I was recently so lucky as to catch up with Anne Merino, author extraordinaire and creator of the new release Hawkesmoor. I am always so intrigued by how writers come up with stories more unique than fingerprints, so I jumped at the opportunity to see what inspired Anne to craft such an epic tale of history, vampires, time travel, mystery, and romance. She cited Lady Victoria Leatham and her book on restoring Burghley House, her ancestral home, as what tipped the first domino:
“She told these fascinating stories about little cubby holes they found stuffed with Victorian accountants’ screeds… they went into the attic and would pull open drawers and find that there were still belongings from the occupants when they had lived there. And I read the book and I thought to myself, ‘Huh. Wouldn’t it be fun to write a mystery story wrapped around the restoration of a house like Burghley?’ And then I thought…, ‘Wouldn’t it be even more interesting to have someone who had known the house?’ … Who could live long enough to do it? A vampire.”
Anne took great care in constructing Robin Dashwood, Hawkesmoor’s leading vampire. In describing him to me, she said she hoped to make him “the perfect gentleman in a way; he had his issues but he would straighten up his spine and do the right thing anyway.” When creating protagonists, she emphasized how important it is to make the reader want to like them and thus care about their fate. It worked— I was certainly invested in what would become of Mr. Dashwood!
Once she’d finished what was originally an 800 page novel, she worked with her esteemed editor and old friend Carol Stanley, who helped her bring the book to its most polished form. I have always assumed the editing process to be daunting yet exciting, and Anne added that it can be an incredibly helpful, surprising, and constructive experience. Luckily, she had an excellent time perfecting Hawkesmoor, stuck with her editor during a switch in publishing companies, and became one of the founding authors of the new Rivercliff Books fiction line.
Anne could not say enough good things about working with Rivercliff Books and what a publishing partnership can mean to an author: “Somebody else putting their resources into your work means something. I think you’ll feel so much better about yourself if you have that behind you. It’s very confidence building… because somebody else believes in the book.”
If there was a literary version of a triple threat, Anne is certainly overqualified for the title! Not only has she written, edited, and published this exciting new book— she has also recorded its audiobook, written a screenplay that went to Sundance finals, had a beautiful career as a professional ballerina, and led dance classes and productions, as just a few examples! As I am lucky to have called myself one of her ballet students, I was quite curious to know if her writing was influenced by the art of dance. She found that it was beneficial to put real people through the motions of a story to really visualize the characteristic movements and stagings of her characters.
During our conversation, Anne shared with me some of the most influential and inspiring writing advice I have heard yet. But first, she dispelled the notion spread by some authors that you have to write in certain ways or at certain times to be a real author. “Every writer has their own system… you write when you write… whatever gets your story out, do it,” she said. “Writers just find their own rhythm and whatever rhythm that is, that is the right rhythm.” It takes time to find what that rhythm is, as well as form what will eventually be your own style. Anne believes that experimentation with what and how you want to write is exactly what writers should be doing to find what will eventually coalesce into their first novel! And don’t listen to those people who discourage you along the way— “Isn’t it great when people are out doing something creative? Adding something to the world whether or not it’s just their family that reads it or the whole world reads it? It’s all good,” Anne says.
After a lifetime of writing, Anne has found that both of her parents were inspirations for what she does and how she does it. The most impactful piece of advice she’s been given comes from her father, an equestrian and accomplished author just like herself:
“Write and finish.”
For more information on Hawkesmoor, head to https://rivercliffbooks.com/hawkesmoor/!