I’m delighted to feature Hazel Gaynor here today. I’ve adored her previous books – The Girl from the Savoy, A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home and jumped at the chance to grill her. First off have a look at her new book, I’m dying to reading The Cottingley Secret soon and then we’ll kick off.The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor
Published by HarperCollins on 5 Sept 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Received from Publisher
“The Cottingley Secret tells the tale of two girls who somehow convince the world that magic exists. An artful weaving of old legends with new realities, this tale invites the reader to wonder: could it be true?” 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?
Interview with Hazel Gaynor – Author of The Cottingley Secret
It’s obvious from reading your books that you do painstaking research, as the historical details are so authentic. Where and how do you do your research?
It’s really important to me to evoke an authentic sense of time and place for my readers, so they are fully immersed in the era my story is set in. Much of my research never makes it into the book, but it gives me a solid foundation to build my story from. In terms of research material, I read a combination of non-fiction and fiction set around the person, place or event I’m writing about, and I always try to get to primary source material wherever possible. Oral history can be especially helpful, and archives and museums are invaluable. Research never stops. Even up to the final proof read, I’ll be fact-checking the smallest details. It keeps me awake at night!
While the facts of any true story offer a great starting point for a novel, fiction offers a tantalising space to fill in the blanks. I knew a little about the Cottingley fairy photographs, but I didn’t know why the girls took them, why they took so long to confess, or how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got involved. It was those questions that interested me, and my research in answering them took me to Belfast to meet the daughter of Frances Griffiths (the little girl in the most famous photograph), to Cottingley itself and to the Cottingley archive at Leeds University. The volume of correspondence between the girls’ parents, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and others is astonishing.
I struggle to write reviews when the dreaded writer’s block hits, so I can’t imagine how authors cope when they have a book to write and a deadline looming! How do you personally overcome writer’s block and regain your muse?
Writers block isn’t usually about a lack of ideas or inspiration, it is mostly about self-doubt and running out of steam when you hit the tricky middle section of a book. All books go through a gnarly phase and you have to learn to stick with it until you fall in love with it again! I usually turn to my writing ‘tribe’ – those few trusted 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 until the first draft was finished. Now, I’ll gladly share my work in progress with these trusted few because I’ve learned how important, and helpful, that phase of feedback and brainstorming can be, especially when you’re stuck. Muse, or no muse, you have to stick at it and get some words down. Also, leaving the desk for a walk or a run is really helpful. And gin!
Where do you do your writing? And do you have a writing routine?
I started my writing career at the kitchen table, and have written everywhere from the rugby sidelines to doctor’s waiting rooms. I now have a desk/office in the attic which also doubles up as a guest room and playroom. It’s usually cluttered with the children’s toys, but it’s my own space, and I’m so grateful for it. I’m very disciplined and ‘commute’ upstairs every day to work while the children are at school. I grab whatever time I can during the rest of the day between homework and activities. I’ve learned to fiercely protect my writing time because it goes so quickly.
The majority of my writing – first drafts especially – is done on the laptop, but I use notebooks, Post Its, hard copies (and walls and floors if necessary!), for plotting and editing. What I’ve learned since first being published is that regardless of where you write, or what mood you’re in when you get there, you have to show up at your writing place every day and get the words down. No excuses.
What is the best book you’ve read this year?
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I read an advance copy on New Year’s Day and it still tops my list. Also, Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures which, although not new this year, was new for me, and it is wonderful.
If you could be a character in any book you’ve ever read, who would you choose and why?
Hermione Grainger from the Harry Potter books. She’s such a smart girl and a devoted friend and she can do magic brilliantly! I love her!
Talk to Trish: Thanks Hazel for such interesting answers, the writers tips and reading suggestions. Much appreciated. Now I’m even more eager to dip into your latest book.