Today on the Debutante Ball, we’re thrilled to welcome one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Hazel Gaynor, to sit in our hot seat and chat about her newest novel THE COTTINGLEY SECRET!
The New York Times bestselling author of THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. Now, in her newest novel, international bestseller Hazel Gaynor reimagines their story.
1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.
One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?
This book sounds so magical and fun! I can’t wait to read for myself (as soon as I hit my deadline)! If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, you’re in for a treat because we’ve got a copy to give away. To enter, retweet our post on Twitter:
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) August 19, 2017
For a second entry share our Facebook post! Easy peasy. We will select and contact the very lucky winner on Friday, August 25th at noon (US Only).
Now, on to the interview!
Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
WILD by Cheryl Strayed. It absolutely blew me away – the writing, the hike, the grief, the line, “A bear in both directions.” Such a powerful book. It especially resonated with me as I lost my mum to cancer when I was 23 and this book really expressed my emotions and anguish of that experience. I interviewed Cheryl Strayed over the phone while she was on book tour for Wild in the UK. She was incredibly honest and warm, and told me all about how she was contacted by Oprah who’d read the book and wanted to feature it in her book club! As an unpublished writer, I found her so inspiring. She emphasised the importance of always writing the best book you possibly can (she used a few more expletives in her version)! I often think about her words.
Jenni: I’ll admit I haven’t read WILD yet, but it’s going on my TBR now!
Where do you love to be?
I’m very happy at my writing desk, but when not there, I love to be beside the sea, or at the top of a mountain. We live within an hour’s drive of both from our home in Ireland. Sundays are often spent walking in the Wicklow mountains or pottering about along the coast with the children. Other than those places, I’m always very happy in a cocktail bar!
Jenni: Mountains, the sea, and cocktails are some of my favorite things as well 🙂
If you were a drink, what would you be and why?
Nice segue! I would absolutely have to be a gin and tonic because I’ve spent most of the last ten years talking about it! That said, it would have to be good gin and good tonic. Hendricks and Fever Tree in a big fishbowl glass are a pretty unbeatable combination on a summer’s evening.
Jenni: haha, you stole what I was going to say: Nice segue!
The road to publication is twisty at best– tell us about some of your twists.
Twisty is an understatement. My publishing journey started by not being able to get published at all. In 2012, after five years of rejections, I took a leap of faith and self-published my debut, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME. A year later, it was re-published by HarperCollins and became a NYT bestseller. More twists than a rollercoaster! That’s really what being a writer is like. Lots of ups and downs. You just have to roll with it, enjoy the highs and push on through the lows. I’m always telling my writing friends
you never know what’s around the corner.
And sometimes, the best twists come in writing the book itself. When I was mulling over possible ideas for a fourth novel, my agent mentioned the Cottingley fairies story out of the blue. It was such an amazing coincidence because I am originally from Yorkshire in England where the fairy photographs were taken, and I’d thought about possibly writing something based on the faked fairy photographs a few years earlier. The time wasn’t right then, but in 2015, it felt absolutely the right time to write this book. To make things even twistier, I then stumbled across a website about the Cottingley events of the early 1900s which led me directly to the daughter of the little girl in the first (and most famous) Cottingley photograph. To make this family connection was incredible and consolidated my belief that I was meant to write this book. I believe we really have to trust our instincts and leave an idea if it isn’t quite ready, and jump on an idea if it is, no matter how daunting it might be.
Jenni: I love everything about this! And yes, you were definitely meant to write this book!
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Finish the book! Even when you’re hating it and really struggling, finish it. All books go through a gnarly phase. You have to stick with it to get to the part where you fall in love with it again. I also believe that the writing process is a very personal thing. I’d encourage new writers to find what works for them, and not worry about what everyone else is doing. Also, don’t assume that the place where you write has to be perfect. I started writing at the kitchen table and I’ve written everywhere from the football sidelines to doctor’s waiting rooms. Be flexible! And finally, find your writing ‘tribe’ – those few trusted writing friends and early readers you can confide in, brainstorm with and get constructive feedback from. When I first started writing, I kept everything to myself. It was all a great secret until the first draft was finished – which I actually thought meant the book was finished. How wrong I was! I suppose I was afraid to let my work go. Now, I’ll gladly share it with these trusted few because I’ve learned how important, and helpful, that phase of feedback and brainstorming can be.
Jenni: Great advice, Hazel — for published authors, too!
Thanks so much for joining us, Hazel! We’re honored to have you on the Deb Ball! Also, check out Hazel’s TIME magazine article, ‘Fairies and Fake News’ all about the Cottingley fairies.