AUTHOR INTERVIEW 5

Victoria Hyla Maldonado

United States

Age 42

I was born in 1977 in a south suburb of Chicago, but grew up for the most part in the northwest suburb of Lake Zurich, Illinois.
 
I wrote my first full story as a short book for my reading class in third grade. As I was at that time obsessed with the Oz universe of L. Frank Baum, I created my own extended story in that world, Emerald of Oz, the tale of a unicorn whisked there away from the world she knows only to find friends and a place to truly call home.
 
Through the years, I continued to write, usually short stories and poetry and aborted attempts at longer works. I was, after all, only developing as a writer. Through the encouragement of several key teachers and of course, my mother, I continued to grow and grow and write and write.
 
During my freshman year of high school, a major crush of mine crushed back although he was two years my senior. One day in gym class, he said, „Write a story about me.” The first thing I said in response was, „Give me a character.” And so he did, and so there is Matt Brennan. When first finished, it was a fine short novella of 50 pages called A Summer of Promise. It was very innocent and very compact, but it elicited tears in the very man I had written it about. I was hooked. Although it took nearly 10 years and many incarnations, one computer hard drive fry and several complete rewrites, In Death We Part came to fruition in 2011 after I finally took a „research” trip to New Mexico and actually learned what that part of the country looked like.
 
My second book, Running in the Mists, developed even before the first was published simply because I was curious where Brianna would go in her life after all that has happened. I was not disappointed and I hope readers won’t be either.
 
My third book, Elysian Fields, takes the continuing story’s action to Paris… my other love and other „home town.” Although Brianna’s journey for the most part is complete as of the second book, this third part follows the ongoing journey of Elyse, whose story has yet to be figured out and put to rest.
 
Educated at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, I studied English Education and had a French minor. I am now a freelance editor and writer and coordinator of the Alpha program at my church.

“It’s the mistakes and imperfections that make things truly beautiful.”

Haunted by fractured childhood memories and trauma born from her mother’s death and her father’s abuse, Elyse Brennan Wylder journeys to Paris hoping to find answers about her mother’s past and perhaps her own future. With only an old photograph to guide her, she is thrown into a world far beyond anything she’s ever imagined—both good and evil.

After meeting Jérôme Sauveterre, an intriguing and passionate Parisian artist, Elyse quickly finds her life, her world, and her heart opening wide as they delve deeper into her mother’s story and learn what love and intimacy really mean.

As Elyse and Jérôme dig into the past, how far can they go before it’s too late to turn back? Will they find a light at the end of the darkness and awake in Elysian Fields? Find out as this story of love and loss enfolds as the conclusion to the Hearts Drawn Wyld trilogy (Book 1, In Death We Part; Book 2, Running in the Mists).

Romelia: WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTERS ARE MOST LIKELY TO BE AN ACTIVIST, AND WHAT KIND?

Victoria J. Hyla: Elyse, my main character of my third book, becomes an activist as part of her profession at the end of the book. I hate to say specifically as to what since that kind of reveals a ton about the plot, but it is in the category of human rights on a national level.

Romelia: DO YOU PLAY MUSIC WHILE YOU WRITE—AND, IF SO, WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE?

Victoria J. Hyla: I don’t usually because when I write the scenes for the book are running through my head like a movie and I find lyrics from music too distracting. Perhaps once in a while I will play instrumental music, and in those rare cases, its Debussy or something else classical or melodic.

Romelia: HAVE PETS EVER GOTTEN IN THE WAY OF YOUR WRITING?

Victoria J. Hyla: Every day. The cat jumps up on my desk at least once a day, loves to sit on the mouse or my hands and then bite me because I’m in her way. She also gives me disapproving looks over the top of my laptop if I won’t let her sit where she wants to sit.

Romelia: IF YOUR BOOK WERE MADE INTO A MOVIE, WHICH ACTORS WOULD PLAY YOUR CHARACTERS?

Victoria J. Hyla: Easy to say that Brianna (the main character of my first two books and secondary in the third) would have to be played my Molly Quinn (Castle is her most famous role). For Elyse, I’m not sure, but possibly either Dove Cameron or Chloe Grace Moretz. I struggle more with the men as all my favorite male actors are now too old to do the roles. But for Ben, perhaps someone up and coming like Jonny Weston. For Matt, I like Alden Ehrenreich or Garret Hedlund, perhaps. For Jérôme, possibly Gaspard Ulliel.

Romelia: HAVE YOU EVER KILLED OFF A CHARACTER YOUR READERS LOVED?

Victoria J. Hyla: Yes, I have—a major one at the end of In Death We Part. One reader once commented that when this character died, she cried so hard she threw up. That made me smile.

Romelia: WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN ABOUT WRITING?

