HP Munro

 My interview this week is with HP Munro. Before we begin, I would like to add my congratulations on HP Munro’s Goldie win for Silver Wings in the Historical Fiction Category.

When I first published Sunset Island, the first letter I received about my book was from a woman named Susie. She described how she read it until she could no longer keep her eyes open, then set her alarm to get up before work the next day so she could finish it before she reported in. I wrote back to her and after thanking her for writing to me, eager for additional feedback, I asked her to detail why she liked the book, characters, etc. We have been corresponding ever since, sharing the names of books to read among other topics. Recently she wrote to me telling me she enjoyed reading HP Munro’s book Stars Collide. She wanted to know more about the author, so I decided to write to Ms. Munro and ask her for an interview. She graciously agreed, and the results of our conversation follow.

AJ: I asked Susie what she’d like to ask you. She is an avid sports fan and wanted to know if you are as well. If you are, she wanted to know if you prefer Rugby or Football (soccer) and which team is your favorite?

HP: Firstly thank you to Susie for making this happen! I guess I’m a seasonal sports fan. During my teens and twenties I was a massive tennis fan (may have had something to do with my Steffi Graf crush) I still watch now but only the big occasion matches. I’ll be cheering Andy Murray on at Wimbledon today.

Regarding rugby and football my teams in both are Scotland.

I’ll take football first. Again during the same period I was a huge football fan and followed Glasgow Rangers much to my Edinburgh-born father’s disappointment (When I came out to him he shrugged and said if he could put up with my choice of football team my being gay was easy!) I don’t follow football as much now (and that has nothing to do with Rangers recent lack of success) other things in my life took over. Both my wife and I are loving the World Cup at the moment.

Now rugby…My wife is a huge rugby fan, the Six Nations becomes a thing to plan our lives around, but I have to confess I have been known to tune out matches that don’t involve Scotland and on one occasion much to my wife’s utter dismay I even read a book in the middle of a pub surrounded by people watching an Ireland vs France match (in my defense, it was Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón I was reading).

 

AJ: Susie also wanted to know answers to some of these easy warm up questions.

Light or dark chocolate, favorite color, dogs or cats, tea or coffee, cup half full, or cup half empty

HP:  Light or dark chocolate – Why limit yourself?

Favorite color - Blue

Dogs or cats – Dogs – I have a wauzer (westie/schnauzer) called Bamboo

Tea or coffee – Tea – I drink about a bucket a day

Cup half full, or cup half empty – Either way you look at the cup there’s always room for gin

 

AJ: Now that’s a first! That’s a great answer to the cup half full or empty question. Tell us a bit about your book(s).

HP: Oooh, tough one…can we go back to the warm up, I may need more stretches and a couple of squats first before tackling this.

Hmmm…my first book Silver Wings is set during WW2 and focuses on two women who join the Women’s Airforce Flying Service as pilots. I suppose the period aspect of this book makes it a little bit different from my other two books, Grace Falls and Stars Collide, which are set in modern day.

Grace Falls is set in a small Alabama town that coerces a passing doctor to provide medical services, and while she’s there she falls in love with a resident, her daughter and ultimately the town itself.

Stars Collide is set in Hollywood and New York and follows two actresses as their characters are placed in a relationship together. During that whole process they start to develop feelings for each other.

I saw your recent interview with Kiki Archer where she said she unabashedly classed her books as chick-lit and I would echo that sentiment. With GF and SC I wanted to write stories which would entertain with SW I guess there was a little bit of wanting to educate as well. The story of the WASP is but a tiny footnote in the grand scheme of WW2 but a wonderful footnote.

Ultimately in all of the books I like to explore not just the main relationships but the friendships they have as well and if I can raise a chuckle along the way then I’m a happy lady.

 

AJ: I’m surprised you would set Grace Falls in a Small Alabama town when you hail from ‘across the pond.’ You mention later in the interview you have traveled to the northwestern US states. Have you visited the southern US states as well?

HP: I think small towns are small towns regardless of location, in the book I used a story told to me by a friend who lives in a small village in Scotland where a man moved to the village when he was 17 and lived there until he died when he was 96 and yet still he was referred to as ‘Bob from the other village’. (bit of trivia for those that have read the book the next town to Grace Falls is St Anton because that was the next village to where I started to write the book while nursing a broken backside on a snowboarding holiday in France).

For the past three years we’ve spent almost a month of our holiday time exclusively in USA. We’ve done an apartment swap in Manhattan, living on the Upper West Side and I had a summer affair with a Mustang convertible (Her name was Miranda) around south-west Canada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana as well as various city breaks. I’ve yet to make it down as far south as my books however, that’s something I hope to rectify in the future.

 

AJ: Tell us a bit about your main character(s). What makes them unique or interesting?

HP: I guess my approach is to try to make them normal, I want readers to think that if they were to meet the character in real life they would be able to sit down and shoot the breeze with them and not be intimidated.

