Welcome to another edition of Spotlight Saturday at Darlene's Book Nook, where we feature authors and their books!
We will be joined today by Canadian author, Genevieve Graham.
Genevieve Graham graduated from the University of Toronto in 1986 with a Bachelor of Music in Performance (playing the oboe). While on a ski vacation in Alberta, she met her future husband in a chairlift lineup and subsequently moved to Calgary to be with him. They have recently settled in a small, peaceful town in Nova Scotia with their two beautiful daughters. Writing became an essential part of Genevieve’s life a few years ago, when she began to write her debut novel, Under the Same Sky.
Welcome to Darlene's Book Nook, Genevieve! Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a happy hermit. When we moved from Calgary to Nova Scotia, we moved far enough away from Halifax that I could easily seclude myself and not feel motivated to go out to Starbucks or whatever. I get way more creative when I’m on my own. And I suck at crowds, which is ironic. My degree from the University of Toronto is Music Performance. Within an orchestra I could play anything, but put me in front of a group and ask me to speak? I’m a nervous wreck.
Do you have a specific writing style? Do you write an outline, or do you write more “by-the-seat-of-your-pants”?
I’m a Pantzer. I find the whole writing process incredible because I feel I have little say over what happens. In fact, when I try to tell my characters where to go or what to do or say, I’m often faced by rebellion. I remember sensing two characters at one point, two men I’d never imagined before, and they wanted into the scene. I had no idea who they were, so I said no … and couldn’t write for 2 days. As soon as I wrote them in, well, the story continued.
Do you discipline yourself to write a certain number of words daily? Or do you ever have dry periods where you do not write?
I wish I had ANY kind of discipline, but I don’t. I write whenever I can; however, I also have an editing business which keeps me busy. It’s really important for authors to write daily, even if it’s just five minutes. Sometimes editing turns into a kind of writing in itself, and it can take over. I long to get back to my own books! Dry periods? Not really. If I can write, I’ll gladly disappear into the keyboard and come up with something. I have dozens of stories that have started up when there isn’t a major one in the process of being written.
What is your ideal writing environment? Do you prefer music or solitude? Is there a time of day (or night) that you prefer?
I need quiet: no talking or music, so my hubby built me my own sheltered little office. Sadly, it can’t keep me off Facebook and YouTube, my favourite distractions, but I try to avoid them. Again, discipline isn’t my strongest suit. I write best at night, but I don’t often get that opportunity, because that’s when my family wants/needs me the most.
Are there any authors that influence your writing?
Diana Gabaldon. I absolutely adore the way she writes. I also love the work of Sara Donati, Penelope Williamson, Jennifer Roberson, Kaki Warner, and Joanna Bourne. I love authors who write what I call “intelligent adventure”.
You mention in your bio that you never planned to be a writer. What circumstances took place to lead to your first book being published on January 3, 2012?
I’d finished reading the “Outlander” series about four times, then felt kind of lonely, so I decided to write my own. I’d never written anything until then, which was about six years ago. I wrote my book (which was about twice its final length!), then joined Scribophile.com and let some other authors pick it apart. I learned so much from them! I spent a couple of years learning, editing, polishing, then started querying agents. I went on Authonomy.com after that, letting other authors read and critique, and Gemi Sasson, a generous soul, sent me to her wonderful literary agent, Jacques de Spoelberch. Jacques is thorough, detail-oriented, but also a visionary and a terrific editor. He and I changed my ending a couple of times, then he presented the book to Berkley. They made an offer within 48 hours, with the caveat that I write a companion novel as well!
Some authors try for many years to get picked up by a publisher, and you managed to do it with your first book! Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The most important thing is to concentrate on the book, not the future of the book. I never imagined publishing, but I wanted Under the Same Sky to be the best it could be. I wanted to completely swallow up the reader. My advice would be to make your book something that moves you. I’ve read lots of well-written (unpublished) books, but there’s something missing, that certain something that grabs a reader’s heart and squeezes. Get into your characters’ heads, yes, but most of all get into their hearts. No one will publish a book that lacks heart.
Where did you come up with the idea for Under the Same Sky?
I learned about the Jacobite period and the wild existence of the Scottish Highlanders from Diana Gabaldon’s books, and wanted to not only write about it, but to become a part of it! But I didn’t see Maggie as a Scot. She was American. Andrew was as Scottish as a guy could get, but they were absolutely meant to be. I sensed that they’d always, impossibly, been together, and it wasn’t until Maggie showed me she could see into the future that I realized they’d been communicating through dreams forever.
Are any of the characters based on someone you know?
No, though I’d love to meet them. Andrew especially.
