• Becca McCulloch

Author Interview: Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Historical speculative fiction? Huh. The oxymoron drew me to this story by Emily-Jane Hills Orford. I had big doubts - and my affinity for the source story didn't help.

Mary, Queen of Scots, fascinates me. Scotland intrigues me. So, a book that wanted to rewrite beloved historical intricacies both delighted and worried me.

I'm happy to say that I was won over in a few paragraphs. The story starts off slow with a slight over-dependence on narration, but that resolves as the story takes on enough weight to quickly turn the pages. I was drawn into the what if and intrigued by the weaving of history into this alternate timeline. I read too much and can be too picky, so saying this book made me a fan by page 20 is a big feat.

I obtained the book through Loving the Book, a book publicity site. I'm happy to offer this review and a little insight into the writer of this quirky and intriguing work of almost historical fiction.

When did you start writing, and was there a specific event or person who influenced you to become an author?

I have always loved writing. I grew up in a family of storytellers. We would sit around the dinner table sharing our stories. Being the youngest, I didn’t have much chance to share my stories, so, as soon as I could write, I wrote my stories. I particularly enjoy writing stories about real people, real life and started my writing career in the late 1970s writing for small publications, telling people’s stories and writing about interesting places. I still enjoy writing these types of stories, but my passion for fiction insists that I write novels as well. Who inspire me? My mother and my grandmother. My mother was very creative and she encouraged me to write my stories. My grandmother was a wonderful storyteller, always full of stories to share. I wrote both my mother’s story, “F-Stop: A Life in Pictures” and my grandmother’s story, “Personal Notes”.

How many books do you have out?


How do you come up with character names?

Sometimes the names are obvious. In my first novel, “Spring”, my protagonist was a classical musician. I was teaching a young student at the time whose name was Melanie. Her mother confessed to choosing the name because it was almost like the musical term, melody. When I’m writing stories about real people, of course, the historical choice of names is obvious, as with my current novel, “Queen Mary’s Daughter”, the real people in history would keep their names. The protagonist is Mary Elizabeth, so named after the two queens of her time: her mother and her mother’s cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

Do you have any Character Casting for this book?

I’m not sure I’d be very good at casting. The only character I can truly associate with an actor is Mary Elizabeth’s grandmother. I think Jane Seymour would fit the grandmother’s role perfectly. All the women are strong characters, passionate, believing strongly in their cause, in their purpose in life. This is definitely a powerful woman’s story.

What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction?

There were a lot of things that spurs me to write “Queen Mary’s Daughter”. My grandmother and I had a special relationship and, when I was old enough, we traveled together a lot. One special trip took us to Scotland where we traced her childhood memories (she was born in Scotland) as well as followed the trail of Mary Queen of Scots. We had been enjoying a number of novels and biographies about the ill-fated queen and my grandmother ignited my interest by telling me about ancestors who helped in her escape from Loch Leven Castle. I always wanted to write about Queen Mary, but it wasn’t until the Brexit debacle and the ongoing desire of the Scottish people to separate from England, that I started looking more closely at the stories around Queen Mary. I knew she had given birth, prematurely, to twins while imprisoned at Loch Leven. History records that the babies died at birth and were buried on the island where the castle sat. An interesting footnote states that the location of the burial and the babies’ remains have never been found. So I started thinking, ‘what if?’. What if there had been another heir to the Scottish throne and Scotland never did amalgamate with England and Ireland? And my story unfolded.

Do you have a favorite author?

I have a lot of favorite authors and it would be impossible to narrow it down to just one. I love the classics: the Bronté sisters and Jane Austen. I enjoy art historical novels of Susan Vreeland, the royal historical novels of Sharon Kay Penman and the realistic novels of Tracy Chevalier. There are many relatively obscure authors, less known authors, who I enjoy immensely, including the British author from the mid-twentieth century, P.G. Wodehouse and R.F. Delderfield. And, of course, I enjoy a good mystery and then: Anne Perry (I love her power of description), John Grisham, Kathy Reichs, Kate Carlisle, and many others. And I don’t mind a little bit of humor mixed in with drama for a lighter read, like David Rosenfelt. As you can see, I’m a very eclectic reader. I read for pleasure, but I also read to learn more about my writing craft. Reading enhances my writing.

What is one piece of advice you could give to a new author that you wish someone had passed to you?

Believe in yourself and just write. Ignore the critics and the publishers who don’t appreciate your writing and remember that just because one person rejects or trashes your work, it doesn’t mean it’s not good enough. As readers, we don’t like everything we read, so why should everyone like what we write?

Do you have any pets?

Yes, I have one dog, Duke. I wrote his story, “To Be A Duke”. He’s my muse. Before Duke, there was Misty, also my muse. I enjoy my daily walks with my dog – good time to think and to develop plots.

What do you do in your spare time when you’re not writing?

Read, write letters (real letters that I put in a mailbox for those who are not ‘connected’, it’s a dying art that needs to be preserved), needlework, work on my art, play the piano, compose music, bake, garden, and, of course, walk my dog.

If you could live anywhere else besides your current location, where would it be?

I have lived in many places across Canada and visited many others. I now live in a rural setting and I’m quite satisfied to sit daily at my Austen-style spinet desk looking out at nature in all its glory while I write. There is nowhere else I’d rather be.

Are you currently working on a project, and if so, can you tell us anything about it?

I have two novels in the works:

  1. The third book in a Middle Grade novel series, “The Piccadilly Street Stories”. This is a collection of fantasy adventures loosely based on some of my childhood experiences growing up in the house, a grand old Victorian mansion, that is the setting of the novels.

  2. The fifth book in my adult fiction series, “The Four Seasons”, a musical adventure where classical musicians with valuable instruments meet with mystery and danger as their careers develop.

If you weren’t an author, what other profession would you be in?

An artist. But, then again, I already am an artist: an artist who masters the craft of working with words.

Hey, Emily-Jane! Thank you for stopping by. You should check out more details about the author, the book, and this exciting blog tour in the scroll box below. Make sure you enter the Rafflecopter - you may find riches grander than the Queen of Scotland!


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