Also today on Meet the Author we’re talking to Emily-Jane Hills Orford about growing up in a haunted Victorian mansion and seeing ghosts, featuring her beloved Grandmother in each of her books and her most recent book King Henry’s Choice…..
Emily-Jane Hills Orford
Middle Grade fantasy, Young Adult fantasy, Historical Fiction/fantasy, Memoir/Creative nonfiction
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I am an avid gardener, artist, musician and writer. A creative person, I’m always busy doing something. I have fond memories and lots of stories that evolved from a childhood growing up in a haunted Victorian mansion. Told I had a ‘vivid imagination’, I used this talent to create stories in my head to pass tedious hours while sick, waiting in a doctor’s office, listening to a teacher drone on about something I already knew, or enduring the long, stuffy family car rides. I have lived my stories in my head, allowing my imagination to lead me into a different world, one of my own making. As I grew up, these stories, imaginings and fantasies took to the written form and, over the years, I developed a reputation for telling a good story. I can now boast that I am an award-winning author of several books, including King Henry’s Choice (Clean Reads 2019), Mrs. Murray’s Ghost (Telltale Publishing 2018), Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure (Telltale Publishing 2019), Queen Mary’s Daughter( Clean Reads 2018), Gerlinda (CFA 2016) which received an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, To Be a Duke (CFA 2014) which was named Finalist and Silver Medalist in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and received an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards and several other books. A retired teacher of music and creative writing, I write about the extra-ordinary in life and the fantasies of dreams combined with memories.
What inspired you to start writing?
My grandmother (Gran) and my mother. Gran was a wonderful storyteller and everything in her life was a story. My mother told and wrote stories, too. Everything about life was a story and they took great pleasure in sharing their stories. They both encouraged me in different ways.
How many books have you written and published?
I’m losing count. With my latest book, “King Henry’s Choice” (Clean Reads) released in September (2019), the total comes to 22, plus books that I’ve edited and made contributions.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
That’s a hard question to write because most writers feel well connected with all their books. But, I guess I’d have to say my favorites would be “The Piccadilly Street Series” – two have been published so far: “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” and “Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure”. These two books are special to me because they recall events and imaginings from my childhood. I really did grow up in a haunted house and the ghost was real. She scared me at times, but she and I shared a special connection. If I were sick, she’d watch over me, hovering at the end of my bed. The night before my wedding, she drifted around me room, wearing my veil. Sounds crazy, I know, but I do believe that some people have connections with the spirits. And, even though it terrifies me at times, I believe I do have that connection. The series uses real memories from my childhood as well as imaginings from that vivid imagination that everyone claimed I had. It was so much fun to write the series. And I love to hear from young readers who have enjoyed the books.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
With great difficulty. Some of the names are historical characters, so their names have already been chosen for me. In “The Piccadilly Street Series”, a Middle Grade fantasy, I gave the name Mary to the main character because it was always one of my favorite names. I also have a special sister-in-law named Mary, so the name suited the character. Gran, Grandmother, Granny, Mrs. Downer, are the names given to my beloved grandmother, who, surprisingly, always appears in my stories – somewhere. She plays a significant role in “The Piccadilly Street Series” as Granny. Gran always claimed we’d soon forget her after she passed away. Gran and I shared a special bond and, twenty-five years after her passing, I’m still weaving Gran into my stories. She hasn’t been forgotten. Special names, historical names and names the somehow just seem to suit the character I’m creating.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
I’d have to say Gran, Grandmother, Granny, Mrs. Downer. What I wouldn’t give to spend another day or more with my beloved grandmother.
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
Diana Raab’s “Regina’s Closet”. It’s a rather sad story, but also poignant, powerfully written. It’s the story of the author’s grandmother and her special connection with her grandmother even after she, as a child, found her grandmother hanging in the closet. She uses a lot of her grandmother’s journal entries to tell the story. Family stories always appeal to me and this one was very well constructed.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
I wrote a story about a black stallion for school. I must have been about 10. I received an A+ and was quite pleased with the teacher’s comments about my description of the stallion standing at the top of a hill, looking so regal.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
I have been a private music teacher and a teacher of creative writing. Working with young people inspires my creativity.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
Backwards. I think I’d like to meet Mary Queen of Scots, of whom I have read and written so much.
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I would love to have a long conversation with my grandmother. I would ask her questions about her life and listen, really listen to her stories and record them. So many of Gran’s stories are now lost because no one recorded them. I’m forever kicking myself for not starting sooner to write down her stories.
What are your favourite things to do?
Play the piano, read, write, do needlework, paint, walk the dog and work in the garden.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
Other than the ghost of my childhood, I would have to say it was the many repeated visitations over the years. Every time someone I love passes away, they come and visit me one last time. My great grandfather, father-in-law, my grandmother, my mother, my father and, most recently, our beloved dog, Misty. How do I know who has visited me? I don’t often see the person, or dog, but something happens that suggests who it definitely has to be. The morning my mother passed away (from cancer), my son started his first round of chemotherapy. The nurse had difficulty with the IV pumps – everyone they tried kept beeping. The last time I saw my mother, Dad was caring for her at home and somehow, after helping Mom move on the hospital bed, we set off the IV pump and we couldn’t stop it from beeping. The nurses taking care of my son were baffled with the pumps because each time they moved the pump to another patient, it would stop beeping, while the new pump being used for my son would start beeping. I had shivers going up and down my spine, but I knew Mom was there with me as I helped my son fight his own battle with cancer, one that almost took his life, but thankfully didn’t.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
Just write. Make it part of the daily routine, even if it’s random scribblings and always carry a notebook (the real kind) to write things down while waiting, which we do so often in our lives.
Name one book you think everyone should read?!
I would have to say the one I mentioned earlier, Diana Raab’s “Regina’s Closet”.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
“King Henry’s Choice” (Clean Reads 2019) is the sequel to “Queen Mary’s Daughter” (Clean Reads 2018).
Here’s the synopsis:
There are powers at play that continue to seek amalgamating Scotland to England – powers from the past and powers from the future. It’s the late 1800s and Queen Victoria wants more than mere access to the Scottish retreat at Balmoral Castle. But King Henry I of Scotland, direct descendent of Queen Mary Elizabeth I, the time traveling royal daughter of Mary Queen of Scots, is determined to keep Scotland free and independent and a powerful, progressive nation in its own right. The struggle to protect what is his by birthright becomes a battle that must be fought in the past, the present and the future and in other parts of the world. And, in the midst of each battle, there are choices to be made. Very difficult choices.
Where to buy: Amazon US
More information is also available on my website.
Thanks so much for this wonderful interview Emily Jane. I will definitely be checking out some of these books, especially The Piccadilly Street Series. I love a good ghost story and love that it’s inspired but true memories. I’m also a massive fan of historical fiction so I look forward to reading some of these soon!
Have a great day all! I’m on my last day of my holiday so about to go and enjoy some last minute sun before coming back to rainy England tonight!!