Friday, January 16, 2015

Guest Post by Hilary Scharper

Good morning, readers! Today I am happy to be hosting author Hilary Scharper whose debut novel, Perdita, is out on shelves Tuesday, January 20. The publisher is offering up three copies of the book in a giveaway - you can find the Rafflecopter to enter at the bottom of this post.

Before I hand things over to Hilary, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

Marged Brice is 134 years old. She’d be ready to go, if it weren’t for Perdita . . .

The Georgian Bay lighthouse’s single eye keeps watch over storm and calm, and Marged grew up in its shadow, learning the language of the wind and the trees. There’s blustery beauty there, where sea and sky incite each other to mischief… or worse…

Garth Hellyer of the Longevity Project doesn’t believe Marged was a girl coming of age in the 1890s, but reading her diaries in the same wild and unpredictable location where she wrote them might be enough to cast doubt on his common sense.

Everyone knows about death. It’s life that’s much more mysterious…

And now over to Hilary!

I am a Canadian author, living in Toronto. I am also a book-lover and “officially” a cultural anthropologist and university professor. Recently I’ve become a novelist.

“Perdita” is my first novel and writing fiction is probably one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. But best of all is that I love it—I’ve discovered how much I love the hard work of writing fiction.

Now when I hold a book in my hands, I can imagine all the work, dedication and discipline that went into it. Now I know firsthand how much sweat equity goes into making prose seem so effortless and fluid. Yet I am still always surprised at how flippant some of my colleagues are about novels: they see them as recreational things (by definition) and the writing of them—well, that’s something to be done in your “spare” time.

There’s a wonderful story attributed to Canadian author Margaret Atwood which captures the false but somewhat commonplace idea that writing fiction is merely a leisurely activity. She was having dinner with a neurosurgeon and at one point he turned to her and remarked (rather condescendingly we can presume) that when he retired he was planning to become a novelist. Atwood shot right back, “That’s funny, because when I retire, I’m planning to become a neurosurgeon.”

Finding the time to write—especially given that many writers like myself have other professions—can be difficult. I tend to write late at night, usually between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m. (In fact, it is 12:49 am as I write this!) I’ve become very interested in other writers’ writing habits…discovering all kinds of wonderful advice and insights. Women of course tend to write in very different patterns than do men—but this is not owing to biological differences! The various social roles for and expectations of women continue to shape how we “manage” our writing time. 

In A Moveable Feast Hemingway wrote:

“Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’”

There’s no doubt that the bit about writing a “true sentence” is very good advice, but I can’t help but be struck by Hemingway’s mention of “the fire: and “the roofs of Paris.” To me, where an author writes and with “whom” is equally important, whether it is a softly burning fire, or Paris’ sea of roofs, or the lighthouse at Cabot Head and a wild and moody Georgian Bay.

More on the writing of “Perdita” at http://perditanovel.com/writing-with-the-wild/

About the Author: Hilary Scharper, who lives in Toronto, spent a decade as a lighthouse keeper on the Bruce Peninsula with her husband. She also is the author of a story collection, Dream Dresses, and God and Caesar at the Rio Grande (University of Minnesota Press) which won the Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award. She received her Ph.D. from Yale and is currently Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Toronto.

Huge thanks to Hilary for being on the blog today and to Sourcebooks for arranging the post. And now for the giveaway:

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