Author Spotlight: Carol Hedges

I met Carol on Twitter, and apart from the enjoyment I get from her brilliantly witty blog, I've found her to be one of those people who offer genuine support and friendship to those she meets. As you can imagine, I was really pleased for the chance to learn a bit more about her writing career. 

Could you tell us a little about yourself, where you were born, and grew up.
I was born in 1950 in Welwyn Garden City, which was a lot smaller then than it is now! Apparently I taught myself to read from being left in the local Children's Library from an early age - I went to one of those 'progressive' primary schools that, in those days, didn't believe in formally teaching anything and it wasn't until I was eight that my parents twigged that I could read, but imperfectly. Yes  I know - wouldn't happen with today's helicopter parents, but a lot of unhealthy (or healthy?) neglect happened in them dark days. Given that I can now read AND write, it shows that nobody is irredeemable.

Which book/books do you remember making a strong impression on you when you were young, and what was it about the book/books you liked?
I've written before of my love of the Orlando the Marmalade Cat books (Katherine Hale). They were my first discovery, and I was drawn to the fact I can probably date my love of cats to these books. And my creative imagination: at six, I went around telling everybody that we had a cat. We hadn't, and I got thumped for lying (another feature of the bad old days..). I used to read Enid Blyton Famous Five (yes, I wanted to be George, didn't we all?), What Katy Did and a LOT of comics: Beano, Beezer, and later, Girl.

You started off writing YA/teenage fiction and now write Victorian crime dramas—what drew you to write in these genres, and what continues to inspire you?
I actually started writing articles for various journals before I started writing teen/YA. Bringing up my daughter, and then working in a secondary school gave me an insight into the lives of teenagers, which I used copiously in the first three books, now out of print except for a few secondhand ones lurking in the depths of the Amazon basin: (Red Velvet/Jigsaw/Bright Angel). My daughter has pointed out that all my teenage books focus on the mother:daughter relationships and the stresses thereof. Can't think why.

Switching age range and genre at age 63 was a HUGE risk - but the teen pool was full of 'celeb/established' writers (it still is) and there was very little room for mid-listers like myself. I'd always loved the Victorian period: the books, the ingenuity of the people,so it seemed logical to go there. I chose to set my Stride & Cully books in the 1860s: the 1880s is a crowded field thanks to Conan Doyle, Jack the Ripper etc, but few modern' writers write in the mid-Victorian period. I LOVE it! and EXCLUSIVE: I am about to set up a Victorian Facebook page for all those weird and wonderful things that make the Victorian era so so interesting.

Your research must play an important part in creating the setting for your historical novels.
Research is and has to be the backbone of any 'histfic' writer. I am lucky as many of the London locations depicted in the books still exist, so I can go and take pictures. There are loads of useful online sites, such as The Victorian Web, where facts can be checked, and of course, much of the original literary material is easily available in newspaper archives, or sitting on the fiction shelves of any library.

What misconceptions do people have about the genre you write in?
People still tend to mix 'historical' with 'historical fiction'. Yes, we all base our work on what was going on at the time, but the characters and events come from our own minds. I write in the present tense - and have had many comments as my plot takes place in the past - people seem to think that the past should be written about in the past. I'm sure Hilary Mantel, who also uses present tense, gets the same stick as I do! Readers have to detach the history from the fiction and appreciate our books on their own merits as pieces of narrative.

The other side of that coin is that authors need to stick to the contextual mores: there were no 'feisty female teenagers gagging to take on the criminal fraternity or men in general'. It just wasn't like that in Victorian times - and it's no good trying to impose 21st century characters on a very patriarchal 19th century world.

Can you tell us something about your writing process, for example, what habits/practices do you find the most helpful? Which parts of the creative process are the easiest and which the least enjoyable?
I am an appalling writer and I'm always surprised that I finish a book. I rarely plan - other than knowing from the outset the crime and the resolution. I write - every day if I can. I edit as I go and I research as I go. It takes ma about six months to complete a first draft, and then I go through and add or take away as I feel meets the integrity of the book. The fourth book, to be self published in the Autumn, has been edited by Mr Detail (my husband) and it was a shock to see him drawing up charts to check all the plotlines worked through to a satisfactory ending.

Can you share with us the reasons for your recent decision to start your own imprint, Little G Books, and how difficult or easy has the process been?
Little G books, my current imprint (though it is really Amazon Kindle/Createspace and hopefully soon Kobo) arose from a desire to keep more of what I was earning. No publisher is prepared to 'pay' a writer a reasonable percentage of the royalties. In my case, I was working flat out on several social media platforms, blogging, etc but still not getting the lion's share of the sales. Plus, I like being in control; it's fun - for instance, I recently fiddled with my Amazon keywords and managed to get Diamonds & Dust almost to the top of the 'werewolf' chart! Yaay.

The downside is the amount of work involved. To put out a good product, you have to check each book over and over again, line by line. Mistakes happen in the uploading. I was lucky in that a fellow writer's wife kindly did the formatting and sorted out some of the background stuff for me, and my covers are designed by a local graphic artist, so I could keep them, though I changed the colours. Yep, I could have applied to one of the many companies around and farmed the whole thing out to them for the odd £1,000. But what's the point?

Can you tell us something about your current work-in-progress?
Murder & Mayhem, the 4th book in the Victorian Detectives series is almost ready and hopefully will be published in the Autumn. There will be the usual Facebook Victorian party! I'm currently writing the 5th book: Rhyme & Reason, though it is still early stages.

What future projects do you have planned?
Always a tricky one to answer. Staying alive, comes to mind! I'd like to say there will be a Stride & Cully book every year, but who knows? There may be some YA novels that have never seen the light of day .... but I'm not able to say anything more about that at the moment...what I will be doing in the future is writing, that's for sure. As long as people enjoy reading my stuff, I'll continue turning it out.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Carol. It's been a real pleasure, and I wish you lots of luck with your new venture.

If you want to find out more about Carol, you can find her at the following links:

Twitter:  @carolJhedges
Amazon author pages: AMAZON: UK:  US: 

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