Also this evening, I have a fab and funny Meet the Author post for you with Christina Hamlett. Christina is a very interesting lady with lots to talk about – this is a must read!! We talk about being an Actress and Theatre Director, who she names dislikable characters after, how many books and plays she has written (LOTS!), ghost encounters, scrabble high scores, and her most recent title The Play’s The Thing (And How To Write It)……….
Stage plays, fiction and nonfiction
Tell us a bit about yourself:
Prior to becoming a full-time author, I spent 16 years treading the boards as an actress and theatre director. (Half of that time was the management of my own touring theatre company, The Hamlett Players.) My publishing credits are primarily in plays, but I have also penned novels, screenwriting books, business titles, humor, a cookbook, and squillions of articles, essays and interviews that appear online and in trade publications worldwide. In addition, I am a script consultant for stage and screen (which means I stop a lot of really bad plots from coming to theatres near you) and a professional ghostwriter (which does not mean I talk to dead people). Whenever I finish a new script, I always recruit my gourmet-chef husband to do a table-read with me in the dining room over adult beverages. Since we tend to throw ourselves with gusto into our roles and embrace a number of accents, I’m pretty sure that—when the windows are open—the neighbours assume there are at least 17 other people living with us.
What inspired you to start writing?
I was a voracious reader when I was growing up (I still am) and always thought it wondrous that books wielded such power to transport readers to other lands and other times. I wanted to be a part of that magic. The same holds true for my passion toward playwriting. When I was around 10, I got to go backstage following a performance my Girl Scout troop had just attended. Our troop leader warned us we would be woefully disappointed to discover that none of the elements which so enchanted us were actually “real”. For me, though, I was fascinated how the seamless illusions created by scenery, costumes, makeup and lighting made everything look so authentic from the audience’s viewpoint. I wanted to be a part of that magic as well.
How many books have you written and published?
To date, my credits include 43 books, 182 plays and 5 optioned feature films. As of this writing, three more books are in the works along with half a dozen new scripts. I’d also like to add that since 2012 I have been collaborating on plays and novels with an exceptional partner named Jamie Dare. The amusing thing about our wordsmithing relationship is the fact that although we both live in Los Angeles County, we have spoken only once on the phone and have never met in person. Hey, if a system works so flawlessly, why mess with it?
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
Without question, that would have to be While You Were Out, the first chick-lit novel I penned with Jamie. Premise: It’s one thing for Henny Tinker to think that her handsome and charismatic new boss, Geoffrey Bond, is way out of her league. The more she reflects on his secret trips and his uncanny ability to acquire never-before-seen artworks, the more she starts to suspect that he’s also – quite literally – out of her time-zone. Could it have something to do with the Scottish railway clock in his office that runs perfectly…in reverse? Is it his penchant for period outfits that supposedly coincide with the various themed costume parties he attends? Or has Henny simply been watching too many time-travel movies with her father and now sees evidence of its existence everywhere she looks?
Set against the backdrop of modern-day London, While You Were Out is just the right mix of romantic comedy, mystery and a dash of wicked competition in the world of expensive art acquisitions. Jamie and I both loved writing this one because we are romantics at heart, it’s chock-full of snappy dialogue, and we’ve always been intrigued by anything related to time-travel.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
Most of the time I just let my characters talk to me and tell me what they’d like to be called. In many of my plays, I’ll incorporate the names of real-life friends who enjoy the vicarious existences I can give them. Jon Tapping and Kevin Chan, for instance, have shown up in several of my projects. I’ve also been known to give very similar names to former boyfriends, former co-workers and former bosses. It is no coincidence that these characters are always dislikeable and typically meet a wicked end.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
Geoffrey Bond from While You Were Out. Jamie and I purposely modelled him after Robert Downey, Jr. Major swoonage. Need I say more?
