BookView Interview with Author Hilah Roscoe

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed Hilah Roscoe, about her writing and her recently released novel, The Sweet Shrub Inn, an unforgettable tale of love, loss, family, and friendship. (Read the review here.)

Hilah Roscoe is originally from Mississippi. She has a love/hate relationship with running, doesn’t deviate from recipes, and should never be left alone with a family-size bag of Salt and Vinegar potato chips. When she isn’t writing, she’s obsessing over her next travel destination, listening to numerous true crime podcasts and taking an obnoxious amount of pictures of friends and family. Currently, she resides in Texas with her husband, daughter and rescue dogs.

Tell us a little more about The Sweet Shrub Inn and how it came to be. Where do your ideas for this story come from?

This is the first book I have written that takes place in my home state of Mississippi, but the protagonists in other books I’ve written (non-published) are always Southern.  That’s definitely a notable similarity in my writing, and there is always a family issue to be addressed because that’s such a big part of forming a character.

The Sweet Shrub Inn came to me as a few different things were unfolding in my life and my friends’ lives—some of the issues that are lightly addressed in the book.  There are little pieces of real people and real places in the story even though it is fictional. I wanted there to be a resolution (and a good one) to the problems the characters face. I guess it was just my way of making sure real problems could be solved with a supportive group of friends, a picturesque small town and a love story (if that makes sense).

Which scene, character or plotline changed the most from first draft to published book?

I guess I’d say Cora.  She started out a lot sassier. 

In the beginning of the book, we meet her in a miserable scenario (and in a bathroom stall, no less).   She still manages to be sarcastic and positive for the most part as things unfold, but the first version of her was a lot more sarcastic and less vulnerable.

After she starts going home to Mississippi, you can kind of see how much more she reverts to feeling like she did when she was growing up there—with Randolph, with Jensen, with Coop, all of them.  So, I think she became a little softer and more neurotic in the later drafts.    

How does your faith life/ethical outlook inform your writing?

I think I’m a bit cynical in real life (relative to some), but my characters are inherently good people.  Even the “villains” aren’t necessarily bad—they’re just sort of one-dimensional, so we don’t know what the driving force is behind their attitudes/behaviors.  We just know we don’t like them because they’re getting in the way of our main character being happy.  So maybe I’m not as cynical as I think I am.  I’m going to be pondering this for the rest of the day.

Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?

Can I have a tie?  Chapter 6 is a favorite because we start to see how strongly Cora feels about Jensen, and we find out why she’s constantly a ball of nerves around him in the beginning.   Chapter 37 is the other favorite because Randolph makes a casual suggestion that we all see coming, but Cora is still oblivious to the inevitable. I’ll cheat a little here and say that I love just about every scene that involves Coop and Cora.  Their friendship is amazing.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

Meeting deadlines.  I am terrible at it.  If there is a Chronic Misser of Deadlines Support Group, I will sign up without complaint. 

Learning to edit is difficult, too.  I just write pretty recklessly.  Even if you work with a great editor—I’ve worked with editors through Write by Night in New York on this and another book.  I also worked with Alison Williams Writing.  They were all great to work with as editors, and they are wizards at looking at your book objectively.  Still, the editing process is not easy.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I think I used to be more original, but I get so much out of hearing/reading that someone is loving what I write, I probably aim to deliver what the readers want more these days.  It will be interesting to see what people will think of The Sweet Shrub Inn and the book I’m working on now.  They are very similar in some ways, but the one I’m working on now is shaping up to be a bit heavier in terms of issues to be addressed. Still, they’re both feel-good books, so I think I’ll still be giving the readers what they got from The Sweet Shrub Inn.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

Yes, I think it happens whenever I read (or listen to) a book from a writer who has a different style than I’m used to.  There are random books I’ve read over the years that made me think differently about fiction.  Their voice or the flow of their writing reminds me that there are fewer rules to writing than I was originally taught.

What life experiences have shaped your writing most?

Being Southern is one that sticks out a lot, I guess.   Mississippi (and Alabama, actually) really shaped me in interesting ways, so I feel comfortable writing in those semi-fictional settings.  I don’t even live in the Southeast anymore but growing up there was such an experience, and it just sticks with you. I’d say my husband, family, and friends have little bits of their lives buried in these stories because they introduce me to stories, people, places, constantly.   They don’t even know how interesting their tales are until they see it in a book.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

I’m mentally going through things like coffee, wine, podcasts, movies, travel, potatoes (in basically any form), dogs, etc. I don’t want to give any of those up, so I’m going to say I would give up my ever-slowing metabolism or my lack of athleticism. 

After the writing’s finished, how do you judge the quality of your work?

I used to judge it pretty harshly, unfortunately.  Nowadays, I see any negative reviews and I cringe inwardly for a few seconds, but then I just kind of shrug my shoulders because some people love it, and some people hate it.  And I don’t really have any control over that.  I just write what I feel like writing, as simple as that may sound.

Overall, I judge it by readers’ responses to it.  I’ve said it before, and I feel like I have to keep saying it—I get so much satisfaction from hearing that a reader loves/laughed at/almost cried about something I’ve written. It’s just the biggest compliment I can imagine.    


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s