Author Clarissa Harwood joins us on the blog today to talk about her latest book, Bear No Malice, which launches on January 1, 2019. Welcome, Clarissa!
Author Name: Clarissa Harwood
Book Title: Bear No Malice
Book Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: January 1, 2019
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Congratulations on the release of your second book! How would you describe your novel?
I don’t think I can do better than what’s already in the book blurb: Great Expectations meets Grantchester in a story of love and lies, secrets and second chances, set in Edwardian England.
That’s a great blurb. What sparked the idea for BEAR NO MALICE?
After I finished the first draft of Impossible
Saints in 2008, I wanted to work on a new book but was
having trouble coming up with ideas. Thomas Cross is the nemesis
of my male protagonist in Impossible Saints, and I
wondered what it would be like to tell his story from his
perspective. It started as a writing exercise, and I had no idea
it would become a fully-developed novel. In hindsight, I should
have guessed it would be more than just a writing exercise
because Tom was the one minor character in Impossible Saints
who kept trying to take over the story!
What a fun and fruitful exercise. How long did it take for you to write the book? Did you do have to do any research?
Malice took about ten years from conception to publication.
As with Impossible Saints, the first draft took a little
over a year, but I wrote even more drafts of Bear No Malice
because it was a huge struggle to understand Tom and get to know
him when my primary loyalty was to Paul, the hero of Impossible
Saints. It took a long time to stop thinking of Tom as a
villain and really inhabit his perspective, but it was a great
empathy-building exercise! You can read more about my process of
writing the novel, especially my difficulties with Tom, in this blog post.
As with any historical novel, a great deal of research went into Bear No Malice. Some of that research was the same for both of my novels because my male protagonists are ministers at the same cathedral (Impossible Saints and Bear No Malice are companion novels with some of the same characters, and it doesn’t matter which one you read first). But other aspects of the novels are quite different, especially my female protagonists: Lilia in Impossible Saints is a suffragette, whereas Miranda in Bear No Malice is an artist, so I needed to shift my research focus from the suffragettes to the art world.
For you, what’s the hardest thing about writing?
The first draft! How I hate the first draft! I hate
not knowing my characters. They aren’t my friends yet, and I
miss my old friends from the previous novel. The characters in a
first draft are people who’ve dropped out of the sky and are
ordering me to tell a story I don’t know. But I’ve lately been
rethinking my attitude towards the first draft: if I think of it
as a playful process of discovery, it’s not so bad. And the time
and energy I invest in getting to know my characters is never
wasted because it ultimately makes the story better, even if
many words from the first draft don’t end up in the final
Great way to think about the first draft! What do you love most about writing?
I love revisions, whether I’m doing them on my own
after having written several drafts, or whether I’m doing them
based on my agent’s or editor’s feedback. There is no “terror of
the blank page,” so I don’t experience writer’s block when I’m
doing revisions. I already know the story and the characters, so
I don’t have to create anything from scratch. Instead, I’m
adding layers and depth, polishing something that is already a
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read BEAR NO MALICE?
If you like history, literature, romance, and secrets, I urge you to
take a chance on Bear No Malice! It’s an added plus if
you’re interested in faith and feminism: I love writing about flawed
but good people of faith and women trying to find their place in a
How does your day job inform your novel writing?
As a doctoral student and then an English professor, I specialized in nineteenth-century British literature, so the poetry and fiction of that era are an endless source of inspiration for my research and writing. When I look at Bear No Malice, I see the influence of the children’s literature I teach (especially fairy tales) as well as the novel course I taught for many years, which was a historical survey of the novel’s development as a genre in Europe and North America. Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary makes more than one appearance!
In taking a minor character from one novel and making him the hero of another, I was also influenced by The Chronicles of Barsetshire by Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope. The protagonist of each novel in the series is a minor character in the other books. I love exploring the same world from different angles this way, both as a reader and a writer. The Chronicles of Barsetshire is also focused on the lives and loves of cathedral clergy, so that’s another way in which Trollope’s writing has influenced mine.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love watching foreign movies, going for long walks, traveling with my husband, and making snow women.
And finally, where can readers find you (website, blog, social media, etc.)?
Goodreads: Clarissa Harwood
Thank you, Clarissa! Bear No Malice will be available on January 1, 2019!
BEAR NO MALICE
Beaten and left for dead in the English countryside, clergyman and reformer Tom Cross is rescued and nursed back to health by Miranda and Simon Thorne, reclusive siblings who seem to have as many secrets as he does. Tom has spent years helping the downtrodden in London while lying to everyone he meets, but now he’s forced to slow down and confront his unexamined life.
Miranda, a skilled artist, is haunted by her painful past and unable to imagine a future. Tom is a welcome distraction from her troubles, but she’s determined to relegate him to her fantasy world, sensing that any real relationship with him would be more trouble than it’s worth. Besides, she has sworn to remain devoted to someone she’s left behind.
When Tom returns to London, his life begins to unravel as he faces the consequences of both his affair with a married woman and his abusive childhood. When his secrets catch up with him and his reputation is destroyed, he realizes that Miranda is the only person he trusts with the truth. What he doesn’t realize is that even if she believes him and returns his feelings, he can’t free her from the shackles of her past.
Clarissa Harwood is the author of Bear No Malice and Impossible Saints, companion novels that explore themes of faith and feminism in Edwardian England. Both novels have garnered positive reviews: Kirkus Reviews praised Bear No Malice as “A smart and highly civilized tale about love, temptation, and second chances.” In addition to being a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Clarissa is a part-time university instructor and full-time grammar nerd who loves to explain the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. She lives in Southern Ontario with her husband and three neurotic cats.