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
Terry Brooks. I fell in love with Magic Kingdom For Sale, the first in his Landover series. The blend of fantasy, mystery, humor and even a generous dollop of spirituality is a formula that makes every one of the Landover books a pulse-pounding page-turner.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
I’m sure it must have been a short story or a poem for elementary school. I’m also pretty sure it was mind-numbingly terrible. I do, however, remember that my first published piece of writing was in eighth grade when I interviewed the chief of police and submitted it to the local paper. Although it must have been a slow news day to actually make the front page, it was my first foray into journalism and was quite a giddy rush.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
An actress, a theatre director, a cable television studio production assistant, a newspaper feature writer, a magazine editor, and a creative writing instructor. In earlier years, I also spent time as a legal secretary in civil service. I mention this last because it was truly the least interesting. It did, however, provide me with lots of fodder for characters who subsequently ended up as chalk outlines on the floor.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
Assuming it was just for a weekend, it would be the 1920s in either London or New York. I have always been drawn to the arts, architecture and fashion of the Art Deco period. Plus it would be refreshing to be in an environment where people had integrity and good manners, engaged in smart conversation and weren’t as obsessed with social media as they are now.
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Teddy Roosevelt. I’d introduce myself as a time traveller (he’d be intrigued, I think) and advise him that it would be detrimental to the world if he didn’t run for re-election. Given his political savvy, leadership and negotiation skills (and the absence of term limits), World War I—and likely World War II as well—could have been avoided.
What are your favourite things to do?
My husband and I both love to cook and currently have almost 300 cookbooks in our collection. Travel is another passion (we exchanged our wedding vows at Stirling Castle in Scotland), reading and discussing good books, playing with Lucy (the world’s cutest dog), and listening to music. We are also complete fiends at playing Scrabble and routinely rack up really high scores. No one else will play with us, however, because we’ve incorporated some of our own quirky rules.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
We’ve had several ghost encounters during our stays at various historic hotels but we’ve always sensed that none of them meant us harm. On a recent stay at Hotel del Coronado, however, the spirit of resident ghost Kate Morgan was determined to get my attention. I was doing my makeup one morning when one of the heavy bathroom glasses fell off the shelf and into the marble sink. Thinking nothing of it—and surprised to see the glass hadn’t broken—I simply returned it to the shelf. Less than five minutes later, the glass hit the basin again with such force that it seemed as if it had been hurled by an unseen hand. Again, the glass itself didn’t break…but the marble basin completely cracked, rendering the sink unusable. When we reported this to housekeeping, they weren’t particularly surprised and remarked, “It was probably just Kate having a bad day.” My own interpretation is that she wants me to do the research and write about what really happened to her on that November night in 1892—a murder mystery which has never been successfully solved.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
It would be that “catharsis” doesn’t necessarily translate to “commercial”. Many of my early projects were inspired by real-life experiences, my belief being that a true story would be infinitely more compelling than a work of fiction. I repeat this often to my ghostwriting clients who think their memoirs are pretty epic stuff destined to be best-sellers and blockbuster movies.
Name one book you think everyone should read?!
Empty Nesters by Jan Miller. Written in a style reminiscent of the late Erma Bombeck, it humorously reflects the challenges of today’s “sandwich generation” (previously known as baby boomers) which finds itself trying to accommodate under a single roof the needs of aging parentals and the wants of adult offspring (many of whom have either returned home or never left home to begin with). Funny, poignant, bittersweet and completely relatable.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
My latest title is The Play’s The Thing (And How To Write It):
Another openin’! Another show! And what could be more exciting than seeing your own name on the program as “Playwright.” When it comes to taking your idea from page to stage, mastering the craft of dialogue and finding your characters the audience they deserve, this must-have guide has everything you need to know for building an applause-worthy script.
Massive thanks Christina for this brilliant, insightful and funny interview! I love that you got married in Stirling Castle in Scotland – it’s just a beautiful place!! So many of the things you have written piqued by interest and I LOVE a good ghost story! I hope you’re going to research and write about Kate Morgan? I would also absolutely love to sit down with your and your Husband, it sounds like you have the best nights with fab food, a drink and a great game of scrabble or a table read!!
If you have any comments for Christina or want just want to say hello then get in touch!
Have a wonderful evening all!