Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hazel's publishing train running at full tilt

Just four years ago, Kilcullen-based author Hazel Gaynor had self-published her own first novel, as an e-book on Amazon, writes Brian Byrne. 'The Girl Who Came Home' was based on an Irish village's connection the Titanic.

In a way, she was still waiting at a station to go on her journey as a writer. Then 'The Girl' was picked up by HarperCollins, and that was the signal to leave the station. She found herself on a publishing train that started out as a slow local, but has turned into an international express.

"I've just signed another two-book deal with HarperCollins," she told me recently, this time as a seasoned author with two New York Times Best Seller novels published on both sides of the Atlantic, an anthology to which she contributed a novella coming out next month in both the US and here and the UK, and her third novel following fast on its heels in the same markets.

Now her 'train' is also stopping more frequently, at many different 'stations', as she has to juggle the writing of her next two books with the marketing demands of the two just publishing.

"I'm well into writing them already, the first one to be published in the spring of 2017, the second for Christmas 2017. I'm going to New York for three days to publicise the anthology, and then there will be the marketing on my own latest book. All of which interrupts the writing."

The anthology, 'Fall of Poppies', is a series of love stories based around Armistice Day of WW1, written by nine women writers of historical fiction. From Hazel's perspective, it joins 'The Girl Who Came Home', and 'A Memory of Violets' which was published early last year. And when 'The Girl from The Savoy' arrives on the shelves in June, she'll really have a substantial personal catalogue of work.

It's all a long way from when she began writing her 'Hot Cross Mum' blog from her new home in Kilcullen in 2009, with a view to doing a book about baking with children so that her young sons Max and Sam could enjoy the kitchen bakery adventures that she had been raised with in her native Yorkshire. When that activity morphed into the first novel she had always wanted to write, and which eventually got her a publisher, it was a dream come true.

"It was the same when my second one was published, and when I got a commission for the third novel it was wonderful because then I knew I wasn't a two-trick writer." (Most first deals are for two books, and a number of those authors never get beyond that second publication.)

Now Hazel has moved to the point where she considers writing her full-time job, and she tries to maintain a regime where she can write without distraction until 3pm. "It doesn't always work out that way," she laughs. "But it helps to have a plan."

The book scheduled for spring of next year is set both in Yorkshire and Dublin, and is based on a true story of two girl cousins who became famous in 1917 for apparently having taken photographs of fairies — the Cottingley Fairies.

"They actually did it to get themselves out of trouble for having gone to the river at the bottom of the garden, but the story went way beyond Yorkshire and attracted the attention in London of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was very interested in the supernatural. Growing up where I did, I always knew of the story, and I have wanted to write a novel based around it for a long time."

The second book is a collaboration with one of the other writers in the 'Poppies' anthology, and is also set at the end of the first World War. "It's a very exciting project for me, as I've wanted to do a collaboration book. And working on 'Poppies', I felt there's so much more to come out of the war. This is also a love story, in the form of letters exchanged by the people concerned."

Adding to her string of achievements, her first novels are now being translated into other languages, one already in Hungarian, and another to be published soon in Turkish. "No, I don't have to proof-read them," she says, with a smile that's in no small part one of relief. "But it's fascinating."

Looking back over the various times I've talked to Hazel as she travelled her journey, I see one thing that never did get off the ground. When she set up the 'Hot Cross Mum' blog, she had a thought about setting up a mums and kids 'baking circle' which could meet up in each others' homes.

The train didn't get to stop at that particular station …

This article was first published on the Kilcullen Page of the Kildare Nationalist.