Interview with Langley Hyde Author of Highfell Grimoires

my copy

I had to get it on paperback!

Hello everyone! Today I am so thrilled to have the lovely Langley Hyde, author of one of the best books I’ve read this year the Steampunk novel, Highfell Grimoires visiting. HG is a complex and rich story, so I had tons on questions for her about her inspiration, the characters, the world, how she got into writing this genre, and also the very important question…What is your favorite dessert? 😉

Here is what we chatted about…

The Tipsy Bibliophile: Before we start the interview, I just wanted to say that Highfell Grimoires in one of the best books I’ve read this year. It grabbed me from the first page, and did not let go until the last. I fell in love with the world you created. Herrow was magical, with the aetheriums ( I want to go on one so bad!!), the lore, the magic…Everything was so vivid, and interesting. There is a lot to fall in love with in this story, but my heart was stolen by the characters, Neil, Leofa and their boys were so wonderful to read. This book is a grand adventure, so much goodness.

Before I get into the book, I wanted to ask you a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.

Langley Hyde: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in telling stories. I know that I didn’t start writing until I was about eight, though. Until that point I’d been an illiterate barbarian—I’d refused to read or write out of pure stubbornness. I’d insisted that what I was making up was better. Then I read a book, The Prince and the Pauper, and I thought, “Huh. I couldn’t make that up.” And the concept that I wasn’t alone, that I could become a writer among other writers, that I could embrace and be a part of a community of ideas, was a revelation.

TB: When I was reading HG, I got that feeling I get when I am in the midst a truly special experience…I love books and the places they take me, and I am forever in awe that someone’s mind can conjure up amazing worlds, and bring them to life in my head! With HG everything was so vibrant and magical, so much of all that stuff I love in a good story. There was a serious Victorian Gothic flavor to this book, and numerous times while I read I thought to myself “this could definitely have rolled with Dickens, Brontë (Emily!) and Poe with no trouble at all!”

So that being said, what was your inspiration for this book? Which authors have influenced your writing?

LH: I love all those writers! You caught me.

I fell in love with Poe when I was about nine. I may have been a morbid child. I discovered the romanticism of the Brontë sisters when I was seventeen. I loved Wuthering Heights but Jane Eyre has troubled me ever since I first read it, so I think about it a lot.

As for Dickens, in my family it was a holiday tradition to read A Christmas Carol aloud on Christmas Eve. At this point I read about one book by Dickens a year, sometimes rereading favorites. One of my friends described Dickens’ writing—not in a loving way—a  being “drowned by an effluvium of words” but that’s kind of why I like his writing. Plus Dickens depictions of class really fascinate me—they’re not inane, unlike Thomas Hardy’s work, which makes me go ugh.

I think that H.G. Wells and R.L. Stevenson are often judged on the other merits of their work, but that the rhythm of their prose is underappreciated. I had a collection of R.L. Stevenson’s work growing up that I loved. I also had a phase when I lived in Germany where I read a huge amount of Gothic fiction. And I would like to write a book that resonates with Gothic themes, which are really fun.

TB: You basically created a full world here, it was reminiscent of Gothic England, albeit a MUCH cooler version of it. I could see those floating estates, and the strapping men flying gliders in between them, clear as day. It must have been an incredibly fun book to write.

When you began building Herrow for your novel, what were the parts of it that were most prominent in your mind? Did you base the society on a particular time in history?

LH: I drew on several periods of history to make a society I thought would be compelling. At the time I was more interested in the earlier part of the nineteenth century. I wanted to have a feeling of great change and societal transformation in the story, but I also didn’t want to focus on modern conveniences, like cars or the telegraph. I am very fascinated with the transition from brute labor to automation.

The characters kind of just ended up wearing the clothes I wanted them to wear, however.

When I built Herrow, I wanted to include the diversity that I experienced when living in London, especially in regards to wealth and status. I lived off Baywater, near Kensington, in an area filled with immigrants, North African, Indian, along with some Turkish and Chinese.

