BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Monday, June 27, 2011

Interview with Author Elin Hilderbrand

Today we have an interview with best-selling author Elin Hilderbrand. Her newest novel, "Silver Girl", was released on June 21st. She's currently engaged in a blog tour to promoter her novel and I'm happy to have her here today.

Elin specializes in what is often called "womens fiction" or sometimes "chick lit", though the two are not the same. Many of her novels, including "Silver Girl" are great for taking to the beach or on vacation. You can find her at her web page, her facebook page, or on Twitter, @elinhilderbrand.

She lives on Nantucket with her husband and their three young children. She grew up in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and traveled extensively before settling on Nantucket, which has been the setting for many of her previous novels. Hilderbrand is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the graduate fiction workshop at the University of Iowa.

1.    What about Nantucket makes it the perfect backdrop for all of your novels? Nantucket is one of the last remaining authentic places in America.  There are no chain stores, no neon signs, no strip malls; everything about it is independent and unique.  My two favorite aspects of the island are its historically preserved downtown, complete with cobblestone streets, and the fifty miles of pristine beaches.  A place that is so beloved and so cared for and so special inspires stories..

2.    Your books are well known for being summer beach reads. Why are you drawn to writing this type of novel?
I started writing "beach novels" by accident.  I attended the University of Iowa Writers workshop from 1996-1998.  While I was there, I missed Nantucket desperately.  I started writing a novel about Nantucket as a kind of therapy, and that novel turned into "The Beach Club."  Ten novels later, I can say that writing about this island has definitely worked for me.

3.    What are some of your favorite novels to bring to the beach? I'm always reading; I consider it as much a part of my job as writing.  This summer, I'm looking forward to reading "Maine" by J. Courtney Sullivan, and "State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett.

4.     Your novels often feature female characters heading to Nantucket in order to heal. Does Nantucket have some sort of healing effect on you? I think Nantucket has healing power based on the fact that it's an island thirty miles out to sea, and it's so removed, both geographically and emotionally from the rest of America.  I think the isolation and the purity of the surroundings allows people to concentrate on what really matters.

5.    Many of your readers find your characters to be so relatable. Where do you find inspiration for your characters? My characters come to me from the place I guess we'll call imagination.  I'm a pretty keen student of human nature; I listen to people and I watch them.  So there are bits and pieces of real people in my characters, but never once have I translated a real person to the page.

6.    What about Silver Girl sets this novel apart from novels you’ve written in the past?
What sets Silver Girl apart from my other novels is that I got the idea from the real life situation of Ruth Madoff.  I read an article about her in the New York Times that started my creative wheels turning.  She has been vilified in the press, yet there's no proof that she had any idea what her husband was doing.  I actually think her situation brings to light a lot of interesting questions about marriage and secrets between husband and wife.  I was fascinated by these questions and wanted to explore them in my work.
7Which of your novels was the most difficult to write? I can never tell how difficult a book is going to be to write until I'm in the revising stage.  My novel A Summer Affair was very hard to write, because I was faced with the daunting task of trying to make my characters, who were misbehaving badly, likable.  My task was no easier in Silver Girl, because I was dealing with characters in extreme circumstances -- always a tightrope walk.  But I'm pleased with the end result.

8. Do you find that you have a consistent process when writing a novel or is it a different adventure with each one? Oh, I'm very much a creature of habit.  I have a routine which is strict and flexible.  I write 4-5 days a week from 11-6.  In the summer, I write at the beach.  In the winter, I write in a wonderfully huge house in town that's empty.  I prefer writing outside in summer, obviously, but I get more done in the winter.  I write longhand in legal pads, then transfer the work to the computer later.

9.  How has your writing changed from your first novel, The Beach Club, to now? Well, it's my goal to be a better writer in each new novel.  I'm sure if I read The Beach Club now, I would find fifty ways to revise it (thank God I don't have time for such fruitless exercises!)  I live and I learn, and each new experiences and each added piece of wisdom finds its way, eventually, to the page.

10. Many of your readers have felt that your novels would make for great movies. Do you have any plans to take any of your novels to the big screen? The movies are coming.  I can feel it in my bones.

11. Your loyal readers are eagerly awaiting the release of Silver Girl. What can they expect with this novel? Silver Girl is different from my other novels, in that it has a "ripped from the headlines" aspect, but in so many ways, it's still classic Elin Hilderbrand: friendship between women, beach picnics, boat rides, unexpected romance.

12. Are any of your novels based on actual events in your life? It's a mystery what details from my real life will make it into a novel.  A lot of times, I'll hear an incredible story and I'll say, "Oh, I'm definitely going to use that."  But then, it doesn't work or fit.  So I basically just think of myself as a satellite dish, picking up everything around me, then filtering it, carefully, into my fiction.

13.  You grew up in Pennsylvania, and have lived and traveled to many other places. What about Nantucket has kept you there for so long? To paraphrase John Denver, when I was 23 I came home to a place I'd never been before.  That place was Nantucket.  This island is my home; I've lived nearly all of my adult life here.  Now, I have a home and a husband and three children, all Nantucket natives.  I've seen a lot of the rest of the world, but Nantucket is home.  I always feel a combination of relief and elation when I land here on a plane or pull off the ferry.

14.  Many of your readers feel so connected to your characters that they are not ready to part with them at the end of a novel. Do you have any plans to revisit any of your books and write a sequel? No sequels yet.  I really work hard to make sure that I leave my characters safely on the ground at the end of a book, so that there's no reason to go back and revisit them.   Maybe someday, though.  Shall see.

15. Silver Girl is your tenth novel to be released. Which of your books are you most proud of? I love all of my books in different ways, but I probably am most engaged with the book I am currently writing at that time.  To look back, I would say that my favorite of my novels is The Blue Bistro.  It's set in a restaurant on Nantucket, and it has so much good food writing in it, not to mention a fascinating love triangle.

16. Many young writers struggle with turning ideas into full-blown books. Do you have any advice for emerging writers trying to turn out their first book? Advice for young writers of any age: Finish your book.  This is a matter of discipline.  So many people have three chapters of something in a drawer.  What distinguishes published writers from everyone else isn't genius.  It's work ethic.  Once your book is finished, get an agent.  And then let him worry about selling your book; you worry about writing your next novel.

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