May 9, 2013
HNS Interview: Heather Webb
Over the next few weeks, I will be featuring some of the speakers scheduled to present at the Historical Novels Society Conference June 21-23 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Today I welcome Heather Webb, who will be on a panel discussing the “Virtual Salon: Historical Fiction Blogs” at the conference. This is my second interview with Heather Webb. You can read the first interview here.
Question: What got you first interested in historical fiction?
Heather: I’ve been fascinated by history all my life–the clothes, the gadgets (or lack there of), and the evolution of the human story. I credit my parents for much of this interest. My dad loved old epic movies like Ben Hur and Cleopatra, westerns, and war films, and my mom enjoyed museums, so my siblings and me spent loads of time learning about the past.
Question: How do you find the people and topics of your books?
Heather: My book topics are based on people who have always fascinated me. Also, I stumble upon new gems by accident during my research of a current project.
Question: Do you follow a specific writing and/or research process?
Heather: I research for at lease a couple months first and flesh out an outline and character maps. From there, I begin writing scenes and continue to research as I go.
Question: For you, what is the line between fiction and fact?
Heather: Gross errors of important dates that define a person’s life within the novel is the only thing I’d watch for. Otherwise, to me, fiction is fiction. Fact is fact. Writers are artists with their own interpretation of how events unfolded, the emotions and thoughts of the characters. It frustrates me to see people attack each other over differing elements in historicals. So what if the relationship may or may not have happened? It sure is fun to read and dream about. Factual accounts (which is impossible as none of us lived during these times that we write about), are nonfiction, not fiction.
Question: Where do you feel historical fiction is headed as a genre?
Heather: I think crossover elements will become more popular–fantasy elements, women’s fiction themes, mysteries and thrillers, rather than classic historical biographies or war novels.
Question: Is there an era/area that is your favorite to write about? How about to read?
Heather: I love to write about late 18th-19th century France. Revolutions, whether through war or in ideologies are fascinating to me and France’s history is rich in revolts of every kind. I love to read any era, as long as I fall in love with the characters. Right now I’m on an early 20th century kick.
Question: What are your favorite reads? Favorite movies? Dominating influences?
Heather: Favorite reads change over time for me and they aren’t all historical, but right now I’d say: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. As for favorite films, my list is long, but I love artsy French films and most versions of those based on Jane Austen’s books. I could throw in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Silverlinings Playbook and the like, or the odd superhero film and I’m happy as a clam.
Question: Is there a writer, living or deceased, you would like to meet?
Heather: Josephine Bonaparte! But so so many more! I couldn’t possibly name them all.
Question: Can you tell us about your latest publication?
Heather: My debut Becoming Josephine be lead title for Plume/Penguin in January 2014 and has already been mentioned in The Wall Street Journal. I can’t tell you how excited I am! After years of hard work, it’s a dream come true! I bet Empress Josephine would be so pleased.