Hello, and welcome Emily-Jane.
It is so very nice to meet you! Tell us a bit about you where are you from and other than writing what else do you enjoy?
I live in the country just outside of Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. I have lived all across Canada, literally from coast to coast to coast and in between. I love people and writing about people, writing their stories. I enjoy reading, writing, needlework, composing music, playing the piano and working on my art. I also enjoy daily walks with my dog, along our quiet country road – lots of good writing material has been inspired by these walks.
How did you start writing? What was your inspiration to create?
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 found myself listening more than sharing 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.
My creative inspiration? My grandmother was a wonderful storyteller, and she had a passion for reading, too, which she shared with me. My mother was very creative in writing, photography, needle art, art and she encouraged me in all my creative ventures, often teaching me along the way. My father, an engineer, was the practical influence, but latterly he took up writing as well and encouraged me with mine. We helped each other: Dad would edit my work and I edited his, until he passed away.
Who is your favorite author, is there anyone out there that inspires you?
I really don’t think I can say that there is one favourite author. I have a lot of favourites and I’m very eclectic in the genres I choose to read. I love the classics: the Bronté sisters and Jane Austen. I enjoy art historical novels of Susan Vreeland, the royal historical novels of Sharon Kay Penman and the realistic novels of Tracy Chevalier. There are many relatively obscure authors, less known authors, who I enjoy immensely, including the British author from the mid-twentieth century, P.G. Wodehouse and R.F. Delderfield. And, of course, I enjoy a good mystery and then: Anne Perry (I love her power of description), John Grisham, Kathy Reichs, Kate Carlisle, and many others. And I don’t mind a little bit of humor mixed in with drama for a lighter read, like David Rosenfelt. As you can see, I’m a very eclectic reader. I read for pleasure, but I also read to learn more about my writing craft. Reading enhances my writing as well as my life. A day without reading, for me, is like a day without sunshine.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Publishing my first book gave me purpose and direction. I finally started to believe in myself as a writer. For years, I had been writing short pieces, articles. At social functions, I would describe myself a writer only to be asked how many books I had published. With the publication of my first book, I finally had a number to answer that question.
If you’ve published a series, what is the series about?
My first four novels (and a fifth is in the works): “Spring”, “Summer”, “Autumn” and “Winter”, part of my “The Four Seasons” series, take Vivaldi’s music by the same name and weaves a story around four different classical musicians who own valuable instruments with a mystery attached to them. My father described these novels as a cross between Catherine Cookson and Agatha Christie (my parents were great at providing the positive flattery we all crave).
What was it like creating back to back stories that link?
Confusing. I had to keep charts of all the who’s who from previous books and the timeline so things didn’t get mixed up. I prefer writing one stand-alone novel. I always believe that a good novel should have a solid resolution, not a suggestion of more to come. Even in my series, I made sure that each book could stand alone. Not all readers enjoy reading a series.
Have you ever thought about writing in a different genre? If you could, what genre would you like to dabble in?
Oh! I have written in several genres. I started writing (and still do write) creative nonfiction, stories about real people. I enjoy making real people come alive for my readers. I wrote “The Four Seasons” series because I wanted to create a series of novels that featured a classical musician as the main character. As a retired music teacher, I knew that my knowledge of music would be evident. My most recent novel, “Queen Mary’s Daughter”, is historical fiction/fantasy, a completely new genre for me.
There were a lot of things that spurs 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.
And, I’m currently working on a Middle-Grade fantasy series, in some ways completely different from anything else I’ve written so far, but in other ways very similar as I’m creating a plot based on some things that happened to me as a child.
As a writer, I’m always changing and trying new things. I’m eclectic in my reading preferences as well as in the genres I write.
What three tips would you give any aspiring writer?
I don’t know if I have three specific tips, but this is what I tell my aspiring writing students, young and old:
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?
So… where can we get your books?
