I’m so excited to introduce you to Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor! I have been a fan of both of these writers for several years now, and to have them collaborate on a book together is every historical fiction reader’s fantasy. Their book LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS has been getting rave reviews:
Gaynor and Webb’s first collaboration is beautifully told […] the authors fully capture the characters’ voices as each person is dramatically shaped by the war to end all wars.
For fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society comes another terrific epistolary historical novel that is simply unputdownable […] this remarkable novel will undoubtedly go on my keeper shelf.
Karen White, New York Times bestselling author of The Night the Lights Went Out
And today you get to learn a little more about them, as well as a chance to enter to win a copy of their book LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS. You can buy it here, or to win a copy, simply retweet the following tweet, or share our post on Facebook!
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) November 18, 2017
August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.
But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…
Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?
Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…
Who is one of your favorite (fictional or non-fictional) characters?
Hazel: Mrs. Danvers from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. She’s so sinister and creepy and so well-written. It is one of my favourite novels and I really must re-read it soon. If you haven’t read it, give it a go. It’s brilliant!
Heather: Oh Lord, this is tough! I’d say Jamie Frasier from Outlander is a favorite of mine. He’s so endearing, clever, and determined. He fails a lot, but fights and lives and loves with all of his heart. He’s my book boyfriend. I also adore Mrs. Havisham in Great Expectations. She’s brilliantly written as well. There’s nothing like a spinster spurned by a lover who’s off her rocker! And she lives in that massive house that’s falling down around her ears. Love it!
Where do you love to be?
Hazel: Beside the ocean. I don’t actually mind what the season is. Summers are lovely. Winters are dramatic. Dressed appropriately and with a glass of chilled Sancerre or a piping hot coffee, there’s really nowhere better. We have some gorgeous coastline here in Ireland, so I am really spoiled for choice.
Heather: Ha! This is why Hazel and I work so well together–we think a lot alike. The ocean is my absolute favorite place to be as well. I live fairly close here in New England and get spoiled going as often as I like. There’s something about the sound of the waves and the brisk, salty air, and the lulling rhythm of beach life that is so appealing to me. I also love to be in Paris. Who doesn’t? Cafes, history, art, fashion and OH, THE FOOD AND WINE.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Hazel: Finish the book, and enjoy the process. There’s something really special about quietly working away on your first novel. No deadline. No pressure of expectation. Just you and your imagination and your words. And if you get rejected when you start submitting, that’s completely normal and part of the process. Try to remain objective and take all feedback on board to make your book better. Think of every no as a step closer to yes and keep going!
Heather: My best advice for new writers is to take your time to get it right. We feel all of this pressure to rush and submit our work for validation. That rush short-changes us in the long run. Write, rewrite, work with critique partners. Get as many eyes on your work as possible. Read like crazy and STUDY what you read, dissect it like a science experiment. Why does it work? How can you replicate this technique? Also, if you become frustrated with your work in progress, put it aside awhile and let it stew. Work on something new. You’ll find you learn best by working on more projects, over longer periods of time. Remember that writing is a skill, just like playing a guitar. Time and practice are key. You can’t rush it or it’ll sound disjointed and out of tune.
What are the hardest and easiest things about your job?
Easiest for Hazel: Meeting readers and talking about my books. I love that part of the job – after all, seeing your book in readers’ hands is what it’s all about. I’m continually blown away by how passionate readers are, and how much time and care they take to let me know what the book meant to them. I’m so grateful!
Easiest for Heather: The research is the easiest thing for me. I fall into it, getting lost in the past and all of the interesting facts about forgotten yet fascinating people, the inventions, the fashion, the ways of life. I thoroughly enjoy reading it all, visiting the locations whenever possible (major love of travel here!), and also attempting any new skills, etc, to geek out over, and also to lend authenticity to the pages.
Hardest for Hazel: Showing up at the desk, every day, and staring down the blank page. It is SO hard, and it doesn’t get any easier. As I’m working on my 5th solo novel I feel the fear just the same (if not more so) than when I wrote my previous novels. There’s really no magic formula. You sit down and write. And then you rewrite and rewrite again and again and again until it is the best ir can possibly be.
Hardest for Heather: I’d have to agree with Hazel on this one. The hardest thing is to keep morale high while tackling a new idea and a new set of characters. Each book brings its own set of challenges, which means we’re constantly learning and growing and struggling to bring it all together in a coherent–and meaningful–way. Persistence is a must, as is constantancy and that takes tremendous effort and self-direction.
What’s your next big thing? (new book, new project, etc.)
Hazel is working on her fifth solo novel, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, which is inspired by the true story of Victorian lighthouse keeper Grace Darling, and the amazing female light keepers of the early 20th century. The book will be released in fall 2018.
Heather is gearing up to release a historical suspense novel titled The Phantom’s Apprentice, a re-imagining of Phantom of the Opera told from Christine Daae’s point of view on February 6, 2018. She’s also working diligently on an immigration story set in 1901 U.S. We would also love to work together again. Watch this space!
About them both:
Hazel Gaynor is the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home and The Cottingley Secret and recipient of the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Hazel lives in Ireland with her husband and children.
Heather Webb is the acclaimed author of historical novels Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover, selected by Goodreads as a Top Pick in 2015. She enjoys working with aspiring writers as a professional freelance editor. To date, her novels have sold in a dozen countries. Heather lives in New England with her children and husband.