The author of the rousing historical Blackwell series kindly consented to allow me to schedule an interview, to coincide with the launch of the print edition of her latest, Blackwell's Homecoming.
J.D. What is the source of your intense interest in early nineteenth century history? Books, films, stories told in your childhood?
V.E.U. Books, books are kind of my thing. As an impressionable adolescent I read all the great nineteenth century novelists; Austen, Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope. That milieu, the social order, gender and class relationships, are deeply interesting to me. I hope I’m not a snob in my reading tastes though. I read across all genres and in all formats: ebooks, print books, audio books.
J.D. Your readers are also curious about your focus on the early history of Hawaii. While the story of the islands is particularly intriguing and colorful, do you have a special personal link to that area of the great Pacific?
V.E.U. I can’t claim any personal link to the Hawaiian Islands other than living beside the Pacific. I’m a long time resident of California, and I’ve had the privilege of vacationing in Hawaii a number of times.
The Hawaiian Islands in the Blackwell’s Adventures series are an amalgamation from various nineteenth century Pacific island cultures and societies. Truth is often stranger than what we can get away with in fiction, and I wish I could have worked in more of the interesting bits I read about in various very fine non-fiction books on the Pacific islands and cultures. One of those books was your Tupaia.
J.D. Mercedes, Blackwell's exotic wife, is a strikingly unusual and most memorable woman. What, for you, was a particular inspiration in the creation and development of this very strong character?
V.E.U. Women are underrepresented in nautical fiction, perhaps even stereotypically represented, so I wanted to write a character that answered that. An unusual woman, doing the unexpected. Thank you for calling Mercedes a strong character. I wanted to give her officer-like qualities, and make her brave, intelligent, dashing, kind.
J.D. Could you tell my readers something about your daily writing routine? How much research, for instance, is involved in each segment of each novel?
V.E.U. Research for me doesn’t end, it’s ongoing. I read four or five books at a time, half of which will be non-fiction in some area of interest relative to my latest fiction project.
As far as a daily writing routine, I work every day on some aspect: first draft, revision, editing, production. Every day. I subscribe to Walter Benjamin’s philosophy, ‘Literary honour requires that one break off only at an appointed moment (a mealtime, a meeting) or at the end of the work.’
J.D. You say that Blackwell's Homecoming is the last in the series. Undoubtedly, you say farewell to him as reluctantly as your readers will. So, what looms next on your horizon?
V.E.U. Blackwell’s Homecoming is the last in the Blackwell’s Adventures series, but I reserve the right to revisit the Blackwells and the Pacific in future.
I’m working on a novel that is historical / nautical fiction with a fantastic edge. Gender roles, class, and culture are the things that interest me, and that I want to write about. The story, and the heroine of my next novel, will look at these serious matters with humor. A sort of James Bond meets the new Ms. Marvel.
Thank you for having me on World of the Written Word, Joan, when I first read your books years ago while researching women at sea, I couldn’t have dreamed this would be in my future.
Thank you! And good luck with both Blackwell's Homecoming and the new book, which sounds very exciting.
Blackwell's Homecoming is available both in print and digitally from all online bookstores, and is just a click away on Amazon.com