Eilean Donan Castle by DRW Photography

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Interview with Beppie Harrison

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Beppie Harrison, Please take a moment and see what she has to say. Look to the bottom for a excerpt

Me: Tell us about yourself

Beppie: I’ve had the great good fortune of living in a variety of places during my life, which has given me the opportunity of getting to know a lot of different people, and learning to feel at home in many places. I live now in Michigan, with my English husband, but for the first 10 years of our marriage we lived in London. It was trips to Ireland that kindled my love for that wonderfully green and beautiful place, blessed as it is with the most remarkably friendly and welcoming people.

I’ve also loved to read and write ever since I learned to do first one and then the other, and I find my imagination is almost as good company as my husband!

Me: Tell us about your new book?

Beppie: Well, there are three books in the Heart Trilogy, each a historical romance, set in the early part of the 1800s. In England that period is now referred to mainly as the beginning of the Regency. They can be read separately, but they concern a family, and new people are gradually introduced. Each book is set at least partially in Ireland; the first half of the second one, The Broken Heart, takes place in England, but winds up back in Ireland. The first and third are wholly Irish, although most of the people who live in those pages were from families originally English, but who have lived in Ireland for many generations

Each book focuses on a pair that has to find their own peace in the midst of exterior conflict.  Love isn’t always an easy answer, and my heroes and heroines, some English, some Irish have to find a way to trust and build tranquility with each other. Ireland at that time was not always an easy place to live, and the two warring communities make it difficult for couples to find their own happily ever after.

Me: When you write, does your real life spill over into your book at any time?

Beppie: I’m sure it does. Most centrally, my conviction that honest people of good intentions will usually manage to get along with others, no matter how it starts out, has a lot to do with the way my stories find their resolution and reasonably happy prospects for a real future. Love has a great deal to do with it—love between men and women, affection between women who oversee the future in raising their children, and trust among men who come to realize that those who may seem initially to be opponents may in fact become allies in finding a peace in the midst of exterior chaos.

Me: Do you think about a book of yours being made into a movie, or not when writing.

Beppie: It doesn’t cross my mind. I am so absorbed with the people in my head that I never think of them as having any other existence.

Me: When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?

Beppie: Not really. I try to find names that people of that time might actually have, that somehow ring true to me. I have a wonderful book of names in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and France, which breaks them down into names used at different times in the history of those countries. In Ireland, for instance, the early names are Celtic and by the period of English dominance, are most often the English equivalent of Irish names, reflecting the distaste of the authorities and the Anglo-English upper classes for the unsuitable Irish/Celtic names of commoners.

Me: What made you want to write and also what made you want to write the genre you are now writing?

Beppie: I have always wanted to write. When I was 6 or 7, I was writing stories that may or may not have had any point. I had my first story printed in a church magazine when I was 10 or 11. The idea of writing anything but contemporary stories didn’t occur to me until maybe five or six years ago, but once I began I realized my voice is most suited to historical writing. I love the necessary research, and I love dealing with the problems other periods in history presented. I have quite enough experience with the difficulties of the here and now!

Me: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Beppie: I am still very grateful for the opportunity I had at a writers’ conference in Chicago to spend time with Mary Balogh. I love her books, and she is exactly the sort of person you would expect to write those wonderful romances of the Georgian and Regency period. She grew up in Wales, and there is a Welsh richness bubbling along below the surface of her books. I started writing historical romances later in life than she did, but I’ve learned a tremendous amount from both her stories themselves and the way in which she tells them.

Me: Do you have to travel much concerning your books?

Beppie: That depends. You can learn a lot from reading. I remember being so surprised when I learned at the RWA Conference several years ago that Nora Roberts had not traveled to Alaska to write her Northern Lights, a book that gave me the sense that I had visited Alaska! She’d written it based on books and on-line research. When I actually went there some years later I was still looking through her eyes.

