I’d like to introduce you to the thirty-fifth interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. She is Gev Sweeney.
QUESTION: Hi, Gev! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer?
ANSWER: Thanks, Susan! I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter, newspaper editor, and as an editor of non-fiction books. I also have a Master of Arts in Corporate and Public Communication, which means I know a little more about the “craft” part of the saying “writing is an art as well as a craft.”
QUESTION: Your most recent historical novel, ‘The Scattered Proud’, was published in January, 2013, by Captive Press. Can you tell us a bit about your book? What inspired you to write it? Is it related to your first book?
ANSWER: The Scattered Proud is the massive re-creation of The Lessons of Darkness, something I’d drafted when I lived in New York City and had access to wonderful research facilities at the New York Public Library. The book is about a secret but fictional Protestant mission in post-Revolutionary France, and the library had period books, maps and newspapers that I would ogle for hours in the main reading room or the Map Room. I first revised the story in the 1990s, after I’d moved from New York back home to the Jersey Shore. Spent hours in a shadowy lower level of Princeton’s Firestone Library, going through bound editions of the Moniteur universel, Revolutionary France’s national newspaper, beneath the gaze of Rodin’s creepy bust of Balzac.
In 2000, I tossed out my only copy of the original Lessons of Darkness thinking nothing would ever come of it. Silly of me, wasn’t it? At any rate, to go back to your original question—about what inspired me to write it: I wrote it because I’d always been fascinated by the revolutionary era, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. And I wanted to write the kind of story I wanted to read but wasn’t on the market. Everything seemed to be about gratuitous sex and violence, all told in terms that made me squirm. I preferred something more along the lines of Tolstoy and the Brontes, only not not so bleak and more forgiving. Eventually, the former Lessons of Darkness became The Scattered Proud and what one reader called “an American ‘Jane Eyre.’” Careful what you wish for, eh?
QUESTION: You are editing a book and writing another one? Can you tell us anything about those books?
ANSWER: The book I’m editing isn’t one of mine, but something I’m doing for a friend of a friend. The book I’m writing is According to Legend, a little comic romance about a flamboyant, foreign documentary maker who can’t get his facts right and the down-on-her-luck American historian he hires to be his guide. I’m writing this one as Anne Arlington, the name I prefer to use on my contemporaries. Anne is my real middle name, and Arlington is from the name of the street where I grew up (Arlington Avenue in Paterson, New Jersey). I published Mount Can’t, my first contemporary, as Anne Arlington.
QUESTION: You also write short stories which have been published in anthologies. Can you tell us about those?
ANSWER: I would, if I knew which stories they are and which anthologies they’re in!
QUESTION: What has your experience with your publisher been like? Is it everything you’d hoped for?
ANSWER: My publisher has a great sense of what’s best for a story, a sense that includes an incomparable grasp of character, continuity and dramatic timing. I’m grateful, profoundly grateful, that she took on The Scattered Proud.
QUESTION: If you could meet any book character, who would it be, and what would you do with them?
ANSWER: I wouldn’t like fictional characters in the flesh. A character in the flesh would be like Blue Boy rendered in jeans and with phone buds in his ears.
QUESTION: What books or authors have most influenced you in your own writing?
ANSWER: I grew up reading the Brontes and Shakespeare and Poe and Tolstoy and Wells. But Graham Greene was the first to impress me with the importance of clarity.
QUESTION: What is your favorite or least favorite part of writing?
ANSWER: Haha, it’s ALL work.
QUESTION: Do you have a writing routine, a special place where you go to do your writing, or a certain time of day? Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what kind of music?
ANSWER: Alas, I have no routine. I’ll listen to music—mostly classical–only if I’m in the mood and if I think it will help me develop a scene.
QUESTION: How do you get past writers’ block or distractions like the internet?
ANSWER: I learned from a screenwriter that the secret to writer’s block lies within the characters themselves. Always look to the characters if the scene’s not working, or if the story’s going nowhere.
QUESTION: Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!
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