Serendipitydoodah! Part 4, The Final Piece of My Interview Series with H. P. Wood, Author of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet

Coney Island is as much a character as Kitty is in Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet.  H. P. Wood’s novel really piqued my interest about the bathhouses and bars, sideshows and secret lives.  I happened on photographs by Diane Arbus, a singular photographer who met her first group of midgets at the Ringling Bros. circus.  She focused on getting to know them, talking and listening without shooting, only gradually moving in with her camera. Everything was grist for her lens.

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WWWW:  I’m thinking writing is like photography, everything is grist for the pen.  What advice would you give to an unpublished aspiring writer?

HPW: My advice would be what I wish somebody had told me, which is to avoid getting so wrapped up in “I wanna get published” that all the joy gets sapped out of what you’re writing.

What happened to me was, I wrote a different book (my first try) and almost got an agent but then didn’t. Getting “so close” ended up really spinning my head around. I wasted a lot of time being mentally blocked and depressed over my perceived failure.

So my advice—and I hope this does not sound obnoxious coming from someone who has a book out—is, don’t rush to get an agent, don’t rush to self-publish, don’t rush to professionalize yourself. The most fun you are going to have is right now, before there are any business concerns at all. Ambition is fine but don’t let it get in front of the indescribable pleasure of creating something exist that didn’t before.


WWWW: Thanks for that honest advice from the heart.  So, in this new era of publishing, writers often bemoan that writing the book is the easy part and getting the book into readers’ hands is now a far greater challenge. How’s the marketing journey going?

HPW: I strongly suspect that it was ever thus. Because of social media just we hear each other complain more now.

As for me, on the one hand it is incredibly fun to have people reading this book finally. My friends and family have been so overwhelmingly supportive, I can’t even describe it. So that’s wonderful.

On the other hand, I am very much looking forward to getting back to writing, rather than being so outward-facing in terms of how I spend my time. I long to go back to my own Overlook Hotel where I (pretend that I) don’t care about anybody else’s opinion.


WWWW:  So, for my last question, I’m giving it to you – is there something that you wanted me to ask that I didn’t? Spill it here!

HPW:   Question: “Will you sign intimate body parts at the Hickory Stick Bookshop on June 18 at 3pm, or will you only sign books?”

              Answer: As long as you buy a book, I will sign anything you want!


WWWW:  Ok, so there may not be rollercoasters and peeping attractions in Washington CT, but you definitely suggest there will be thrills.   Thank you, HPW, for your time and candid interview.  I’ll be at your book signing, asking you to sign who-knows-where.  I invite you all to join me at the Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington CT, Saturday June 18 at 3PM.

Ladies and Gentlemen, complete info and directions are here. 



Toni 6/16/16

Serendipitydoodah! Part 1 of My Interview Series with H. P. Wood, Author of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet

I spied this neologism on Twitter last week.  What an infectious interjection, Serendipitydoodah!


Sing it out!  It’s a cry of exultation. Here’s a rhythmic swirl of awesomeness for ya, my latest book discovery.


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Welcome to a series of conversations with crazy talented author H. P. Wood.


WWWW: Tell me about the first ‘work’ you ever wrote, going as far back as your childhood.

H.P. Wood: I wrote my first editorial at age 3 or 4: a picture of a fanged monster titled, “My Mean Mommy.” Not very sophisticated but if “writing = communication,” than I believe I made my point.

WWWW:  No doubt you did.  So, that leads me to wonder, what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done?

HPW: I’m not sure if this is the strangest, but it has relevance to the book so let’s go with it.

When I was 17, I went to England with my school theater troupe. We performed at schools and stayed with the students. In a suburb about 45 minutes outside London, I happened to really hit it off with the kids I was staying with. Alas, we had to say goodbye and move on to London proper.

But we had a night off and, unlikely as this sounds, the chaperones let us go out on our own. I bailed on my school friends and got on the Tube to attend a party with my new friends. After the party they put me on the last train back to London.

What I learned the hard way was that the Tube shuts down earlier than the commuter trains. So I was stuck in Victoria Station with no way to get back to my hotel. No one from my school knew where the hell I was, and of course this was long before cell phones. I will never forget the mix of terror and excitement of being in that predicament.

