Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Inteview with Victoria Wilcox

I just fell in love with Victoria Wilcox's Inheritance, a novel of John Henry 'Doc' Holliday and I'm really unable to shut up about it.  I'm thrilled to share my interview with Victoria Wilcox; she talks about her writing, Inheritance, her connection with the Hollidays, and what she does when she's not writing.  Be sure to enter the giveaway!

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

It was a little thriller I wrote in the 5th grade. The teacher had given us the writing prompt, "The man with the big black bag got off the plane," which my 10-year old mind turned into The Ruins of Rio about diamond smuggling in Brazil, with a climactic scene set at Sugarloaf Mountain. I have no idea where all that came from!

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I write all the time, everywhere: on the computer, on yellow pads, on the backs of envelopes, in the car dictated into my iPhone, in the shower. When I'm working on a story my characters are always with me, and they get very irritated when other demands get in the way of my writing, so writing is not a leisure activity for me, it's more of a compulsion. I find that a day when I have written is a good day, no matter what else didn't get done. A day when I haven't written, no matter how productive otherwise, is a bad day for me.

An interviewer recently asked me what kept me working on this long story all the way to completion. Well, I couldn't stop until it was done. As for my routine -- I write until way past bedtime almost every night, and have fallen asleep at the keyboard many a time. I print out whatever I've just finished writing and read it over in bed, then grab it off the nightstand as soon as I wake up in the morning and read and edit and then get back to my computer again as fast as I can. I love my stories and love being in them. When Southern Son was finally finished, I carried the manuscript around with me like a newborn baby. I didn't want to be separated from it!

Was Inheritance the original title of your book?

The trilogy was originally one very long book entitled Into the Wind -- which was the last line of the first section of the book. The titles of the four sections of that one long book were: Southern Son, Gone West, The Last Decision and The Water is Wide. But although I liked that the original title's allusion to Gone With the Wind which has connections to my story, it wasn't a strong title. So the long version of the book became Southern Son and I had to come up with something new for that first section, and decided on Inheritance.

But then legendary agent Lila Karpf (who helped shape Eugenia Price's career) told me the book was simply too long to be published in one volume and had to be made into a trilogy, and the first two parts became the books entitled Inheritance and Gone West and the third and fourth parts were combined into The Last Decision.

The overall title of the trilogy stayed Southern Son until shortly before I signed with my publisher, when a friend who was reading the manuscript texted me: "Really enjoying your saga of Doc Holliday." That was the first time I had thought of using a subtitle, and so glad I did, as it tells the reader what the book is about, and "Southern Son: The Saga of Doc Holliday" was born. In my publisher's standard contract, they ask if you are willing to consider other titles. I said, "Absolutely not! I am finished naming it!" Because the trilogy is really one long story in three parts, I still think of it as one book and call it Southern Son when I speak of it. It's strange to think that readers will get attached to the title Inheritance -- which sounds like just one part of a whole to me.

As you were writing Inheritance, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

John Henry was constantly surprising and infuriating me! He was always doing things I didn't approve of, and I would often push back from the computer in disgust, wanting to slap him and make him fly right. But he was so stubborn, as Mattie said, always doing things his own way. I suppose I was surprised about the flowers on his mother's grave, which I hadn't noticed until I was standing there in the scene with him. Of course, I knew right off who had planted them. And Mattie surprised me when she teased John Henry into kissing her as they stood together in the rain. I didn't think she worried so much about what he thought of her. And Henry Holliday's tears at Francisco's funeral were a big surprise. I felt so awful for poor John Henry! There were lots of surprises in the next two books, but you haven't read those yet, so I can't share!

Can you tell us about the second book in the Southern Son trilogy?

Gone West begins in 1873 a few weeks after the end of Inheritance as Holliday arrives at the port city of Galveston, Texas. He has big plans for himself, as always, but finds out quickly that Texas isn't quite what he had hoped it would be. I like to think of it as the story of how a Southern gentleman becomes an outlaw, how an outlaw becomes a lawman, and how a Georgia boy becomes a legend called Doc Holliday. It's a very different kind of story than Inheritance, very much a tale of the Wild West, with characters like Jesse James and Wild Bill Hickok, and of course Wyatt Earp and his brothers and Kate Elder. But it's still very much John Henry's story, the West seen through his Southern eyes. He's still the same boy you knew, just having new adventures.

Your life has long been connected to the Hollidays, as you were founding director of the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum in Fayetteville, GA. Are you still immersed in Holliday's life?

I really thought that once I was done telling John Henry's story, my long relationship with him would be over. I got to the end of the story and had a nice long cry at losing him. Then I opened the book and there he was again. The wonderful thing about characters in books is that they never really die -- the book gives them a kind of immortality. But I had no idea the amount of work that went into publishing and promoting, the writing you have to do about the writing (like this Q&A, for instance), the talks and articles and interviews and letters to be written, all talking about the story again and again and again. I didn't set out to have John Henry's story be a lifetime career, but it has certainly turned into one. My real-life connections with his living family have been a cherished gift of writing his story.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

My husband would answer this question, "Talk about writing, think about writing, read about writing..and then write some more." But I am also a singer and songwriter (that's still writing, I know), a choir director, a playwrite (more writing!) and theater director. I've taught college English and High School scripture study classes, I've remodeled houses and had fun decorating. I've arranged so many trips I could probably make a living as a travel agent. I've been offered Event Planning jobs, and have done tons of parties, galas, showers, and wedding receptions. And in between all that, I love to spend time with the three most beautiful grandchildren in the world!

Read any good books recently?

My nightstand is covered with good books I'm trying to finish! But some of my favorites have been: Sarum, Issac's Storm, Lonesome Dove, Devil in the White City, Ragtime, Gone With the Wind, The Waterworks, Penmarric, Mary Stewart's Crystal Cave trilogy, The Once and Future King, Katherine. Nowadays I read mostly nonfiction, as research for my own writing, but I do try to read whatever's selling so I can understand the market. I've read all the Harry Potter books, the Hunger Games trilogy, and the first Twilight book. I'm working on Dan Brown's Inferno. I'd like to read Steve Berry's newest. I'm partway through Atlas Shrugged, Shadow on the Crown, Swimming with Serpents, Watermark, In the Garden of Beasts, and a wonderful book about Wyatt Earp that isn't in print yet, Mark Warren's lyrical Adobe Moon. And I'm really looking forward to reading Sailing: Being the True Story of the Pirate, Stede Bonnet -- but I have to finish writing it first!

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My thanks to Ms. Wilcox for her time and thoughtful answers. You can learn more about her and her books at her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Inheritance to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian and UK residents, ends 8/16.


1 comment:

  1. This is in my "to review" list. I'm looking forward to it. I'm trying to check out some of my fellow book bloggers' blogs this weekend. Love your layout. Very easy to read and navigate. I tweeted a link to this post from @IvoryOwlReviews. I've also added you to my blog roll. Hope to chat with you soon

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