can we expect it to be available?
The third book is called Mercy's Embrace: The Lady Must Decide, and it should be available in May. The title reflects my struggle, for as I wrote I became convinced that a "real life" Elizabeth would abandon the risk of true love and would settle for social position and security offered by her loathsome cousin!
Do you blog, and if so, what role does blogging play in the life of an author in the 21st century?
I've tried blogging, but I've yet to hit upon a topic that comes naturally and is interesting! (How sad is this?) What I do best is write fiction, so I began posting a work-in-progress Regency story, Mare's Nest, and, between book manuscripts, have been inching along. A link to my fiction blog can be found at LauraHile.com. I also blog at Crownhillwriters.com.
Are you a plotter or a seat-of-the-pants writer?
I am a plotter, although not a very organized one. Too often I find myself in a fix (due to some detail or other that I've overlooked) and have to write my way out. In this respect, writing a book manuscript is very different than writing a serialized novel. In a book, mistakes can be fixed! Not so with serialized fiction. Readers remember, so the writer must twist the plot around yet again ...
Do you ever feel like your characters take on a life of their own, and do you let them dictate the story or do you rein them in?
As much as I like to think that I have the characters under my thumb, I don't. A story is a living thing, and readers aren't the only ones to be entertained by an unexpected change of direction! The biggest surprise for me came when Lady Russell's staid butler, Longwell, lifted himself from the very proper speech I'd planned and gave vent to his true feelings. Astonished, I kept typing as words rolled out. Magic moments like these make the grinding work of writing worthwhile.
I find Mercy’s Embrace to be a lovely mix of Austen characters in a Georgette Heyer world. Are you a Heyer fan? If so, do you have a favorite?
Ah, so you have found me out! I discovered Heyer at a time when most of her books were out of print, and for years I kept a lookout in libraries and used bookstores. Now that I think on it, the combative courtship of Elizabeth and Patrick was very probably influenced by Regency Buck. Other Heyer favorites include The Masqueraders, The Toll Gate, and Cotillion. I might add that fans of Heyer's A Civil Contract will see undertones in Love Suffers Long and is Kind.
Do you take a fiendish delight in writing cliff-hangers? You’re awfully good at bringing us tantalizingly close to resolution and then WHAM! Another monkey wrench throws everything up in the air again.
My love of the cliff-hanger was perfected during the years I wrote serialized fiction. Smarty-pants readers were too fond (I thought) of posting their ideas on message boards, thus thwarting the element of surprise. The Elizabeth Elliot in me took delight in outsmarting them!
I hope I rank in the smarty-pants category--I remember trying to figure out where you were taking the story and was surprised more often than not. Next question, how do you balance research—getting the details right for a historical fiction—with the need to get on with the storytelling? Do you do all your research up front or research as the need arises?
For me, research happens on an as-needed basis. Most of what I've learned comes from my love of reading old books. Also, because of television and cinema, modern readers expect the story to be told in action and dialog. This works in my favor, as I am not very good at description!
Tell us about your publisher, Wytherngate Press, and the Crown Hill Writers Guild.
Wytherngate Press is a small publishing house based in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Pamela Aidan's very popular Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy was first released by Wytherngate, and was later picked up by Simon and Schuster. The Crown Hill Writers Guild is a group of like-minded writing friends.
What kind of a writing project do you think you will tackle next? Have you started your next novel?
Susan Kaye and I have decided to experiment with the Kindle market. This spring and summer we are editing our epic-size tale, Love Suffers Long and is Kind, for release (at Christmas?) as a series of ebooks. The idea is to have all five volumes available at the same time, and for a very low price apiece. Readers either adore or loathe this "what-if" story featuring Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, and Kindle is the perfect venue for it. I must say, it's been wonderful to work with my beloved James Benwick once again. I'm hopeful that Susan and I will at last be able to write the concluding (two?) volumes to this story.
For 2012, I am planning to release Mercy's Hard Bargain, the sequel to Mercy's Embrace.
I for one am looking forward to reading Love Suffers Long again front-to-back, but I'll have to stock up on tissues. There were a couple of scenes near the beginning that just devastated me--so powerful, so poignant. Also, I absolutely adore your James Benwick. Turns out to be a real hero.
Moving on... What do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
My sentimental favorite is Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, with Austen's Pride and Prejudice running a close second. Although I love sparkling romances, I find myself more often reaching for cozy mysteries. Dorothy L Sayers, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, PD James, and Ralph McInerny are favorite authors.
What is the best and the worst things that have happened to you since you’ve become a writer?
After teaching creative writing at our high school for eight years, a schedule conflict prevented me from offering it this fall. I shake my head and smile. Just when I become a published author, the writing class is canceled...
On the other hand, I am amazed and humbled to hear how I've entertained and amused "real life" friends, even my very well educated cousins. I've become a bit of a celebrity to my students, and I use this for all it's worth. Now when I tell them, "Somebody will write the songs / the television scripts / the adventure novels of the future, and it might as well be you," I hold up published books. "If I can do this," I tell them, "so can you. Do not abandon your dreams just because they involve hard work."
Thank-you, Laura, for sharing your thoughts, dreams, and insights with us. It's been great getting to know you over the years, and I absolutely adore your Austen-inspired stories. You're a wonderful writer who deserves a huge following.
Best wishes and write on!