The buildings, all erected around the turn of the century, were refurbished tenements. For two hundred pounds a week, you could live in a single room with a bathroom two floors down that you shared with eight people. I shopped mostly at a Turkish store and ate lentils, because I could buy a ton of lentils at the Turkish store for a pound fifty. The streets were filled with people jostling, buskers, no tourists really. But I’d walk a couple of blocks over, I’d see the emptiness of Kensington, these grand mansions, gigantic for London, all white columns and perfect hedges, or Portobello lane with its little cutesy kitschy, brightly painted buildings and its restaurants at fifty quid a plate.

I am very fascinated by stark class differences so naturally that is a huge feature in my writing. And I wanted that type of contrast to be a big part of Herrow as well as the characters’ experiences of their world.

TB: Neil and Leofa…They stole my heart…Actually it was them, and the kids, and everything else, but I digress. What a wonderful set of characters. Did you set out to write a love story with two male characters or did that just happen?

LH: Good question. I think I set off to do it, actually. I read a lot of classics. Sometimes the relationships between the male characters are so much more intense. So I guess that inspired me.

TB:  This world you made Langley, is too amazing not to revisit, personally I went right back into it the moment I finished the book, and re-read my favorite parts. Which leads me to the next question, will we get to go on more adventures with Neil and Leofa? The place I left them, certainly seemed like a great beginning!

LH: I would like to explore their world more deeply, and you’re right—Neil and Leofa have so much to look forward to! I guess I have so many options I’m a little spoiled for choices. Really, there are so many possibilities that I need to do a lot more thinking before I can give a definitive answer about what happens next.

TB: As you know my blog is a bit different, in addition to the book review I usually pair the story with a wine and/or recipe I think goes well with the story. For Neil and Leofa, I’ve chosen to make Lemon Lavender Cakelets with a Prosecco and Limoncello Spritzer for drink. I think Neil would be all over the cakelets! What is your favorite dessert, and what do you like to sip on a hot summer afternoon?

LH: Neil definitely would be all over the cakelets. He might have to pocket one for later, in fact. As for me, when it comes to desserts I basically love buttercream frosting. If you covered a brick in buttercream frosting (vanilla please) I would gnaw on it until my teeth broke.

When it summer cocktails, the gin and tonic never lets me down. Also when I’m drinking it I can pretend to be a nineteenth-century lady adventuress. Quinine to stave off malaria, and a lime wedge to get the scurvy away!

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Again many thanks to Langley for taking the time to visit and for the great answers. I am hope this is just the first of many visits to discuss her wonderful stories.

Highfell Grimories is available for purchase here. If you have not gone to buy it yet, GO NOW. This is some of the best reading you will do this year. I PROMISE!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

Author Interview with Johanna Parkhurst: Her new book, her inspiration and how a character forced her to write an LGBT story.

18743452Earlier this week I posted my review for Here’s to You, Zeb Pike by new author Johann Parkhurst. It is a Young Adult book, out today on Harmony Ink press. I loved this story and strongly encourage any readers out there to give it a try, it will not let you down. I was so touched by the story, that I went full on stalkerazzi and contacted Johanna and asked if she could do an interview for release day. She kindly answered my question and so here is my chat with her.

