In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing
victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing the which questions, and how many questions they want to answer! Erin Blakemore, author of The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder, played along on this, the six month anniversary of her novel in hardcover, and answered nine questions. Here is what Erin had to say about reading, writing and Jo March’s writing cap.
Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?
I’m Erin Blakemore, bookworm extraordinaire and author of The Heroine’s Bookshelf. I live in Boulder, Colorado, where I somehow find time to read and write between running my own business, loving Colorado’s freaky seasons and watching Punky Brewster.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been drawn to books, reading, and writing, so I guess I got an early start! I was an obsessive fan-fic author before there was a name for such things, wrote a sonnet a day in high school, penned millions of letters and wrote for my high school paper. This morphed into historical writing in college, a freelance writing career, a business devoted to marketing and messaging, and finally my first book deal. I like to think that I write books that connect people to the magic of reading – and introduce them to some kick-ass heroines along the way.
I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?
I always think of Jo March’s writing cap and pillow when I think about my writing rituals, but my own habits change constantly. I love writing with my hair back; it makes me feel contained and concentrated somehow. I’m also pitifully reliant on Pandora and my music collection, both of which get me through those miserable moments where I have no idea if I’ve lost my way. Tea, frequent email breaks, and changes of scenery (I wrote roughly 50% of The Heroine’s Bookshelf in the local mall) are bonuses, but not entirely necessary.
What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors? Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?
My reading list is always huge, varied, and messy. Right now I’m reading and loving Lauren Willig’s Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Elizabeth Gaskell’s Charlotte Brontë bio (yes, I am still devouring biographies of my favorite literary heroines even after writing a book on them myself), and 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart. I love biography and memoir almost as much as fiction, which makes it nearly impossible to decide what to read next! As for reading’s effect on my writing, I find that I appreciate craft and structure much more these days. I’m always on the lookout for why a book catches my eye and feels unique.
In the past I have visited a blog called Daily Routines and it’s all about the schedules of writers and creative people. What does a typical day look like for you and how do you manage a busy schedule?
Sometimes I think I’m a bit insane, and I have the schedule to prove it! Though no two days in an entrepreneur’s life are ever really the same, a typical weekday looks like this: I slowly awaken to find I am on my normal Internet round of social media scheduling for clients, email answering, news reading, etc. Then I head into a day full of phone calls, meetings, and project work, with a long lunch if I can swing it. Throughout the day, I stay as on top of book-related email and social media as I can…it’s a fun break from the day job. In the evening I’ll work out, eat, or hang out with my boyfriend before embarking on my second full-time job, that of Author. I do my best work between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. or so, so I write as much as I can before my fingers can’t take it anymore. Then I’ll chill with mindless TV or a book to quiet my brain before sleep, wake, repeat.
Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be? How involved were in choosing the name of the book?
I came up with the title to my book while brainstorming via IM with my friend Olivia. When I dropped the line “The Heroine’s Bookshelf,” she said “the whole shelf?!” I was lucky enough to have my title stay intact throughout the entire proposal and publication process (a tagline was added later). For a person whose book title includes the word bookshelf, however, the state of my personal book storage is a bit lamentable.
As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?
There have been two big surprises. First, I never fathomed the number of people who are involved with a book’s writing, editing, production, and sale. Second, I never realized that by publishing a book about books, I’d be tapping into a passionate community of curious, engaged, funny, obsessed readers and writers. My new friends and fans surprise and humble me every single day. In short, they rock.
Are there other books you love or writers you admire that are from your local area?
YES! My friend Eleanor Brown is a recent transplant. Her fabulous book The Weird Sisters debuted earlier this year and has deserved every accolade, from rave reviews to a spot on the NYT bestseller list. Eleanor’s book is a real feat…a coming-of-age story about sisters and failure and home…and I truly enjoy her company as a friend.
Did you have to do much research when working on your books, and do you tend to write first or research first?
I’m a frustrated historian, library school dropout and former archival assistant, so I LOVE research. I also love to use it as a procrastination tool…it’s so much sexier to look at books of 1857 fashions than to grapple with a blinky cursor and a blank page. Hence, I do as little research as possible before writing…just the bare bones. I then let the writing direct me to the facts I need to know and do my research as a reward while editing.
Great question…and your guess is as good as mine! I’m currently pondering my next move and looking for a project that calls to me. While I ruminate, I’m keeping busy writing a novel and looking forward to the paperback release of THB.