Today we're chatting with Historical Author Elizabeth Guider about her book, "Milk and Honey on the Other Side" and what's coming next.
What brought you to write this book?
It's hard to grow up in the Deep South and not be steeped in historical lore and absorbed in the whole issue of race. Plus, I wanted to write a love story that captured just how difficult it was to prosecute a love affair across the color divide, especially for the woman in question. The period of the 1920's was one of huge social change though and that made it possible for the characters to eventually figure things out for themselves.
I had been writing as a journalist for thirty years and it seemed like a fun, if challenging, change of pace. With of course its own hurdles and its own gratifications.
What are you trying to achieve with this book?
Ideally, to reach people who wouldn't ordinarily know or care much about the politics or the people or the passions of 100 years ago.
What got left out in the final draft?
A couple of very minor characters, a long riff on race which didn't need to be there, and a lot of excess ADVERBS.
Where there alternate endings you considered?
If so, what were they??
I did consider not letting the two main characters end up as they did but deep into the writing I figured out a plausible way for their reunion.
What's next for you? What are you working on now?
I've gone back to my freelancing as a journalist and am toying with two different ideas for a next novel, one historical and one contemporary. Hope to begin in ernest by year end.
What made you want to start writing?
When my grandmother from New Orleans came to live with us in her latter years, she shared my bedroom. A voracious reader, she and I read all of Charles Dickens together. Took about two years. From then I went on to George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, Henry James and into the 20th century with James Joyce and William Faulkner. It all paid off: I graduated valedictorian of my high
school class and went on to do a Ph. D. in Renaissance literature and history at New York University.
What things have you read that have especially helped your writing?
In the last few years I've read a lot of contemporary novels, especially from writers like Anthony Doerr, Jonathan Franzen, Donna Tartt, Elena Ferrante, Ian McKeowan, etc., and, in doing so, I've taken a few notes on their differing styles, their use of perspective, their voice, even the arresting punctuation or grammatical constructions that they use.
What's the hardest thing about writing for you? Finding the time to do it on a regular basis.
What do you wish you knew before you started? More about how to pitch to potential publishers and then how on earth to promote to the readers who most likely will be interested.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
As I suggested, I've always loved history and doing research. Then coming up with characters to properly and convincingly people the period in question.
Where did your love of reading & writing come from? As I said, from my grandmother, then my parents and the great English teachers I had in high school and college. I learned early on it was important to figure out what was GOOD to read, meaning well-written, informative, provocative, eye-opening, and fulfilling rather than reading just to be moving the eyeballs.
How long have you been writing? As a novelist, four years. My first novel, The Passionate Palazzo, set in Rome in 1978 when I was living there, came out in 2013.
What was the hardest part of writing this book? The hardest part about writing Milk and Honey on the Other Side was not letting the fascinating history of the period get in the way of a good fictionalized story.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
That I think I captured the feel of the place and the time in which the story is set and the way people behaved -- and that readers will be able to sense it too.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn't so? I don't think a lot of people (especially young people) know just how hard it was for women to assert themselves back 100 years ago, nor just how fraught with danger relations between the races were, especially if those relations had any hint of the sexual.
What is the most important thing that people DON'T know about your subject/genre, that they need to know?
How much the country, even the South, was beginning to change after the Great War and into the 1920s, starting with women getting the vote and throwing off their corsets, as it were.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
I think it's both a compelling love story and at the same time a family saga shaped by the political and cultural winds blowing across the country at the time (1918-1930).
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has? Write it out here, then answer it. How did you presume to write about a young black man since you are a not-so-young white woman?
I fell in love with this character -- who is based on a number of black men I have been acquainted with over the years. What they have in common is their decency and their striving to better their lot. I tried to imagine just how much MORE difficult that would have been 100 years ago, but I knew there were such people. In fact, I had always heard stories about such folks when growing up. I wanted to try my best to draw such a portrait in the character of Curtis Jefferson in the novel.
What does your "writing cave" look like? Hardly a cave. In Vicksburg, where I wrote half the book, it was on the sunporch in the house I inherited from my mother, full still of her beautiful plants and with hummingbirds and neighborhood cats outside the many windows. In Los Angeles, my preferred space is a patio table in the backyard, where I can sit under an umbrella and work most months of the year.
Do you use music as inspiration? Can you tell us about what type of music inspires you? I usually opt for silence when I write but when I edit I sometimes turn to Bach's Brandenburg Concerti or big band music from the '30's and 40's.
Must have beverage & snack while writing? In the morning when I'm writing a cup of strong coffee is just the ticket: if at night I'm happy with what I'm editing, a glass of cold white wine from the California Central Coast is just the thing.
Thank you for sharing your process, and thoughts about your book.
You can find her,
You can find her,
Name: Elizabeth Guider
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
All social media links: All under my name: Facebook (authorElizabethGuider), LinkedIn, Twitter (#GuiderElizabeth), Goodreads
PLUS www.lulu.com, BarnesandNoble, Baker&Taylor, Smashwords,