SC: This is a tough question. I've read so many great books this year! I can't pick a "best" because I've been reading different genres and I'd use different criteria to judge. For example, I've been participating in the Back-to-the-Classics Challenge. I read To Kill a Mockingbird and All Quiet on the Western Front among others. Both are extraordinary books. But it doesn't seem right to choose one of these classics as my best book -- I can't even decide between them. Instead, I'm going to purposely narrow my choices to something from my favorite genre - historical fiction. Even narrowing it down this way, it's tough. But the historical novel that stands out for me is probably The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare by Arliss Ryan. Told from the point of view of Shakespeare's little known wife, it explores the possibility that Anne was not content to be abandoned in Stratford but followed Will to London. Will, far from being the prolific playwright that we know today, needed help. Lots of help. Help that his intelligent and creative wife was able to supply. Anne was devoted to Will, but he was not a good husband. They ended up being partners/collaborators rather than husband and wife. Nevertheless, Anne's strength and determination made her a great protagonist. The book took me back in time to Shakespeare's England. While reading it, I could even find it plausible that Anne was the real Shakespeare. I love historical fiction that can so completely suck me in to the setting and connect me with the characters.
What was your favorite thing you wrote?
SC: My favorite piece of writing this year was one of my blog posts- a review of my husband's new book: Cecelia and Fanny. The Remarkable Friendship between an Escaped Slave and Her Former Mistress by Brad Asher. He's a historian and this is nonfiction, published by the University Press of Kentucky. It's a truly wonderful book and it was such a thrill to see it in print! I'd say it was the best book I read all year, but I don't want to answer every question with the same answer.
SC: My biggest struggle has been getting over the feeling of I've-published-my-debut-novel-I-need-to-publish-my-second-book-fast. The Queen's Daughter took years to research and write. It was something I was doing as a creative outlet - something of a hobby - because I work full-time in a completely different field. Trying to push myself to write another book quickly, to redefine myself as a writer, worked to my disadvantage. I've realized I can't rush through a novel and I can't turn writing into another job. I have to enjoy the research process. I have to give myself time to get to know and fall in love with my characters. And I have to write for the satisfaction of writing. Unfortunately, I haven't overcome the struggle completely, because I do still feel that time is against me if I'm going to get a second book published. But some pressure is good. Writers do have to write. So, trying to find the right balance is a work in progress.
What can we expect from you in the new year?
Write down your 'Writing Resolution of 2012!'
In 2012, I'll allow myself fewer distractions and finish Besieged, A Medieval Memoir. (That's my working title. I expect it will change a few times.)
My website is www.susancoventry.com and my blog is http://susancoventry.blogspot.com