The Tipsy Bibliophile: Johanna this is the first work that I’ve read from you, and I loved it. In the Author Notes you talk about your experience as a high school teacher, and how your students have inspired you. Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration for Dusty?
Johanna Parkhurst: Thank you so much for having me! I’m so glad you enjoyed Here’s to You, Zeb Pike.
Johanna Parkhurst: Sooo many students have inspired Dusty–and Emmitt. That’s probably a large reason I love these characters so much; they represent so many year of so many amazing students.
The original inspiration for Dusty and his siblings was a family I worked with my first years of teaching. They were really likeable kids struggling with parents who wanted to be good parents but didn’t always know how. As Dusty changed and grew over multiple iterations of this book, a myriad of other students inspired the way he talks, his attitudes about his emerging sexuality, and his general outlook on life. Dusty’s lines in the beginning of the book about how easy school is for him are basically lines one of my students said to me the as I was re-writing that section of the story.
TB: LGBT YA is I think one of the most valuable genres to focus in for an author, but it’s not exactly mainstream. What made you want to write a story with LGBT characters?
JP: Another fabulous Harmony author Madison Parker (www.madisonparklove.com) is featuring a blog I wrote on how…wait for it…Dusty came out to me. No, seriously. I actually didn’t intend, when I started writing this book, to write a story with LGBT characters. Emmitt and Dusty just ended up being so perfect together–the more scenes I wrote about their friendship, the more I realized that they weren’t just friends.
I will say that what pushed me to try and publish this story, and what has pushed me to write more LGBT characters since, is my belief that kids need more books featuring LGBT characters in their lives. I get very upset when schools purposely avoid putting LGBT characters into their curriculum and libraries. Books are kids’ windows into the world. If you don’t give them a window into the world of LGBT characters, you’re essentially telling them there is something wrong or abnormal about being LGBT (whether you meant to send that message or not). For both the sake of promoting identity exploration AND for the sake of building acceptance in our society, our children need to read books that expose them to all kinds of different people and ideas. I’m excited that LGBT lit is finally becoming more mainstream in the YA lit world, and I hope that trend continues.
TB: If you could pick something, what would be the most important reader would take away from your book?
JP: There are a lot of things I hope readers take away from this story, but the most important one is probably the lesson Dusty learns from Zeb Pike…so I’ll let readers do their own exploration of the book and find out what that lesson is. 😉
TB: My blog is a little different, with my book reviews I normally make a dish. For Dusty I wanted to make some comfort food. I came up with a Vegan Mac n’ Cheeze and Walnut and Lentil Loaf that I find delicious, but might make Dusty roll his eyes and beg to be taken out of Northeast, ASAP! What do you think would be the ideal meal for Dusty?
JP: After years of scraping by on Ramen, I think Dusty gets excited whenever someone puts any kind of decent food in front of him (the first time he has Jack’s fried chicken was such a fun scene to write). He might balk at the Walnut and Lentil Loaf–Dusty’s a kid who likes his meat.
I love that you made Dusty comfort food. He definitely needs it!
TB: I fell completely in love with Dusty and his story. Will we see more of Dusty or his story finished?
JP: There is a very good chance you will see more of Dusty in the future! A warning, though: any future chapters in this verse will most likely be from Emmitt’s perspective. I love Emmitt, and he deserves some time in the spotlight.
TB: Are you working on any new books? If you are can you tell us a little bit about that?
JP: I have another YA book I’ve been working on that’s much darker, in many ways, than Dusty’s story. The main character in that one, JJ, is struggling with the death of his parents and a lot of anger issues. I do love writing angsty characters, but JJ’s been bringing even me to new levels of angst. I’m not sure what his publishing future is–we’ll have to see.

Well there you have it folks, a little “get to know you” with this wonderful new author. My thanks to Johanna for gracefully visiting with me. I encourage you guys to go out and get this book today. You will not regret it for a second.

Cheers and Happy Reading!
Laura

Love Lessons Blog Tour: Author Interview with the Lovely Heidi Cullinan

LoveLessons72lgFirst of all I’d like to thank you for stopping by for a visit. I have immensely enjoyed every one of your books from the first one I read, Special Delivery, all the way to this new story.

TB: Writing young men is not new for you, but the college boys theme is, you’ve mentioned before a particularly special connection to this book. Can you tell us about your inspiration in shaping Kelly and Walter’s character?

HC: Thank you for having me, and for saying such kind things about my work.

Mostly this novel got started because I was reading a number of college-set sweeter romances and I wanted to play along. I had this idea Love Lessons would be 50-60k, sugar-sweet and simple and take me a few months to write. It took me six, I routed about thirty demons from my college years, and at one point I had a three foot-stack of philosophy books on my reading stand and twice as many on my kindle. So the sweet and simple thing didn’t work out quite so well. The other irony is I intended it to be a series initially, but it became a stand alone…and now it’s a series again.

Kelly and Walter started out as a rake/ingenue dichotomy, a pretty standard trope. It didn’t take long for them to do the character equivalent of, “No, listen to me,” and they ended up tangling themselves, switching roles, and in general making a mess. As soon as I took my expectations and rigid schedule out of the way, though, everything lined right up.

