Today I have the pleasure of introducing Historical Novelist DM Denton. Welcome to my blog, please tell us about your writing history. When was the first time you decided to write and the first time you did?
I recall that as a child loving to read I also knew I wanted to write. Initially, it was an escape for me like reading was and a perfect pursuit for my introverted personality. My mother talks of my first poem, when I was seven or eight, in response to the family being together at Thanksgiving. I’m sure it wasn’t the first, the others probably well-hidden or destroyed. Actually, I can’t remember not writing—closed boxes and folders of yellowing, curling paper and hopeful half-filled journals can attest to that. All through my growing up I preferred alone time imagining characters and stories to any other activity.
Tell us about the concepts behind your books, where the idea for them came from.
As far as A House Near Luccoli, it was quite by chance, on the way to work one morning while listening to Canadian radio’s CBC 2, that I became aware of the 17th century composer Alessandro Stradella: his triumphant and tragic story and for the first time, at least knowingly, his magnificent music. Stradella’s talent for creating misadventures as well as masterpieces got me thinking about the paradox of such genius. I knew I would have to find a way into his story to explore the contradictions of someone with great talent who achieves much only to sabotage his success. By the novel’s end, the fictional Anglo-Italian Donatella, on her way from Genoa to England, is clearly not leaving her relationship with Stradella behind. So To A Strange Somewhere Fled was born, in part out of my experience of living and working in the Abbey and village of Wroxton, England for sixteen years and the opportunity “to return” and explore its history further; and, also, my affinity with the journey of a woman whose heart has been awoken and then broken, and who has to keep the whys and wherefores secret.
The Snow White Gift and The Library Next Door, my two kindle short stories, found their inspiration in my mother’s recollections of her childhood in 1930s Chicago. Generally, when I look for subject matter, I like to go down unchartered rather than well-worn paths, and focus on obscure historical characters, peel away their layers, writing about them in a “small” rather than epic way. With both historical and fictional characters, I always look for the ordinary in the extraordinary and visa-versa. What’s most important is that I challenge and even surprise myself in terms of where my future authorship takes me.
Are you like any of the characters in your books, and, if so, what are the similarities?
There are autobiographical aspects to the central female fictional protagonist, Donatella, in A House Near Luccoli and its sequel, To A Strange Somewhere Fled. Who better than myself to draw on as I went about characterizing an insecure, isolated, resigned if passionate and creative woman, who is well past her youth and, as it seems, more prepared to meet the mundane than the extraordinary? I readily admit she stepped out of my hopes and disappointments into an unlikely interaction with the colorfully confident Alessandro Stradella, his usual dalliances with women who were enticing and dangerous, the antithesis of Donatella … and me. The sequel, taking her to the very place in England where I lived 300 years later, only made her more of a creature of my experience, observations, secrets and revelations, perhaps, more honestly so, until—to rephrase a line from Wuthering Heights—she became more myself than I am.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing a collection of novellas featuring three of my favorite and often overlooked classic women writers, Anne Brontë, Christina Rossetti—poet and sister of Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the early twentieth century novelist and poet Mary Webb. I have a couple of short stories brewing: one based on my maternal grandmother, who was a talented pianist and monologist and her thwarted chance to tour with the Ziegfeld follies, and the other based on my mother babysitting for Hemmingway’s sister Sonny. I’m also about to embark on an illustrated poetry/prose book about cats.
Who would like to invite to dinner?
Well, as I’m writing about them, Anne Brontë, Christina Rossetti, and Mary Webb, any or all of those three—before they had a chance to read what I had written about them, of course! I’m fascinated with Anne’s gentle strength and search for the truth, Christina’s Anglo-Italian temperament, something with I deal with myself, and Mary’s deep love of nature and animals. But, perhaps my first choice for a dinner companion would be my own maternal grandmother, a vibrant creative woman who died when my mother was ten. Even without ever physically meeting her, her presence has been strong and inspirational for me.
What is your advice to new writers?
Slow down. Take the time to experiment, develop, and be open to the unexpected. Find your own way and savor the journey—even, especially, its detours. Don’t jeopardize the quality of your work by being in a hurry to see your efforts in print. What you write is your child—you want to see it grow up to be the best it can be, but that means it has to go through the stages to maturity. Engage the senses as much if not more than the intellect. I love this quote by Ray Bradbury: “Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” Write what and because you have to write. Allow for the uniqueness of your voice and avoid the temptation of trends and popular appeal that risk you trying to be a writer other than the one you are meant to be. Or as Allen Ginsberg wrote, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
Who are your favorite authors?
My favorites are, for the most part, classic writers including the Brontës, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Gustave Flaubert, Emile Zola, Nathaniel Hawthorn, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Mary Webb, DH Lawrence, H.E. Bates, Colette, and Jean Rhys. As far as any more contemporary writers, specifically in the Historical Fiction category, I would say Tracy Chevalier—Girl With a Pearl Earring really inspired me to write my novel A House Near Luccoli—and, also like Chevalier, because of their very sensory and lyrical focus on artists and musicians, Susan Vreeland, Susanne Dunlap, Stephanie Cowell, and Laurel Corona.
How have you found the experience of publishing? What have been the highs and lows?
The lowest low regarding being published was when I thought I never would be, especially once I had finished A House Near Luccoli, was very proud of it, excited and, more than I had ever been with anything I’d written before it, determined to share it with others. I was considering self-publishing when serendipity directed me to a small publisher All Things That Matter Press—the day of signing my first contract with them was such a high point. The process of publishing two novels with ATTMP has been a thoroughly positive experience, especially working with Deb Harris, one of the owners of the press and a wonderful editor who knows how to get the best out of my writing, how to refine and clarify it. Of course, getting published is just the beginning of the rollercoaster ride of being an author. Building a readership offers many despairing days, but somehow never totally without a thought, a pause, in gratefulness for those who have ventured outside the main stream to find and read my work, which gives me the will to keep going. Perhaps the most satisfying high of all comes at the end of a good writing session.
What do you like best about writing? What do you like least?
I find such pleasure in words, their shape and sound; how they hold back and reveal and sometimes play tricks; how they accumulate, some seeming insignificant, others essential, but all necessary as out of the chaos of my thoughts and feelings they compose themselves to tell stories, pretend and reveal truths, amuse, engage the intellect, stir hearts, and reach out of and into souls. Writing has seen me through so much of my life, feeding my imagination and fulfilling my need to create. It’s always there with its unlimited possibilities, which encourage mine. There is hardly an hour that goes by that I don’t think about it, an obsession I perceive as a blessing in my life.
Is there anything I don’t like about writing? A few years ago I might have said marketing; like many newly published authors, at first it scared me to death. But, increasingly, I have accepted the challenge and even enjoyed it as it has become a creative exercise in itself. I don’t mind editing, on my own and working with a third party, because anything that brings all the months, even years, of hard work to the best conclusion is worth it and rewarding. The only thing I can think of that I really don’t like is the stress of wondering if something was missed in the editing, dreading coming across an error, however small, once the work is published.
What else would you like us to know about you and your books?
I’m also an artist—if more by accident than I’m a writer—and have done artwork for the covers of both my novels, grateful that my publisher has allowed me to contribute to their look. I’ve also done the cover of Dancing in the Rain, an excellent collection of poems by Yorkshire poet Christine Moran, as well as the illustrations of my kindle short stories. My blog has, over the past four years, featured much of my artwork along with poems and short prose pieces. I have self-published an illustrated poetry book, A Friendship with Flowers, that was originally a journal I did when I lived in England, about flowers throughout the year.
What song would you pick to go with your books?
Vincent/Starry, Starry Night by Don McLean, a song reflecting on the creative spirit who is an outsider and true individual, someone isolated and at the same time complete, fragile and yet enduring.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/dmdentonauthorartist?ref=bookmarks
Facebook Novel Pages:
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/DM-Denton/e/B0093NWE4U/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1
Historical Fiction Links:
To A Strange Somewhere Fled