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An Interview with Author Anne Hawkinson

Hawkinson 1

I consider myself lucky because I was raised in a family that valued learning. By the time I entered kindergarten, I knew how to read, print, and write in cursive. Bedtime stories were a mainstay, and trips to the local library were as common as those to the grocery store. I couldn’t have known then, but they were instrumental in my becoming a writer.

On a snowy Minnesota afternoon, I curled my eleven-year-old self next to the heat register and read Grimm’s Fairy Tales cover to cover. I devoured the stories of castles, princesses, and the rescuing knights on horseback. Looking back, I think that afternoon was a pivotal moment in my life. Those stories sparked my imagination, but they waited, poised and ready, until I was ready to call upon them for inspiration.

I’m ready now, writing historical romance/drama stories that I hope will find their way into the hands of an eager reader, ready to embark on an adventure that I’ve imagined, crafted, and tucked between the covers.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

The inspiration for Thornberry Manor: The Emerald (the first book in the Thornberry Manor series) came from several very different places. The ideas swirled around in my brain for a while and then presented themselves to me. Without giving too much away, it was a combination of a television series from the ’60s, my love of the stately manor houses of England (picture Pemberley from Pride and Prejudice), and a piece of jewelry. I’m also fascinated by the concept of time travel, and I’m excited to give this series a fresh, new take on the idea.

Tell us the story of your book’s current title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

Coming up with the title involved a significant amount of time, consideration, and the need for the longevity/staying power necessary when applying the name to one book that will become a series.

First of all, is there such a place? I didn’t want to trespass on anyone’s physical or literary property. After thorough research and internet searches, I think I’m good to go on that score.

Second, the name needed to have significance. I like the name Thornberry because it’s a name that holds and represents contradiction and juxtaposition. Thorns are sharp, piercing, and dangerous. Hurtful. Berries are soft, nurturing, and pleasant on the palate (when ripe). Helpful.

Thornberries are small, about the size of a blueberry, and can be found in a wide range of colors (orange-yellow, scarlet, red, yellow, blue, or black). The color varieties fascinated me; that’s a detail I’ll make note of. It might just come in handy.

The second part of the title (The Emerald) is the part I’m still researching, working with, and not able to share just yet. Sorry. That’s all I can say about that.

Describe your dream book cover.

A dream book cover catches the eye and is impossible to ignore. You MUST pick it up and investigate! It provides visual clues, ideas, and a bit of information about what the book is about without giving too much away. The back cover blurb arouses your curiosity and makes you want to open the cover and start reading, wherever you happen to be. A dream book cover invites the reader in to discover and experience the story inside. It speaks softly to the reader, “Come, let’s spend some time together. I want to tell you a story.”

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Setting music to my book will be a creative challenge. Some music may need to fit the time period where a particular scene plays out (remember, we’re dealing with time travel). On the other hand, music that hasn’t been written yet or is in the wrong time period will make for interesting scenes to write and conversations for my characters to have.

Bottom line: nothing too loud, harsh, or demanding. It’s unfortunate when a score or a song overpowers the entire scene in a movie where that was not its intended role. I wouldn’t want that to happen to my story.

I would choose music that is soft, subtle, emotional, and upbeat when appropriate. Something that supports and enhances what is happening and where it is happening without overpowering or becoming too intrusive. Music that can move between the settings in the story with ease and help transition the viewer from one place to another. Perhaps there would be a melody that represents a particular person or place. Bear McCreary did a phenomenal job with the Outlander series in that specific instruments and/or bits of a score helped the viewer identify with a character in the episode.

If John Barry was alive, I would beg him to create the soundtrack. It would be magnificent.

What books are you reading (for research or comfort) as you continue the writing process?

I just finished Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark, and I’m currently reading Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, the most recent book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Looking back, I think the jobs I’ve had helped shape who I’ve become (I come from a hard-working, ambitious family).

Before it was legal to work in my state, I cleaned cabins on Saturday mornings at the resort across the lake from our summer cabin (I was responsible enough to be trusted with our speedboat for transport back and forth).

Another “pre-legal” job involved assembling laundry detergent samples that were bagged and hung on residents’ doorknobs. My entire family was part of the marketing effort: assemblers, packers, drivers, and delivery persons.

I had no formal training, but worked for years at a florist shop. I must have had some inherited talent (no doubt from my mother) because I was able to quickly pick up the basic concepts and had an eye for design and composition.

Finally, I worked in the community college setting. My career in the educational realm began as a student, work-study employee, then full-time employee (with the additional opportunity to teach as an adjunct professor after earning my Master’s degree).

Where is your favorite place to write?

Favorite place? Anywhere and everywhere! That being said, it depends on where I physically am and where the story is.

When I am home, I work in my office. I like having my desk near a window so that I can take a visual/mental break and appreciate what is happening outside.

When I’m traveling, I plot thoughts and ideas in a notebook that may/may not make it into the final draft of my story. They’re not intense, detailed passages. They’re nuggets of something that might be worth expanding on later or an idea for a blog post. I might also work through a troublesome scene or explore possible plot directions with associated consequences.

If I’m stuck or just beginning a story, I work with pencil/paper away from my desk/computer. I have a plot template where I map out the story’s general components and where/when they happen. This is where initial research takes place; it might include reading other books, internet research, or watching movies that explore similar themes.

After writing a particularly heartbreaking or challenging scene, I go outside and work in the garden. Something totally unrelated (like pulling weeds) helps me work through the emotions, find a solution, or just come to terms with it.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I usually start by building a world where my characters can settle and begin their journey. It involves a lot of research and working through plot ideas and scenarios. When I’m ready to begin, I create a general plot timeline, a character outline that I can add to as I go along, and a short, chapter-by-chapter summary as writing begins.

I keep a rough word count in the summary document, and I write scene-by-scene because that works for me. It helps me avoid the angst of word count goals I see other writers wrestle with. I do a word count after every chapter so that I can see where I am related to the overall plot of the story and recommendations of the genre’.

I do my best to focus on the scene in front of me, but there are some characters who are quite strong-willed and eager to have their story told. Some of them even act out scenes in my head or stand impatiently with their arms folded across their chests! When that happens, I move to a blank page, write the scene, then pick up where I left off. That usually satisfies them until I can insert that scene into the story. In my writing world, the characters have quite a say in what happens. If I give them free rein (for the most part) they almost always get it right.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

England and time travel aside, I hope readers catch a glimpse of themselves on the page. Perhaps there are situations or emotions they can relate to. Something they’ve felt. A challenge they’ve faced. A tough decision they’ve had to make, knowing that they have to live with whatever comes next. The human condition remains fairly constant, regardless of the time period or century. Basic human emotions remain unchanged: love, heartbreak, sorrow, joy, etc. The list is endless and universal. The perfect reader? None of us is perfect, but I am grateful to readers who, as they read the book, journey with my characters and feel connected (in their own, personal way) to the story and the players on the page. Recommendations to fellow readers of the genre’ and a review is an added bonus I’m always thankful for.

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