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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Author Interview: Stephanie O'Hanlon

Interview with 
Stephanie O'Hanlon, 
author of 
Affaire de Coeur
Out of My Grave

Today we're welcoming author Stephanie O'Hanlon to The Happy Book Reviewer.

Thanks for joining us all the way from Ontario, Canada, to talk to us about your books! You've had two novels published just this past year: Affaire de Coeur in February and Out of My Grave in August. What a busy 2013!

O'Hanlon: It definitely has been! I was so happy when Eternal Press chose to publish Affaire de Coeur, so it was even more exciting when they snatched up Out of My Grave. Lots of excitement and work involved! Busy, busy year, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Sounds like the good kind of busy! InD'tale Magazine called Affaire de Coeur a "flirtatious story with debauchery and ribaldry that is as alluring as it is captivating!" This is a historical romance set in 1770 Paris, where country girl Madeleine Dumont takes a fancy to an established bachelor and favorite of King Louis XV. Have you had an interest in and knowledge of this time period, or did it take a lot of research to get the setting and customs accurate?

O'Hanlon: Both, actually! When I started to write Affaire de Coeur I was just getting into both the century and my now-extreme love for everything Marie-Antoinette. I then took it to the next level and started to research like crazy. I have books on architecture, interior design, art, historical figures, and of course, fashion, which is my favourite part. I fell in love with it all very easily.

Ah, I sure appreciate a well-researched historical novel! So what inspired Madeleine and Lucien's story?

O'Hanlon: It started with just wanting to write something based on myself and my friend, being the basis for Madeleine (myself) and Colette (my friend). I knew I wanted it to be a romance, which meant I needed a leading man, so I created Lucien. I had just been through a really bad breakup, so I wanted to create a man that would treat me right, treat Madeleine right. Then through all my research into aristocracy, I realized that a lot of good conflict would come from two people from different classes falling in love.

I love the cover; the laciness, the woman's sultry gaze out the window, the general sensuality of it. I know sometimes I dream about what a cover might look like while I'm writing a manuscript. Was this cover your idea that you pitched to the cover artist (Dawné Dominique), or did you give her some hints about the book and she ran with it?

O'Hanlon: I had an idea of what I wanted, but at the same time I was open to something better, which Dawné totally provided! I explained wanting a woman with that forlorn look, holding a letter. What I got was ten times better, and definitely more intriguing. I also love the use of purple and the swirly filigree!

Speaking of covers, I also love what Dawné did with your second book from Eternal Press, Out of My Grave. This is a paranormal romance, and the other-worldliness of the cover is just gorgeous.

Out of My Grave is also set in the late 1700s, this time in London (it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, after all!). Annalee Harding daydreams the days away in her large home, wishing a dark stranger would whisk her away. Then Vincent Moor comes to town and catches her eyes, but his secrets are dark and dangerous.

If you could live in any point in history, would it be Affaire de Coeur's 1770s Paris, Out of My Grave's 1790s London, or a different one entirely?

O'Hanlon: I would be in the same century, but preferably in 1750, mainly because of the fashion. Even though I absolutely adore Marie-Antoinette, I find her whole journey heartbreaking, so I would have wanted to steer clear of the 1770’s as best I could, as well as the Revolution. I would have been a royalist for sure, so I would have been by her side until the end, when I probably would have met with Madame Guillotine. It doesn’t sound very pleasant!

Right! Some of the most creative times in history are also the most violent, especially if you're on the wrong side! Fiction allows us to play in history while keeping a safe distance.  Is there a time period and place you'd love to research and set a novel someday?

O'Hanlon: I already have ideas set in Victorian & Tudor era, so it’s just a matter of getting around to them. Most authors don’t like doing research, but I absolutely love it! I like making things as accurate as I can, like a historical drama film. Most miss the beauty of describing something that was actually real. I love history in general, so writing in every century would be interesting!

After writing paranormal romance or historical romance, did one (sub-)genre come more natural to you? Or was one more fun to write?

O'Hanlon: For some reason I enjoy writing the historical portion, but I keep going back to paranormal as well. They both came to me very easily. My first three manuscripts I wrote were paranormal vampire romance, but set in different time periods. Then I did straight historical romance with Affaire de Coeur, and that’s what I keep coming back to. I just love to write in general, so as long as I like the story idea, I run with it, no matter the time period or content.

Usually, I like to learn about the deeper sides of books, so I ask about a high school class reading the books. I'm thinking these might be a little too sexy for a teacher to assign!

O'Hanlon: Oh yeah, way too sexy! My books are definitely more for the 18+ crowd.

Okay, so let me ask it this way instead... If my book club were reading your books, what themes would you hope we'd be discussing?

O'Hanlon: In regards to Affaire de Coeur, I think the whole subject of aristocracy in that era is an interesting theme. So much went into being on top of the social ladder, so finding love was usually disregarded in exchange for titles, money and power. Also, fashion as currency. Men’s fashion was slow to develop throughout the century, but women’s fashion was different month-to-month, especially when you reached the 1770’s with Marie-Antoinette as the figure head of fashion.

In regards to Out of My Grave, I think the main theme in it is appreciating what you have and looking before you leap. I don’t know if that’s interesting to talk about, unless you put yourself in Annalee’s shoes.

I understand you are now a full-time writer. What is the most fun thing about a writing career?

O'Hanlon: The most fun is being able to write! Just sitting down and writing and being able to say, “I’m working right now.” I also enjoy answering the question “What’s your job?” and replying with that I’m a writer/author. Being able to produce my work for people to enjoy.

But I'll bet it is not all fun and games! What's the most difficult part?

O'Hanlon: The most difficult is promoting your work. I wish I had a publicist! But, we all have to start at the bottom and work our way up. I am very blessed with having Eternal Press & Damnation Books as my publisher; they try to help as best they can to help you reach success. The other authors at EP/DB are also so supportive and love to help out. So it’s bittersweet.

So many people have kernels of ideas for books, but never take the first step and begin to write their book. They might think about it for years, or their entire lives, and never let it go beyond being a dream. What advice would you give to someone just starting out as a writer?

O'Hanlon: Just keep writing. The first manuscript may not be the best, but the more you write, the more you learn how to tell a story, and that’s the important part of being a writer. You have to be able to tell the story. So, writing, reading, and even indulging and watching TV shows and movies is where it’s at, how you learn to tell a story.

Since you mentioned reading, a favorite subject of mine (obviously!), let me ask: Do you generally read romance too? 

O'Hanlon: I sometimes read romance novels, but I enjoy and get inspired by historical dramas in film. I mainly read research materials…which sounds kinda boring, but I love it.

What book have you read (romance or otherwise) that that you wish you had written?

O'Hanlon: I think I wish I wrote Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat. I’m crazy about her work and it’s just so amazing what she does with her characters, especially Lestat. There is no character like him and you just have to love him.

I hope you're working on a next book! 

O'Hanlon: I actually just finished my next manuscript just a few days before Christmas! 

Congrats! Can you give us a hint of what it is about?

O'Hanlon: It’s another 18th century romance, set in 1750, following a young woman named Mignonette and her drama-filled life and quest to win a man of importance. It’s a lot of fun, I found myself laughing a lot while writing it because of Mignonette’s character. But, as with any great romance there are tears. I’m very proud of it and hope to share it with everyone soon!

Ooo... I'll keep an eye out for that one! And while we wait for your next book, everyone can check out Affaire de Coeur and Out of My Grave at:

1 comment:

  1. Interesting questions, obviously tailored to the book. I like to read about history, but I've never wanted to live in it. I prefer the present...or maybe even the future!