Author Interview: Eva Seyler

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

In the order in which I recommend reading them:

This Great Wilderness : 1951-2 Argentina. This book is the story of a butterfly-obsessed British police inspector on leave and his young son, who have their expedition to Patagonia crashed by the mentally unstable, runaway mistress of an escaped Nazi. Who is also British. (The mistress, not the Nazi.)

The War in Our Hearts : 1916 France. The story of a Scottish army captain coming apart at the seams from the brutality of the war, and the precocious thirteen-year-old girl who dresses as a boy to stay in the trenches with him. She has a cat. Nothing bad happens to the cat.

Ripples (novella) : Companion novella to TWIOH; the story of the army captain’s brother’s fling with a neighbour woman and the origins of George, the baby they have together.

élégie (novella-in-verse) : Prequel to TSIFH; the story of Louise’s mother, a mail-order bride who comes to Oregon in 1913 after her grandmother dies, leaving her penniless and unable to attend Oberlin Conservatory as planned.

The Summer I Found Home : Turner, Oregon, 1925. The story of ten-year-old Louise and George and their quest to find out what secrets George’s parents are hiding. (So many secrets.)

I put TGW at the top of the list for two reasons. First, it’s the only one that’s not obviously connected to any of the others on the list; second, it’s my favourite thing I’ve written. It’s the book of my heart and I love my grumpy autistic nerdlings so much. So, if you only read one of my books, I hope that’s the one you choose. (But I’d be thrilled and honoured if you read all the others, too!)

Do you prefer ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?

The vast majority of my reading is via audio! I know they’re not the answer for everybody, but my brain’s particular ADHD cocktail responds well to listening whilst my hands are busy doing other things. I have my favourite narrators (Simon Vance, Scott Brick, and Jayne Entwistle, to name three) and I’ve discovered lots of new books I might not have tried otherwise by searching their lists on Audible or through my library. I was so thrilled that Jayne agreed to narrate This Great Wilderness for me, because I’d been daydreaming about how perfect that would be for a couple of years. It came out brilliantly.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Clever friends. Not even kidding. A friend came up with The War in Our Hearts. The Summer I Found Home was a combination of two friends’ suggestions. 

The ones I’ve come up with on my own are allusions to other things. Shadows From the Sky is drawn from an Amelia Earhart quote; Believe in Me is inspired by the lyrics to Paper Moon

The hardest title to come up with was This Great Wilderness. I’d been working on it for several years, queried it into the ground with a stupid placeholder title, decided to self-pub, had already designed the cover and started layout and even booked my audiobook reader before I finally found something that worked. It’s from a verse in Deuteronomy.

How do you come up with character names for your stories?

Since I write historical fiction, I’ll often go find a “top 100 baby names” list for the year the character was born, tell some friends to pick numbers between 1 and 100, and make a Twitter poll with the results. Twitter has chosen a lot of character names for me!

And then there are the minor characters whose names become whatever first pops into my head, only for me to wish later I’d given it more thought. Because some of those characters end up going rogue and telling their own stories. (Looking at you, George-whose-father-also-is-George… 😑) (Seriously would have named him something else if only I’d known.) (But I’m running with it and the chaos of two Georges.)

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

Always the characters! The plot is only there as a framework to showcase the characters’ arcs. One of my favourite things about the dynamic between George and Louise, for example, is how well they play off one another. She’s dyslexic so he reads to her; he’s uncurious so she digs up the family skeletons for him. Their energy is basically “old married couple at age ten”. The plot almost seems irrelevant where these kids are concerned, because they are such an absolute JOY to write and I will never stop smiling at them.

My primary goal in BookLife is to create characters you’ll love fiercely and then make you worry whether I’m going to kill them off.

Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. 👀

If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?

The Summer I Found Home (releasing 8 November 2022) will be followed up with more—not because I originally planned it that way, but because once I gave George a voice, he wouldn’t shut up! 

I’ve drafted two more. Book 2, Shadows From the Sky, is from Louise’s POV and takes place over the summer of 1927. Book 3, Believe in Me, will be back to George’s POV and cover 1931-1936. All of them are meant to be enjoyed as standalones as well as together.

I think G and L will be content for me to move on to someone else after that. I hope so, because I have a really fun book coming down the pipeline after these three that I’m stoked to get working on! 

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

The first draft. It’s the most important part, but the fun doesn’t start for me until I can take that mess and craft it into a masterclass on emotional devastation… or maybe something else. 

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

I was 16 when I finished it. It was called The Sweet Singer of Spenserville and was full of improbably talented opera singers/musicians who all happened to live in this teeny town in British Columbia. O the melodrama. See this thread: I’ll happily keep reading more cringetastic lines if you go pick a page number! (I may live to regret this??? 🤣)

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

For The Summer I Found Home and its sequels, I’ve been able to do on-site research, because they’re set only about an hour from where I live (except for part of book 3, which is in southern California). There’s a photo gallery of TSIFH locations here:  

The Salem public library has loads of microfilm, which was my go-to for TSIFH. The University of Oregon has loads of local newspapers in their digital collection as well, and I used that resource for Shadows. In both cases I was able to structure my plot timelines around actual local events at the time. 

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?

George’s mother Alice. She’s a burned-out autistic just trying to stay alive, like me. I’ve drawn a lot on my own experiences in my portrayal of her. She’s far more like me than Leni of This Great Wilderness, even though Leni will probably always be my favourite character.

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