Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Interview with Hazel Gaynor + A Memory of Violets review

A Memory of Violets:
A Novel of London’s Flower Sellers
By: Hazel Gaynor
Releasing February 3rd, 2015
William Morrow

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Hazel Gaynor comes a beautiful historical novel about Tilly Harper, a young woman who finds the diary of an orphaned flower seller who was separated from her sister in Victorian England, and her journey to learn the fate of the long lost sisters. Gaynor’s research into the events that inspire her novels is outstanding, and the world of the Victorian flower sellers on the streets of London in the late 1800s is utterly fascinating.

In 1912, twenty-one-year-old Tilly Harper leaves her sheltered home in the Lake District for a position as assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls in London. Orphaned and crippled girls wander the twisted streets with posies of violets and cress to sell to the passing ladies and gentleman, and the Flower Homes provide a place for them to improve their lives of hardship.

When Tilly arrives at Mr. Shaw’s safe haven, she discovers a diary that tells the story of Florrie, a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after being separated from her sister Rosie. Tilly makes it her mission to find out what happened to young Rosie, and in the process learns about the workings of her own heart.

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | IndieBound

Author Info

Hazel Gaynor’s 2014 debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME – A Novel of the Titanic was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. A MEMORY OF VIOLETS is her second novel. 

Hazel writes a popular guest blog ‘Carry on Writing’ for national Irish writing website writing.ie and contributes regular feature articles for the site, interviewing authors such as Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed, Rachel Joyce and Jo Baker, among others. 

Hazel was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers and was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. She appeared as a guest speaker at the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Novel Society annual conferences in 2014.  

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.  

For more information, visit Hazel’s website at http://www.hazelgaynor.com/ or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/hazelgaynorbooks or follow her on Twitter @HazelGaynor 

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review rating: 4 LIGHTNING BOLTS

Review: The Memory Of Violets intrigued me from the first time I read the blurb. I don't read a lot of historical stories, but this one called my attention and in the end run, I'm glad I had a chance to read it. The writing is lovely, and the mystery really pulled me in.  The settings were painted masterfully, giving me as the reader a good vision of scenery.  I was totally invested in the storyline, wondering how the mystery was going to play out.  I haven't read a story from this author before this one, but I'm on the hunt now! 

Inside the box was a small leather-bound notebook, its tan cover creased and worn with age. There was also a wooden clothes peg, a black button, a doll made of rags and a postcard bearing a faded photograph of a group of young girls clustered around a display of flowers. The label at the bottom read, shaw’s homes for watercress and flower girls, 1883. Tilly lifted each item out of the box, wondering who they had belonged to. On the back of the postcard, someone had written, “December 1884. You will find her. I know you will. Happy Christmas. Lily B. x” At the bottom of the box was a delicate lace handkerchief, stained and spoiled a little with age. Lifting it up to the light of the window, she saw the faint outline of shamrocks stitched into one corner. Her thoughts flashed back to the train. To Mrs. Ingram.
Walking over to the bed, Tilly spread the dusty items across the counterpane. It was a strange assortment of things. Why would somebody keep a peg – and a single button? But she was most interested in the leather-bound notebook. Opening it carefully, she read the inscription on the inside cover.
For Little Sister.
All flowers are beautiful, but some are more beautiful than others.
I will never stop looking for you.
Flora Flynn

Tilly carefully turned the fragile faded pages, intrigued by the neat handwriting. The paper smelled musty and crackled as she turned more pages, the same, careful writing filling each one. As she turned a page toward the middle of the book, something fell into her lap. A flower. A pale yellow primrose, dry as an autumn leaf and paper-thin. She thought of her flower press at home, of all the beautiful wildflowers she had carefully placed between the layers of blotting paper: buttercups, harebells, bell heather, wild daffodils, summer snowflakes, bluebells, foxgloves, and marsh orchids. She remembered collecting them, each and every one.
Turning the notebook upside down, she shook it gently, sending several more flowers tumbling from their hiding place between the pages: purple hyacinth, pink carnations, primroses and pansies, each fluttering gracefully into her lap, like butterflies released from a display case. She picked up each flower, running her fingers lightly over their delicate forms. She held a primrose toward the window, rubbing the stem between her thumb and forefinger so that it twisted back and forth, catching the light. It was almost translucent. She gazed at the skeletal structure of the leaf, every vein and cell of the petals. It was such a beautiful, fragile little thing. Looking back through the book, she saw that on each page from where the flowers had fallen, was the faintest of imprints; a shadow of each flower’s image left permanently on the paper. Like a distant echo, the images spoke to her, whispering secrets of a forgotten past. Whose hand had placed the flowers here? Who had written these pages and pages of words?
As the surroundings of her new home faded into the background, Tilly settled herself against the pillow, turned back to the first page of the book and started to read.