Victoria J. Hyla: Write from an authentic place, whether that’s your experiences or emotions or situations. If something about what you write doesn’t ring true with you as a writer, it will show and your readers will know it.

Romelia: WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST WAY TO IMPROVE WRITING SKILLS?

Victoria J. Hyla: Write and write and write and write. Also read… a lot… from all kinds of genres, but definitely the classics and the genres you write in. I’d never advocate that someone should write like those authors, but until you experience structure and technique and how a book is put together, how dialogue and punctuation and grammar are written correctly, and how things have been put together before you, you are just spinning your wheels. It’s kind of like art with artists. Artists study all kinds of art and techniques before they find their own unique style.

Romelia: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO HELP OTHERS CREATE PLOTLINES?

Victoria J. Hyla: You can’t write what you don’t know, so go out and experience life, make mistakes, and just be a person doing life. For me, I often take tiny details or situations or experiences that happened in my life and expand upon them with the question of “what if that had gone differently?” and the like. This gives me a lot to write about since already I’ve had several major life changes and choices (good and bad) in my own life. Writing just dramatizes and structures them.

Romelia: WHAT HAS HELPED OR HINDERED YOU MOST WHEN WRITING A BOOK?

Victoria J. Hyla: Time, on both sides of that question. Time has helped because time yields experiences and I now have the time to devote to it when I can focus on it. Time hinders always because I never feel like there is enough of it to dedicate guilt-free attention to my writing. I have so many projects in the works. Time is a fickle thing.

Romelia: DOES WRITING ENERGIZE OR EXHAUST YOU? OR BOTH?

Victoria J. Hyla: Absolutely both. I am invigorated by the creative process regardless of what that creative process is and so when things are accomplished I am very much energized and ready to tackle more and more. But in the actual process it can be exhausting. During my most recent novel, I’d come out of a writing session of something particularly difficult and my husband would say that I look thrashed or worried or just exhausted.

Romelia: WHAT IS THE BEST MONEY YOU’VE EVER SPENT WITH REGARD TO YOUR WRITING?

Victoria J. Hyla: Not sure if it’s money I’ve spent, but the best is money I’ve sacrificed. I chose not to go back to work when I found myself unemployed this time, and through fortunate circumstances that decision has been okay. This time has allowed me to work on my craft and I have been met with new opportunities that are far more satisfying than any basic “day job” working for “the man” could be.

Romelia: WHAT ARE COMMON TRAPS FOR NEW AUTHORS?

Victoria J. Hyla: Writing to make money; please don’t. If you make money, that’s fantastic, but it should not be your one and only goal. Write because writing is the thing you love to do. Write because this story needs to be told by you. Write because you have to get these ideas down on paper or never sleep. Do not write as a machine to pay the bills or make a career just because. Very few authors get there. It crushes dreams and talent if you try to make that your only purpose for writing. When writers do this, the inauthenticity is obvious. My advice is to just live your life, and out of those joys and sorrows will develop a story that can only come from you.

Romelia: HOW MANY HOURS A DAY DO YOU WRITE?

Victoria J. Hyla: If I had the time, I’d write 10–12 hours a day, but as reality would have it since I have kids and their school and other work and a house, I’m lucky if I get 3–4 hours, and typical is 1–2 hours, but I always have the notepad app on my phone handy in case inspiration strikes.

Romelia: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BLOGS OR WEBSITES FOR WRITERS?

Victoria J. Hyla: Really don’t have any, but I follow several writers casually on Instagram and Facebook.

Romelia: AT WHAT TIME OF THE DAY DO YOU DO MOST OF YOUR WRITING?

Victoria J. Hyla: The time of day varies depending on when inspiration strikes, but whenever it is, it is when my house is silent and I’m left alone with my thoughts. Right now this tends to be very late at night or very early in the morning.

Romelia: HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH CHARACTER NAMES FOR YOUR STORIES?

Victoria J. Hyla: For most of my main characters, I’m very intentional and research the name origins and meanings based on the cultures from which they come. Brianna, my first main character, means strong or strength (and she needs to be considering all she goes through); Ben stems from the Latin “bene” meaning good, and he is just a good person. Elyse is very significant and comes from the Champs-Elysées where Elysium or Elysées mean a peaceful heaven after a great battle; all of that echoes her journey. Felicia is inherently happy and energetic all the time. Bijoux means jewels, and she has been a showy “accessory” for most of her life. Emile Dufresne was also very significant, meaning dark rival and keeper of wealth. I do this very intentionally for short story characters as well. For some characters, I had the names first and I researched after, happily discovering that the significant personality traits I wanted for them were already in the names, like Jérôme and Geneviève. However, some characters just fall into my lap like Matt Brennan; that character name was given to me and has no real specific meaning behind it. Some minor characters are named after people I know/knew: Ed, Vanessa, Sidney, Jamie, Jason, Sergey, for example, while others also have some significance for minor reasons.

