17 Hazel Gaynor

Hazel Gaynor is an author, freelancer, and winner of the Cecil Day Lewis Award for 41DeCAAexUL. SX342 Emerging Writers (2012). She is also a self-publishing superhero who saw her book taken on by Harper Collins, where it subsequently marched right into the New York Times bestseller list and seems set to take on the entire universe. Originally from North Yorkshire, Hazel lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. She is fond of gin and occasionally enjoys shouting.

What is your name? What is your quest?

Name: Hazel Gaynor
Quest: To discover at least one new brand of gin every year for the rest of my life.

Okay, tell me about your book.

One word: Titanic
THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME (I'm not shouting, by the way, it just seems to be a 'thing' to type the title of the book in CAPS) is about a young Irish woman who sails on Titanic with thirteen others from a small parish in County Mayo.

What was the most difficult bit to write?

Everything after the title. I still don't really know how I ever wrote an entire book. Mostly it was done in short bursts before the kids woke up, or while the dinner was cooking, or while my husband took the kids swimming or when everyone else was in bed. A novel is a strange creature. It never fails to surprise me how much tangling and untangling is involved and how it all gets smoothed out into something readable in the end.

What surprised you about writing it?

The extent to which it totally overtook my life – and that it still continues to do so. I'd
written a novel before this (now hidden under the bed), but this was different. I didn't expect to become so completely attached to it. When I wasn't writing, I was thinking about writing and couldn't wait to get back to the laptop. Now it is published, I feel like an over-protective parent trying not to interfere when my child is hesitant to put their hand up or too shy to take money to the street performer. I want to nudge my book along and whisper words of encouragement to it and tell it to be brave and hug it and give it chocolate biscuits.

Hazel Gaynor copyright Deasy PhotographicFirst line:

"Maggie Murphy stood alone and unnoticed on the doorstep of the thatched stone cottage that three generations of her family had called home."

What's the next project?

Ah, the difficult second novel. Although, I'm very lucky because my second novel was written and submitted to my publisher at the same time as THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME (not shouting), so I was one step ahead in a way. The book is called A MEMORY OF VIOLETS (not shouting) and is another historical fiction set around the lives of orphaned flower sellers in Victorian London. Prepare to weep.

Your three main characters are trapped in a barn during the zombie apocalypse. What's the outcome?

Maggie gets out of the barn and goes on to live an amazing life – because that's what she's good at.
Grace gets out her laptop and writes about the experience. She wins a Pulitzer Prize for the piece.
Seamus throws another sod of turf on the fire and wonders whether he should have followed Maggie.

Your book's been made into a movie. What's playing over the opening credits?

Well, now, wouldn't that be a thing if someone was brave enough to make another Titanic movie. Given the opening scene of the book, and the importance of cherry blossom throughout, I think the opening credits would have to be accompanied by a beautiful song by Irish folk singer, John Spillane 'The Dance of the Cherry Trees.' Yeah, that'll do nicely. Where do I sign?

When and where is the book available?

NOW! EVERYWHERE! (Yes, I'm shouting.)
Well, I say, everywhere. I actually mean everywhere in ebook format and in the U.S.A, UK and Ireland in paperback, in actual bookshops – and wherever books are sold.

* I just saw a copy of this fine novel in the library of my hometown of Bridgetown, Nova Scotia (population 949), so EVERYWHERE is quite accurate. And there have been loads of Titanic movies, starting with a silent film released soon after the sinking, as our adorable shouting novelist is well aware. Why not one more?

My two cents: The Girl Who Came Home accomplishes the impressive feat of taking a story we all know and presenting it in a way that is fresh and very relatable – Gaynor's heroes are fourteen ordinary people, most of them young women, who left their home for economic reasons, never expecting to return. Only two survived. The background is thoroughly researched and serves the story well: yes, one of the survivors really did run back to the ship to save her new hat, and the snooty showgirl who shares a lifeboat with Maggie actually did act in a silent film about Titanic, sporting the same dress she'd worn on the night of the sinking. This novel has everything: the characters are endearing, the story is engaging and at times heartbreaking, the plot is smartly paced, and the ending delivers a satisfying twist. If you'd like to understand this tragedy on a human level rather than being blindsided by Hollywood spectacle and Celine Dion, go get it now.

Time to contemplate those cherry blossoms!

 

 

 

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"...astonishingly good....a juicy coming-of-age story...also an important read." The Globe and Mail

"...poignant...heart-wrenching. This stunning debut will surely appeal to both teenage readers and adults." Quill & Quire, starred review

"Witty, devastating, with a melancholy humour..." Sunday Business Post

"...page-turning, top drawer stuff..." BGE Book Club

"...warm, witty, heartfelt and utterly engaging..." The Irish News

"A stunning debut. I loved it." The Irish Examiner