Posted December 1, 2014 by in Interviews

Interview with Patty G. Henderson

proofSHADOWS_OF_THE_HEART2.flattifI recently read my first Patty G. Henderson novel, Shadows of the Heart. It’s set in 1820s England, when life was difficult for women with no family or money. Annalee had both, until she lost them all when her father committed suicide. She was lucky to find a position as a caretaker of the elderly sister of a family friend. Her life was dull. But when she was sent to a new position as companion to sickly Lady Lenore Blackstone, her world was turned upside down. The two make an instant connection, and grow to care deeply for each other. But life at Blackstone Castle isn’t the ray of sunshine it first appears to be. Dark and sinister things are taking place within those walls. Will Annalee ever find true happiness?

Finding decent lesbian historical fiction is rare. Of course Sarah Waters is the queen of the genre, even going mainstream with it, but I am constantly searching and hoping to find new authors. I am very impressed with the work of Patty G. Henderson. She has captured the spirit of the period, the oppression of women in society, and the desperate desire to feel loved.


RS: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. We are a small literary site working toward big things. And I love working with indie authors to get their work out there.  I see that you have your own business for indie authors, Boulevard Photografica, where you create book covers and provide many other services. Did you become an author of your own books before or after beginning this business?

PGH: Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of Bookkaholic.  It’s an honor to be considered. I love talking about my writing career. I’ve been writing since the late 60s, early 70s, but not lesbian fiction. I got my start in short supernatural fiction and had my first novel, So Dead, My Love, published under a different title in 2001. It’s been a rocky but exciting road since, including a three-book contract with Bella Books for the first Brenda Strange Paranormal Mystery Series books. After being unsatisfied with publishers in general, I made the right decision to become my own publisher and currently self-publish via Blanca Rosa Publishing, my own imprint. I’ve published one Brenda Strange book, Ximora, and four Gothic romances, The Secret of Lighthouse Pointe, Castle of Dark Shadows, Passion for Vengeance, which won a GCLS Goldie Award, and my very latest, Shadows of the Heart. So, I guess that was the long answer to your question. Because I am an indie author, I needed to be able to do all the things required to be published and put together a book that could compete with the best any publisher could offer. Boulevard Photografica  was born from that need to put together all the elements for a top quality book on my own. The next logical step was to offer all those same services that other indie authors would need to become self published as well. I do book cover work and I also design and format the interior for trade paperback publication. I currently do not offer eBook conversion but will be doing so early in 2015. I afford any indie author or even small, POD press, the complete package for book production at a very competitive market rate. I know the costs involved and I want to make it easy for an author to afford my services. I love creating exciting, unique and totally custom book covers almost as much as I love writing.


RS: Many of your books are filled with such beautiful and strong romantic Gothic elements; it’s obvious how passionate you are about this period. What is it that draws you to this era so strongly?

PGH: I love the language of the past. I love the elegance, pomp and circumstance, the flicker and shadows of candlelight, the fabrics and dress, the love and reverence of complex architecture, the façade of morality. That being said, there were also very distasteful things of that era that no modern woman would abide or survive. Personally, I’m drawn to that past because I like running away from technology, the cold look and feel of steel and plastic, the incessant noise of our 21st century. I often muse how the world would sound without airplanes flooding our ears and skies, cars, televisions blaring, cell phones ringing. Writing is my time machine, it takes me to the precise time and place I belong.

Like most genre fiction such as science fiction, fantasy, supernatural, etc., the Gothic historical seeks to take the reader to a different place. No, not to the furthest reaches of outer space, or a fantasy land made up within an author’s mind. The Gothic romance seeks to take you back, back to a time you must equally imagine, for we cannot time travel. The author must populate the Gothic romance with mystery, intrigue, old and menacing castles or estates, characters who are as real as any modern day story. The author must draw the reader to that time and place. I love creating that.

Also, all my Gothic romances are homages to the old Gothic romances from the 1960s and 70s.


RS: As an indie author, how have you found ways to draw readers?