There are people who need to be there before they can write about a place convincingly. I think I’m probably about halfway in between. It would never have occurred to me to write about Ireland before I had been there and fallen in love with the place and the people. But in my next book, I’ve written about County Donegal, where I’ve never been. I have a whole library of books and websites I relied on. My husband and I are going there in June, and he has agreed to be dragged around places that I used in the book—I can hardly wait to see if their real existence is anything like the vivid pictures in my mind. Of course, I’ve been writing about 200 years ago, so I expect some things are bound to be different now. I just hope that they were like what I’ve written back then!

Me: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Beppie: The hardest part of any book for me is the beginning. The battle between just launching into the story and giving the necessary background for a historical is one I generally wage over three or four (or more) rewritings. Maybe I’m growing out of that—the next book, The Defiant Heart, which will be out in April—I just started writing and continued. That would be lovely if it happens every time, but being naturally pessimistic, I expect Chapter One will continue to be a hurdle, book after book.

Me: When you start writing your book, do your H/H ever talk to you?

Beppie: No, they talk to each other and I desperately try to catch up and figure out what they mean by what they’re saying.

 Me; Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Beppie: I haven’t so far, and have crossed fingers that that’s the way it remains. 

Me: Do you have any tips for readers that might dream of writing?

Beppie: The first and only important tip is to tell you to write. Much of what you write as you are learning might sound like rubbish to you—might even be rubbish, but the more sentences you write, the more skilled you become in being able to identify how to say what you want to say. None of that can you learn reading other people’s writing or thinking about writing yourself. You have to get into what W.B. Yeats called “the rag and bone shop of the heart” to learn how to write. And nobody counts how much you’ve erased or rewritten. But unless you are actually putting words down on paper, you’re not learning how to write.

 Excerpt for The Devided Heart Trilogy

The first book of the trilogy:The Devided Heart

Anne regarded her sister in the flickering candlelight.
Caroline murmured, “Did you notice how attentive Lord Ashbourne was to you?”
“He was polite,” Anne said, but she felt a little rush of satisfaction.
“It was more than polite. If you are so attached to Ireland, why not marry him?”
“Marry him?” Anne squeaked, sitting straight up in her surprise. “Why in the world would he want to marry me?”
Caroline propped up her head with her elbow. “Well, why ever not? You are certainly eligible. You’re the daughter of an earl—”
“He’s a marquess,” Anne interrupted.
“Close enough, as well you know. He plans to stay in Ireland, and you love Ireland—out of all reason, if you ask me. He seems very interested already. All you need to do is charm him.”
Anne groaned. “How am I supposed to charm him? I can hardly ride over the Ballymuir tomorrow morning and announce there I am, prepared to be charming.”
Caroline muffled her giggle. “He found you out on the road once already. It’s too bad that isn’t likely to happen often.”
“Exactly.” Anne flung herself back against her pillow, noticing that she rocked the bed and not much caring. “Good night and do dream about something else.” Leaning over, she blew out the candle.
Caroline giggled again. “Good night,” she murmured, her voice coming out of the dark again.
The darkness was warm and familiar in the comfort of their bed. Images of Lord Ashbourne floated across Anne’s mind. Had he been attentive? He certainly was attractive. From what Papa had said, he was planning to make his life in Ireland, just as she wished she had the freedom to do. Presumably he would have to take a wife, sooner or later.
It was a pity that only men were allowed to decide those things. She wasn’t falling in love with him—that would be ridiculous—but the prospect of marrying him, should he ever propose such an arrangement, would not be distasteful.
But how were they ever to meet frequently enough to discover what attraction existed between them? The days were passing rapidly. What if he never pursued the business of marriage until after she had been sent to England?
She flounced over in the bed again. Caroline, who must have been half asleep already, murmured a drowsy protest. Anne ignored her.
If she could choose the man she would marry, what sort of man would she choose? It was willful even to think it, but if ever she had the choice, she would choose a man who planned to live in Ireland. Her own beautiful, confusing, secretive Ireland.

