Thursday 30 June 2011

Anne Whitfield: The House of Women

Tell us a bit about your book.
It’s set in Yorkshire, an English county I love, and where my family originates from.


Leeds. 1870. Lonely and brokenhearted, Grace Woodruff fights for her sisters’ rights to happiness while sacrificing any chance for her own.
 The eldest of seven daughters, Grace is the core of strength around which the unhappy members of the Woodruff family revolve. As her disenchanted mother withdraws to her rooms, Grace must act as a buffer between her violent, ambitious father and the sisters who depend upon her. Rejected by her first love and facing a spinster’s future, she struggles to hold the broken family together through her father’s infidelity, one sister’s alcoholism, and another’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy by an unsuitable match.

Caring for an illegitimate half-brother affords Grace an escape, though short-lived. Forced home by illness and burdened with dwindling finances, Grace faces fresh anguish –and murder– when her first love returns to wreck havoc in her life. All is not lost, however. In the midst of tragedy, the fires of her heart are rekindled by another. Will the possibility of true love lead Grace to relinquish her responsibilities in the house of women and embrace her own right to happiness?

Why did you choose to write historical romance?
I love history and I love romance. It’s logical to put the two together. I enjoy setting up a time in history and letting the characters fall in love. It’s a perfect combination.

What did it feel like to get your first acceptance?
My first acceptance was in 2005 and it was very exciting, very surreal. I was surprised someone liked my story, that they felt it worthwhile spending time on it and publishing it. Each acceptance since then still is exciting and I’m very happy people like my stories.

What is the best (and worst) part of the writing process?
The best part is finishing a story. It’s nice to get it out of my head. The worst part would be editing over and over until I’m sick of it.

How long does it typically take you to finish a story?
My historical novels take about 8 months for the first draft to be completed. But it also depends if I have edits and promoting of other stories to do, too, which eats up time.

Do you have any favorites out of the characters you've written?
That’s a hard question. I think Kitty McKenzie will always been a firm favourite, I spent a long time writing her two books and loved every minute of it. But every heroine and hero have a special place in my heart. I love them all.

Which writers inspired/influenced your work?
Catherine Cookson was the author I adored from age of 14. Then in my twenties I started reading another UK author, Audrey Howard and he stories made me laugh and cry and I can’t put them down once I start reading them.

Was there ever a point in your career where you said, "Yeah, I can do this!"?
I think the first time was when I got good reviews back for my first couple of books and when people emailed me or spoke to me and said they really enjoyed my stories. That’s an amazing feeling I will never grow tired of.

Was there ever a point in your career where you almost gave up writing?
Yes! Lots of times. Especially in 2008 when my agent died and I’ve been struggling to get another one since. I’m grateful to be published by small publishers who are happy to take a chance on an author, unlike the larger publishers.

How do you come up with your stories?
Thankfully, stories just appear in my head without any hard work on my part. Sometimes I’ll get an idea from a research book, or a movie, or a painting, but mostly the characters are suddenly in my head without me realizing it.

What do you do to overcome writer's block?
I rarely suffer from writer’s block. If I’ve written myself into a corner, I’ll go back and re-read previous chapters to see where I went wrong, and then I’ll start editing and deleting until I’m back on track again.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write from the heart. Learn the craft of writing fiction, but don’t spend too much time at the start wondering if you’re writing a masterpiece. It’s the story what counts. Once you’ve finished the book, put it aside for a while and let it rest for a few weeks or a couple of months. Then, you can edit it again with fresh eyes or put it through a critique group.

Anne Whitfield

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