PGH: Well, it’s getting harder and harder for any one voice to be heard. It is a very noisy and saturated publishing market right now. There are more books than there are readers, since the lesfic community is a very small niche. Is that good or not? Hard to say, really. I don’t want to go into conjecture on that topic, but I do what most authors do, some more successfully than others. I post notices at lesfic online groups and FB and Twitter when I release a new book. I create my own book trailers and post them on FB, Goodreads, Amazon, You Tube or anyplace else. I send out review copies. If you’re an author, you should have a website. Many also push active social interaction on FB. I’m a bit torn on that one. Promoting is promoting, but is promoting being socially active on personal levels? I also like to get buzz going by advance promotion before and after the book comes out. Being an artist who uses Photoshop for creating book covers, I also use my creativity to create exciting new ways to promote my books. Every tool that an author can use effectively should be used in today’s crowded publishing market. I also like to do audio interviews because it does let readers know there is a real person behind all the books. And don’t forget the audiobook market. I’ve had four books narrated and available as audiobooks. In other words, whatever innovative promoting that works for any one author should be used. I personally decided to concentrate on nearly 100% online promotion. Long ago I found that bookstore book signings did nothing for sales or even recognition. As an indie author, it is a different relationship with bookstore owners. Most won’t stock your books and any sales you make, won’t be paid at point of purchase. Total waste for me. Online marketing and promotion are more direct to readers that will find you. And most of my sales are eBook sales, so it makes sense for me to promote online. But each author should decide what works best for them.


RS: Shadows of the Heart is your most recent release. It not only deals with issues of lesbian love in the 1820s, but also that of love between the well-structured classes of the time. How long had the tragic love story between Annalee and Lenore been pressing on you before finding its way to print?

PGH: That’s a good question, Rachel. Truth be told, Shadows of the Heart was a very difficult book to write, and not difficult in the way my previous Gothic, Passion for Vengeance, but difficult in that while the characters were very clear and their story important to tell, the motivations, the plot and subplots were less discernible, less urgent. They were more in the shadows. It was as if the story had to be gently prodded from the darkness. I knew the story of Annalee and Lenore would be a tragic one, that was deep in my heart and mind, but also that the triangle of love and passion would ultimately save not only Annalee but also Victoria, whose persistence and patience finally brings them together. I knew all of this from the very beginning; I just didn’t have the whole story until the complete picture was revealed to me. Authors know that each book is different in every way possible and I learned how true that was coming from the deep, personal and draining Passion for Vengeance, and beginning Shadows of the Heart. Totally different experience and book. I seek to tell a different tale with each book, and Shadows of the Heart is more of a pure romance, albeit with tragic underpinnings, than my previous Gothics. It’s a story of forbidden lust, passion, romance, love and loss in 1820s England. Love and relationships are not neat, forever or easy.


RS: The craft of writing is very personal. Do the characters you create represent different aspects of yourself? Or do you feel that they born completely anew for that particular storyline?

PGH: I don’t feel there is any real part of me in my characters. Certainly, I have exorcised strong and hidden emotions in one or two of my characters and it was a draining experience, but it made that book the winner that it was. But mostly, the characters that people my Gothic romances and my Brenda Strange books are purely creations from my mind, my pen. They are the dynamics that blend with plot and story to create a whole tale. To me, that makes them more important and interesting than to instill them with my own imperfect and mostly insufficient perplexities!


RS: Do you have any pre-writing rituals that you find yourself falling into when a new story is brewing?

PGH: No, not when approaching a new story, but with my Gothics, I’ve created the majority of them using the alluring trappings of the time periods. For instance, I write all my books longhand first, on a yellow (or white!) legal pad, with a pen, sometimes with a fountain pen. For several books, I’ve actually turned down my lights and used multiple candles to write. It gives me the illusion of the past. I had lots of fun doing that. Also, most of my later books have been written in my “office,” which happens to be a favorite Starbucks. I stake out one of the oversized chairs, slip my feet underneath me, coffee cup in hand, and start writing. I find I can create more easily with background noise, including music, light conversation, etc. I tune it all out, allowing only what I want to filter through. It’s been very productive to write at Starbucks. The worst part, of course, is that I have to eventually sit in front of my computer and transfer all the scribbling from my handwriting. I’m not fond of creating or writing much in front of a computer. I try to avoid editing via Track Changes and prefer an editor that can work with me using hard copy, the actual paper manuscript. I can pick up errors better on paper than on my computer screen.

Thank you once again, Rachel, for inviting me to talk about my books, my artistic endeavors and my writing process. Please visit me at my author website or on Facebook.


RS: Thank you, Patty, for your time.

Rachel Storey

Software engineer by day, bookworm by night. I love reading. I love writing about reading. I love talking about writing about reading. I joined Bookkaholic to have great conversations about literature, so please feel free to leave comments and discussions.