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Monday, November 27, 2017

Authors To Watch: Emma Hartley, Author of The Nature of Entangled Hearts





Emma Hartley is an author and artist living in picturesque Maine. She has been writing and making art since childhood and has been insatiably curious and industrious her whole life. Emma was a double major in English and Fine Arts and she received her Masters in Art and Design Education. She is a specialist in ceramics and includes much of this expertise in her novel The Nature of Entangled Hearts. Her other interests include playing drums, making art and exploring every square inch of the Maine coastline. The Nature of Entangled Hearts is her first novel.

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The Nature of Entangled Hearts is a fast-paced, edgy, romantic thriller, with a subtly supernatural twist.  Enter the story of Elwyn and James, two strangers entangled by their past-life experiences,
who are mired in an unquantifiable present.  Throughout the novel they work to understand the bonds that hold them together, just as an unforeseen danger threatens to tear them apart.
                                                   
Elwyn “Derrin” Derringer is a ceramic artist and a professor at the local college of art in Portland, Maine.  She has always felt insecure and disconnected, unsure of how or why she fits into the world, seeking through her art to fill in the missing pieces of herself.  When Elwyn’s eyes lock on those of a stranger across the market, everything she has taken for granted as reality is thrown into question.  Understanding blooms in fits and starts, interrupted by her fears of attachment and eventually by the unwanted attentions of an obsessed and disturbed art student.

Throughout the novel, Elwyn discovers reservoirs of strength and independence as she faces these challenges, endearing the reader with her feisty nature and her fierce desires to create authentically, to love intensely and to transcend the destructive links to her past.  “The Nature of Entangled Hearts” takes us on a thrilling ride through past and present, through love and dread, through loss and reclamation, leaving us thankful that we don’t understand all the mysteries of the universe just yet, and reminding us never to take our lives - or our loves - for granted.

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We welcome you to My Bookish Pleasures! Can you tell us how you got started writing fiction?

Thank you for having me!  I began writing fiction when I was a very young child.  I recently went through a trunk of old things from my childhood and I encountered an old journal.  One of the love stories I had started in third grade reminded me very much of my current work.  Noticing the similarities in theme was a surprise.  Apparently, I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a while!

As far as my adult writing career goes, I began writing in earnest when my first child was one year old.  I went back to work as an art teacher for two-and-a-half days a week, but the daycare we used was three days a week.  That left me with Wednesday afternoons free.  So, when I got out of work, I went to the coffee shop across from the daycare and I wrote for three hours until it was pick up time and my child woke up from her nap.  During that year of Wednesday afternoons, I wrote an entire novel.  Once I realized I could actually do it, I was hooked.

Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?

My books grow pretty organically.  There is always a seed from which a character or plot line grows.  I never know where these seeds will come from next, but when they germinate and start to sprout, I map out my rough outline so that my story doesn’t ramble.  I want my characters to lead the way, and I usually trust them to do so. 

These days, I write on Mondays.  I block out the entire day for my work and commit myself to it wholeheartedly.  I usually write in coffee shops because the bustle of activity and people feeds my creative energy.  It’s like an instant community of strangers.  Plus, the caffeine doesn’t hurt…

Can you tell us about your most recent release?

The Nature of Entangled Hearts is a love story, a thriller, and an exploration of what it means to be human and to love deeply.  It brings us on the journey of two strangers, Elwyn and James, who meet for the first time after they lock eyes in the public market.  They feel compelled to figure out why they are so drawn to each other.  Elwyn, a feisty professor of ceramics at the local art college in Portland, Maine, initially resists the lure of the handsome James.  She quickly realizes, however, that there is something deeper pulling her towards him.  James, a successful businessman, has always been plagued by nightmares of a dying woman.  When he sees Elwyn, however, his hope for a normal life is kindled.  As the characters overcome their personal fears and hesitations, they come to understand their connection, just as an unforeseen threat, in the form of a disturbed art student, threatens to tear them apart.  The book follows Elwyn and James on their epic journey through the past and present, uncovering the nature of their deep love for one another, and imbuing them each with courage and hope.

How did you get the idea for the book?

The idea for The Nature of Entangled Hearts came from a real experience I had with a stranger in the Public Market.  Our eyes met and I wondered why this beautiful man was staring me down.  The look in his eyes was one of familiarity and yearning.  I couldn’t figure out his motivation, so I chickened out and turned away.  Talk about regretting a sudden burst of shyness!  He left, and as he did, he looked back at me with a wistful expression.  Then, he was gone.  I played that scene in my mind over and over, wondering what that man thought he saw in me.  Did he know me?  I thought of a thousand ways our encounter could have ended, instead of me turning away, and each of those musings brought me one step closer to this novel.  

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

Elwyn “Derrin” Derringer is my favorite character.  She is feisty and funny, insecure and creative, quick to anger—but usually at herself.  She is prettier than she thinks she is.  She takes charge in difficult situations.  She finds courage she didn’t know she had, and her will to love rules in the end.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

The ending was very difficult to write.  I originally had a different trajectory that never quite seemed to fit.  When I deleted fifty pages of writing, it freed me up to create the ending that was meant to be.  It is never easy to see your characters in danger or pain, nor is it easy to know exactly the right path for them to take.  In this case, I am satisfied that the characters remain authentic, even as they face danger at the end of this novel.

What projects are you currently working on?

My upcoming novel, The Annealing of Aliza Bennett, is set for release in July.  I am also finishing up two more novel-length manuscripts, and I have to keep myself from starting anything new until I finish the work I have started – which is hard for me!  




What advice would you offer to new or aspiring fiction authors?
 
Read a lot!  Think about what you read and ask yourself how the author may have come up with her ideas and characters.  Then, think about yourself, your own experiences, your acquaintances, your surroundings, and ask yourself about the stories you already have in your heart or mind.
 
After you’ve done your homework, it’s time to write.  Carve out a chunk of time every week (or every day if you can manage it).  Set the tone for your best work.  If you work well in a quiet place, set up a writing sanctuary in your home.  If you work best out in the hubbub, like I do, then find a table at your favorite coffee shop and park there unabashedly all day.  If you can make writing a part of your life, you start to think of yourself as a writer.  Then, the words will flow.  Above all, enjoy the process.  I write because I love to write.  I hope you do too.

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