Tag: Edwin Hill

Edwin Hill

The Long and the Short of It (Books I Saved to Read in Mexico)

For me, the anticipation of a trip is often as pleasurable as the actual journey. Wherever I go, I always bring books. Choosing them is more important than picking what clothes I will pack. The criteria for which books get saved for a trip is: 1.) Do I need time to relish a particular book written by an author whose releases I eager await? 2.) How many of these tomes can I fit in a suitcase without breaking the travel budget with excess baggage fees? 3) How much can I test the patience of my saintly husband who is still gallant enough to insist on carrying the heavier bags?

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An interview with Edwin Hill

Please join me in welcoming Edwin Hill, author of the twisty and beautifully written debut novel, LITTLE COMFORT (which Publishers Weekly proclaimed “a standout” in its starred review.) Harvard librarian Hester Thursby knows that even in the digital age, people still need help finding things. Using her research skills, Hester runs a side business tracking down the lost. Usually, she’s hired to find long-ago prom dates or to reunite adopted children and birth parents. Her new case is finding the handsome and charismatic Sam Blaine. I was fortunate to be able to ask Edwin some questions, which are below.  Should you want to read Edwin’s book, and I know you will, you can find it at all the usual locations, as well as at the Porter Square bookstore, which is FEATURED in the book. You can also check out his website at https://www.edwin-hill.com/ So, on to the questions:  As a person who stands only 4’11, and that if the wind’s not blowing, I was greatly intrigued by your protagonist, Hester Thursby, who is “a quarter inch into little person territory.” Could you tell us more about her and how the idea for her came to you? One of the benefits of writing a first novel is that you get to spend as much time as you want writing – because absolutely no one is waiting for it! And, honestly, when I first decided to try writing LITTLE COMFORT, I didn’t really know what the plan was or if I’d even finish. Hester evolved through the creative process of thinking (and sometimes bashing) my way through developing a crime novel, which I really didn’t know how to do when I started. The first character who came to me was Sam Blaine, a sort of Tom Ripley-like antihero. I knew I wanted him to be someone who could charm his way into any situation. I drafted a number of chapters, and decided he needed a stronger foil than the one I had developed, and Hester was born. She changed over time, too. She was really just any 36-year-old woman living in the city when I started, then I gave her a home life and set her up in an interesting living situation. Hester started to take shape for me once I figured out that she has her own apartment in a house she shares with her long-time partner, and that she retreats there to watch ‘80s slasher movies. From there, I started to evolve her physical description. A book I’ve always loved is Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride. There is a character in that book called Tony, who is short, like Hester, and one of the things that stood out for me in reading that character was how much Tony had to fight for respect as well-meaning people accidentally dismissed her. I started to imagine what it would be like if Tony had to deal with those same subtleties while fighting crime. I also liked the idea of giving Hester a physical description that would make her really stand out in a crowd. Standing out makes undercover work really challenging! 2.       Part of what makes Hester so appealing is her relationship with Kate, the 3-year-old child who has been abandoned into her care by her best friend, who is also her non-husband’s twin sister. Clearly family—biological and created—is a theme of this book. Could you address that a bit? I put family front and center in everything I write, both the family we are born with and the ones we wind up creating. For Hester, who grew up mostly on her own in a very challenging situation, so much of her life has been about surviving that she struggles with the generosity needed to raise a three-year-old. One of the themes of the novel is choice.Hester has to choose which path she’s going to take with Kate, and what kind of world she’ll create for Kate, and I didn’t want it to be an easy choice for her. Hester is a thirty-six year old woman who has consciously opted out of having children, and doesn’t necessarily want this one. 3.       Your characters are so beautifully drawn, and it’s impossible not to like them, whether they are behaving virtuously or otherwise. Do you have tips for writers hoping to improve their characterization? Oh, thank you. That is really kind of you to say. I guess I start by trying my best to like every character, as a human being. Every person on earth has something good at their core, and I try to remember that when I write, and to make that the focus of the character, rather than their actions. As a writer, when you focus in on that good, it makes the contrast of terrible actions and decisions all the more powerful. 4.       You take us behind the scenes into the exclusive world of the Boston Brahmins. How did you research that? My research around the Brahmins was mostly through reading – there is no more overrepresented group in literature that the rich and privileged! I really like Susan Minot’s books, especially Monkeysand Folly, for example. She does a terrific job of capturing the closeness and claustrophobia of a privileged life. I also went on a garden tour on Beacon Hill to get a glimpse of the interiors of a few houses on Louisburg Square, at the heart of Beacon Hill. I wouldn’t say no to living there! 5.       I’ve read that Agatha Christie influenced you. Which other authors do you enjoy? Like most writers, I read all the time and am influenced by so many different people. Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton definitely defined my childhood reading (along with C.S. Lewis and a few others). I think Laura Lippman creates wonderfully complex stories and rich worlds. One novel that I read regularly (maybe because it’s short!) is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. She is such a craftsman, and is able to move through time so effortlessly in that novel. I like to read it to remind myself what’s possible. 6. I always enjoy “path to publication” stories. How long did it take you to write this and how did you go about getting it published?  My path is not a short one!About twenty years ago, I wrote another novel that didn’t sell, and I wound up getting discouraged and giving up for a while. I also had to focus on some basics – you know, like earning a living! Then, in 2004 or 2005,  I read Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories, and was inspired by the way she mixed genres – mystery and literary – and was able to infuse so much humor into the Jackson Brodie series. She also really tore apart the structure of a “mystery” novel and made it something completely unique, and that left me wanting to go at it again. But I didn’t start right away! I wrote a single page that sat on my computer for about four years.Finally, in 2010 I switched jobs and negotiated a month off. Free time like that doesn’t come around all that often, and I realized I could either travel somewhere or I could give writing another shot, so I spent the month writing, and then spent the next four years continuing to write and revise, and then about a year finding a new agent. My agent sent the novel all around New York, and it was resoundingly rejected everywhere. But I analyzed the rejection letters and was able to determine some trends – basically I had too much story – and revise the novel one more time.And it finally sold.   