The second book of the trilogy: The Broken Heart

They were sitting somewhat closer to the Duchess at the foot of the table than to the Duke, who was magnificently the master of the house at the head. The service was unobtrusive, and Caroline was grateful she was sitting with Mr. Gallagher, who in an odd way was “from home,” even if she had never met him before. Fortunately, the gentleman on her other side seemed not to have a great deal of conversation to spare, and was disinclined to open any new subject. After they had exhausted the weather and compliments on the house and the menu, Caroline was quite willing to turn back to Mr. Gallagher for the remainder of the meal and talk with him. How curious that even the shadow of an Irish brogue was so sweet to her ears.
“Have you lived in Dublin long?” she asked.
He smiled. He had a particularly charming smile. His eyes were a great part of it. “All my life, Lady Caroline. The magic of Dublin runs in my veins.”
Magic? She felt her eyes widen. “I have only been to Dublin once, when I was small. But I don’t remember magic.”
He was still smiling. How did he manage to make what might have been perfectly ordinary brown eyes look so welcoming and warming? “You must have not been able to explore the best places to find it.”
“I think I was seven years old. Maybe eight.”
“Well, then. Girls of seven find magic in different places, and if your parents were with you—and both of them were more than seven, I would wager—they may not have known where to look.”
Caroline laughed, surprising herself. She had not often laughed since—since Henry—well. “Where is the best magic, then?”
“Hiding in special places. If you ever come to Dublin, you must let me know and I will prepare a list for you.” He looked solemn for a moment. “But Ireland has more magic than that in Dublin. I’m not sure about County Meath—the English have been there for many long years now, and the English do not approve of Irish magic.”
Wary now, Caroline asked, “Do you not approve of the English?”
He laughed, softly. “What a question to ask, when I am at the table of a noble Englishman who is a great friend of mine, sitting next to a beautiful English lady, for all she hides in black.” He bowed his head decorously. “There has been great trouble between the Irish and the English in Ireland, and not all of it can be blamed on either. But the English are good at some things, and the Irish at others. One of the Irish things is magic.”

The third book of the trilogy: The Rebellious Heart

What happened?” His uncle looked at him closely.
Ethan sighed. He had not planned to tell the story at all, but perhaps it would be better to share part of it. It would certainly make it clear they were not trying to work out some way to run off with each other.
“It was her hair,” he admitted.
“Her hair? Because it is short?”
“No, it was not short then. She has rather a lot of it, and it was very curly, and hard to control. It tended to overwhelm her face. My friends thought the effect was unfashionable and even unattractive.” He had been feeling progressively more ashamed he had not discouraged some of the unkind remarks at the time, especially now he realized she had been hurt, but there was no way to rectify that now. It was probably better to let it sink into the past.
He sighed again and continued. “Since they were my friends, Melissa associated them firmly with me and has made her displeasure with me plain. I discovered that when we happened to encounter each other a day or so ago when we were both out having an early morning ride. I went over to Ballymuir later to explain I had not participated in whatever it was she found offensive, but she was not open to discussion about it.”
His uncle frowned. “That is unfortunate. Do you suppose she will refuse to have you as her escort to Dublin? Because it would be difficult for me to leave—”
“Oh, no.” Ethan spoke as quickly as he could manage. “It is just a day of travel, after all. It is not as if we are going to be traveling companions for any considerable stretch of time.”
“Pity about that.” His uncle spoke regretfully. “I cannot say I have seen many women with short hair, but I must say I find it is quite suitable for Melissa. Her hair is a lovely color and I like the curls. But I am an old man, comparatively speaking, and what do I know?” His face settled into a reluctant smile. “And being an old man, I must continue on my way to bed. Next evening we must be sure to ask you for some music here, if you would be so kind.”
He rose from his chai and started toward the door, pausing to turn back slightly.
“Let this be a lesson to you, my boy. Never remark on a young lady’s appearance in anything but clearly complimentary terms. They are as unpredictable as vipers.”
Whereupon he left the room, chuckling.

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  1. What a wonderful interview. I loved the excerpts and can't wait to read the books!

  2. I'll love to hear what you think of them!

  3. Absolutely loved the interview! What a joy to live in London and travel to Ireland, Beppie! Wishing you all the best with your stories--ones that are on my TBR list. :)