23 June 2008

Release Party: HER SHADOWED HEART

This week, only a teensy bit late, we welcome long-time contributor Anne Whitfield to discuss her novel HER SHADOWED HEART, a hardback from Enspiren Press.

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Set in Yorkshire England 1864, HER SHADOWED HEART is a historical saga of family secrets, betrayals, love, and of new beginnings.

Anna Thornton leads a privileged life, but she's not content. When the dashing Matt Cowan sweeps her off her feet, she thinks her boring existence has changed for the better, only all is not as it seems. Betrayed and faced with family secrets, Anna flees her home. Taking her trusted maid with her, she begins a new life, which is filled with events that will test her strength and self belief.

However, fate sends a man to heal her heart, but will she trust herself to another again? Will the past recede enough for her to see a brighter future?
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Describe a typical writing day for you...

A typical day is checking emails for an hour or so first and then I'll write until the children come home from school at 3:30. I might not be writing all that time on a WIP; I could be editing older work or making notes about a new manuscript.

Do you outline? If so, describe the process. If not, why not?

I don't outline in great detail and I don't do it for every manuscript. It's merely notes scribble din a notepad about the main characters and where they might live, etc.

How do you create your characters?

My character usually create themselves and take me by surprise.

Where is the best place to do research? Can you recommend a few sources?

It depends on the research. For historical research the library is obviously a good place, but I will also use other sources like the local historical society in the area you've set your book and local councils for older town maps. I also like to use diaries written by people of the era I set my books in. Visiting the place in person is a great help too.

What motivates you to keep writing?

What motivates me is when someone says they enjoyed reading my work. It is the best feeling.

How do you create your "story world"? Is there a special "method" newbie writers might be interested in knowing?

I don't have a special method really. I try to immerse myself in that world by reading research material that is relevant to that story. If you 'feel' the story, the place and the characters, your world soon falls into place.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer, and what made you choose this genre?

Catherine Cookson--an English author of historicals and, at her time, contemporaries--started my love of reading historicals and, over time, I realised that I had characters and stories in my head that I needed to write down.

How do you start a story? What's the best way?

I don't know if there is a 'best way' to begin. A lot of writers like to start with something dramatic happening, but each writer has to feel comfortable in what they are doing with their own story. Sometime, after the story is completed a writer may have to go back to the beginning and change a few things.

How do you get through the middle of a story?

Persistence. Every time I open up a WIP to begin writing I re-read the previous day's work and sometimes I find the story will take a different arc to where I was originally going, or sometimes I will change character POV to get a different take on the story. There is no one correct way of doing it. Every writer needs to work out what works for them.

Can characters names turn a reader away from a story? Are they really that important?

I'm big on character names. They have to fit. Nothing annoys me more than reading a historical book that has a modern name in it like Kylie. I'm not keen on names that are hard to pronounce, anything like that draws me away from the story to focus on the name. You never want a reader to leave the story.

And here's an excerpt:

Twin rays of sun streamed through the tall sash windows of Anna's bedroom when she awoke the following morning. In her large, soft bed, she lay thinking of the night before and of the man whose face swam in front of her eyes. Today, she would see him again. She bit her lip to stop a smile from spreading.

Something had happened to her last night. For the first time ever a man had grabbed her attention and held it, no mean feat for anyone. Yet, Matt Cowan had done it with ease and she was glad. Perhaps it was time for her to spread her wings and feel the giddiness of being the centre of attention. Arabella did it all the time and kept a string of beaus hanging on her every word.

Anna frowned. Could she do it? Could she keep Mr. Cowan's interest? She'd had no practise, having spent her adult life shying away from entering the marriage market. Did she have the skills to capture a husband? Did she want one?

Slowly she sat up, deep in thought. A husband? The idea wasn't new, but neither had it been a pressing concern. Secretly she had assumed she'd be content becoming a spinster, riding her horse and being a lovable aunt to her siblings' offspring. She hadn't expected to be swept away by the idea of some romantic hero coming into her life. That was until Mr. Cowan looked at her with his smoky eyes. Mr. Cowan as a husband? The thought gave her a thrill, made her heart thump. Would he be the kind to let her remain herself?

Maisie breezed into the room carrying fresh towels and a jug of warm water. "Good morning, Miss. Did yer enjoy yer evenin'? I didn't want to ask last night with the Mistress feeling so poorly. I hope she's better this mornin'."

Anna threw back the bedcovers and then went into the dressing room. She stripped as Maisie poured warm water into the basin. "It was interesting." She lathered the scented soap on her arms. The aroma of lavender filled the room.

"That's grand." Maisie pulled open the doors of the double wardrobe. "What do yer wish to wear today, Miss?"

Donning a clean chemise, Anna observed her clothes. "My blue riding habit. I met a gentleman last night. He is calling today and we're going riding." Maisie's mouth gaped. "There is no need to look like that, Maisie."

"Eh, I'm sorry, Miss," Maisie mumbled, helping her with the dress. "I'm surprised, that's all."

"Well, to be honest, I am surprised too." Anna grinned. Anticipation bubbled up inside her. If this was the feeling when one went courting, then she could kick herself for waiting so long to begin.

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Thanks for talking with me, Anne. HER SHADOWED HEART is available from Amazon and available to order from all bookstores. Anne is having a giveaway to celebrate this great new release, so leave a comment or question to be entered into a drawing for an ebook copy of Kitty McKenzie, her adored historical fiction saga.

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