And now, stay tuned for an interview with the author! These are always a fun way to get to know a writer :)

tell me about yourself, and your writing.
I am a writer and a mum of two boys, aged 7 and 9. I grew up in Yorkshire, England, but moved to Ireland in 2002 after meeting my (now) husband. My debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME was published in 2014 and A MEMORY OF VIOLETS is my second novel.

How long have you been writing? How many published books do you have, and what genres?
I started writing in 2009 after redundancy, initially writing a parenting blog which led to freelancing and I finally found the courage to tackle a novel in early 2010. The first novel I submitted to publishers in 2011 was rejected and after encouragement from family and friends, I took the decision to self publish in 2012. I’m so glad I did because the success of that book, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, led to a publishing contract with William Morrow/HarperCollins. They republished THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME in 2014 and it went on to become a New York Times best seller. Proof that you should never give up!

Do you write in multiple genres or just one? If just one, do you ever consider straying outside your genre?
At the moment, I write historical fiction. I’d love to write children’s books in the future.

Are you a plotter or do you write from the seat of your pants?
I’m not a writer who plots and plans. I tend to start with an initial idea, tonnes of research books and notes, and take it from there. I usually don’t know how things will pan out or where the novel will end, so that can get a little unnerving at times!

What is a typical writing day like for you?
I write while the boys are at school, between 9am and 2pm. When I’m writing the first draft, I aim for 2000 words a day. Sometimes I write many more words and other days, less so. My ‘routine’ is that I juggle my writing around family commitments. Occasionally, I take myself off to a local coffee shop for a change of scenery

Who do you love to read? Favorite authors, favorite books?
I have so many favourite authors. In recent years, I’ve loved everything written by Rose Tremain (Restoration and Merivel especially). In terms of the classics, I love the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen and Dickens. I recently re-read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and fell in love with it all over again. The characters of Pip, Estella and Miss Havisham are just brilliant. Last year, I loved Jessie Burton’s debut, The Miniaturist and I also loved Jennifer Robson’s novels Somewhere in France and After the War is Over. Irish author, Nuala O’Connor, has a fabulous novel coming out later in 2015 called Miss Emily. It is wonderful and will definitely be a big hit.

What is something you'd like to accomplish in your writing career next year?
I would love to have some foreign translations of my novels. THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME is scheduled for publication in Hungarian in 2016 which is really exciting. It would be lovely to see my books in other languages too.

If you could have one paranormal ability, what would it be?
I’d love to be invisible so I can see what my kids really get up to when I’m not looking.

If you could keep a mythical/ paranormal creature as a pet, what would you have?
I’d love to have a tame pet dragon. I think that would make me the coolest mum in the world.

Tell us a little about your latest release.
Inspired by true events, A MEMORY OF VIOLETS is a historical novel a young woman who finds the diary of an orphaned flower seller who was separated from her sister in Victorian England, and her journey to learn the fate of the long lost sisters. It is a novel about family bonds, especially the unique relationship between sisters, and with a touch of the paranormal and an intriguing mystery at its core, I hope there is something for many readers to enjoy.

What is something that you absolutely can't live without? (Other than family members)
At the moment, my laptop. I don’t know how anyone writes a book longhand!

Could you ever co author a book with someone? If so, who would you choose, and what would you write?
I’d love to co-author a book with my niece. She’s a really talented young writer. I would be great to work on something today someday. She’s really into the paranormal, so I suspect it would be something in that genre.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, dead or alive, who would it be, and what would you do? What would you ask them?
I’d love to spend a day with the ‘unsinkable’ Molly Brown, who survived the Titanic. I’d like to have afternoon tea at the Savoy Hotel in London and I would ask her all about that that night and what it was really like to be on that ship.

What are some of your other hobbies outside of writing?
I love walking in the Wicklow mountains near our home and I love cooking for friends.

What is something you've always wanted to do, but haven't done yet. Why not?
I’ve always wanted to travel to Scandinavia to see the northern lights and would also love to stay in one of the amazing ice hotels they construct from ice blocks every year. Time and money are the usual constraints. Maybe 2015 will be the year?

If you were on the staff to have a book adapted to movie, what would you pick?
I’d love to see the movie of a booked called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It’s such a wonderful book and would make a fabulous movie.

What is a talent you wish you had, but don't?
I wish I could dance. I love a TV programme here called Strictly Come Dancing (I think it is called Dancing with the Stars in the US). I’d love to be able to dance the Charleston and the Quickstep and dress up in those beautiful old-fashioned dresses.

Favorite color?

Weather: Hot or cold?
Cold. I love getting all wrapped up and cosy.

Favorite place to read?
In bed.

Favorite meal
Thai green chicken curry.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink.
Apple and elderflower juice. So refreshing.

If you could travel anywhere and do anything, no limits or money holding you back, where would you go?
Space. Just for a quick look at our small blue planet.

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