Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Q&A: Perdita by Hilary Scharper

Today, I am welcoming Hilary Scharper to my blog. Perdita releases April 16th, and I can't wait to read it.

1. What is the inspiration behind Perdita? How did the story reveal itself to you?

The inspiration for Perdita is really Georgian Bay. The story came to me at the Cabot Head light-station up at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. My husband and I were assistant lighthouse keepers one August, and we fell immediately in love with the area. The story came at first in fragments, but one evening as we were on the shore watching the sun setting, I suddenly visualized three figures—a little girl sitting between an adult woman and man, all of them arriving at the lighthouse in a horse-drawn wagon. That was my first encounter with Marged Brice, and from that point on, her life began to unfold before me.

2. Did anything surprise you when you completed the book? Did the characters/story change from your initial thoughts?

When I finished writing a complete draft of the book, rather than feeling elated I found myself feeling a little sad. This greatly surprised me! I knew there was still a lot of work to be done, but that wasn’t it.  I eventually realized that I simply wasn’t finished with the characters. (Or they weren’t finished with me!) I found myself sketching out a trilogy and immediately felt better. Marged Brice’s life continues to unfold as I write the next two volumes, and so there are several “threads” in Perdita that are picked up and teased out in subsequent the volumes.

(I wrote about this experience recently for The National Post:

3. What elements do you believe a good story consists of?

There are many elements to a good book, but clearly engaging writing is key. I have found that one of the most challenging aspects of being a novelist has involved both trusting and embracing the reader’s imagination, and perhaps more importantly, avoiding over-explaining the story. I so admire authors who seem to do this effortlessly—writers such as W. Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene and Carol Shields.

4. What books are currently on your reading pile?

I am currently reading John Fowles’s The Tree, Cathy Marie Buchanan’s first novel, The Day the Falls Stood Still, and Kate Caley’s new book of poems, When This World Comes to an End. I am also continuing with my reading of “the gothic.” In Northanger Abbey (1818) Jane Austen has Isabella Thorpe list seven “horrid” novels that her friend Catherine Morland must read. For many years, it was thought that Austen invented the titles—but it turns out that they were all published novels. I’m planning to read all seven and next on my list is The Mysterious Warning by Eliza Parsons (1796).
5. If you could recommend one book, what book would it be?

The Toronto Public Library recently asked me this question, except the scenario was: the library is burning down and you can only save one book.

I actually agonized about this for days!

I answered the question (or avoided answering it!) in a one minute video:

Book Synopsis:

Will love let her go?

After a love affair that ends in tragedy, Garth Hellyer throws himself into his work for the Longevity Project, interviewing the oldest living people on the planet. But nothing has prepared him for Marged Brice, who claims to be a stunningly youthful 134. Marged says she wants to die, but can’t, held back by the presence of someone she calls Perdita.

Garth, despite his skepticism, is intrigued by Marged’s story, and agrees to read “her” journals of life in the late 1890s. Soon he’s enthralled by Marged’s story of love, loss, and myth in the tempestuous wilderness of the Bruce Peninsula. He enlists the help of his childhood friend Clare to help him make sense of the mystery.

As Garth and Clare unravel the truth of Marged and Perdita, they discover together just what love can mean when it never dies


  1. I'm amazed at the way characters come to life for authors. I guess that's why I'll never be one.

  2. This was a fun post, and I laughed at the video ...LOL!

  3. Great interview. I would love to be a lighthouse keeper for a summer.

  4. This was an excellent guest post, and the book sounds incredible! Definitely like something that I want to read. Thanks for sharing this Q&A with us, Jennifer and Hilary. And I agree with Hilary, enticing writing is what I need to feel engaged in a book!