Author’s name: Harriet Steel
How do your interests and work experience affect your writing?:
I write historical novels so unsurprisingly a long-standing interest in history has had a powerful influence on me. The novels of Philippa Gregory and CJ Sansom are among my favourites and that led me to write about the Elizabethan era in my novel, Salvation. I’m also very interested in nineteenth century history and my other books, Becoming Lola and City of Dreams, are set in that time. The Victorians appeal to me because although they could be hypocritical and repressive, they were also innovative and adventurous. Their inventions changed the way people lived with advances in technology and travel and greater understanding of the natural world.
What is your latest novel called and what is it about?:
My latest novel, City of Dreams, is set in Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century. It tells the story of Anna, the teenage daughter of a Russian furrier, who comes to live in Paris after she married dashing Frenchman, Emile Daubigny. Paris was at the time the most fashionable city on earth and at first we see it through Anna’s dazzled eyes. Soon however, her life changes and the city’s darker side emerges. As war between France and Prussia looms, Anna and the city she loves will be forced to fight to survive. The novel contains romance but it isn’t a conventional historical romance. It’s more about friendship and the resilience of the human spirit. It’s also a love letter to a city I adore.
Why is independent publishing important to you? :
Three words: opportunity, autonomy and satisfaction. When I started writing, I concentrated on short stories and quite a few were accepted for publication by magazines. I entered small competitions as most new writers do and had some luck there then with my confidence boosted, I entered a national competition run by the BBC. It was called End of Story and the idea was that entrants finished a story begun by a well-known writer. I chose the story from by bestselling author, Joanne Harris, and to my surprise, a few months later, I received a call from the BBC. I was shortlisted (in the end I came second) and invited to take part in the programme based around the competition.
It was a fantastic experience including a visit to Joanne herself at her home, where she had a lot of encouraging words about my work, and doing a reading and Q&A session at the prestigious Darting ton Literary Festival.
After that there was no holding me! I embarked on my first novel, Becoming Lola, a biographical novel based on the true story of the notorious Victorian adventuress, Lola Montez. It took me two years to finish it, and then I waited another year while it did the rounds of agents. I received quite a few complimentary letters along with the standard rejections but no one actually wanted to take the book up. That’s when I decided to try indie publishing. If you have faith in your own book, and I did, indie publishing provides an unrivalled opportunity to get it out in the public domain. The book sold well in paperback through my local independent bookshop but the real breakthrough was Kindle where sales continue to be good. More than once Becoming Lola has reached the Top 50 in Amazon’s biographies and Memoirs chart.
My next two books have also sold well and it’s a great feeling when readers write to say they enjoyed them and an organisation like Awesome Indies gives their Seal of approval. Also, I have the freedom to write about whatever I chose without having to fit into a mainstream publisher’s list. My only judges are my readers, and I love that!
It’s letting go of my characters at the end of a novel. While I’m writing it, the book is my baby and when I press the button to publish, I always think of Jack Rosenthal’s wonderful play, Eskimo Day. If you talk to people who saw it, they all remember how powerfully it conveyed the feelings of the heroine saying goodbye to the last of her children to leave home. Happily, in the end she didn’t walk out into the ice and snow to die but the mixture of heart break and comedy was unforgettable.
Fortunately my babies have all proved themselves capable of standing on their own two feet and there’s always a new book to write!
Who is your favorite character from your books? Why?:
That’s a hard one because I care so much about all of them, but I’ve chosen Alexander Lamotte from my Elizabethan novel, Salvation. I didn’t originally plan that he would be a main character but he didn’t seem to want to remain in a supporting role and I found it hard to resist him. The young lovers in the book, Tom and Meg, developed into an endearing and interesting pair who matured and learnt a lot in the course of the story, but Lamotte’s charismatic personality and dry humour made him my favourite. He’s actually a French Huguenot who has escaped persecution in France to come to England but if I had to cast him, I’d choose the Spanish actor, Javier Bardem. His rugged good looks and powerful sex appeal would be perfect.
When was the first time you remember writing? Was it any good?:
I wrote a poem for my first school English assignment when I was eight. It was about a naughty boy who drowned in a bog after running away from home because his mother wouldn’t let him have his own way. It was heavily influenced by the Cautionary Tales of Hillaire Belloc and absolutely dreadful.
Follow Harriet Steel
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/
Twitter page: @harrietsteel1
Amazon author page.: http://www.amazon.co.uk/