Issue 45 - Girls Just Want to Have Fun ... Writing - Elin Hilderbrand


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lin Hilderbrand writes novels that we like to read while we’re having summer fun—laying by the pool, picnicking at the beach, or swinging on the front porch with an ice cold glass of lemonade. She sets all of her novels in Nantucket, a charming and unique island thirty miles south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and they all take place during the summer. If you love this idea and want to find out more or you’ve already read her novels and are a fan, then join Elin on Twitter or check out her Facebook page. She’s having fun social networking and getting to know her readers; and her beach novels receive rave reviews on her Facebook page, although her stories do often deal with serious subjects, such as battling cancer, dealing with adultery, and recovering from financial ruin. 

Elin is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and the graduate fiction workshop at the University of Iowa, where she was a teaching-writing fellow. She is the author of ten novels, including the New York Times best sellers Barefoot and The Castaways, and the recently released Silver Girl. She lives on Nantucket with her husband and their three children, where she enjoys running, cooking, and watching her sons play Little League baseball.

WOW:  Welcome, Elin, to WOW! We are so excited to have you with us for the Girls Just Want to Have Fun. . .Writing issue! Let’s start off by asking: Why do you love writing novels? What makes it fun?

Elin:  I think the two best parts of writing a novel are the day you start the novel—the blank notebooks represent a world of possibility—and the day you end it, which gives you an amazing sense of accomplishment. It’s exciting for me to create a world within each novel, peopled by memorable characters.

WOW:  I love your “two best parts to writing a novel.” I think you captured perfectly what so many writers feel. But, we know writing is not all fun and games. How do you overcome some of the more common writer problems like writers’ block or juggling career and family?

Elin:  Writing novels the way I do (meaning a new novel every summer) requires enormous discipline. I have to make myself sit down and work even when there are a million other things going on in my life—my kids need to go to the dentist, or they have basketball practice; or the house needs to be cleaned; or I am throwing a dinner party. I have to put these distractions aside and focus on my work. I run every morning, between eight and ten miles, and I find this helps me focus.

WOW:  Eight to ten miles every morning and a novel every year—you are amazing! Tell us about your latest novel, Silver Girl.

Elin:  Silver Girl is a novel about a woman named Meredith Delinn, whose husband has committed massive financial fraud. She loses everything—her homes, her friends, and contact with her two children. The only person left in her life is her friend from preschool, Constance Flute, who agrees to shelter Meredith at her home on Nantucket for the summer. Connie and Meredith have their own history and their own baggage, which they also must contend with.

WOW:  That sounds like the perfect novel to read while laying out by the pool! How is it similar and different from your other novels?

Elin:  Well, it’s set on Nantucket during the course of the summer. It’s a novel that has a friendship between women as its central focus, and it is largely a novel about forgiveness. All of this is similar to my previous books. However, this novel has a timely topic—somewhat “ripped from the headlines.”

WOW:  So then, where did you get the idea for Silver Girl?

Elin:  In April 2009, I read the article on the front page of the New York Times style section entitled, “The Loneliest Woman in New York,” about Ruth Madoff [Bernie Madoff’s wife]. The article explained how Mrs. Madoff could no longer go to her salon or order flowers from her usual florist or go to dinner at her favorite restaurant. It also mentioned that she had one remaining friend—a friend from childhood. This was the redeeming fact of the article for me. I thought, Okay, if she's guilty, that's not interesting. But if she's NOT guilty, this is incredibly fascinating and tragic. I decided I wanted to write a novel about a woman who went through something similar, but who was most definitely innocent.

WOW:  What a great idea, and I love it that this newspaper story sparked an entire novel. It is always interesting to see where writers find their ideas. Why did you decide to set all your novels in Nantucket?

Elin:  To paraphrase John Denver: when I was twenty-three, I came home to a place I’d never been before—and that was Nantucket Island. I am only at peace when I am there, and I would never set my novels anywhere else. Nantucket is my muse.

WOW:  Why is Nantucket a perfect setting for your novels?

Elin:  Well, it’s an island, so it is contained. There is no escaping it. Additionally, it is removed, distinct from the rest of America; and so, it has healing properties, I think. It’s that piece of America that no one thinks exists anymore. My two favorite things about it are the historic downtown with cobblestone streets and 150-year-old whaling captains’ homes and the 50 miles of pristine beach. There are no chain stores, no neon signs, no stoplights. It is an authentic place; there is no place else like it.

WOW:  After reading this interview and your novels, I think people are going to want to check it out! You have built a brand around the type of books you write, and you are often described as writing summer beach novels with romance set in Nantucket. Did you set out to build this brand or did it just kind of happen?

