Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Author Interview: Blythe Gifford: Ten Years And One Layoff Later She Became An Overnight Success

After many years in public relations, advertising and marketing, Blythe Gifford started writing seriously after a corporate layoff. Ten years and one layoff later, she became an overnight success when she sold her first book to the Harlequin Historical line.  Since then, she has published nine romances, most set in England and on the Scottish Borders.  Her latest books are SECRETS AT COURT and THE WITCH FINDER.  Her stories usually incorporate real historical events and characters. 

Your real name and pen name?

Blythe is my middle name, so Blythe Gifford is actually my real name.  Perfect for an historical romance writer, yes?

What languages you can speak and write?

Like so many who live in the United States, I am fluent only in English.  However I studied enough French that I surprise myself occasionally in being able to understand and speak.  Since I write primarily in the medieval time period, a rudimentary knowledge of French is helpful, since it was spoken even in England until the middle of the 14th century.
Your question gives me the opportunity to express my appreciation to those who have translated my books into French, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, and many other languages.  It is hard enough to retell the story in a different language.  It must be near impossible to convey the story-telling style – the word rhythm and so on.  Bravo to those who do it well!

What is your favorite genre and why?

My favorite to write is historical.  I literally do not get contemporary ideas.  But any time I read history, no matter what the time period, I come away with a nugget of a book.  Too many to write!  My favorite to read is harder to answer.  I read widely and enjoy a good thriller since it is so different from what I write.  I also love history and travel writing as well as fiction.

When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?

I started writing my first historical novel at age ten – in pencil!  What I try to do is give my readers the experience of living in another time and place.  I hope when they have finished one of my books, they will have a much better understanding of the era and circumstances of history.  But I also want them to have a rich, emotional experience.  A reader recently said she cried at the end of one of my books and I thought “That’s exactly what a want!  It’s a happy ending, but an emotional one!”

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?

I have published 10 books, with another scheduled in 2015.  You can find a complete list and more details on my website:  http://www.blythegifford.com/Gifford_Books.html
Instead of listing them in order of publication, I will give them to you in chronological order of the time the story is set, just in case your readers want to take a journey through history!
Royal Wedding Stories
WHISPERS AT COURT – 1363  [Coming in 2015]
The Weston Daughters

The Brunson Clan trilogy is set in Scotland during the reign of James II, early Sixteenth Century – 1528-29

THE WITCH FINDER is set in Scotland in the mid-Seventeenth Century – 1661-62

Specifically on THE WITCH FINDER, here’s a quick summary:

Scotland, 1661
He's a haunted man.
Alexander Kincaid watched his mother die, the victim, they said, of a witch's curse. So he has dedicated his life to battling evil. But in this small, Scottish village, he confronts a woman who challenges everything he believes. She may be more dangerous than a witch, because she's a woman who threatens his heart.
She's a hunted woman.
They called her mother a witch, but she was only a woman made mad by witch hunters like Alexander Kincaid. Having escaped to the Border hills, Margret Reid is seeking a safe haven and a place to hide. But when the witch hunter arrives, not only is her heart in danger.
So is her life.

What is generally your preference in reading – a paper book or ebook? And why?

I read both.  I prefer print, partially because I flip back and forth a lot and print makes that easier.  In addition, I find it easier to remember where I have seen something in a physical book and even to remember that I’m reading a book when it is in a stack by my chair.  But I travel frequently and I love the convenience of being able to carry a library with me, so I read e-books frequently. 

How much real life goes into fiction writing?

I have a theory that all writing is essentially autobiographical, but never in the way the reader would expect.  Often, I find that lessons I need to learn somehow end up being those that my hero and heroine struggle with.  It can work two ways.  Either I realize as I write the book that I must learn the lesson I’ve given the character or, conversely, I’ve had stories I couldn’t write until I had already learned the lesson.  But as for specific plot points or events?  Virtually never are they from “real life.”

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?

I’m a native of the United States but have had the privilege of visiting Canada, Mexico, England, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Monaco, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, and Greece.  And hope to see some of them again, as well as adding many others!
I love to travel and I would say I focus on three things when I do.  First, the landscape.  I think the realities of land, sea, and climate and light help mold the people who live there.  Second, the history.  (No surprise!)  And finally, art and culture.  You’ll find me looking for the art museum, the theatre, or the literature of a country.  Of course, a good local meal is always welcome, too.
One of my fondest travel memories occurred in Morocco.  I had read Paul Bowles THE SHELTERING SKY before going and when I was in Tangiers, I asked our local guide about him.  The man’s face lit up.  He had known Bowles and started to tell me his personal stories.  At that moment, another person on the tour interrupted to ask a question.  With an expression of disdain, he replied:  “Can’t you see we are speaking of important things?”  Even to this man, literature was important.

Your zodiac/ sunsign?

I’m a Sagittarius. 

What is the last book you finished reading? What is the current book you are reading?

Among my favorite recent reads was REFLECTIONS ON A MARINE VENUS by Lawrence Durrell.  A series of essays on what life was like on the Greek Island of Rhodes after World War II, it literally allows you to live the experience along with him.  Right now, I’m reading (at least!) two books.  GONE GIRL (in hopes I can finish before the spoilers from the movie intrude!) and Barbara Kingsolver’s THE LACUNA.  Because I’ve had several years of tight deadlines, I’ve promised myself a reading binge!

What comes to your mind when you think of India[WG1] ?

I’ve not had the good fortune to visit, so all my knowledge is second hand, from books, movies, reports of friends who have visited there or lived there, and my study of art and religion. 
I have had the good fortune to have one of my books released in India (in English.)  HIS BORDER BRIDE was released in 2012. 

Some quickies:

Coffee or Tea:  Both!  My routine includes coffee in the morning and just after lunch with green tea the rest of the day.
Mountain or Sea: The sea, definitely.
Silence or Conversation:  There’s a time for both.
Tulip or Rose:  Tulip.

Your favorite time of the day?

I am very much a morning person.  Any day I can see the sun rise over the water is already perfect.

First thing you do in the morning after waking up?  

For more years than I can count, I have practiced the routine recommended by Julia Cameron and written “morning pages” by hand.  Whenever possible, I do so outside as the sun comes up.

State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote

I’m particularly proud of that the Chicago Tribune said my books were “the perfect balance between history and romance.”

Links & other relevant details:
THE WITCH FINDER is available in e-and print versions via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes.  Links are available at www.blythegifford.com 
Twitter handle: @BlytheGifford
Amazon link:  Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001H6L5ZA
I also post regularly on the Unusual Historical blog, http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/

 [WG1]That I had a book published thre!
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