They have hang-ups. They can be funny, they can be snarky and they can be supportive or angry and hurtful. Just like we all can.

My two ladies in Silver Wings are, Helen Richmond who is an out lesbian in the 1940’s. That fact alone made her interesting I spent a lot of time looking at what constituted as the gay scene in Hollywood during the 1930s. She’s also one of those women who you’d read about and think they must have been really colourful. She was one time derby racer and Hollywood stunt pilot before joining the WASP.

Lily Rivera is a Floridian of Cuban descent who played violin for the New York Philharmonic as well as in the Manhattan supper clubs. She’s more of a complex character than Helen. I named her after a flower as for me that’s what her character’s journey represents in the book, she blooms from someone who is unsure of herself into a force to be reckoned with.

In Grace Falls, we have Maddie Marinelli (I saw in KA’s interview she sometimes uses names from her facebook and twitter feed, in this case Maddie is named after a friend’s dog!) a New Yorker living in the South. She’s someone who tries to do the right thing but it can often bite her in the backside. She’s still nursing a broken heart from a fairly brutal breakup with her wife and has been planned and careful her whole life but planning doesn’t count for much when fate lends a hand.

Alex Milne has spent most of her life putting other people’s needs in front of her own. Whether it was caring for relatives or fulfilling her brother’s dream, she’s never put herself forward and done something just for her. Her love live has been put firmly on the back burner and she doubts the right woman even exists for her. When she meets Maddie she suddenly sees a life that might just have a little something for her in it.

And our lovely actresses in Stars Collide are Freya Easter and Jordan Ellis.

Freya is part of Hollywood royalty. Her family have amassed more awards than Freya has cooked hot dinners. However she wants to make her own way in the acting world even to the point of not using the famous Conor surname. She’s firmly in the closet and has had a crush on Jordan Ellis from almost the first moment she saw her on Front Line.

Jordan has been plodding along, working hard on Front Line and failing to meet anyone that manages to scratch beneath the surface until she starts to work closer with Freya. As a previously straight-identified woman, when her feelings move from friendship to something else it takes her by surprise.

 

AJ: Do you write full-time or part-time?

HP: Part time and, at the moment, part-part time. There’re not enough hours in the day.

My work are great. When my dad’s Alzheimer’s got really bad they allowed me to change onto a flexible arrangement where I work my hours over a four-day period. My Monday mornings are meant to spent writing but often other stuff interferes and I spend the rest of the day with my parents. 

Are you disciplined when you write?

 

AJ: Ha…depends on the day. I’m a pretty disciplined person, not always so as a writer. I start a story with a beginning, and end as well as with an idea of who the characters are, including their strengths and weaknesses. I have the whole thing worked out in my head. Then I start to write and those characters start to take over. Once all the mental groundwork is laid, I can usually write a book in less than a month. Sometimes, however, as with the pesky one, Sunset Island, I worked on it for over a year. Fortunately, because I’m retired, finding time to write is not often a problem. When I’m writing, finding time to be a good partner, friend, person is the challenge because I become so absorbed, often writing 12 to 16 hours a day when I’m on a roll.

HP: I’m jealous! My first books took about a couple months to write in their original format. I originally wrote while I travelled a lot for work, ironically most of Silver Wings was written while in airports or on planes. I don’t travel as much now, so what was previously ‘dead time’ to me no longer exists.

I’m currently working on a sequel to Grace Falls and we’re now into month seven (to be fair actual writing time is probably about a couple of weeks in total) but it’s a struggle to balance everything.

 

AJ: If you work a “regular job” what do you do?

HP: I really envy people who have a job title that people know immediately what it is they do…like sky-diver! I don’t have a job title that means much to anyone other than the people in my team (incidentally I don’t sky-dive either). Basically I work in Learning for a large banking company and I’m one of the people who deliver on the strategy and development of the online training system and framework…sexy huh…Let’s go with sky-diving. (I should say that my wife after almost ten years still doesn’t get what I do, so don’t feel too bad if you’re still scratching your head)

 

AJ: In your book Stars Collide, you wrote about two actresses. If you could have any job for a day, would you like to be an actress? If not, what would it be?

HP: I have a shocking memory so learning lines would be a nightmare. I think I’d prefer to be working in the background in the writers’ office.

If you were to come out of retirement what job would you do?

 

AJ: Gee, do I have to?  Okay, I guess I’d probably enjoy doing photo restoration. I love taking old, damaged photos and making them all shiny and new again.

HP: A soon to be almost forgotten art thanks to digital photography. My dad once attempted to turn one of his wedding photos from black & white into colour by basically colouring it in. My mum never really forgave him, as he’s never been known for his delicate touch and it looked like he’d used crayons or really blunt pencils to do it!

 

AJ: For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

I was really anti e-book when they first came out and then I realised I could read on my phone wherever I was and then balance flipped. When I tried to then read a paperback I’m ashamed to say I got annoyed by the weight and the whole turning of pages. 