I found a bunch of minicab drivers playing cards around a little table near the station, and one of them drove me back. But minicabs aren’t marked like regular cabs—they are more like Uber—so in retrospect it could have been anybody. Tourist guides all tell you to never ever get in the back of these unlicensed minicabs. Not only did I get in, I proceeded to argue with the guy over the fare. It just blows my mind now, that I had the guts/madness to object to being so blatantly overcharged.

I thought about this a lot when I was writing Kitty, the teenager who gets stranded on Coney Island. It’s a blend of “Oh no, I’m completely on my own,” and “Oh wow, I’m completely on my own!!” And even if you should feel grateful for a rescue, it doesn’t mean you do.

PS: At the party I was very sweetly kissed, so. Worth it.

WWWW:  Yikes, that’s one guts-up adventure with a fairy-tale ending.  The world of Magruder doesn’t seem like a place where a kid would do a lot of reading or writing. Were books part of your childhood?

HPW: Well Toni you know who my mother is, so. Yeah.

When I was a kid, I read everything. I vividly remember the old Harwinton Library—the spooky old building on the hill, not the shiny new one they have now. The librarians used to get mad because I’d sneak into the adult stacks—it was forbidden!! But I did it because I had already read every single book in the tiny children’s section of that Vincent-Price-designed excuse for a library.


WWWW: A voracious reader, I’m not surprised.  Let’s veer off topic, for those readers who might be curious, what’s your astrological sign?

HPW: Libra, but I don’t really believe in that stuff.


WWWW: Well, my astrology guru says Libra is an Air sign. Libras like to use their smarts (and talk) to get to know others better. Yes, knowledge about people is where it’s at for Libras. They’re inspired by good books, insurmountable discussions, and interesting folks. Just sayin’.

If you could live in any other time and country, tell us when and where.  Any stipulations?


HPW: Here are some ideas, but I want to be clear that I would only go if I could be wealthy. If I had to be as broke as I am now, I ain’t going nowhere.

Greece, around 400 BC
Mexico, around 500 AD
Florence, 1450s
Stratford Upon Avon, late 1500s.
Harlem, 1925


WWWW:  Wow, those are some time-warping trips.  Settings for future novels, maybe?

I’ll be asking that question (more enlightenment ahead, Readers) later in our interview.

Part 2, here tomorrow.

Toni 6/13/16

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO JOIN THE CIRCUS: A Little Bit About Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, A Novel by H. P. Wood

When I was just a tyke, my parents took me to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. I was more excited about my giant tub of popcorn and massive cotton-candy cloud than the skill of the aerialists or the contortionists’ unimaginable poses.



I’m sure there was plenty of glitz and glamour under that tent.

I’m sure I was wowed by tight-rope walkers and fire-eaters making the impossible possible.

I’m sure I begged for a unicycle.

I’m sure I was mesmerized by the magic of it all.

Now, as a grown-up in the real world, I’m sure there’s not nearly enough magic in my life.

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But I bet I’ll find some in Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, H. P. Wood’s fiction endeavor from Sourcebooks.  It’s a hypnotic debut in turn-of-the-century Coney Island, where an abandoned girl collides with a disgruntled ménage of circus freaks.

Kitty Hayward and her mother are ready to experience the spectacles of Coney Island’s newest attraction, the Dreamland amusement park. But when Kitty’s mother vanishes from their hotel, she finds herself penniless, alone, and far from her native England. The last people she expects to help are the cast of characters at Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, a museum of oddities. From con men to strongmen, from flea wranglers to lion tamers, Kitty’s new friends quickly adopt her and vow to help find the missing Mrs. Hayward. But even these unusual inhabitants may not be a match for the insidious sickness that begins to spread through Coney Island…or the panic that turns Dreamland into a nightmare.

“With shades of  Water For Elephants and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet sweeps readers into a mesmerizing world where nothing is as it seems, and where “normal” is the exception to the rule.”



I think back to my afternoon at the Ringling circus with a twinge of regret.  I bet I missed a lot of that spun-sugar-magic under the tent.

Ah, but I can’t wait to get my copy of  Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet.  I expect I’ll be transported into another place and time.

I think I just found a brilliant reminder that it’s never too late to join the circus.




You can find H. P. Wood here and here. And at Amazon right now!



Toni 6/7/16

ps Today’s prompt: Connected. Isn’t it sweet how books connect us?