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This blog was featured on 07/24/2019
Beatriz Williams on Passion for Historical Fiction and Gratitude for Her Career
Written by
She Writes
July 2019
Written by
She Writes
July 2019

Beatriz Williams is the internationally bestselling author of historical fiction as well as the screenwriter for the television adaptation of her book, The Summer Wives. To much anticipation from fans, she recently released The Golden Hour, her latest historical fiction novel, and the story of espionage and courage within two strong, yet flawed women in the time of war.

On Genre

It was in college, during a course on turn-of-the-century Europe, that Williams developed both her love and devastation for 20th-century history.

“I could not believe the tragedy and the loss [of the First World War], the emptiness left behind. I don't think people realize what a cultural effect it had. You couldn't have had the '20s without World War I, and that sense of emptiness that overcame us,” she said.

“And this journey that we took is probably the most extraordinary journey we've taken in the course of human history. There’s the spiritual side of it, which is the tragedy of the war and what it does to us psychologically, but then also this unbelievably rapid change in science and technology. And you have the automobile, and you have women voting, and you have Prohibition — all these things taking place in society.”

“If there is one constant theme going through all my books, it's that tension between the romanticism of the 19th century that speaks to human emotion, and then modernism, and they're rubbing up against each other. Throughout the course of the 20th century it's just this struggle, isn't it? And to me that's endlessly fascinating and endlessly fertile in terms of storytelling.”

This excerpt was originally published in Goodreads. Read the full interview here.

Historical events are pretty easy to research and depict, she says, but the details of everyday life – the details that make the historical world convincing – are laden with the unconscious assumptions of our modern selves.

“Hats, gloves, cigarettes, and horse manure – all those things inhabited the past in spades. So, you have to really immerse yourself in that world, to open your senses, to challenge all your assumptions, and you should rely as much as possible on primary sources, such as diaries, letters, and newspapers.”

This excerpt was originally published in the Washington Independent Review of Books. Read the full interview here.

On Choosing the Writer Life

Before becoming a bestselling author, Williams worked as a communications and corporate strategy consultant in New York and London.

“I had always wanted to write books, and my business career was something I did to pay the bills and justify an expensive university education! Once I was home with the kids, though, I knew it was now or never if I wanted to develop the career I really wanted,” she said in an interview with Book Reporter. “And even if I crashed and burned, my kids would always need me, so the natural terror of failure receded just enough to allow me through... along with some very hard work.”

On Writer Advice

A family friend helped Williams make her connection with an editor at Tor where she received advice about seeking out writers’ groups. She was also encouraged to attend a conference aimed at sharpening a writer’s storytelling tools, which served as a breakthrough in her career.

“So my advice for aspiring writers, number one, is to read constantly and critically, within your genre and outside it. Number two, find a way to learn your craft from someone who does it exceptionally well. I take the position that you should never stop learning, you should never feel as if your writing is as good as you can possibly make it.”

This excerpt was originally published in Book Reporter. Read the full interview here.

“Work on your craft relentlessly, as I continue to do with each one of my novels,” she urges. “You have to develop an ability to slip inside the skin of another person, even someone (gasp!) who may not be remotely like you, and give that character voice. Keep your skin thick and your persistence fed. Be alive to all the inspiration around you.”

This excerpt was originally published in the Washington Independent Review of Books. Read the full interview here.

On Process

“I tend to outline in my head, in broad strokes, and then refine as I go along,” she told Book Reporter. “The amount of research depends on how closely the book is built around actual historical events and persons, because at this point I’m well steeped in the cultural broth of the 20th century.”

Williams thanks her good instincts for her ability to highlight the details that seem to shine in her novels. She also credits her parents who exposed her at a young age to operas, plays and musicals – something that created a foundation and allows her to hone those instincts while crafting her novels.

“I instinctively approach storytelling from a visual, visceral, scene-based perspective. I like to say that I slip myself inside the skin of the character as I write, and when you do that, the right details just appear when you need them. This is really what I love most about the process – how writing gives me permission take on a completely different personality, see different things, regard people differently, speak and react and think otherwise than as myself.”

This excerpt was originally published in Bookish. Read the full interview here.

Williams was one writing two to three books a year, but has since slowed her pace although her discipline has not waned.

I get up, get the kids off to school. Once they're on the school bus, I try and write until noon or 1 p.m., then I usually have errands to run and the kids come home. And then I pick up again and write in the evening. So yeah, it's busy, but it's what I love to do,” she says.

“I feel so incredibly lucky to have this opportunity, so I try not to waste a moment. Obviously, every career has its ups and downs and moments of frustration. And particularly I think in an industry like this, where you're constantly being judged, much more than you would in a regular job in a cubicle somewhere. It's a job where you really have to have a lot of discipline and a real sense of always moving on to the next book and the next idea and not looking back.”

This excerpt was originally published on Goodreads. Read the full interview here.

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