Hazel West spends a good bit of time writing historical fiction about brave men and women who have graced the pages of history, trying to bring more light to their legacies so readers of all ages will enjoy them.
Hazel also obviously enjoys writing, listening to and playing Irish and Scottish folk music, practicing with all eras and types of historical weaponry, GOOD COFFEE, reading of course, dark (dark) chocolate, sketching/painting, hats, scarves and boots, collecting little old-fashioned things of all kinds, buying books, and don't forget dressing in period clothing!
A very warm welcome to you Hazel and can I thank you, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today.Thank you very much for having me, Calum!
For the benefit of our International readers can you tell us a bit about the part of the world that you are currently resident in and why do you like living there?
I live in Florida in the USA and…I can’t really say I like living here, but it’s home for now. I’m more of a fresh air and mountains/forests person than a flat-landed beach lover.
Can I ask what sort of books did you like reading as a child?
I liked reading books about animals the best, or the kind of books that made me laugh. I have always loved a good adventure though.Well, when I first started writing, yes, but that was a long time ago. None of the stuff I write today and have published reflects my old favourite books very much. But the books I have read in the past several years have influenced my novels quite a bit.
Do you think the books that you read as a child have influenced your writing in any way?
Do you think the books that you read as a child have influenced your writing in any way?
Do you have a set routine when you are working on a novel?
Where do you do your writing best?
In my “Monk Cell” a.k.a my room, I call it my monk cell because I seclude myself there for hours working sometimes. I usually write at my desk with my laptop.
What else apart from your obvious interest in history helped you decide to write historical fiction novels?
Well, I’ve loved history since I first learned about the American Revolution in 3rd grade. It was actually my finding my love of Scottish history that set me to writing historical fiction in the first place, though. I had been writing before then, but mostly fantasy, or steampunk kind of books (I still love steampunk). I wasn’t able to finish anything though. Then I found Jane Yolen’s book ‘Prince Across the Water’ at the library and after reading that, and realizing I had never read any Scottish history in school and knowing I had a Scottish heritage myself, I was inclined to study more into it. I first got into the Jacobite Rebellions but afterwards, I discovered the story of ‘William Wallace’, and well, that was where it began. Wallace inspired me so much that I really wanted to write about him. After that it was just one thing after another and the more historical fiction I read the more research I did and then the more books I wrote or conceived because of it.
When you are writing a novel, how do you place yourself into the time period that you are actually writing about?First off, with lots of research. Some time periods are easier than others to do that. Medieval for me is easy because I have always loved that time period and there is a lot known about it. ‘By Blood or By Bond’ was a little more difficult, especially in the case of the Celts because there’s not so much known about them. With the Romans we have contemporaries like ‘Pliny the Younger’ who gives a good look into daily life. When I wrote ‘Ballad of the Highwayman’ I read Samuel Pepys’ diaries, not only for their information, but because he is a character who shows up in my novel! Apart from doing good research, I like to watch accurate movies and documentaries, and read other historical fiction about the same time period to see how other authors might describe things. Anything I can try out myself, or if I can possibly visit a site an event in my stories happens on, I will do that too.
How do you go about imagining, developing and give real lives and personalities to the characters that we read about within in your books?
In all truth, I come up with a shell of the character and they become who they are once they come onto the page. The key to getting good personalities is creating realistic characters, not just black and white people, but grey. I like grey characters. I’m not overly fond of heroes who do the right thing all the time. “Mr. Perfect” is not very interesting to read about, because we cannot relate to him. Emotionally flawed characters or ones with a hard past make great characters, especially in historical novels. A lot of my books deal with warfare so not everyone is going to be chipper and in their right mind all the time. Also making characters who are like your friends or people you know is good. That person who might have flaws, but you love them anyway for who they are.
At the moment I’m reading the fourth book in the Crispin Guest series by Jeri Westerson, and ‘Seraphina’ by Rachel Hartman.
Do you have any other hobbies or interests that you enjoy in order to give you a break from your normal routine and your writing?Reading, of course is always the first, but I also like to do artwork, sketching and painting. I occasionally make jewellery and I also play piano, guitar and fiddle, and I really love to play Irish and Scottish folk music.
Can you tell us a bit without giving too much away about your latest book release, ‘By Blood or by Bond’?By Blood or By Bond is a story about cultural differences, family, bonds sometimes stronger than that of blood and overall being true to yourself, I think. I have two main characters whose story we follow; one is ‘Caolán’ who is the son of a Celtic chieftain and the other is ‘Viggo Callias’, who is a Roman centurion. They find themselves about to do battle, the Celts against the Romans. Caolán has a dream the night before the battle that his father is killed, and the next day on the field, the Roman commander loses his nerve and orders a retreat resulting in much chaos. Viggo tries to keep the men in order, but in the mess, Caolán’s father tries to strike him down, but instead ends up killing Viggo’s son who newly joined the army. Viggo kills Caolán’s father in retribution and takes Caolán as a slave, out of his mind with grief. Caolán obviously hates him but back it Rome, he meets Viggo’s niece, Lorena, who befriends him, and he finds that not all Romans are terrible, though he does not know whether he can ever forgive Viggo for his father’s death. Meanwhile, an old enemy of Viggo’s, the Tribune Amatus, is after Viggo to repay an old debt but Viggo refuses to pay because Amatus is seeking to take Lorena’s hand in marriage for her dowry and Viggo would never let that happen. When Amatus oversteps his boundaries, Caolán, who is serving at the table, throws a cup of wine in his face, and as a result Viggo sends him to a gladiator school. It the end, it has to be determined whether Viggo and Caolán can forget the hurt that has been caused to both parties and replace what they have both lost; a father and a son.
Can you give us a hint about any other books that you may have in the making?I have a couple actually, first off, I’m working on a sequal to my classic adventure story ‘Ballad of the Highwayman’ that I’m hoping to have out by spring or early summer 2013. And then I’m working on a Victorian steampunk mystery: ‘A Case of Poisons: An Anthony Maxwell Mystery’. To find out more about that, you can go to my blog and follow Anthony on his Facebook page.
Hazel, which do you prefer, tea or coffee?
Coffee! Always coffee!
Thank you for asking to interview me! I enjoyed it.
Which ties are stronger—those of Blood or those of Bond.
Caolán, the son of a Celtic chieftain, awaits his first pitched battle against the Roman invaders, knowing that this is the moment in which he will truly become a warrior, of the tribe.
Viggo Callias is a seasoned centurion in the Roman army on his first deployment to Britain with his newly enlisted son, Aulus. Serving under an incompetent commander, he wonders whether victory will be theirs.
But fate takes a hand in both Caolán and Viggo’s lives when Viggo’s son is killed by a spear meant for him. Enraged at the loss of his son, Viggo seeks vengeance on the man responsible: Caolán’s father. As the chieftain breathes his last, Viggo vows to take Caolán as a slave to avenge Aulus’ untimely death.
Torn from his country and people, Caolán’s only comfort is the hope that one day he will be able to avenge his father. But can the greatest wrongs be righted? Brotherly bonds, gladiators, old enemies, corrupt politicians and a young woman who captures Caolán’s heart, take a role in the physical and emotional journey that binds Caolán’s and Viggo’s fates together. Can the two wounded parties work past their hatred of each other and find what they have lost: a father and a son?
This new novel by Hazel West, explores the familial ties that bind us all, whether by blood or by bond.
If you would like to find out more about Hazel and her writing, the link to Hazel’s website is given below:
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