Today my guest is Stepheny Houghtlin, author of Greening of a Heart, our book review from yesterday, here is the link if you missed it. http://wp.me/p2Eu3u-4I8
Let’s find out more about Stepheny.
Where is your home town?
I was born in Chicago, IL. and raised in Evanston, a suburb north of the city on Lake Michigan.
2) How long have you been writing?
I have thought of myself as a writer since I was a young girl. In those early days my father asked me how I was to become a writer if I couldn’t spell. I smile and think of him whenever I use ‘spell check.’
3) I believe you met a vicar in Jerusalem who inspired your story, tell us more.
The genesis of Greening of a Heart came from a George Herbert poem….
“Who would have thought my shrivel’d heart could recover’d greennesse?”
This single line over powered me having watched a vicar find healing on his sabbatical at St. George’s College in Jerusalem. I wanted to try and write a story like his. It was the wife of such a man that elbowed her way into my consciousness, however. She demanded I tell her story as well. Thus we have Hannah and Martin Winchester.
4) There are many inspiring gardeners mentioned in your book, who is your favourite and why?
In 2000 I visited some of the most famous gardens in England, staying several nights in Burford at The Bay Tree Inn, and spending time at Rosemary Verey’s Barnsley House. As a nod to this famous plants woman, designer, and favourite garden of the trip, I included such experiences in the book. Vita Sackville West, who endlessly fascinates me, prompted a power point lecture I have given to garden club members.
5) Your book had me itching to get out into my own garden, do you have a favourite type of plant?
I love a cottage garden whose careless appearance is so carefully planned. I must have Hollyhocks. (I love Hollyhocks too)
6) Tell us more about your research?
Henry Bernard took most of a day getting from Kew to Oxford until I found out that such a trip is only 73 miles. Maybe most interesting of all was asking an English friend to read and check for my Americanisms. Closet became cupboard. Driveway became drive. Hannah fixed corn on the cob until I found out there is no corn like that in England. I said pants instead of trousers. A tarp became a tarpaulin. It was great fun making changes like this.
7) I loved the interweaving of characters, which authors have inspired your writing?
I love Rosamunde Pilcher’s work and believe it set the stage for one day writing Greening of a Heart. I wish I could take a writing course from Ian McEwen. Jane Gardam has taught me a great deal. Donna Tartt’s latest book, The Goldfinch, is like taking a MFA program. I’m addicted to English mysteries. Never without a book in hand, I believe you can’t write if you don’t read.
8) I know from your blog that you own a beautiful dolls house, I’m glad I read about one in your book, tell us about its history.
My father gave me the dollhouse for my 40th birthday having finished the interior himself. The miniature world is one of my passions. Making and collecting miniatures is an adult hobby I commend to anyone who remains young at heart.
The dollhouse now resides with my oldest granddaughter after a recent move that involved sizing down.
9) You live in the States, what did you learn about writing a book based in a different country?
I put the manuscript down once because I began to doubt that I could do justice to the setting. But internet search engines evolved; I could google the train schedule from Oxford to London, and similar information, that helped authenticate the writing. Anglophile that I am, years of reading, travel to England, and above all garden experience, came together to write about a place I love and characters who’s company I miss.
10) Have you thought about a sequel?
Perhaps when I finish a second novel set in Chicago that I am working on.
Thank you Stepheny for a wonderful insight into gardens and your writing. Good luck with the next book.