Author Interview: Beatriz Williams

Beatriz WilliamsThroughout this blogging experience, there have been some very special moments that stand out. This is definitely one of those moments. I have been lucky enough to interview my favorite author, Beatriz Williams, and I am thrilled to share our Q&A with you all!

1. Your latest novel, A Certain Age, releases later this month. Can you tell readers a bit about the story?
A Certain Age is a retelling of Richard Strauss’s enchanting opera Der Rosenkavalier, set in Jazz Age New York, in which a Manhattan society goddess sends her younger lover to investigate the family of her brother’s fiancée, only to have him fall in love with the young lady himself. It’s all about class and money and the bittersweet passing of time, and especially about the transformation in Western culture in the years following the First World War. Of course, it’s about love and scandal too, as well as being a really personal, moving depiction of three people in love, and I had a wonderful time turning these musical characters into fully-fledged people on the pages of a book!

  1. One of the reasons why so many readers have loved your books (including myself) is because of the enchanting characters and their relationships. Where do you find the inspiration for your characters?
    I’m inspired by just about everything, really, although I rarely start with actual people. In the case of A Certain Age, I began with Strauss’s fascinating characters—a beautiful woman conscious that her prime is nearly over, a dashing younger man, a charming ingénue—but they took on their own form once I set them into this story. Octavian in particular veered away from the young aristocratic gentleman of the opera; I kept his age around twenty, but I made him a First World War aviator bearing all kind of scars from his time in France, because that was one of the ideas I wanted to convey: how so much of the Twenties was really a reaction to the horrors of this apocalyptic war.
  1. How do you do research for novels that are set anywhere from the 1910’s to 1960’s all across the United States and Europe?

Well, I always start with something I know—a family story, a news item, a historical event—and I read a few books on the subject and the period, if I haven’t already. But the point of any novel should be the story that’s being told, and I try to invest not in million tedious details but in a few precious ones that convey a certain world to the reader. It’s in the dialogue, it’s in the thoughts rattling around in their brains, it’s in the way they interact with each other. So I find the most useful research is reading books written at the time and films made at the time. Historical facts are really the easy part. Anyone can Google the price of a subway ride in 1922!

  1. A Certain Age 2Although you have continued on with the Schuyler family, Julie Schuyler plays a role in A Certain Age, you haven’t published a traditional sequel. How do you let go of these captivating characters?
    My books tend to be made of several lines of narrative that weave together at the resolution, and the next book usually picks up some thread that didn’t get woven in. So I really feel that each book is complete as written, and if I’m going to tell another story, it’s got to start from scratch. The exception is coming up soon, however! My next book, The Wicked City,arrives in January, and it begins a series set in Prohibition New York, in which a straight-arrow enforcement agent teams up with a not-so-straight-laced flapper to break up a bootlegging ring. I was so fascinated by the story of Prohibition in America, but I knew it would take more than one story to convey all the many fronts and facets of this chapter in our history. So the Wicked City books will be released in winter, and in summer I’ll have my stand-alone novels. But they’ll all stay in the Schuyler world, with the addition of the Marshall family introduced in A Certain Age.
  1. You’ve written under the pen name, Juliana Gray. Why did you choose to publish under a pseudonym and then later decide to reveal this fact to readers?
    I was actually pretty up front about Juliana—we had a little teaser when the first one was published, which was only a couple of months after Overseas, but once both books were out we revealed the pseudonym. Since the first six Juliana Gray books were historical romance, however, we didn’t emphasize the connection—they are two different genres, and reader expectations are different, and we were conscious that some Juliana readers would hate the Beatriz books and vice versa! But the next Juliana Gray book, A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, kicks off a historical mystery series set in 1906, and while it’s more history-and-mystery focused than my Beatriz Williams books, it’s something I think both sets of readers will really enjoy. I loved bringing these new characters to life, and my publisher bravely allowed me to give my imagination completely free rein, so I couldn’t be more excited about this new series!
  1. I’m crossing my fingers here, but can we expect to see anything new published from you soon?
    See above! 🙂
  1. What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

I took home a wonderful collection of books from an event in Rhode Island with three other authors, so I can’t wait to get started on Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers, and Jen Lancaster’s By the Numbers, courtesy of Reading With Robin! And my dear friend Karen White’s new book Flight Patterns is fantastic.

 

 

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Author interview: J.T. Ellison

JT Ellison social media headshot

Today I’m sharing an interview with an author who is not only talented, but also incredibly warmhearted. I met J.T. Ellison a few months ago when I read her book, No One Knows, and am so excited to welcome her to Dream by Day! Her latest novel, Field of Graves, releases today and to celebrate, we’re bringing you all a Q&A!

For readers who aren’t familiar, can you tell us a bit about the LT. Jackson series and Field of Graves in particular?

Sure! Field of Graves is the perfect book to jump in with, because it’s the prequel to the series. Homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson, with the help of her best friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, is trying to stop a killer hell-bent on creating his own apocalypse. It’s set in Nashville and introduces all the characters in the books—most importantly, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. It’s the story of how Taylor and Baldwin met, how the team came together, a true origin story.

Taylor Jackson is a fabulous character to write. She’s the warrior goddess of Nashville, half cop, half rock star, and my own personal Athena. Sam Owens is her best friend, the lodestone of the series, the conscience, so to speak. They’re quite a pair. Add in Baldwin, and all sorts of mayhem ensues.

Why did you decide to revisit this series?

FOG, as we call it, was my first full-length novel. I landed an awesome agent with it, but it didn’t sell, so I put it in a drawer and moved on to the next book in the series, which did sell, and kicked off my career. Last year, I revisited it and realized it wasn’t half bad. I did a full editorial on it, and my publisher snapped it up. I’m thrilled it’s finally coming out.

