Historical fiction stands alone among the many genres as probably the most demanding form of writing. It requires a unique talent for combinining fact with fiction to produce a story that is not only historically accurate but interesting as well. It also calls for a tremendous amount of research. One author who excels in that regard is Emilee Hines, whom I have known ever since we met at a book festival nearly ten years ago. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing her after publishing her latest work, The Prince and the Passion, under the Escarpment Press imprint. I think you will find her a fascinating individual to get to know.
Joe: Welcome, Emilee. I think I’d like to start with a question that I’m sure you’ve never been asked before: When did you first knew that you wanted to be a writer? (I was kidding, of course, but it is a question I’ve always wanted to ask.)
Emilee: When I was in the fifth grade and read Little Women, and I identified with the character of Jo March. When I was 12, my parents bought me a used typewriter, and I taught myself to type, which made writing easier. I have always loved words. I sold my first writing in 1963, and I’ve been writing profesionally ever since.
Joe: How do you decide what subject you want to write about?
Emilee: Some of my writing is based upon things that happened to me or one of my friends, and some has been assigned by editors.
Joe: You’ve traveled quite extensively. Was that something that you always wanted to do, or did it just happen?
Emilee: I’ve always wanted to trave since early childhood. My whole family likes to travel.
Joe: If I’m not mistaken, you lived and taught in Africa. How did that come about?
Emilee: I was in graduate school, not knowing quite what I wanted to do, when I read in the student newspaper about the Teachers for East Africa project. It was a joint effort by the US State Department, Columbia University, and the countries of East Africa. I applied and I just knew from the first that I would be chosen—and I was! They were the two most exciting years of my life.
Joe: Of all the countries you have visited, which is your favorite and why?
Emilee: That is a hard one. My favorites are New Zealand, Italy, Bhutan, Poland, and the Republic of Georgia. Kenya, when I lived there, was a favorite, but it has changed. All these places have scenic beauty, friendly people, interesting food, and they are safe.
Joe: Historical fiction requires a great deal of research. How do you go about researching your books?
Emilee: I was a history major at UNC Chapel Hill, where I learned to follow a trail historically in documents. Now I search online, which is so much easier. Whenever possible, I go to the site to see it for myself.
Joe: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Emilee: Charles Dickens, hands down! For humor, I like Mark Schweizer, who writes liturgical mysteries set in the mountains of North Carolina.
Joe: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?
Emilee: East African Odyssey because it is personal, and Burnt Station because it is funny, and I enjoy writing humor. I especially like It Happened in Virginia because it has earned me the most money.
Joe: You mentioned Dickens. Have you ever visited London?
Emilee: When I was in grade school, I read A Christmas Carol, and I promised myself that someday I would see London. I imagined that it would be as Dickens described it. When I finally got there in my twenties, the city was completely different—thank goodness! Dickens had captured his world in words that stir our imaginations and have inspired hundreds of versions of his novels, so I had to be content with how movies have depcited that world.
Joe: So what homes of other famous authors have you visited?
Emilee: Karen Blixen’s (who wrote as Isak Denisen) in Nairobi. Unlike Dickens, her house was just as she described it in Out of Africa, and as I strolled the grounds I could imagine her chatting with Finch Hatton, or saying farewell to her servants.
Going down the Dnieper River in Ukraine actually inspired me to go ahead and write The Prince and the Passion. There on a hill in Kiev were the foundation of Prince Vladimir’s church and the huge gate to the city. Along the river were the sites of battles, and across the Black Sea the remains of the hippodrome, where I had my characters witness chariot races and fights.
Sometimes, I go somewhere looking for what a writer has captured or created, and sometimes the place inspires me to create my own story in that setting.
Joe: Wow! You certainly have had an interesting life, Emilee. What are working on currently?
Emilee: I’m dictating a travel book, tracing my journey home from Africa in the mid ‘60s, going east around the world to Lebanon, Iran, India, and other places where Americans don’t go anymore. At the time, all airlines had the same fares, so it was easy to change flights on a whim, and I was wide-eyed with wonder at it all. I am also working on a historical novel set in Virginia between 1890 and 1920.
Joe: Where can readers find your books?
Joe: We met almost ten years ago at the Blue Ridge Bookfest, but where can readers get in touch with you now?
Joe: Well, it’s certainly been a pleasure getting to know even more about you than I already did. Thanks so much, Emilee.
Emilee: You’re very welcome, Joe.
Emilee Hines is a native Virginian, but has lived in Texas, Michigan and Kenya, and now enjoys life in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. She has authored over a dozen books, and is always busy writing and planning more adventures like parasailing at Hilton Head; and arranging trips to far-off places for her and husband Jerry.
NOTE: Emilee’s latest book, The Prince and the Passion, is a FREE Kindle book TODAY and TOMORROW ONLY (Saturday & Sunday, December 16 & 17). I would urge you all to download a copy. And please don’t forget to post a glowing review when you’re finished.
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Also, if you’re looking for some stocking stuffers, try the pocketbook editions of the Matt Davis mystery series. They’re only $9.95 each from Amazon.com.