Romelia: DO YOU PARTICIPATE IN WRITING CHALLENGES ON SOCIAL MEDIA? DO YOU RECOMMEND ANY?

Victoria J. Hyla: I’ve only participated in one, and it was through the Writer Tribe group on Facebook. Each day of the month they put up a prompt and you could write whatever on those prompts. It was fun and a great morning routine. I wouldn’t be against another. It gave me some interesting ideas for future writing.

Romelia: IF YOU HAD THE POWER TO CURE A DISEASE OF YOUR CHOOSING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Victoria J. Hyla: The easy answer is COVID because I’m tired of being stuck at home and I’d really like my kids to be able to go to school. Online kindergarten is not exactly my cup of tea. The more esoteric answer is the disease of human ignorance. It is a disease that is so endemic in certain populations. I would like to somehow eradicate that.

Romelia: WHEN YOU’RE WRITING AN EMOTIONAL OR DIFFICULT SCENE, HOW DO YOU SET THE MOOD?

Victoria J. Hyla: I don’t really do anything external to set the mood, but I do go into a bit of a trance in my brain. Perhaps it’s similar to method acting. I make myself feel the emotions the characters are feeling whether it’s sorrow or anger or delight; I’ve been caught by my husband making very strange faces at my computer if I’m trying to work something out. I’ve even made myself cry more than a few times as I’m writing.

Romelia: WHO DO YOU TRUST FOR OBJECTIVE AND CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM OF YOUR WORK?

Victoria J. Hyla: I can’t say that I really have anyone specific. I’m so hypercritical of my own work that once it finally gets into the hands of others, the comments are pretty amiable and haven’t contained much in the form of constructive challenges.

Romelia: WHAT BOOKS DO YOU ENJOY READING?

Victoria J. Hyla: I generally am drawn to the romance genre because reading is an escape for me, but that genre is so far and wide as to not be limiting, but I do also enjoy young adult and fantasy. I enjoy Christian fiction on occasion and Christian nonfiction. I really have enjoyed historical fiction like Devil in the White City and Sex in the Second City, and I’m currently reading My Dear Hamilton, a fiction based on the letters and writings of Eliza Hamilton that’s really good.

Romelia: ARE THERE ANY BOOKS OR AUTHORS THAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER?

Victoria J. Hyla: When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the Wizard of Oz collection—far beyond the story everyone knows. The world he created was fascinating and sprawling. Beyond that, probably the entire catalog of Shakespeare—man he could use language and words!

Romelia: NAME AN UNDERAPPRECIATED NOVEL THAT YOU LOVE.

Victoria J. Hyla: This is a hard one; all my favorites are quite well-known. In recent years, a few came to mind. Not sure if they’re underappreciated, but they stuck out to me. When Jesus Wept, by Bodie Thoene, fictionally tells the story of Jesus from the perspective of Lazarus; it just found it really interesting in its self-imposed perspective limitations. The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate was just so heartfelt and sweet and made me cry. The Bookshop on the Corner, by Jenny Colgan, was just so awesome in the restriction of the main character and the things she goes through.

Romelia: TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY FROM YOUR ADULT LIFE.

Victoria J. Hyla: Not sure if it’s funny, but it’s unusual. I started chatting up this guy on a free dating app at the end of April. We messaged then talked for a few days on the phone. We met the next Tuesday (beginning of May). He moved in on Friday. I met his whole family on Sunday. We were engaged by the first week of June and married by the end of July. That was seven and a half years ago, we’ve got 5-year-old twins, and it’s still the best insane decision I ever made.

Romelia: describe yourself in a few sentences. Tell us something we do not know about you and something you hate about the world.

Victoria J. Hyla: A native of the Chicago suburbs, I’m a writer and editor through and through with very little in the way of other practical skills although I used to be a teacher. I am a mom of 5-year-old boy/girl twins and a stepmom to a teenager. I am the author of the Hearts Drawn Wyld trilogy (In Death We Part, Running in the Mists, Awake in Elysian Fields) and am embarking on many more writing projects in the future. What isn’t known to many yet is that I just became the chief operating officer of a new publishing company, and I’m very excited to reach out and work with writers who want to publish, but think there isn’t a way for them to do so. What I hate about the world… I really detest people and institutions that are self-serving, super in love with money and power, and don’t consider the impact of their actions on others who are unlike them. The lack of empathy and ignorant hatred in so much of our population is so upsetting when EVERYTHING should be about loving others just as they are. The way to get there is empathy and opening up your brain beyond your own immediate experience through traveling or reading or just being a decent human being.

630-363-0573; vmaldonado1230@gmail.com

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