“Queen Mary’s Daughter” ebook available at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079DMRRR8
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
A bit of both. We have to believe in ourselves to succeed as writers, and, in a sense, that’s our ego. But ego can be damaging. I remember one book fair I attended where another author greeted people at the door and lead them to HIS table, talk about HIS books and how wonderful HIS stories were, to the point where the potential customer fled the fair as soon as possible without taking the time to meet any of the other authors. This author sold HIS books, but did nothing to encourage or promote any of the other authors present. I have always believed that authors should help and support other authors and that, by doing so, we are helping ourselves as well. I do believe this particular author did himself more damage then good by being so pompous and full of himself.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
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.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Yes. Good and bad, it’s all part of the game. Sometimes the bad reviews attract more attention than the good ones. I keep reminding myself that I don’t like everything I read, so I can’t expect everyone else to like everything I write. Sometimes the reviews encourage me; sometimes they point out ways to improve my writing craft. It’s all about learning and improving and being the best writer I can be.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have quite a few writer friends. Some of them I’ve never met in person, but we chat regularly on social media, share ideas, reviews and support each other’s writing. Fiona Ingram (http://fionaingram.com/), award-winning author of “The Chronicles of the Stone” series, has been very helpful and supportive. We’ve never met in person; she lives half a world away. But we have a lot in common.
Queen Mary’s Daughter
Emily-Jane Hills Orford
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.
Warnings: None. This is a Clean Reads book.
As the wind picked up, blowing her deep red, unruly curls helter-skelter over her face, Mary Elizabeth’s eyes focused on her hands. She stretched out the left hand, revealing the old ring that sat on her baby finger. It was a tiny ring and it only fit on the one finger. At the same time Gran bestowed the heirloom gift on her granddaughter, she had shared her story of the ring, at least as much as she was willing to share. The ring had been in the family for generations and only the firstborn daughter of the firstborn daughter (and so on and so on) could wear it. The ring was her connection to a past she wasn’t sure she believed in, a past that had been shared from one generation to the next. Or was there more? Was there a story her grandmother never managed to share?
What would she find at Loch Leven Castle? The clues had to be there. But the boy said it was mostly ruins, crumbled walls and tumbled stones, except for the tower. Queen Mary’s tower. What could she possibly unearth to collaborate Gran’s story? And she only had two weeks to do it. She couldn’t afford more time away from work. Even though it was a poorly paid entry level job, she didn’t want to risk losing it.
A glow emanated from the ring on her outstretched hand. She felt a warmth spread up her arms. The wind picked up, violently tossing her hair in every direction, swishing her coat ends like laundry hanging loosely on a clothesline. She faced into the wind, allowing its vicious impact to draw her forward. She took a step, then another, until she felt the cold wet of the lapping waves of the loch splash over her feet. The water was cold; it jolted her back to reality. What was she doing walking into the loch? What was the strong pulse pulling her forward? She allowed her eyes to glance out across the loch, now almost obliterated by the darkened storm that raged all around her.
“Miss.” She heard a voice from behind her as the power continued to drag her into the loch. “Miss!” A hand gripped her arm, yanking her back toward the dry shore. “Miss!” The hands tightened their hold as she tried to pull away, tried to return to the loch. A scream pierced the air. She didn’t know where the scream originated. It sounded like it came from across the water.
It also sounded like it came from deep within herself.
Another scream and everything went black.
“What?” the regent bellowed. “Not another Mary, and a Stuart at that. We cannot be related. Are we?” He winced in the dim light and bent forward to take a closer look. “You have her look about you. It is uncanny. You could almost pass for her. And that brooch. Where did you get that brooch?”
“I do not know, sir.” Mary Elizabeth took her time to choose her words carefully. She wasn’t sure how to answer about the brooch, so she steered clear of that comment, saying instead, “Are not all Stuarts somehow related?”
It was not the right thing to say. James Stuart, Regent of Scotland, was not amused. “Grab her. She must be a spy. Or a traitor. Either is punishable by death.” He pointed accusing fingers at the others. “The rest of you stay here. I will deal with this troublemaker.”
A silence ensued and then the voice Mary Elizabeth had heard only hours before. “I hope you will spare me and make it quick.”
“Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum…” The voice was halted mid-prayer with a noticeable snap.
“No!” Mary Elizabeth shrieked.
“Princess.” Jamie reached across to where Mary Elizabeth sat on her horse, stunned. He gave her a gentle shake.
“She is gone.” She startled out of her thoughts. “I heard her last prayers. She begged her executioner to make it quick.” Tears cascaded down her cheeks unchecked.
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. For more information on the author, check out her website at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca