Historical Fiction Week: Author Q&A with Hazel Gaynor

The next guest on my Historical Fiction Week is Hazel Gaynor, Harper author of The Girl Who Came From (RNA Historical Romantic Novel of the Year 2015), A Memory of Violets (NYT and USA Today best seller) and the recently released The Girl from the SavoyRead all about her writing, her novels and her research process in this interview and don't forget to enter the giveaway to win A Memory of Violets and The Girl From the Savoy. 

1) Hello Hazel and welcome to Alba in Bookland. First of all could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Thank you for inviting me to your fabulous blog and to Historical Fiction Week! I was born in England (Yorkshire) but moved to Ireland in 2001 where I have lived ever since with my husband, two children and cat. I started writing in 2009 after leaving a very different, very corporate career in finance and law. I write in the attic while my children are at school. They are very impressed that my publisher also publishes David Walliams, whose books they love!

2) You've just published your third book, The Girl from the Savoy. Set in 1923 in London, it tells the story of a girl who starts working in this renowned hotel and discovers a new and more glamorous life. What sparkled this idea?
The idea came about through a conversation with my editor and our mutual love of the 1920s. This was a period of real social change - especially for women - and that always allows for great story. I was intrigued by the idea of an ordinary working girl who had access to the women she admired. The social scene of London’s iconic hotels during this era felt like the perfect setting, and when I started researching the history of The Savoy I found so many fascinating accounts of famous people who had dined and stayed there. I imagined the young chambermaids gossiping about the hotel guests in their room late at night, and the story developed from there. And, of course, there’s also the cocktails and dancing and fabulous clothes. Who could resist?

3) You've recently taken part in a WWI anthology, called Fall of Poppies, Stories of Love and the Great War. Can you tell us a bit about his project and what does it mean for you?
This was such a great project to be involved in. An author friend in the US, Heather Webb, had the idea for a group of historical fiction writers to collaborate on an anthology set around the end of the Great War. When she contacted me about it I said yes straightaway. This was my first time writing a story of this length (each of the nine stories is 10,000 words, so quite substantial). To work with so many other amazing authors was hugely inspiring, and great fun when we got together in the States for the book tour. The book was recently reviewed in the New York Times which was very exciting! 

4) Your debut novel, The Girl Who Came Home, is inspired by true events and combines true and fiction about the sinking of the Titanic. How did you research it?

I was especially interested in the Irish connection to the ship and in the aftermath of the sinking and spent months reading everything I could about the ship and her passengers. I read survivor accounts and newspaper reports from the time, visited museums and Titanic forums such as www.encyclopaedia-titanica.org and read
books such as Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember. While some historical fiction writers struggle to find source material about their subject, my problem was that there was so much! 

During my research, I found records of a survivor from a small parish in County Mayo, Ireland. From there, I discovered the story of a group of Irish emigrants – now known locally as the Addergoole Fourteen - who travelled together on Titanic. I knew immediately that I’d found the inspiration for my novel. Through my character Maggie, a young Irish girl, I hoped to allow readers to immerse themselves in an aspect of the Titanic disaster they might not have considered.

5) If you could switch places with a character from one of your books, who would it be and why?
Great question! I would have to say Dolly from The Girl From The Savoy. I’d love to go back to the 1920s and have afternoon tea at The Savoy and go dancing at the CafĂ© de Paris. I’d see a show in the West End and visit Selfridges to see all the latest fashions. Life seemed so much simpler and much more elegant then.
Fred and Adele Astaire dancing on the roof of The Savoy in 1923, as mentioned in The Girl From The Savoy - image source.
6) What made you start writing Historical Fiction?
My first attempt at writing a novel was contemporary women’s fiction – and it was terrible! I did learn a lot from the experience of writing it though, and it was that experience that pushed me to tackle a historical novel. I’ve always been fascinated by history, and the forgotten people and voices from the past, so I feel this was always the genre I was meant to be writing. The idea to set a novel around the sinking of the Titanic popped into my head one day and when I couldn’t stop thinking about it I knew I had to write that book. That became my first published novel, The Girl Who Came Home. 

