Author Interview: Emily-Jane Hills Orford
Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?
I have always loved writing. I grew up in a family of storytellers. We would sit around the dinner table sharing our stories. Being the youngest, I didn’t have much chance to share my stories, so, as soon as I could write, I wrote my stories. I particularly enjoy writing stories about real people, real life and started my writing career in the late 1970s writing for small publications, telling people’s stories and writing about interesting places. I still enjoy writing these types of stories, but my passion for fiction insists that I write novels as well.
What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction?
There were a lot of things that spurred me to write “Queen Mary’s Daughter”. My grandmother and I had a special relationship and, when I was old enough, we traveled together a lot. One special trip took us to Scotland where we traced her childhood memories (she was born in Scotland) as well as followed the trail of Mary Queen of Scots. We had been enjoying a number of novels and biographies about the ill-fated queen and my grandmother ignited my interest by telling me about ancestors who helped in her escape from Loch Leven Castle. I always wanted to write about Queen Mary, but it wasn’t until the Brexit debacle and the ongoing desire of the Scottish people to separate from England, that I started looking more closely at the stories around Queen Mary. I knew she had given birth, prematurely, to twins while imprisoned at Loch Leven. History records that the babies died at birth and were buried on the island where the castle sat. An interesting footnote states that the location of the burial and the babies’ remains have never been found. So, I started thinking, ‘what if?’. What if there had been another heir to the Scottish throne and Scotland never did amalgamate with England and Ireland? And my story unfolded.
What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books?
It is all interesting. I think the clincher was the footnote that suggested that Queen Mary’s dead twin babies were never found.
Where do you go to do your research?
I read a lot of books: history, biography, fiction. I also use the internet. Who wouldn’t in this day and age. It’s quick, easily accessible, and more current. But one has to be careful what sites to believe. There’s a lot of garbage and falsehoods on the internet, along with all the good stuff.
How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story? Is the process the same for every book you write? How long does it take you to write a book?
I have a loosely woven plot and an idea where the story will go. Mostly, I like to dive right into the writing process, creating a skeleton story that will evolve more deeply as I re-work it through multiple edits – well before it goes to a real editor.
Are you currently working on any new book projects?
I have two novels in the works:
The third book in a Middle Grade novel series, “The Piccadilly Street Stories”. This is a collection of fantasy adventures loosely based on some of my childhood experiences growing up in the house, a grand old Victorian mansion, that is the setting of the novels.
The fifth book in my adult fiction series, “The Four Seasons”, a musical adventure where classical musicians with valuable instruments meet with mystery and danger as their careers develop.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write a book?
Believe in yourself and just write. Ignore the critics and the publishers who don’t appreciate your writing and remember that just because one person rejects or trashes your work, it doesn’t mean it’s not good enough. As readers, we don’t like everything we read, so why should everyone like what we write?
Do you have any advice for them regarding promoting that book once published?
Use every venue at your disposal, especially the internet/social media. And don’t give up. I like to tell my writing students, young and old, that we writers today are the ambassadors of good literature for future generations. It’s a struggle to get recognized, but well worth the effort.
What’s your writing schedule like? When do you find time to write?
I set aside a few hours first thing in the morning – every morning. That’s my best writing time. I make sure I write before I do anything else, otherwise procrastination gets the better of me, as it does with everyone else. I usually take a break later in the morning to work on other creative, and not-so-creative, projects, returning to my writing mid-afternoon and then again in the evening. I don’t watch much if any television. Why bother? There’s nothing on. I read a lot and I write book reviews which I believe is a great way not only to promote myself as a writer, but also to study other writing styles and see what’s new on the market. There are a lot of fantastic writers out there that are sadly undervalued and unrecognized.
I always carry a notebook with me, so that I’m not wasting time waiting in a doctor’s office or sitting on the bus. Ideas come to me at the oddest moments, part of my growing-up experiences of long, hot family car vacations where we were all crammed into the backseat and we had to sit quietly until we reached our destination. My ability to create stories in my head during these long trips were my saving grace and this talent continues to entertain me and help me pass otherwise wasted waiting times.
How did you find your publisher? What was your journey to publication like?
I have worked with several different publishers, some good, some not-so-good, some just interested in how much money they could squeeze from me. I had one particularly bad experience, so I’m trying to be more careful, especially with all the smaller, independent publishers popping up here and there. I had the privilege of reviewing several books published by Clean Reads and I thought I’d take a closer look at this publisher. My books have always been ‘clean’. In fact, when my first novel, “Spring”, was published, my readers frequently commented on how nice it was to read a ‘clean’ story for a change. So far, I am quite impressed with Clean Reads. I had an excellent group of editors who really put me through my paces and I think my book is so much better thanks to all their help. The book cover design, by Cora Graphics, is spectacular. And the way in which all the Clean Read authors help each other is amazing. It’s like being a part of a family, a publishing family. I love it.
About the Book
There are so many possibilities that affect the course of history. One change, one small item overlooked, can make a world of difference, not only in a person's life, but in the history and well-being of an entire nation. And then there are those multiple scenarios of what if? What if King James VI of Scotland didn't succeed in amalgamating Scotland with England? What if there had been another heir to the throne of Scotland? One who would secure its independence? Would Scotland have remained free and independent and a nation of its own well into the twenty-first century? And would Scotland, this independent version, make its own decision to join the European Union when its southern neighbor was choosing to pull away?
"Queen Mary's Daughter" presents another plausible timeline, one that incorporates both historical fact and fiction with the endless possibilities of time travel.
About the Author
Emily-Jane Hills Orford is an award-winning author of several books, including Gerlinda (CFA 2016) which received an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, To Be a Duke (CFA 2014) which was named Finalist and Silver Medalist in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and received an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. She writes about the extra-ordinary in life and her books, short stories, and articles are receiving considerable attention.
A special thank you to Emily-Jane Hills Orford for being interviewed today at Pandora's Box Gazette on the release day for her book, Queen Mary's Daughter. Check back soon as our book reviewer, Miguelina Perez will have a review posted of the book.
Don't forget to save the date of Saturday, March 24th which is our online party here at the magazine. We'll be hosting a chat in the forum, sharing interviews with our monthly columnists, and giving away prizes in our drawing. We hope you stop by to join the party!