Interview with Beth Hilgartner

When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first book when I was in 5th grade. It was terrible, but I had so much fun doing it that I was completely hooked. I worked on my craft throughout high school and college, and had my first two books accepted for publication by Little, Brown & Co. during my senior year in college. I've continued to write pretty steadily, though for me, the publishing has been more erratic.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love my characters. They show up in my head (usually without much of a plot, and maybe only the hint of a setting) and start agitating for me to write their story. When details begin to come together, I start writing -- usually a long time before I know how things are going to turn out. When my writing is going really well, it feels like the characters are doing it themselves, and I'm just reading what happens off the computer screen. When it's not going well, it can be a bit of a slog; and first drafts are lots more fun than revisions -- for me -- though I've learned to be very diligent about rewriting, since when I'm rocketing along in the adrenaline high of the first draft, I can leave a lot out. My revision process usually involves a phase of adding everything I left out back in, and finally, pruning out whatever turns out to be more information than the reader needs.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I tried (hard!) to stay in the "traditionally published" world -- probably a lot longer than I should have. With my move away from YA/Children's books, I entered into the world of small publishers, but I've finally decided that the technology surrounding publishing has advanced to the point where I'd just as soon be in control, myself, rather than having to rely on (increasingly cash strapped) small publishing houses. I still have lots of stories to tell, so I'm excited to be entering (finally!) into the indie author world.
What are you working on next?
I have a lot of projects in the queue at the moment. First, I want to get all my out of print books available in e-book format. Then, I have four main areas for new work: I have the first few chapters of two books that are related to my other books: a "prequel" (with the working title: Queen's Music) to A Murder For Her Majesty, that deals with the story of Hal Tuckfield (heroine of AMFHM Alice Tuckfield's father) and Lady Jenny, when they were young. I also have the first several chapters of the third book set in the Empire of Bharaghlaf, An Ambush of Tigers. I have ideas and a title (nothing written down, yet) for the third Cybercats book: Feline Diplomacy. And finally, I have an entirely new book (unrelated to any of my other fantasy worlds), nearly finished, titled The Ivory Mask. Beyond the e-books, I'm not sure which project I'm going to tackle next -- feel free to connect with via Twitter, FB or my web site (www.bethhilgartner.com) if you want to express an opinion!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't think I can remember the first story I ever read, but I do remember reading The Hobbit -- when it was newly published in the US and way, WAY before the Peter Jackson movies. I wasn't very old -- maybe 8 or 9 -- but I loved the deep, thorough world-building. I had the sense that Middle Earth was a real place, that had its own long history, and that Tolkien was giving me a glimpse into one small part of a much larger and more elaborate story. The first story I wrote (when I figured out that books didn't just miraculously appear in libraries, but had to be thought up and written down by someone, first) was the first volume of a high fantasy trilogy. The War of the Sun and the Moon. As I've said elsewhere, it was terrible -- but I had been powerfully influenced by Tolkien, as you can no doubt surmise.
Who are your favorite authors?
My list is HUGE and varies from day to day. But I'll give you some of the top contenders, today: J.R.R. Tolkien; Diana Wynne Jones; C.J. Cherryh; Lois MacMaster Bujold; Margaret Atwood; A.S. Byatt; Erin Morgenstern; Judith Merkle Riley; Gillian Bradshaw; Elizabeth Peters; Garth Nix; K.M. Peyton; Terry Pratchett; Rosemary Sutcliff; Zilpha Keatley Snyder; Mary Stewart; Marguerite Yourcenar; Connie Willis; Guy Gavriel Kay; P.C. Hodgell; Nina Kiriki Hoffman; Barbara Hambly; Jim Butcher; Neil Gaiman. Like I said, just a few to go on with.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
On the "work" front (and there's some overlap between work and play, if I'm honest) I consult with (Episcopal) congregations in the Diocese of Vermont, manage a non-profit arts/music foundation, and am (lately) spending some time developing web presences, both for my writing and musical activities, and for my arts foundation. When I'm not working, I read -- and I'm a fanatical convert to audio books, because I can read (listen) without having to sit still all day; I garden; I walk (or snow shoe); I ride my horse -- I'm a dressage rider; I make music (classical -- well, Baroque, specifically), which includes practicing (recorders and voice) and rehearsing (chamber music) as well as performing; I knit; I play (or work) on the computer; and I take care of my three cats (not, I'm sure, as assiduously as they think I should). I enjoy spending time with my spouse, my friends, and my church community.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I have to feed the cats (and if you've read my books about PKP and Fluffy, you'll know exactly why that is important!) But seriously, there's always more stuff to do in a day than I'll get done -- and I've tried (hard!) to set up my life so that the things I do for money I enjoy enough so that I would do them anyway, even if money were no object. So I get up each morning looking forward to whatever the day is going to bring.
How do you approach cover design?
I want the covers of my e-books to evoke the story, in some definite way, while remaining uncluttered enough to be easily legible in thumbnail size. Right now, I don't have the technical facility to do my own covers, so I'm glad to find someone (like Jeremy Taylor, who's done a very nice cover for Cats In Cyberspace) with whom to collaborate.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My iPad. (I love my iPad!)
Published 2015-05-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

A Parliament of Owls
Series: Bharaghlafi. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 141,800. Language: English. Published: September 25, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
The Seer Owl's return to the Bharaghlafi Court, after a six-year absence, sets in motion a lethal series of events. Intrigue at the Court never ends, but now, an ancient evil magic has arisen giving new weapons to the Emperor's enemies. It will take all of Owl's hard-won training, and the combined efforts of his old friends and new allies, just to survive the vicious traps and schemes.
A Business of Ferrets
Series: Bharaghlafi. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 87,260. Language: English. Published: September 25, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
A Business of Ferrets is a dark fantasy full of magic, intrigue, and the honor among friends that develops when you must band together and fight for what's yours. When the beggar Owl disappears, apprentice-thief Ferret and her friends set out to learn his fate. As they come closer to the truth, the friends are drawn into the vicious intrigues of the powerful Council Houses.
A Necklace of Fallen Stars
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 51,580. Language: English. Published: August 25, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables
Unconventional, story-telling Princess Kaela flees home to escape the marriage arranged by her father. She meets up with the minstrel Kippen, and together, they make their way toward a distant country—a journey that becomes perilous when her father sends an unscrupulous sorcerer after her. Kaela's tales, told along the way, are strung together by the adventure and romance of the larger story.
The Feast of the Trickster
Series: Dreamweaver. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 64,470. Language: English. Published: July 15, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
In the world of the Loom, the very fabric of Fate is threatened as the Feast of the Trickster approaches. Zan—Alexandra Scarsdale—must be found! Her five companions are sent across the void to a very strange place known as Earth, to find her and bring her back. But the greatest contest is still ahead, when Zan, once found, has to make a decision that could change the pattern of the Loom forever.
Colors in the Dreamweaver's Loom
Series: Dreamweaver. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 59,400. Language: English. Published: July 15, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
In the shock and grief of her father's sudden death, Alexandra Scarsdale stops her car on the Interstate and walks into the Vermont woods—only to find herself in a magical land, where she discovers she is a Stranger with a destiny that will require her to challenge her own fears, and forge a small band of misfits into a group that can survive a dangerous quest and change their world.
Cats in Cyberspace
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 61,510. Language: English. Published: June 15, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
The great thing about the Internet, for Fluffy and PKP, is that no one knows they are cats. So they embark on an epic project to achieve financial independence for their wage-slave Two-Feet companions (mostly, truth be told, so the people can stay home and produce snacks on demand). It's not as simple as they thought, and their misadventures make for a great story with lots of laughs.