 

AJ: What book/s are you reading at present?

Apart from yours?

 

AJ: LOL, yes, apart from mine! (I hope you’re enjoying it.) If you are you can say it here, (shameless solicitation) and if you aren’t, be polite and say you are anyway and e-mail me privately to tell me what you didn’t like! LOL.

HP: I am enjoying it, I’m still early on in the story at the moment (time to read is as rare as time to write) –The approach that you’ve taken of dipping into the character’s lives at pivotal moments is similar to something I did with Stars Collide

I’ve not long finished Clare Ashton’s ‘That Certain Something’ and next on the list is my book club book ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ by John Green (it should be said I’m notorious in our book group for being the one who doesn’t either finish or even start the book).

I’m also having a year long relationship with Miranda Hart’s ‘Is It Just Me?’ I dip in and out of it in between other reads.

 

AJ. Who designs your book cover/s? Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came to be. I like them very much.

HP: Thank you AJ I do. I’ve always had an interest in art and design so can happily spend hours perusing Getty images and then playing with various photo applications and programs fiddling with the images to get them the way I want.

All of my covers use images that are the instant before a kiss. I think it’s a beautiful moment full of promise and anticipation, which is hopefully something that the readers feel before they start to read.

With Silver Wings I wanted the aspects of the story to come through – the image of the two characters, the bombers in the background and the WASP wings in the foreground.

For Grace Falls, the waterfall is a photo that I took while we were touring round the Pacific North West. The waterfall itself is in the Glacier National Park.

The images on Stars Collide show the intimate moment contrasted with the public image of stardom, the countless faceless photographers in the background with their flashing cameras.

 

AJ: Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

HP I know it does for me. I’m an incredibly visual person so I try to make them as appealing as I can.

 

AJ: As I write this, your book is now #3 and #4 in the US and UK. Congratulations! How do you market your books, and do you have any advice for other authors on marketing?

HP: Ahhh! All good things come to an end, it had a few weeks at #1 so I’m more than happy with that.

I have to hold my hands up. I am awful at promotion.

I am probably fortunate in that I started writing through fanfiction so had built up a following through that medium and my books so far are adaptations of stories that I wrote for that genre. So other than contacting a dozen people or so that I knew were interested in reading the adaptions I didn’t do anything special with Silver Wings. I’m not sure what portion of readers are those who read the FF or whether it’s an entirely new audience.

I entered it into a couple of awards and it’s a finalist in the Historical Fiction category of the GCLS Award. Despite knowing I entered it was a surprise to be short-listed. I must of checked the sites finalist page four times even comparing it to the submissions page to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. I would have loved to have gone to the ceremony in Portland for the experience but with work etc. it’s not possible.

A few months later I eventually got round to setting up a twitter account and website and after a desperate email to Kiki Archer to ask her for the secret of her success, I set up a Facebook page and started to put myself out of my comfort zone a bit more.

I didn’t do anything special for Grace Falls, it just seemed to go wild on its own, reaching No1 in the US and UK. I just had to hang on for the ride, it got a couple of reviews one on C-spot by Cheri and one by the wonderful Terry Baker—whose reviews on Amazon I’ve used for a couple of years to pick my next read.

I guess Silver Wing’s nomination in the Goldies brought me a bit more attention. So for Stars Collide I was a bit more proactive (but not by much) I recently did a short blog for UKLesfic run by Cari Hunter and Clare Ashton. They’ve been great featuring promotions on the blog and the LGBT bookstore twitter account has promoted it as well.

 

AJ: Since this interview came about as the result of a fan of yours wanting to know more about you, what is your most heartwarming, or if you prefer, your most humorous interaction (in person or in writing) with a fan?

HP: I have received emails from readers who have had female relatives who took part in the war effort and thanked me for representing them and bringing their stories to people’s attention. That brought a lump to my throat.

I am always touched when I get a review or email (even the bad, as I am constantly trying to improve) as an avid reader myself I know how much I have to be moved to do either.

 

AJ: If you could have been the original author of any book, which book would it have been?

HP: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, it’s wonderfully wacky, funny and incredibly ingenious.

 

AJ: What do you like to do when you are not writing?

HP: work, eat, sleep, binge on Breaking Bad (I know I’m behind the curve) and spend as much time as I can with my wife. Yesterday I built our patio furniture on my own which I was quite proud about, I am a natural disaster when it comes to home DIY (I tend to think of flat pack instructions as guidance notes only and not actual instructions and have been banned from using anything that requires power, is sharp or can be used to hit anything- which restricts my activities somewhat).

 

AJ: Thank you HP for the interview. Where can a reader learn more about you and your books?

HP: You can find out more about me and my books here:

Website: http://www.red-besom-books.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/munrohp

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MunroHP

Other: email munrohp@gmail.com

 

                             

© JEN 2014