Like most people, I find it difficult to write about myself. So here are answers to questions I’m asked most often.
How did you become a historian?
I’ve always enjoyed reading, particularly historical fiction. Jean Plaidy’s novels were my favorites as I was growing up. I also enjoyed Gothic novels by Victoria Holt. This isn’t just a coincidence, because both “authors” were pen names used by Eleanor Hibbit.
The extra bonus I received from historical fiction was doing well on history essay exams in high school. I tended to throw in everything I could think of about the topic, much of it derived from historical fiction instead of my textbook.
As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, I became a history major and discovered I liked doing research. I liked it so much that I kept going to school until I received the doctoral degree. And then I became a history professor at the University of Hawai`i with a special interest in women’s history.
How do you do your research?
Doing research is like solving a puzzle. When I first visited Whitby Abbey in 1985, the ruins fascinated me. Construction of the 13th century Benedictine monastery was a massive project. As I got deeper into the story, I found the remnants of the Anglo-Saxon monastery more interesting. The story of Hild and 7th century Northumbrian women evolved into Saxon Heroines.
My question when I began researching Two Coins was whether Mary Pigot’s situation was merely the result of imperial racism, or if there was more to it.
I begin by reading every source I can that relates to the question. In Mary’s case, this included material on the British in Calcutta, Christian missions sponsored by the Church of Scotland, and periodicals and correspondence relating to the mission in Calcutta. This phase took me about two years, including research trips to the British Library and the National Library of Scotland.
When I have as much documentary evidence as I can find, I travel to the site where events took place. In the case of Rama’s Labyrinth, I visited Mumbai and Pune. For Two Coins, I went back to India to visit Kolkata.
How long does it take to write the book?
I began thinking about the project that became Saxon Heroines in 1985. As I came across research materials, I put them in a “future project” file, but I didn’t open the file until March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented research trips. Drafting the manuscript and going through the publication process has taken about a year.
It took two years for me to gather research materials and another year to create the first draft of Two Coins. The process of editing, revisions, and completing the publication process took about year.
Do you do anything besides write books?
I practice Purna yoga, read historical fiction and legal dramas, and travel for the sheer joy of experiencing different places and cultures. Photos from recent journeys are below.