TB: There is a wonderful dichotomy with these boys, one is enamored with the idea of the perfect happy ending, and one is completely jaded on love. This is a classic theme in romance, but you always manage to make those “issues” the thing that makes your men unique and special.Broken characters are your niche. Can you talk about where you go to make your characters so triumphant in their “weaknesses”?

HC: Lord. You make it sound so good, but I have to admit, mostly I go to myself. Walter is so me it’s not funny…but so is Kelly. Walter’s front of snark and “I don’t need anyone” with an aching neediness underneath, Kelly’s naiveté and burning optimism. Sometimes I put myself or my issues directly into my books: Ed’s chronic pain came from a football injury, but it was part and parcel my struggle. Laurie’s disillusionment and frustration I know well, as well as his reticence. Walter’s struggles are all mine, from the parents to the professor. The actual facts are very different in a few instances, but the emotions and loss and sense of being alone were entirely what I experienced. The ones that didn’t make it into Love Lessons have ended up in its sequel.

Probably worth noting is each one of my books has been written through physical or emotional pain or both. Sometimes I challenge myself to process something through fiction, sometimes I simply mine a thick vein, and sometimes it’s the only way I could stay sane at that particular moment. Sometimes writing is therapy, sometimes it’s a meditation.

TB: In terms of erotica, this story is a bit of a departure for you, a strong and often times intense physical connection are large themes in your romances, but with Kelly and Walter that took a backseat. Is this a format that you are exploring in your future stories, or was it just a conjecture of the setting/age of the characters?

HC: A lot of it was the way the story worked out. Book two will be a bit steamier but more on the lines of Dance With Me than Nowhere Ranch. For Love Lessons any time I let the sex amp up it seemed to take away from the emotional vulnerability. I’m fairly sure Kelly and Walter get up to some pretty sexy shenanigans, but this story wasn’t about that. It was about sensuality and connection and vulnerability.

I think it’s safe to say I’ll dance in and out of heat levels depending on the story and the characters. I maintain Dance With Me is pretty low steam compared to most, but not everyone shares that opinion. I love writing sexy, but even in my most erotic stories it’s not about the sex for me. I know Nowhere Ranch gets a lot of attention because of the graphic nature of their play, but it was never about titillation for me, not in that book especially. Sex was the only way those characters could speak to each other for a long, long time.

If graphic sex serves characters, I’ll write it, but if it takes away, it goes. Every time.

TB: Now my blog is a bit different, since I usually do a wine pairing and a meal that would go well with the book or inspired on something from the story. This book is especially exciting to me, since Kelly has so many dietary restrictions; I had to be extra creative. For your boys I decided to make tasty enchiladas with a tofu/calabacitas filling, topped with Salsa Verde. Do you think I could get Kelly and Walter to enjoy my delicious recipe without a visit to the emergency room?

HC: It should be okay, and sounds delicious! Only his almond issue is anaphylactic. The rest would make him break out in hives and have a horrible stomach ache. Walter would probably inspect your kitchen, though, and Kelly would blush in mortification and apologize for his boyfriend.

TB: Going forward do you think you will revisit the young love theme? If you do would we get to revisit Hope University?

HC: I think I’m probably done with Hope, but there’s already a second book in the series and it’s set in Minnesota. I know there’s a book three as well, and…well, you have to wait for the rest.

TB: To wrap things up, there is ONE thing I’ve been DYING to ask you from the first book I read from you. Given your love for wedding proposals, in the future will get to see a wedding?

HC: LOL. Well, I keep threatening to write the Sam and Mitch wedding, but that hasn’t happened yet. I think, possibly, we get to see Kelly and Walter’s in book two. But it might be book three. Fever Pitch is kind of wringing things out, so we’ll see. But it’s my goal for it to be at the end. Honestly I think it will be in both, the end of book two and the opening of book three.

There’s another one coming too. Soon. And that’s all I can say without spoiling.

Well that is all folks! A huge thank you again to the kind Ms. Cullinan for taking the time to answer my questions. I am so looking forward to her upcoming books and hanging out with her this week in Atlanta.

Cheers and Happy Reading to all!!!!

Laura