Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Author Interview: Gwen Holbrook

Gwen Holbrook
author, Love and Loyalty on the Loire

Give us a bit of your background (where are you from, your family, traveling adventures)

I am from near Washington D.C., the oldest of three daughters. I have always been drawn to the Middle Ages, their mythology of knights and magic, their imagery of vaulted arches and tapestries and their sincerity of culture and faith. The beauty of the cathedrals and the austerity of monastic life captured my imagination and admiration as a child, and it still does.  As a teenager, I took an unusually high interest in Ireland, feeling drawn to the photographs of crumbling castles and monk’s huts in ruins. My dad took me there when I was seventeen, and my husband and I visited again on our honeymoon. I’m not of Irish decent, but I am of Irish fascination. My first novella, Love and Loyalty on the Loire is set in medieval France, but things I learned about the medieval way of life in Ireland are interwoven as well. I hope the story will immerse the reader in those bygone days and transport her far into that other world.

Most writers are readers. What are some of the books you have on your nightstand and/or on your "must read" list? 

Classic fantasy: The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, especially.  I just finished The Once and Future King by T.H. White and my evening reading has not been the same without it. C.S. Lewis’s work has been very inspiring to me, particularly the space trilogy.

I’m also a big science fiction and dystopia fan: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is my run- away favorite. 1984 by George Orwell and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury are classics too.

Growing up, I was really into Orson Scott Card and his Ender’s Game series and Anne McCaffery and her Dragonriders of Pern. I would say those two authors made me a reader for life. From them I came to enjoy stories in written form and had the first seeds of plot ideas planted in my own mind. I also have an inexplicable devotion to Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

What is one silly fact about you?

I started knitting a pair of socks as a Christmas gift for my sister two years ago, and they are still not finished. I aim to finish them by the end of 2015.

What got you started on your writing journey? 

Oddly enough, I wrote (terrible) poems as a teenager, but I steered clear of formal instruction in English or writing in college because I believed that “deep hidden meaning” was really a bunch of hogwash. Only later did I learn to see the value in poetry, imagery and literature. After my first child was born, I found myself alone (with him) and awake quite often in the night. I started reading for pleasure again then, and I found that reading and writing filled a deep need within me to understand the world and to share that understanding with others, as the writers before me had done. When I read passages of certain books that I identify with, I feel I’ve found a friend who speaks across time. I hope that my writing might accomplish this for someone else.

Why do you choose to write clean/sweet romance?  Do you write steamy romance as well? 

I wanted it to be clean because there is enough in the world to tire us out and drain our emotions. But when we encounter things that are truly good, they are captivating. I wanted to show an honest, selfless love that the reader can really get behind and invest in. There do exist kind, honest people who, of course, encounter problems, but who seek the true, the good and the beautiful all through it. These are resilient folks, who offer all they can without making demands, and I wanted to write a story about that.

What other things do you have planned with your writing for the rest of the year? 

I am working on a short story set in the present day about a doctor dealing with alcoholism. And I have a much larger project, a full length dystopian novel that began my venture into fiction and is still under construction. Any more than that is top secret.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer? 

There are a few things: 1) control. No matter what happens in real life, in the life of my characters, I’m in charge. I determine their life stories, conflicts and coping skills. In a way, it is highly cathartic. I live in inner life that is totally free.

2) Sharing that with others. It took me many years to build up the confidence to hope and believe that another soul might be interested in the musings of my imagination. But I found that I connected with literature and stories and tales of far off lands, and so others might like something similar. It is a gift to be able to tell stories and offer something of meaning to others.

Where do your ideas come from?

I try to think about how people really feel, what evokes emotion, what is truly hard to deal with, then how to show characters dealing with that at different levels of personal development. An interesting backdrop always helps.I see a plot as a series of escalating conflicts that are inter-related, so that’s how my story arcs are born.

If you could sum your main character into five words, what would they be? 

Bold, but grounded. Selfless, confident, gentle.

What are your hero and heroine of the story like?

The heroine, Elodie de Clery, is a farmer’s daughter who has learned the ways of the fields, the village and of healing. She cares deeply for her brother, sisters and parents but must learn to see the humanity even of the opposing soldiers

The hero, Gareth of Cornwall, is an English soldier who finds himself in the care of a French peasant family, and he must discern where his true loyalties lie, where they ought to be, and what is really worth fighting for.

Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?

Read this book to see the vulnerable sides behind both the soldiers and the peasants wrestling with the most violent dilemmas in life, discovering each other’s humanity despite this and coming out stronger from it. At the end of day, we are all just wandering human beings hoping to find connection and a compass for the troubles of life.


  1. SUCH a wonderful book! Check out my review:

    Thanks for the interview!



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