Last week Hazel’s debut novel, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, hit number 9 in the New York Times Best Sellers list. Her success has come after years of hard work and juggling it all with a young family. Luckily for me Hazel has taken time out of her exceptionally busy schedule (I made that bit up, I’m guessing it is) to be interviewed for my blog! Here’s what she had to say.
What was the first story you wrote?
‘The Pony Thieves’. I was aged 8 and pony mad. It wasn’t bad – fully illustrated and high drama at the stables. Can’t believe it didn’t become a bestseller!
How did you realise you had the skill to write?
I’m not really sure! I always loved creative writing in my English classes at school and I took English Literature to A’ Level. My business career involved a lot of report writing and I always found it quite enjoyable to put my thoughts into a written report. I also seemed to always get the job of writing the office newsletter, so there was clearly something in me. In terms of writing novels, I think you can only find out if you have the skill (and the tenacity) to do it by sitting down and trying.
Many writers experience the doldrums: how have you coped with writer’s block or self-doubt?
Writers block. Self-doubt. Crushing rejection from agents and publishers. Harsh reviews from readers – yikes! Writing certainly isn’t a profession for the faint-hearted, and I’m not sure it gets any easier. You simply have to believe in yourself and your novel and sit down with your manuscript and carry on writing. Wine also helps! I’m working on the final edits for my second novel at the moment and I’m as nervous about its publication next year as I was about THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME. I’ve spoken to international bestselling authors who still experience doubt and worry – it just goes with the territory.
How did your publishing deal come about?
After five years of ‘no’ I finally got the phone call of my dreams in June 2013. An agent in New York had read THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME on her Kindle and contacted me through Facebook in early May to say she’d like to talk. Within a week we’d signed an agreement for her to represent me, and within a month of that I had my first offer of publication from William Morrow (HarperCollins). My two novels went to auction with two more publishers in the U.S. and I was beyond excited to sign with William Morrow in mid-June. It was a whirlwind of positivity and excitement and it made all the years of rejection and frustration so worthwhile! This is why I tell writers to never give up because you just never know what’s around the corner.
How do you schedule writing into your day?
It hasn’t been easy over the five years I’ve been working at this (with young children) but I’m now lucky to have a block of time while my boys are at school during the week and I try to use that for my creative writing, first drafts and research. Admin etc. has to be squeezed in at the other end of the day. Usually I am itching to get back to the work in progress so although I might be shattered, I still love getting back to the laptop. I also write whenever and wherever I can, such as on the rugby side lines or in airport departure lounges. Any ‘free’ time can be used to write a few hundred words.
Typing is hungry work, what’s your writing fuel?
Haribo. A Costa coffee from my Tassimo machine and a glass of wine for evening writing!
What do you like to read?
Historical fiction mainly, but I’ll pretty much give anything a go. I’m currently reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It’s brilliant and I am in total author awe!
What’s your advice for someone thinking about writing a book?
Do it! Sit down and start writing. Let the words flow and try not to overthink it. All books are really written in the edits and rewrites, but you have to have the words down first.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on final edits of my second novel A MEMORY OF VIOLETS. It will be published in February 2015 and is set around a charity for orphaned flower sellers in Victorian London. I’m also working on an idea for a screenplay and have started the early first draft of book three.
More about Hazel
Hazel Gaynor is a novelist and freelance writer. Her debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME – A Novel of the Titanic (William Morrow/HarperCollins) was published in April 2014 and quickly became a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Hazel is also a guest blogger and features writer for national Irish writing website writing.ie and she has interviewed Philippa Gregory and Sebastian Faulks, among others. Originally from Yorkshire, she now lives in Ireland with her husband, two children and an accident-prone cat. Hazel was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers.