The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia
12 December 2007
Interview with best-selling romance writer Hailey North
Welcome, Hailey, to my blog. Thank you for taking the time to answer questions about your new contemporary romance from HarperCollins, Not the Marrying Kind.
In Not the Marrying Kind, two urbanites reluctantly return to the small town where they both went to high school and bump into each other for the first time since then. You moved from the city to a small town shortly before writing this book. Did any of your experiences or emotions about this move make their way into the novel?
I appreciate this question . . . yes, I suppose my move from New Orleans to Covington did influence my characters’ experiences. Though as someone who lived in many small towns around the South and Midwest, I think I envisioned Harriet from that greater experience of having left (er, fled) the southern Midwest to college in California. The visits back to the Midwest were not without their challenges.
This book was different from your previous books. Less humor than usual and more . . . je ne sais quoi. Depth? Sorrow? Strength?
What was different was me pressing into places inside myself that really, really hurt. It's more authentic. Most of my ha-ha funny stuff is a means of protecting my vulnerability.
For the post–Hurricane Katrina reader, romances were perfect for taking one’s mind off the difficulties of everyday life and vicariously experiencing good events. But for you as a writer, was it difficult to write a story with a happy ending when you were displaced and your house destroyed?
It was difficult to write, period. It would have been harder to write a bleak story. I’ve spent years and years of my life scribbling in notebooks, filling the pages with dreams and characters. After Katrina when my husband and I hauled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow to the street, I cried as I said goodbye to the molded, warped piles of all those notebooks. But even as I cried, I was cheered by the reality that those notebooks had become published novels and if I’d done it before, I could do it again.
As you’ve noted, this book is not my typical “light romance.” I was in no mood after losing our home in Hurricane Katrina to tred too lightly into a happily ever after story. However, as I spent more and more time with Harriet and Jake and their family and friends, I came to realize that despite tragedy and trauma, we can all come out okay on the other end. They helped me to realize the redemption.
Did Hurricane Katrina change anything about the way you write, either your method or your characters or plot?
The most important thing that Hurricane Katrina changed about my writing is that I now possess a laptop. We packed, at the last minute, I must confess, to evacuate and I didn’t tow my desktop or any backup disks. We were leaving, after all, for only a few days. Hahahaha. When we made our way back to our flooded house and I found my desk and computer and boxes of files and all our wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves full of books tossed around like dinghies in a particularly violent storm, I could do nothing but cry. And then begin to shovel the resulting mess into the wheelbarrow my husband transported to the street to be picked up by the Bobcat and dump truck crews. Words can barely express the loss.
And about being a newlywed . . . thank God we went through it together. It made us even more bonded.
Even though Not the Marrying Kind takes place in Arkansas and never mentions Katrina, it feels like a Katrina book to me because the intertwined themes of loss and recovery are so strong. Yet it’s an optimistic book, not a sad one. It was cathartic for me to read; was it cathartic for you to write? Or was it hard to write about loss when the wounds were still so fresh?
I think my response above answers this question. And yes, when all was said and done, it was cathartic. We carry on. We grow through the loss. We are reborn.
I’ve always found the story of how your early critique group helped you get published inspiring. Could you retell the story for blog readers who don’t know you?
As to my early critique group . . . yes, and yes and yes. Gosh, have I written anything that contained a comma splice? If so, I owe a dollar! We were merciless. Met every Wednesday evening without fail for four or so years. We all published our first books, all five of us. Wow! And yes, I did have to “audition” to get accepted as a member. Thank you, Meryl Sawyer and Olga Bicos. And thanks for letting me pass muster!
Many romance writers, including you, started out as lawyers. Which is harder, being a lawyer or writing romance novels? Which is more fun?
Which is harder, being a lawyer or a romance writer? It depends. Seriously. My husband is a criminal defense lawyer specializing in capital cases. If he flubs up, his client gets the needle or the electric chair. If I slack off, I miss a bestseller list. Hmm . . . .
What is your favorite part of writing?
My favorite part of writing is hearing from readers who relate to my characters as people. Living, breathing, complicated, annoying, adorable people.
What is your writing regimen? Would you recommend it to aspiring authors?
My writing regimen?? Hahahahahahaha. When I’m on deadline I write like a maniac. A whirling dervish.
Do you write with or without your cats Mocha, Stanley, and Daisy?
At this very moment, Daisy is asleep on my lap. Mocha is in her safe place, the laundry basket at the foot of our bed. And Stanley is snoring peacefully on the foot of said bed.
What books can we look forward to in the future from you?
Books in the future . . . ah, now, that’s a good question. I may do some more “Nancy Wagner” books . . . as in Two Sisters and All Our Lives, the first two books I published with Avon Books, before I transfigured into Nikki Holiday, author of paranormal romantic comedies. And then . . . and only then, came Hailey North. So it’s yet to be known who I shall be next.
Thank you again for visiting my blog to talk about writing and your new book Not the Marrying Kind.
Visit Hailey North’s Websites at http://www.haileynorth.com/ and http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/17884/Hailey_North/index.aspx/. Her book Not the Marrying Kind is available at all major bookstores and can be ordered online from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.