Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed author Jill George, about her writing and her recently released, The Light Among Us: The Story of Elizabeth Carne, Cornwall, a brilliant and prescient story of an intellectual woman’s journey to overcome the class system of the era. (Read the review here.). Jill is an industrial psychologist who has worked in the organizational and leadership consulting space for thirty years. As part of this work, she has traveled the world extensively and met with thousands of leaders. She has published several books and many articles on leadership in engaging work cultures.
Jill George, Ph.D., is an industrial psychologist who has worked in the organizational and leadership consulting space for thirty years. As part of this work, she has traveled the world extensively and met with thousands of leaders. She has published several books and many articles on leadership in engaging work cultures. She employs her competency and assessment skills to build deep and intriguing profiles for her characters. Jill has been a lifelong history enthusiast and lover of all things Victorian. She has been thrilled to partner with true historian, John Dirring, Ph.D., of Devon, UK, on this project. Her next novel is called Illuminating Darwin: Arabella Buckley’s Story about the only woman who was a close friend to and discussant with Charles Darwin. Jill lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and three teenage children, whom she adores. You can find many photos and videos from her research for this novel and her next novel on her website www.JillGeorgeAuthor.com, Instagram @jillgeorgeauthor, and on twitter @jillgeorgeauth1.
How did you discover the story of Elizabeth Carne, and what drew you to write about her over other historical figures?
As a lover of all things Cornwall and the Victorian age, I found her often cited as a woman whose only redeeming feature was that she inherited her father’s mineral collection. But she was oh so much more, which is why I felt compelled to do her justice by telling her whole story. She’s a Hypatia, not just a rock owner.
As an author of historical fiction, what kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I consider research a team sport. So, I gather together experts on the subject and setting that I am writing about so that I make sure I have regional accuracy. I do my own research as part of the team and I visit every site. For this novel, I have stayed in Elizabeth’s house twice for a total of a month at different seasons to get the true feel of the place.
Do you feel a lot of pressure to maintain as much accuracy as possible in your work, or do you take artistic liberties if you feel they would better serve the story?
Yes, I do feel that pressure. The purpose of my work is to rebalance history but telling the true stories of overshadowed women. If I am to have credibility, I feel I must include as many facts as possible. When I use dialogue, which is obviously fiction, I pull from letters, obituaries, etc. and try to link together contextual facts in the dialogue to make them as real as possible.
How did you create three-dimensional characters based on real people without being able to actually interact with those people?
I use my Industrial Psychology training to identify five or six key factors needed to be that person at the height of their life. Then I distill out a personality profile using obituaries, letters, and accounts of that person. I stick to this profile for the entirety of the book.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
The scene where Elizabeth is on horseback going to Lamorna Cove is my favorite because it is a very lush area with a stream running through the woods which empties into the sea. It is a gorgeous place and the stream reminds me of a child running to their mother’s arms. I was lucky enough to see this scene three times in my neighborhood while writing this novel. That is, three times I saw a child running to their mother, arms up, gleefully. It’s a wonderful thing to see.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
One of the most difficult parts for me is when I am at about 20,000 words and I feel like I am over the hump of getting the beginning of the work down, only to see the long, long road to 90,000 words.
What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
Certainly David McCollough’s books, such as John Adams, gave me the profound admiration of how many facts he draws on to paint such a vivid portrait of the man, the atmosphere, the setting, and the other players. He truly wrote so that the reader could feel like they were there, in real time. He will be missed.
What’s next for you?
I am very excited about my current novel, Illuminating Darwin, which is a true story of the only professional woman friend Darwin had, who was again overshadowed even though she wrote ten science books herself. It is my belief that she actually contributed as a direct discussant with Darwin to the theory of mutualism, which is the premise that one’s soul evolves along with physical characteristics. In this story, Arabella Buckley transforms from a literary assistant to a scientific author and is considered part of the group of scientific giants of her era as a Victorian popularizer of science and most likely even more.
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