I see that your next book is entitled Sound of the Heart. Can you tell us a little about it, and any other current or upcoming writing projects?
Sound of the Heart, which will be on sale May 1, 2012, is a companion novel, not a “part 2” or anything, which means it’s a completely separate story but running along the same time period. In fact, Sound of the Heart focuses on Andrew’s brother, Dougal, who Andrew had assumed dead after Culloden. While Andrew has the gift of communicating with Maggie through dreams, Dougal has his own gifts. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but Dougal falls in love with a wonderful girl, Glenna. He has to go against his own beliefs and risk his life, hoping for the slim possibility that he might find and rescue her when she is taken by the English.
I am hoping Penguin will publish my third story in the series, Out of the Shadows, which features Maggie’s sister, Adelaide. More emphasis on the Cherokee in that book, and I introduce a sexy early cowboy who is stubborn but smitten.
I have also been working on a WWI story called Tides of Honour, which follows Danny Ferguson, a young Nova Scotian lobsterman who survives WWI, where he meets his future wife. The couple goes through a lot of tragedy, and their love is tested many times. Danny eventually survives the Halifax Explosion, an almost forgotten event in Canadian history, but cannot find his love amongst the rubble. The Halifax Explosion was the largest manmade explosion before Hiroshima.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I’m constantly at one keyboard or another, since I’m really busy with my editing business. I also teach piano to kids in our little town, so that’s my other keyboard! When my fingers and brain screech to a halt, I have to admit that I like to do just about nothing. Hang out with my husband and kids, watching our silly pet chickens, playing with the dog, going for walks in the woods or along the c-c-c-cold Atlantic beach.
What book(s) are you reading now?
I’m reading The Help (Kathryn Stockett), Lord & Spymaster (Joanna Bourne), and am about to crack open The Comrades (Lynne Sears Williams), then FINALLY The Scottish Prisoner (Diana Gabaldon).
Do you have any specific last thoughts that you want to say to your readers?
Just that I never imagined such an incredible honour as this. If I one day see my book being read in a doctor’s waiting room or a bus, if it’s ever in a used book store, that will be absolutely magical for me. I welcome everyone to this journey, traveling with Andrew and Maggie, and hope the experience leaves you wanting more!
Favourite music? Classical - I’m a lover of the big symphonic composers: Mahler, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky.
Dog-lover or cat-lover? Dog. I’m allergic to cats. But my 15 lb “Chinese Crested Powderpuff” often acts like a cat, so what does that say?
Vanilla ice cream or chocolate? Vanilla, but if you have any Haagen Dazs Coffee, I’ll take that.
If you could meet anyone in the world, alive or dead, who would it be and why? Darn. You didn’t say it could be someone fictional. I know this isn’t what you’re asking, but the one person I’d like to meet up with right now is my dad, who passed away in 1996.
I can't live without my... Family. And on a more practical level, my keyboard(s).
The craziest thing I ever did was... Jam my entire life into my little hatchback and drive from Toronto to Calgary so I could marry a man I’d only met a few times. That was twenty years ago, and I still can’t live without him!
If I could take an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, I would go to... Scotland. It’s a need I’ve had for a very long time. I want to wait until our kids are grown up, then my husband and I will spend a month or so just soaking in the vibes of the Highlands.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Genevieve! It was a lot of fun getting to know you better!!
Genevieve will be at Stitch - Read - Cook on January 23rd if you would like to follow her on her tour!
One lucky winner will receive a paperback copy of Under the Same Sky.
This giveaway is limited to entrants from Canada/US at the author's request.
The year is 1746. A young woman from South Carolina and a Scottish Highlander share an intimacy and devotion beyond their understanding. They've known each other their entire lives. And yet they have never met...
Maggie Johnson has been gifted with "the Sight" ever since she was a child. Her dreams bring her visions of the future, and of a presence she knows is real. She calls him Wolf, and has seen him grow alongside her from a careless young boy into a fearsome warrior. And when her life is torn asunder by unspeakable tragedy, he is her only hope.
Andrew MacDonnell is entranced by the vision of a beautiful woman who has always dwelt in his dreams. When war ravages his land and all he has ever known, he leaves the Scottish Highlands on a perilous journey to the New World to find her, knowing that their only chance of survival is with one another...
Their quest to find each other across a treacherous wilderness will test the limits of courage and endurance, guided only by their dreams - and by the belief in the true love they share...
To enter the giveaway, please complete the Rafflecopter entry form below.
This giveaway is open to Canada/US entrants only, and it will close at 12:01 AM EST on Saturday, January 28th.