Authors Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, Hazel Gaynor, Lauren Willig, Jennifer Robson & Jessica Brockmole will present their new anthology, “Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War,” at two upcoming panel discussions in Connecticut—the Wilton Library on Tuesday, March 1st, at 7:00 p.m., and R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison on Wednesday, March 2nd, at 7:00 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public; advance registration is requested (click the appropriate link to sign up). Copies of “Fall of Poppies” will be available for purchase/signing. Note: Marci Jefferson will also be attending the R.J. Julia event.
Today, Hartford Books Examiner extends virtual greetings to Heather Webb.
Ms. Webb is a contributor to the forthcoming anthology, “Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War” (William Morrow Paperbacks), set for publication on Tuesday, March 1st. She has previously authored the historical fiction novels “Becoming Josephine” and “Rodin’s Lover.” A former French teacher, Ms. Webb is a blogger and a member the Historical Novel Society. She and her family make their home in Connecticut.
Other contributors to “Fall of Poppies” include Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams & Lauren Willig. Library Journal praised: “Each tale reflects the unique style and ideas of the individual author, which are sure to resonate with readers … With so many established and beloved names included, this title will be easy to suggest to the existing fan base of a particular writer as well as anyone looking for historical fiction with elements of intrigue and romance.” Further, Booklist noted, “this collection offers an atmospheric homage to one of history’s most emotionally devastating episodes.”
From the publisher:
Top voices in historical fiction deliver an unforgettable collection of short stories set in the aftermath of World War I—featuring bestselling authors such as Hazel Gaynor, Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig and edited by Heather Webb.
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month…
November 11, 1918. After four long, dark years of fighting, the Great War ends at last, and the world is forever changed. For soldiers, loved ones, and survivors the years ahead stretch with new promise, even as their hearts are marked by all those who have been lost.
As families come back together, lovers reunite, and strangers take solace in each other, everyone has a story to tell.
In this moving anthology, nine authors share stories of love, strength, and renewal as hope takes root in a fall of poppies.
Now, Heather Webb brings history alive for readers …
John Valeri: How did you become involved with “Fall of Poppies” — and what appeals to you about being part of an anthology?
Heather Webb: I noticed an upswing in anthologies and it got the wheels turning. Why couldn’t there be one based on a historical event or theme, I asked myself. As a big Downton Abbey fan, I kept thinking I’d like to read more set during the Edwardian era so I began brain-storming ideas and eventually wrote the pitch, which is the cover copy you see. After that point, I approached authors who have written during this era already or who were actively researching it. The rest is history, as they say.
The goal of the stories was to portray the various forms of love—and loss—of citizens of Europe who suffered through WWI, and above all, tie these themes to a sense of hope. Ultimately, people need nothing more than hope in this world; to carry on, to get to the other side, to achieve, even. I thought the contributors did a terrific job of illustrating this basic human need.
JV: You contributed the story “Hour of the Bells.” What inspired your piece – and how do you see it as uniquely adding to the book’s theme?
HW: As a cultural geographer and former military brat, I find myself perpetually fascinated by the idea of “the outsider” within a culture not their own, what it means to belong, and how our values and ideals can shift as we assimilate. Beatrix is a German-born woman who married a Frenchman and their only son is ridiculed for being a dirty “boche”, spurring him to join the war efforts. When her son perishes, she can’t forgive herself for who she is and how she has failed him—and sets out on a quest for vengeance. I couldn’t think of a more powerful motivation than a mother’s love and grief.
JV: You are also a novelist. How does writing a short story differ from a full-length book – and what are the unique challenges and liberties of each form?
HW: I found the processes to be very similar, actually. I researched, plotted, and then worked on a couple of drafts, sent it to critique partners, and then tightened the concept, layered the metaphors. The one thing that proved challenging was to create a deep emotional sensibility—one with impact—in such a short space. I hope I’ve managed to do that. It was great fun writing this piece.
JV: As a history buff, how do you see the past as influencing the present – and in what ways do you endeavor to bring history alive and make it resonate with your readers?
HW: Our lives are mired in history! In fact, I find it impossible to separate ourselves from the past. It’s fascinating to trace a social custom or belief to its origins, see how it shaped peoples then, and compare it to the way it does in the present. Our past is part of the psyche of human consciousness, whether we’re aware of it or not. Look at the Middle East. We ask questions like: Why can’t they just share the land and move forward? After decades of being decimated by each other, the streak of forgiveness and vision for change are quite buried beneath mutual hate and lifetimes of despair. “Those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it,” George Stayana said, and it proves to be true.
Bringing history alive happens through two channels—incorporating vivid descriptions with tidbits of period-authentic props, clothing, inventions, etc, and also through showing the way human emotions haven’t evolved over time. Certainly our social expectations, mores, and attitudes have changed, but matters of the heart and spirit and mind we experience today are no different from those of the past.
JV: You will be touring with various co-authors. How do these appearances help to solidify the reader/writer/bookseller relationship – and in what ways might attending an event enhance the reading experience?
HW: I very much enjoy meeting booksellers. They love books and are a great support system for authors. They operate at the most basic —and the most effective—method of promotion: word of mouth. I was lucky and very flattered to have Rodin’s Lover chosen as a staff pick in about a dozen stores when it released. People who came to the store looking for a good read found it! Love those booksellers!
In terms of how attending an event can enhance the reader’s experience, I tend to share historical background, pop culture tidbits from the era, and more information about my characters that doesn’t appear in the novel. It gives a nice spring board from which the story begins for readers. Also, lots of writers attend book events and I think both the networking aspect as well as learning from another writer’s process is really beneficial as they continue on their own writing journey.
With thanks to Heather Webb for her generosity of time and thought and to Megan Schumann, Publicist at HarperCollins Publishers, for helping to facilitate this interview.