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I'm a Writer

 Debut author Edwin Hill’s recent post https://careerauthors.com/how-to-call-yourself-a-writer/ on Career Authors about his 39-year excursion before he could finally say, “I’m a writer” touched me. What writer hasn’t felt trepidation when saying those words for fear she might be challenged. “Really? How dare you say you’re a writer?”             Those three little words, “I’m a writer,” are as terrifying as crossing the line from, “I like you,” to “I love you” in a relationship. Both connote declaration and commitment and put the declarant at risk for rejection. That’s why knowing when you were ready to say to the world, “I’m a writer” is pivotal to being a writer.             When I was a child, I wondered about the people who put the magical words on the books I read over and over, but it didn’t occur to me I could become one of them until I had already joined two other professions. After a contentious term on my local planning board, where I witnessed greed, anger, and exploitation, I decided to purge the toxicity I had experienced by penning my first mystery. I sent Who Killed the Board of Selectmen to five agents and editors in the early nineties. I had a kind letter from editor Michael Seidman, who said it was promising but he wasn’t accepting mysteries at the time. When the other four rejected or ignored me, I put the manuscript in a drawer for the next decade.             But it gnawed at me, this urge to write and tell stories. When my son gave me a special gift for Mother’s Day one year after I had allowed the rotating door at our home to rotate once more, I caught fire. He gave me a catalogue for Kripalu, the world-renowned yoga center in western Massachusetts, which offered weekend programs in various creative areas while doing yoga. Bliss. I chose to attend Nancy Aronie’s Writing from the Heart on the weekend when my birthday occurred. There, I met a woman who lived in a town near me who was starting a writing group. I was on fire.           I wrote three novels over the next several years. But was I a writer yet? I didn’t dare say so. Even when I got my first agent, who shopped one of the books unsuccessfully, I was uncomfortable saying I was a writer. Perhaps it was because I still had a busy law/mediation practice, which seemed more legitimate. I had a license to practice law, but what did I have to show I was a writer?            Even when I began hanging around other writers, I held back. I was an attorney with a creative pastime, writing, not a writer. The truth is I was terrified to fail. I wanted to write more than I ever wanted to be in a courtroom. I felt a kinship with my fellow writers I never experienced with my legal colleagues.            What did I have to do to be able to call myself a writer? I think I had to have some external sign that I was a competent writer. When I brought down the house the year I attended a Book Passage conference after reading a humorous contest entry I’d written, I felt a little bit like a writer.            When I was a finalist, not once, but three times in St. Martin’s Malice Domestic contest, I was encourage to believe I was a writer. But being a runner-up three times conversely made me wonder, was I good enough to call myself a writer?            While on vacation in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, my husband bought license plates for me in the National Park Store that said “Writer.” I almost made him put them back. They sat on my desk for the next several years, partly as inspiration for No Virgin Island. Now, was I a writer?            Getting the right agent made me feel like I was on the road to being a writer. The day I signed my first publishing contract for No Virgin Island, I knew I was a writer. I had a contract that said so. But did I feel like a writer?              When readers began telling me what they thought about No Virgin Island, how bonded they felt with Sabrina, how they loved Neil Perry, I realized people were actually reading the words I had written.            That’s when I knew I could say without equivocation, “I’m a writer.”I felt like a writer.            Thanks to Edwin Hill for the inspiration for this blog and the question of the week tomorrow to my fellow Miss Demeanors. Edwin’s book, Little Comfort comes out August 28, 2018             

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