Monday, May 23, 2011

Interview with author, Christina Hamlett

Today, my guest is the multi-published author, Christina Hamlett discussing her release, The Spellbox.

1) Tell me a little about your book.
When American tourists Lucy McLaverty and Maxine Desmond see the sign "Thistleburn--Experience the Medieval"--they think of nothing more than finding a welcome respite from a fierce storm buffeting the Scottish Highlands. But when morning comes, more than the weather has changed. Though still in Scotland, they discover they’ve been transported 700 years into the past. With little more than their wits to protect them, Lucy and Max are immediately branded as witches and locked in the castle dungeon to await the judgment of the Laird of Thistleburn, Sir Evan Lyells. His timely return brings an end to the first plot to burn them at the stake but makes a dangerous enemy of the castle's cunning English priest, Adair Beath, who will stop at nothing to destroy them.

2) What gave you the idea for this particular story?
A co-worker and I were vacationing for several weeks in the Scottish Highlands in October of 1994 and encountering a fair share of cold and wicked weather. After tucking ourselves one evening into a vintage bed and breakfast inn in Braemar (Aberdeenshire) as the winds howled outside, she casually remarked, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we woke up tomorrow morning and discovered that we’d been thrown back in time?” I must have dreamt the entire plot that night because I was ready to start writing it the very next day!  (This same trip, by the way, also inspired my decision to get married at Stirling Castle four years later.)

3) Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I write full-time and, to date, have authored 26 books, 135 stage plays, 5 optioned feature films and hundreds of articles and interviews for magazines, newspapers and newsletters. I’m also a ghostwriter and professional script consultant for the film industry (which means that I stop a lot of bad movies from coming to theaters near you).  Although a number of my production deadlines are set externally by my editors, publishers and clients, I’ve always had the discipline to write every day for at least six hours.  Were I not blessed with a wonderful husband and the world’s cutest dog – both of whom enjoy my company -  that number would likely be sixteen.

4) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Seriously? I think I was born with a pencil in my hand. I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t writing. I’ve also always been a voracious reader. When I was in school, I used to check out the maximum number of books each week, hungrily devour them, and return the following week for a new batch.  I secretly like to think I was the model for Belle; had a Beast in a castle given me my own library as a present, I would have happily ditched my parents in a heartbeat.

5) What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
I want them to laugh, to cry, to reminisce, to say “Wow! I didn’t see that coming”, and to stay up until 3 in the morning just to finish the story.

6) Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?
I enjoy humor, history and fantasy – all of which are consistent with my outlook on life.

7) What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
Being constantly asked by people (usually aspiring screenwriters and novelists) if I could read their manuscripts in my “spare time” and give them advice. This, I think, is akin to asking a doctor if he can take out your spleen for free on his day off. I tell them that I’d be happy to offer comment on their first two pages and a synopsis. If they want more than that, they have to pay my professional fees.  This usually makes them go away.

8) How much is your protagonist like you? How different?
The common denominator in all of my books is that the heroines are resilient, love dogs, have a sense of humor, are smart, and the majority are brunettes. (In my YA novel, Movie Girl, I even drew from my own angst-riddled memories of being 15 and madly in love with a hottie senior who didn’t know I existed.) In The Spellbox, my alter ego Lucy acts very much the way I would if I awakened in the 13th century; specifically, I’d explore, I’d learn the culture, and I’d attempt to fit in. Lucy’s friend Max was directly modeled after my former travel companion who would have imposed her bossy will, argued with everyone and tried to convert them into vegans.  She was also the inspiration for the character of Gwen in my contemporary reincarnation comedy, Heaven Only Knows. As for the question on how my protagonists are different from me, they have thinner thighs, practically never have bad-hair days, and can probably ice-skate backwards.

9) What kind of research did you do for this type of story?
I immersed myself in Scottish history, watched movies about Scotland, and listened to Celtic music while I worked to put myself in the right mindset.

10) Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not? 
If they’re pertinent to the plot, I don’t mind writing them at all. I do feel, however, that “less is more” and that too much sex or violence quickly hits a diminishing point and becomes boring. If we look to movies as an example, it was the brief glimpse of skin, the steamy hint of innuendo and the closed door that set our pulses and imaginations racing. Once actors begin shedding all their clothes and showing in graphic detail what’s going on behind those closed doors – well, (yawn) what more can they do that we haven’t already seen? The same goes for blood and gore.  For me, it’s much more terrifying to see creepy shadows, horrified facial expressions, and hear squishy-splat noises and spine-tingling screams than it is to watch victims up close and personal getting dismembered with chainsaws.

11) What about your book makes it special?
One of my signature styles whenever I write books or plays set in an earlier era is to have my fictional characters cross paths and interact with historic luminaries. Because of the amount of research I do on who was where when and doing what, these tableaus are entirely plausible. An example of this is when the villainous Adair Beath (who could be played deliciously by Alan Rickman) determines that the most effective way to ingratiate himself to Longshanks is to stir dissension between two of the contenders for the Scottish throne.  His leverage is a contemporary road map of the U.K. that he stole from Lucy and Max and which he mistakenly believes to be a battle plan. In another scene, Lucy and Max are saved by no less than William Wallace and feel compelled to reciprocate the favor by using their knowledge of the future to warn him of the fate that awaits if he is captured by the English king. Wallace, however, is firmly reconciled to the belief that only by his own sacrifices can the clans of Scotland unite in the quest for freedom.

12) What is your marketing plan?
Not only am I a consummate raconteur  (which I’ve always thought had kind of a wicked sound to it) but I write articles, do blogs, teach workshops, and appear as a guest on podcasts, all of which are opportunities to promote my work. In addition to making my website address part of my email signature block, I use fantastic services like VistaPrint for my book cover postcards and brochures and am now branching out into the production of book trailers.

13) Where can people learn more about you and your work?
I recommend a visit to my website at

14) Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?
If you want to write themes about temporal phenomenon, the best place to start is with a visit to Andy’s Anachronisms ( This website covers the full spectrum of time-travel theories, methods and anomalies found in movies, books, stage plays and short stories.  Spoiler alert: it’s addictive!


  1. Great interview, Penny! I enjoyed learning how Christina came up with the idea for her book. I like the look of the cover.

  2. Susanne, always good to hear from you. Thanks for stopping.

  3. Immersing yourself in Scottish history doesn't seem like a bad card to pull for researching a book. Thanks for the great interview and insights into Christina's writing life.

  4. Cindy, thank you for stopping by and reading about Christina.