Monday, April 05, 2010

Laura Hile, Author of Mercy's Embrace...Unmasked!

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 I also blog at

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!


  1. Thank you, ladies, for this wonderful interview. I can't wait for May and look forward to learning the precise date of publication so I can time when to start rereading the first two novels, thereby gaining the simultaneous pleasures of reading the story in its entirety and the conclusion for the first time. I love the notion of a serialized Kindle publication and look forward to reading Love Suffers Long and is Kind (which I never knew about it before) in that medium. I'm just getting into Heyer and will be sure to read A Civil Contract first.

  2. Great questions and great interview, Laura! I love hearing about the writing process...and these books are now definitely on my to-read list. Especially now that you've teased me with a runaway butler's speech ;)

    erin at erinblakemore dot com

  3. See, Laura, it wasn't that bad. (She agonized over writing just the PERFECT answers!)

    Great questions, Jane.

    (Putting a link on crownhillwriters/ and susankaye/

    Take care--Susan Kaye

  4. Just tweeter this!! This sound like a great book.

  5. Great interview, and I loved taking the book poll on the side. Thanks!

  6. I am such a follower -- this time I'm following Susan Kaye's link. Enjoyed the interview. I've read both of LL's books, and now I'm passing them onto my nieces. I read the online version. Does Laura mean that now Elizabeth is going to marry William Elliot instead of Patrick McGillvary? I certainly hope not. I'm happy to learn that she and Susan are going to work on the original series again. I will look forward to reading that.

  7. It's an interesting look into the world of a published author. Thank you both for doing this interview.

  8. I have the same question as Gayle! Does your comment about Elizabeth choosing the "easy" path and marrying her cousin mean that is what she is going to do? Please, say it ain't so.

    Not sure if I missed it, but do you plan to write any non-Austen based fic? Maybe something Victorian, if Jane Eyre is a favorite? Or a mystery a la Dorothy Sayers?

    Always ready for more!

    Your faithful reader,

    Meg E (from the DWG)

  9. I've been following Laura's adventures of Elizabeth Eliot from early days on DWG. I'm happy to see these wonderful books published! Thank you for the interview.

  10. What a coincidence. I just ordered So Rough a Course two days ago. I was intrigued by the thought of Elizabeth Elliot (who like Caroline Bingley in P&P was not the most endearing character) having her own story and where it would take her. What is it about arrogant, self-centered and peevish characters that mesmerize us?

    Thank you Jane for this lovely interview. I am looking forward to reading Laura Hile's series.

  11. What a very interesting interview! Laura sounds like a really personable and likable woman who is finally getting the recognition that she deserves! Her books sound amazing, and I would love the chance to win a copy of the first one!


  12. love the pictures and thanks for sharing the lovely interview! great to get insight into Laura's world! can't wait to read the 3rd book! (though, Laura, if Elizabeth has chosen Cousin William, I think we have a quorum of people who will start pelting you with rotten tomatoes for not having PERSUADed her to chose Mr. McGill! ;) [& yes, pun intended]


  13. What a fantastic interview! I have been wanting to read Laura's book for the longest time and just purchased book one earlier this week! I can't wait to get into this series! I love thinking of Elizabeth Elliot as the Lucy Ricardo type. LOL! Jane Eyre is my all time favorite novel too.

    Thank you so much for sharing and for the wonderful opportunity!


  14. I tweeted about it:

    And I follow your blog.


  15. Love to be entered. And what a wonderful and thorough interview. I loved the art as well. Funnily enough Jane Eyre is my all time favorite too. Although my favorite writer is Austen. seems to be quite common!

    Thanks again,

  16. Just tweeted as well: and I am a follower as well.


  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. Thank you for this interview! I didn't know Mercy’s Embrace. It sounds fascinating! (updating my wishlist) I can't wait to read it.
    Please enter me in the giveaway, if it is international.
    Thank you very much!
    Giada M

    fabgiada @

    I tweeted

    I'm a follower of this blog

  19. Now that I've gotten to know about the author, and enjoyed her delightful interview, I'd sure like a chance to read her books!

  20. I tweeted

  21. I subscribed to the RSS feed.

  22. Oh my! Thank you for such kind and enouraging words! Jane, what lovely followers you have!

    Alexa, I wish I had a precise release date for The Lady Must Decide to give you! Oddly enough, Amazon will be first to have access to the book. Before a copy is in my hands--or on my publisher's desk, even!--wham, there it will be for sale on the website! I don't know why this is. New author, small publisher ...

    Gayle, Joanna, and Meg, good thing Mercy's Embrace is fiction and not real life, eh? We can't have Elizabeth marrying William Walter Elliot! But I'll put in a plug for Susan Kaye's what-if story "If I Dream, I Have You" (found in the Crown Hill Writers Guild's free story collection). It isn't Elizabeth who is married to William Elliot, but Anne. she?

    (cue scary music)

    And my goodness, Zibilee, you're right. You should have a chance to win not just the second book but the first one as well. I'll send a copy to Jane and we'll make this a two-book prize. Good luck!


    Laura Hile

  23. The boooks sound great. I would like to be entered. Great post!

    passionatebooklover at yahoo dot com

  24. I had missed this wonderful interview, Jane! Great one. Thank you for introducing Laura and her works to us. Is it late for the giveaway? I Hope it isn't. Persuasion is my favourite Austen.

  25. Okay--we're getting down to the wire...I have the first two books in the Mercy's Embrace series to give away to one lucky winner. Drawing will take place at 5 pm Mountain Daylight Time today.

  26. Laura, I would also encourage the readers of this blog to read "If I Dream, I Have You." That was the first on-line fanfiction I ever read (finding fanfiction was both a blessing and a curse. lol) I still go back to Susan's site and read it again from time to time. It is such a good story. By the way, when are you going to have time to work on your latest on-line story? (Push-push, hint-hint....)

  27. Jane, I bought your book Intimations of Austen on the recommendation of Susan Kaye (she mentioned it on her blog at some point.) I really enjoyed all of the collected stories. I loaned it to my sister, also an Austen fan. That reminds me, she still has it. Hmmmm....

  28. Gayle - thanks for the recommendation for "If I Dream, I Have You." I will definitely check it out--I love Susan's writing as well!

    Also, thanks for your kind words and support regarding Intimations of Austen--those stories are direct from my heart :)

  29. I just stopped by to see who won LL's great books and am gratified to find you talking about one of my favorite short stories. Part of me wants to expand it to a novel.

    And anyone urging Jane to write gets a thumbs up from me.

    Oh, congrats Giada!

  30. Elizabeth is Lucy Ricardo! That's rich. I'll have to re-read with that in mind.

    And I treasure what you tell your students, Laura: "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."

    I wish some teacher had told my son that. His entire educational non-career might have gone differently. i'll try to be more understanding of having to wait now. You're involved in a much more important cause than entertaining me, you're planting and watering seeds in young minds. Bless you! joy