7) You are a multi award winning and bestseller author. What did it mean for you to get so much attention on your work? And what do you think makes your books stand out?
The awards and best seller listings are always a wonderful surprise, and although I try not to dwell on them too much I am extremely grateful for them. So much of being a writer is time spent alone, worrying if anyone will like the book. I really don’t know what it is that makes any particular book a success over another. All I can do is write the best book I can and write from the heart. To know that readers connect with that is amazing.

8) Some of your covers are a work of art. I especially like the US cover for The Girl From The Savoy. Do you have a favourite yourself?
Thank you! The design team at William Morrow have done an amazing job with all my covers. They really capture the era and tone of the books. I’ve loved every single one and couldn’t possibly choose a favourite. It would be like choosing a favourite child!

9) Could you recommend us a novel that has stayed with you? 
I adore THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY (not least for its fabulous title!). It is set during WWII and is written through letters. It is full of wonderful characters and is so witty and charming and achingly sad. Just the perfect book. I also loved Sarah Waters’ FINGERSMITH. Brilliant characters and the twist made me shout out loud!

10) And finally, are you working on a new project? 
I have two exciting projects underway at the moment!

My fourth novel (as yet untitled) is inspired by the true events surrounding two young cousins who claimed to photograph fairies in the village of Cottingley in Yorkshire in the 1900s and convinced men such as Arthur Conan Doyle of their authenticity. Growing up in Yorkshire, this is a story I have always been aware of and one I cannot wait to share. The novel will be published in spring/summer 2017.

My other project is a historical novel LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS which I am co-writing with author of Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover, Heather Webb. The novel is a love story – written in letters - about a young English woman and a soldier who promise to spend Christmas together in Paris until the Great War sends them on different paths. It’s such a great experience writing this with Heather. It will be published in fall 2017.

Thank you so much for inviting me to Alba in Bookland!

You can find out more about Hazel Gaynor and her books on:

About the book:

Title: The Girl from the Savoy
Author: Hazel Gaynor
Published: June 7th 2016 by Harper                                     

Blurb: Presenting a dazzling new historical novel… The Girl From The Savoy is as sparkling as champagne and as thrilling as the era itself.

Sometimes life gives you cotton stockings. Sometimes it gives you a Chanel gown…

Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but her life has been fractured by the Great War. Memories of the soldier she loved, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and spur her on to make a better life.

When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things who thrive on champagne, jazz and rebellion. Right now, she must exist on the fringes of power, wealth and glamor—she must remain invisible and unimportant.

But her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter’s advertisement for a ‘muse’ and finds herself thrust into London’s exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry. Loretta and Perry may have the life Dolly aspires to, but they too are searching for something.

Now, at the precipice of the life she has and the one she longs for, the girl from The Savoy must make difficult choices: between two men; between two classes, between everything she knows and everything she dreams of. A brighter future is tantalizingly close—but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?

The paperback edition will be available in the UK from September 8th


Thanks to Hazel Gaynor, I've got not one but two of her books (A Memory of Violets and The Girl from the Savoy) to giveaway to two lucky winners. The Giveaways are open to Europe and the winners will be contacted via email and will have 48h to claim their prize:

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17 comentaris

  1. Gosh this is a difficult question: Favourite historical fiction author there are so many that I've enjoyed. I have particularly enjoyed Dinah Jefferies novels. Loved all your posts this week.

    1. Thanks so much! Difficult question indeed! ;) But I agree with you, Dinah Jefferies is great! I haven't read her debut yet but planning on doing so soon. Alba :)

  2. I think Phillipa Gregory, dinah jefferies and of course, Hazel gaynor are my favourite historical fiction authors

    1. I think Dinah Jefferies and Hazel Gaynor are great too, so happy they both took part on this week. I haven't read anything by Phillipa Gregory yet but I must rectify that as everyone says wonders about her books! Alba :)

  3. Great post!!!!
    Jennifer Donnelly is my favorite.

    Raffle name: Artemis Giote

    1. Thank you Diana! I've only read her latest but I loved it, I'll have to check her back list! Alba :)

  4. Georgette Heyer. Loved her since school, and happily reread her Georgian romances again and again.

  5. Hm, really just one? Lol. Elizabeth Hoyt. But I'm a fan of so many.

  6. Philippa Gregory - sorry for being predictable!

  7. I love Anya Seton's books, especially Katherine.