Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
Even as a child, I wrote "novels" (mostly never finished) just for fun, but as an adult, academic writing sort of took over my bandwidth.
What makes writing your passion?
It's a great balance of discipline/effort with imagination. I love searching for the right word and trying to bring to life my scenes and characters with description.
How long have you been writing?
Professionally, since I retired from teaching five years ago.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Thank God, that's done! Now for the rest of them.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
Often they are real historical characters about whom we know nearly nothing as people. I try to show actual historical events through the eyes of different people and different classes of people.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Having to do the publicity!
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
It's not a problem I often have because I'm basing my books on real events. But I find I can usually write separate scenes even if I don't know how to keep the story flowing consecutively. Scenes of conflict and confrontation are fun to write, then I stitch them together and that gets my juices flowing.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
Don't give up. There's so much to discourage a person: endless querying, bad reviews, the difficulty of letting people know you're out there. Just keep writing. That's a success in itself. And keep perfecting your art. Let experience and disappointment improve you as a writer.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Don't be afraid to plunge into life. I used to "novelize" experiences a lot, working out language in my head to describe things as they happened. But it's better to give in to the emotional content of life--this is your raw material--and save the verbalizing for later.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
I do read them. The bad ones are sometimes more useful than the good ones. If a lot of people find a book slow, for instance, there's probably some truth to that. Next time I'll know better.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
I'm glad I've connected with someone, brought the past to life for them in a meaningful way.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Not real external events, but emotional experiences, yes.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
None of my characters are based on me or any other real person, but I suppose there's a little bit of me and other people in each one (even my cats!). I hate to say it, but I see more of myself in the disagreeable protagonist of The Singer and Her Song than anywhere else.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
Absolutely. I've often bought a book on the appeal of its cover.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I prefer to express myself through my writing, but I certainly don't object to chatting with fans. My real limitation is my paltry skill at social media.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
It's very gratifying, of course. Since I write under a pseudonym, I can kind of divorce myself from "her" and accept praise with less embarrassment than otherwise.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
I love the nineteenth-century Realists, and modern "slow" writers like Robinson, Erdrich and Strout. I've just discovered Tana French, who knocks my socks off with the beauty of her writing.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
No interest in being big. As long as I make enough to pay for advertising, I'm content.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
The one I would and am rewriting has ever been published. I never got a handle on my characters, and so the plot went astray.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
I have no idea what anyone is going through, so it would be foolish to slip inside anybody else's skin. I'll stay where I am.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
Get a life.
What would you say to your readers?
I hope these books have made the past seem a more human place than before. For all their different languages, clothes, worldviews, their emotions were just like ours.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I split my time between Florida and northern France. I'm married and have a grown son.
What is your day job if you have one?
No longer, but I have been a cloistered nun, an artist, an antiques dealer, an executive secretary for an educational foundation, and an archaeologist.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I like to weave, play the violin, dance, drive a jog cart, and most of all, to garden.
Did you have a happy childhood?
Certainly no major traumas. I guess any kid who is interior and word-oriented is going to have suspicions that she's from another planet.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
It was actually an assignment I gave to my students: here are the few paltry documents we have about a certain historical event--now try to describe what actually happened. I got back so many interpretations that it was clear there was plenty of room for a fiction writer to fill in the gaps between facts.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
Yes. One coming out soon is about a king torn by unease over his illegitimacy on the throne and the desire to put aside everything that might not please the gods, at any cost to himself and those who love him. Another is still with the editors. It's number five in a series of mysteries set in Egypt.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
I find they have a poor grasp of the English language and no concept of grammar (with exceptions, of course). And the diminished attention span which is common to most moderns, regardless of age. Get them off the computers occasionally, please.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
Peace, health and prosperity for the whole world. We could do it if we really tried.
What is your favorite music?
I like classical music, mostly. Some vintage rock (REM, Eagles). Jazz when I'm in the mood. World music.
Share a secret with us 🙂
No fair: it wouldn't be a secret! I can't think of one, anyway.