Interview with historical fiction author Emily-Jane Hills Orford

A hearty
welcome to novelist Emily-Jane Hills Orford.
We’re chatting about her new historical fiction/fantasy novel, Queen Mary’s Daughter.
Bio:
Emily-Jane
Hills Orford is an award-winning author of several books, including Gerlinda (CFA 2016) which received an
Honorable Mention in the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, To Be a Duke (CFA 2014) which was named
Finalist and Silver Medalist in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and
received an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. She
writes about the extra-ordinary in life and her books, short stories, and
articles are receiving considerable attention.
Please tell us about your current
release.
There are so many
possibilities that affect the course of history. One change, one small item
overlooked, can make a world of difference, not only in a person’s life, but in
the history and well-being of an entire nation. And then there are those
multiple scenarios of what if? What if King James VI of Scotland didn’t succeed
in amalgamating Scotland with England? What if there had been another heir to
the throne of Scotland? One who would secure its independence? Would Scotland
have remained free and independent and a nation of its own well into the
twenty-first century? And would Scotland, this independent version, make its
own decision to join the European Union when its southern neighbor was choosing
to pull away?
What inspired you to write this book?
There are so many
possibilities that affect the course of history. One change, one small item
overlooked, can make a world of difference, not only in a person’s life, but in
the history and well-being of an entire nation. And then there are those
multiple scenarios of what if? What if King James VI of Scotland didn’t succeed
in amalgamating Scotland with England? What if there had been another heir to
the throne of Scotland? One who would secure its independence? Would Scotland
have remained free and independent and a nation of its own well into the
twenty-first century? And would Scotland, this independent version, make its
own decision to join the European Union when its southern neighbor was choosing
to pull away?
First and foremost, my
grandmother. She and I had a special relationship. When I was old enough, we
traveled together. One special trip took us to Scotland where we traced her
childhood memories (she was born in Scotland) as well as followed the trail of
Mary Queen of Scots. We had been enjoying a number of novels and biographies
about the ill-fated queen and my grandmother ignited my interest by telling me
about ancestors who helped in her escape from Loch Leven Castle. I always wanted
to write about Queen Mary, but it wasn’t until the Brexit debacle and the
ongoing desire of the Scottish people to separate from England, that I started
looking more closely at the stories around Queen Mary. I knew she had given
birth, prematurely, to twins while imprisoned at Loch Leven. History records
that the babies died at birth and were buried on the island where the castle
sat. An interesting footnote states that the location of the burial and the
babies’ remains have never been found. So, I started thinking, ‘what if?’. What
if there had been another heir to the Scottish throne and Scotland never did
amalgamate with England and Ireland? And my story unfolded.
Excerpt from Queen Mary’s Daughter:
As the wind
picked up, blowing her deep red, unruly curls helter-skelter over her face,
Mary Elizabeth’s eyes focused on her hands. She stretched out the left hand,
revealing the old ring that sat on her baby finger. It was a tiny ring and it
only fit on the one finger. At the same time Gran bestowed the heirloom gift on
her granddaughter, she had shared her story of the ring, at least as much as
she was willing to share. The ring had been in the family for generations and
only the firstborn daughter of the firstborn daughter (and so on and so on) could
wear it. The ring was her connection to a past she wasn’t sure she believed in,
a past that had been shared from one generation to the next. Or was there more?
Was there a story her grandmother never managed to share?
What would she
find at Loch Leven Castle? The clues had to be there. But the boy said it was
mostly ruins, crumbled walls and tumbled stones, except for the tower. Queen
Mary’s tower. What could she possibly unearth to collaborate Gran’s story? And
she only had two weeks to do it. She couldn’t afford more time away from work.
Even though it was a poorly paid entry level job, she didn’t want to risk
losing it.
A glow emanated
from the ring on her outstretched hand. She felt a warmth spread up her arms.
The wind picked up, violently tossing her hair in every direction, swishing her
coat ends like laundry hanging loosely on a clothesline. She faced into the
wind, allowing its vicious impact to draw her forward. She took a step, then
another, until she felt the cold wet of the lapping waves of the loch splash
over her feet. The water was cold; it jolted her back to reality. What was she
doing walking into the loch? What was the strong pulse pulling her forward? She
allowed her eyes to glance out across the loch, now almost obliterated by the darkened
storm that raged all around her.
“Miss.” She
heard a voice from behind her as the power continued to drag her into the loch.
“Miss!” A hand gripped her arm, yanking her back toward the dry shore. “Miss!”
The hands tightened their hold as she tried to pull away, tried to return to
the loch. A scream pierced the air. She didn’t know where the scream
originated. It sounded like it came from across the water.
It also sounded
like it came from deep within herself.
Another scream
and everything went black.
What exciting story are you working on
next?
Several. I
just signed a contract with TellTale Publishing for my Middle Grade series, the
“Piccadilly Street Series”. Three books are awaiting edits and the fourth is in
the initial writing stage. I’m also working on a sequel to “Queen Mary’s
Daughter” – “King Henry’s Choice” – and a fifth book to my “Four Seasons”
series. I continue to follow my interest in family stories and memoirs and I
frequently publish family stories in “The Curious Tourist Guide” and other
publications. An avid gardener, I contribute regularly to insteading.com
Exciting
stories? I like to think that all my stories are exciting. They are to me, at
least.
When did you first consider yourself a
writer?
As soon as I could hold a pen and knew
my letters. I have always loved writing. I grew up in
a family of storytellers. We would sit around the dinner table sharing our
stories. Being the youngest, I didn’t have much chance to share my stories, so,
as soon as I could write, I wrote my stories. I particularly enjoy writing
stories about real people, real life and started my writing career in the late
1970s writing for small publications, telling people’s stories and writing
about interesting places. I still enjoy writing these types of stories, but my
passion for fiction insists that I write novels as well. Who inspire me? My
mother and my grandmother. My mother was very creative and she encouraged me to
write my stories. My grandmother was a wonderful storyteller, always full of
stories to share. I wrote both my mother’s story, “F-Stop: A Life in Pictures”
and my grandmother’s story, “Personal Notes”.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I have too
many interests to commit to any one thing full time. I write first thing in the
morning before puttering in the garden or walking the family dog. I work on my
needleart and collage paintings mid-day and return to my writing in the early
afternoon when I focus on my book reviewing (I’m a regular reviewer for
readersfavorite.com) and short stories and articles. I sometimes write in the
evenings, although I prefer to spend the evenings reading. I can’t improve my
own writing skills if I don’t study and appreciate what others have written.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
Every life has a story and every story needs a writer.
And,
as author Diana M. Raab wrote in her book, “Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for
You”, “
I live to write, so
I shall never die.”
As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?
A best-selling
author. Okay, well, at least I achieved part of that equation and I can boast
that my writing has won some awards.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
If I could be
anything else other than a writer, I think I would like to be an artist. That
being said, I have to admit that I already am an artist, one who masters the
craft of working with words, and an artist, one who creates visual works. So, I
guess I already am what I want to be: a writer and an artist.
Links:
Thanks for being here today, Emily-Jane!

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