Hello once again to the talented and lovely Beatriz Williams, who took time out from a crazy pre-launch week schedule to come visit us here on the News page.
Below, you can read about what drew her to World War I, her advice to aspiring writers, and– er, how did Bing Crosby get in there?
(1) What sparked your interest in World War I?
A hot dead guy, basically! I was taking a college course in turn-of-the-century Europe (that would be turn of the TWENTIETH century, for the more youthful among you) and the course really captured my imagination: all that social and technological and artistic change, exploding like so much tinder in the Armageddon that was the First World War. Halfway through the course, we read Vera Brittain’s classic war memoir Testament of Youth, in which an ambitious young British woman falls in love with this brilliant young man — your classic Edwardian overachiever — who’s shot in the stomach by a sniper in December 1915. I absolutely fell in love with Roland Leighton, and the book devastated me. I even went twice to visit his grave in northern France. (Obsessed, much?) Ever since, I’ve gobbled up every book I could find on the subject, trying to understand the world that existed before the Great War and the world that emerged in its aftermath.
(2) Like Gabaldon’s “Outlander”, “Overseas” is very hard to pin down as belonging to any particular genre. How would you categorize it?
Well, I certainly didn’t set out to write a time travel novel — historical fiction is more my territory. I just had this vision out of the blue, a First World War infantry officer walking the streets of contemporary Manhattan, and the story unfolded from there. Kate, my modern career-focused heroine, falls in love with Julian, a man firmly rooted in the great romantic tradition of prewar England — the Downton Abbey world — and they’re both forced to follow the other across time and to face the ultimate sacrifice for each other. I hope it appeals across genres, from historical fiction to romance to (for lack of a better term) chick lit. Can we just call it a love story?
(3) What is your writing routine like?
Routine! (*laughs hollowly*) To paraphrase the old saying, I make plans and my four young children laugh. But here’s what’s working for me now: I take a story idea and let it marinate for a few months, usually while I’m trying to work on something else, until the scenes start writing themselves in my head. Then I sit down and draft it all in six mad, insomniac, caffeine-fueled weeks, following by a few more weeks of editing and general physical collapse. My youngest is in preschool now, so things have gotten a bit easier. I drop her off and head straight for the coffee shop, and the first thing I do there is turn off the WiFi on my computer!
(4) Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Be persistent. It’s so easy in the age of self-publishing to think that anyone can write a book, and that’s true, technically, just like anyone can play baseball. But if you want to do it well (and trust me, I’m still learning, every day) you have to practice, practice, practice and read, read, read. Every day.
(5) What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished my latest book, which untangles a passionate and complicated love affair in an exclusive Rhode Island beach community during the summer before the great New England hurricane of 1938. It’s like A Perfect Storm meets High Society, but without Bing Crosby dancing around the library with Frank Sinatra. (Sorry, I just couldn’t make that work.)
In the meantime, there’s a copy up for grabs for one very lucky person! One person will be chosen at random from among those who comment to receive an early copy of Overseas , hot off the presses.
For a copy of Overseas … what’s your favorite time travel novel?