Are there any characters in Field of Graves that came more naturally to you than others?

You’d think I’d say Taylor, but she was actually the most elusive. It took me quite a while to wrap my head around her. She’s an iconic hero—she’s not born in blood like so many crime fiction characters. She’s smart and intense and sees the black and white in the world, so finding her shades of gray was a challenge. I love them all, though. Baldwin is one of the easier ones to write for me. He’s so self-contained but so internally open, I really connected with him.

I loved reading your recently published book, No One Knows, and was shocked by the plot twist. What inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to stretch my wings, actually. I’d written eight Taylor books and three Sam books and I wanted to see if I could write a standalone. I had a crazy dream in which I lost my husband after a party at the Opryland Hotel, and Harlan Coben appeared in it and gave me career advice, and it all came together as No One Knows. Crazy, right?

You’re a well-established and bestselling author, do you have any advice for other writers?

Read everything, and write every day. It doesn’t matter if you have ten hours of uninterrupted time or 10 minutes, you simply must touch your story every day. This will help you develop a solid writing habit. While this is the best job on earth, it is still a job, and you have to show up for work every day.

Field of GravesWhat are you reading when you’re not writing these gripping novels?

Books to blurb, books for the show (A Word on Words, I’m the co-host) books you recommend… I’m currently in Victoria Schwab’s A GATHERING OF SHADOWS and DEEP WORK by Cal Newport. True confession, there are 640 books on my Goodreads TBR…. Yikes!

 Thanks so much for having me on the blog! This was fun!

Of course, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions, J.T.! I can’t wait to dive into Field of Graves and learn more about these badass characters!

 

About J.T. Ellison

New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes dark psychological thrillers starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the premier literary television show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens. Follow J.T. on Facebook or Twitter @thrillerchick for more insight into her wicked imagination.

Author interview: Leigh Himes

Leigh HimesOver the long weekend I started reading The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes and was quickly swept up by the fun and imaginative storyline and fashion-focused descriptions. I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to ask Himes a few questions about her debut novel and I’m excited to share the interview with you all! Enjoy!

Congratulations on your debut novel, The One That Got Away! Can you give us an overview of the story?

Thank you, Samantha! ‘The One That Got Away” is the story of a young, married working mother struggling to make ends meet in a blue-collar suburb of Philadelphia. After a fight with her husband and a particularly grueling morning with her kids, she sees a photograph of a man she almost dated in Town & Country magazine, and is filled with regret. But with the help of a magical Marc Jacobs bag, she gets a chance to see what life would be like married to that man: a dashing Kennedy-esque blueblood running for Congress. At first, she is dazzled by this fourteen-karat world of luxury and privilege—not to mention her doting, handsome husband—but soon begins to notice troubling clues about the woman she had become. Ultimately, she must discover which marriage is real, just how much she is willing to sacrifice, and who she really wants to be.

What inspired you to write this story?

Just like Abbey, I saw a photograph in a magazine of a man I almost dated years before. Though I certainly have no regrets, I couldn’t help but wonder about the choices we make in life and how our spouse changes—or doesn’t change—who we become. I remember sitting in my kitchen and showing the photo to my husband, and we talked about how it would be a great set-up for a novel. A few weeks later, I started writing and couldn’t stop.

A pivotal moment occurs in the story that causes Abbey’s life to shift course. What does Abbey learn from this event? 

Abbey learns so much! Not only about herself as a person, but as a wife, daughter, friend, and mother. In many ways, at 37, she finally grows up!

To be more specific, one of Abbey’s flaws is that she a little bit of a “giver upper.” I think that happens to a lot of working parents… you are so exhausted and overwhelmed, you just start shutting down (or blaming others). So Abbey’s experience not only gives her perspective, but it teaches her that no matter what you wear or what family you married into, life is about fighting every day to be your best self… and helping the people you love do the same.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? What has it been like to write and publish your first book?

Though I wrote every day for fifteen years as a publicist, this was the first fiction I’ve ever written so I can’t say I have a process! And I had nothing to lose, so I didn’t impose any deadlines or rules on myself. However, I did have a rough outline and it was detailed enough to provide a road map but not so detailed that I wasn’t able to discover new twists and turns along the way. That proved to be fortuitous because a lot of my favorite scenes and characters came to me as I was writing.

I’m also a big reviser. I hate looking at a blank page so I would rush through the first draft of every scene or chapter and then go back and revise, sometimes every word. I had a full-time job and small children at home, so it was more important for me to make progress and see the pages fill then have a “perfect” first draft.

As for publishing, the scariest thing is putting something so personal out into the world. Now that publication is finally upon me, I can’t help but feel like I’m standing on stage in my underwear. But as far as the publishing industry, that’s not scary at all, mostly because there are so many dedicated professionals—from designers to editors to marketing experts—who guide first-time novelists. It’s a wonderful industry; it’s made up of book lovers, after all! (So, if you’re thinking of diving in, go for it!)

But what’s been most fun is connecting with readers all over the country and hearing their takes on Abbey, Alex, and Jimmy… and their own stories of “the one that got away.”

What are you currently reading?

I am reading “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah and have found it’s worth all the hype. It’s so tragic, but I still don’t want it to end! I just finished the brilliant but very R-rated “Coup de Foudre” by Ken Kalfus, a fictionalized version of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal. I also loved “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert, and am hoping she will write more historical fiction. I even dragged my kids to the real life estate outside Philadelphia where the book is supposedly set, and as they played in the frog pond, I walked around the grounds imagining Alma and her mosses.