Elin:  It just happened. I was living in Manhattan and through a series of overlapping circumstances, I ended up being able to spend a summer on Nantucket. A year later, I left New York City for good and made Nantucket my home. Then I went to graduate school at the University of Iowa, and I was homesick for Nantucket. I decided the best way to connect myself to the island when I couldn’t be there was to write about it. I started by writing a novel about the beach club and hotel that my husband manages because that was the world that I knew. And with The Beach Club, the brand was born!

“No matter how serious the topic of my novel and no matter how dire the circumstances, I always allow my characters to experience summer...”

WOW:  How important do you think it is for writers to have a brand or even a genre they stick to?

Elin:  For many writers, it’s not important at all. In my case, I think my readers expect certain elements in my books, and I try to deliver. I will always write about Nantucket, and I will always write about relationships. All writers are trying to make sense of the human experience—and that is my first objective. However, I’m also providing a window on classic American summertime. No matter how serious the topic of my novel and no matter how dire the circumstances, I always allow my characters to experience summer—boat rides, picnics on the beach, trips to the farm stand.

WOW:  And there’s nothing like American summertime! Social networking is also a lot of fun! I heard you recently joined Twitter. How important do you think social networking is for authors?

Elin:  The best thing about Twitter for me is that I’ve connected with a lot of other writers—and women writers, in particular. This is a community that was missing from my life before. So, I absolutely love that. It also allows my readers to catch a glimpse into my personal life, as I like to tweet about my kids and my vacations and my social life. I am the last person in America to get a Facebook page, and I just know I will love it. Social networking is the way we live now.

WOW:  Yes, that’s for sure. It’s hard to do anything without Facebook or Twitter mentioned! How do you manage the time you have to write between actually writing your books and all the other tasks, like marketing, that writers have to do?

Elin:  I have dedicated “composing” days, where I do nothing but write. And I use other days to deal with what I refer to as “business,” which is distinct from writing.

WOW:  That’s a good plan. I think we all need to find some kind of plan that works for us, so we can keep producing new work, but keep up with the other aspects. Any marketing tips for our readers to make that part of the author job more fun?

Elin:  Be yourself, and enjoy the fact that you have readers who are interested in what you have to say. Lucky you, lucky me!

WOW:  Lucky, indeed! Where do you find the most inspiration to write? Do you have a special place you go or a room in your house?

Elin:  Where I write depends on the season. In the winter, I write in an empty house that belongs to dear friends of mine. It’s seven bedrooms in town, and there is a cozy library with a fireplace. I’ve written my last five books there. In the summer, I pack a lunch and ride my bike to the beach. I write in legal pads, so I am able to write anywhere.

WOW:  I love the house you write in. How awesome! And on legal pads—wow! The creative process is amazing. Besides writing, what do you like to do for fun?

Elin:  If I had my druthers, having fun would be my job. I like to run and cook. I like to watch my kids play sports. I love the beach. I love going out at night—Nantucket has the best restaurants in all the world—and catching up with my women friends, all of whom are busy themselves. In the fall, I am part of a group of friends who cook up a storm every Sunday and watch the New England Patriots (although I am an avowed Philadelphia Eagles fan myself).

WOW:  Well, there’s another reason to visit Nantucket—“the best restaurants in all the world.” Any words of wisdom for our aspiring or debut authors out there?

Elin:  Keep at it. I wrote a novel while I was in graduate school that never saw the light of day (and never will). If your first effort doesn’t succeed, start something new. The other piece of advice I give people is to start at the beginning and persevere to the end. How many people have the first four chapters of a novel in a drawer somewhere? Too many.

WOW:  So true! It does seem like perseverance is the key to success! Thank you, Elin, for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us. We look forward to reading Silver Girl!

***

Margo L. Dill is a freelance writer, editor, speaker, and teacher, living in St. Louis, Missouri. Her work has appeared in publications such as Grit, Pockets, True Love, Fun for Kidz, Missouri Life, ByLine Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune. She is a columnist, instructor, and contributing editor for WOW! Women On Writing. She is the memoir and children’s/YA novel editor at High Hill Press and the assistant editor for the Sunday Books page in The News-Gazette. Her first book, Finding My Place, a middle-grade historical novel, was published by White Mane Kids. Her children’s picture book, Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire: The Case of the Missing Cookies, was published by Guardian Angel Publishing. Caught Between Two Curses, her young adult novel, was published by Rocking Horse Publishing. High Hill Press will publish her children’s picture book, Lucy and the Red Ribbon Week Adventure. She blogs on Tuesdays at The Lit Ladies, and is a regular blogger at The Muffin. She owns her own copyediting business, Editor 911, and is an instructor for the WOW! Women On Writing Classroom. She loves speaking to writing groups, teachers, and young writers and has presented several workshops to all ages. When she’s not writing or speaking, she loves spending time with her husband, stepson, daughter, and dog—Chester, a boxer. You can find out more about Margo by visiting her website: http://www.margodill.com.


 

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