Friday 3 June 2016

The author in my spotlight is ....Hazel Gaynor

UK/Ireland Cover
Coming 7 June 2016

 A bit of blurb

Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but the outbreak of war takes everything from her: Teddy, the man she loves – and her hopes of a better life.

When she secures employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly’s proximity to the dazzling guests makes her yearn for a life beyond the grey drudgery she was born into. Her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to an unusual newspaper advert and finds herself thrust into the heady atmosphere of London’s glittering theatre scene and into the sphere of the celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry.

All three are searching for something, yet the aftermath of war has cast a dark shadow over them all. A brighter future is tantalisingly close – but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?

Hello, Hazel and a huge welcome back to Jaffareadstoo. 

Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your latest book, The Girl from The Savoy...

Without revealing too much, what can you tell us about The Girl from the Savoy?

The Girl From The Savoy is set in London in the early 1920s. It tells the story of two women from very different backgrounds: Dolly, a chambermaid at London’s iconic Savoy Hotel, and Loretta, a famous actress in the West End. Both are struggling in the aftermath of the Great War which has left them with secrets and regrets. When Dolly replies to an advertisement for a composer’s muse, she is thrust into the exhilarating lives of Loretta and her brother, Perry. A brighter future beckons, but at what cost? And, of course, there’s also plenty of cocktails and dancing and fabulous clothes!

Where do you get your inspiration for a story from – are you inspired by people, places or do you draw purely from your imagination?

I’m inspired by the past. I’m naturally drawn to people and events from history – it all fascinates me. My first two novels were set in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras (one inspired by Titanic and the other by the flower sellers of Covent Garden). The Girl From The Savoy took me into the years of the Great War and the 1920s, which were both new periods for me to research. I love that process of discovery. Often it’s an image from the era, or a person or event I read about that first ignites that creative spark, then I let my imagination take over.

How do you ‘set the scene’ in your novels and how much research did you need to do in order to bring The Girl from the Savoy to life?

I hope I set the scene by taking the reader straight into the emotional state of my characters, and evoking a real sense of time and place in the opening chapters. I want my readers to feel immersed in the era my story is set in, so that they are right there, with my characters. I love researching my novels and I’m always surprised by what I discover. In researching The Girl From The Savoy I spent an amazing afternoon with the archivist at The Savoy hotel. Sitting in the beautiful foyer, talking through the hotel’s rich history was really special. I read a tonne of books and material about the hotel and theatre and women’s roles during the war and the early 1920s. I also spent some wonderful afternoons at the Victoria & Albert Museum Theatre Archives, reading through scrapbooks of famous actresses and theatrical producers of the 1920s, which was incredibly inspiring. Research never stops. Even up to the final proof read, I am fact-checking the smallest details. It keeps me awake at night!

Are you a plotter...or ...a start writing and see where it takes you, sort of writer? 

I’m a bit of a pantser I’m afraid! I usually have an initial outline of the book written so I have a sense of where the story is going, but the thought of plotting out each chapter or being too prescriptive gives me the shivers. For me, the joy of writing is not knowing exactly what’s going to happen. I want to discover the story as I write and allow the characters to grow with me. This is how I’ve approached each of my novels so far, and I’m not sure I’d want to write any other way.

What keeps you motivated as a writer and do you have a routine when you’re writing?

Deadlines and friends keep me motivated – and the desire to tell the story. Writing really is more about sitting down and getting on with it than it is about waiting for your muse to show up, or other such romantic notions. Anne Tyler is quoted as saying: ‘If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.’ I write (and/or research or work on publicity) every day, while my children are at school, and whenever I can grab time beyond that. Some days I arrive at my desk in a bad mood and no words will come. Other days, it flows easily. Regardless, you have to keep showing up and putting the words down. I recently read Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic which is a wonderful book and encapsulates everything about the pleasure (and pain!) of writing. Highly recommend for anyone who has always wanted to write, or who needs a bit of magic sprinkling over their writing space. 

What do you hope that readers will take away from your books?

Every reader will take something different from every book, so in a way, it’s really not for me to say! When I read, I love discovering something I didn’t know much – or anything – about, so I do hope my readers will experience that through my characters and the historical settings I place them in. Ultimately, I want my books to create an emotional response in the reader, and that they can forget about real life for a while as they step into my fictional world. All any writer can do is write from their heart and hope that readers will connect in some way with what they have done.

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

I’m so excited to be writing a novel inspired by the true events surrounding two young cousins who claimed to photograph fairies in the village of Cottingley in Yorkshire in the 1900s. Growing up in Yorkshire, this is a story I have always been aware of and one I cannot wait to share. The novel will be written in time-slip: partly in 1917-1921 and partly in the present day. I’ve been extremely fortunate to meet the daughter of the younger of the two cousins, Frances, who the story centres around. The book will be published in spring/summer 2017.

About the author

Hazel Gaynor's debut novel The Girl Who Came Home was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller and winner of the 2015 RNA Historical Romantic Novel of the Year award. Her second novel A Memory of Violets was also a New York Times and USA Today bestseller.

Hazel writes a popular guest blog 'Carry on Writing' for national Irish writing website and also contributes feature articles for the site, interviewing authors such as Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed and Rachel Joyce 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. Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.

© Deasy Photographic

Follow on Twitter @HazelGaynor
Visit author page on Facebook

Amazon UK ** this edition published in the UK 8th September 2016**

My thanks to Hazel for taking the time to answer my questions and also to the publisher for sharing this book with me


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