My Review of Walls of Silence by Helen Pryke for #RBRT #FridayReads

wall of silence

I received this book from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team

 I gave  Walls of Silence 3*

Book Description:

Living in the mountains of Sicily, Maria has the perfect childhood until the tragic accident that changes her life forever. The events that follow will take her away from her home town to the streets of Milan, in an ever-increasing spiral of abuse and deception. Will she ever be able to trust anyone ever again? Set in turbulent 1960s Italy, Walls of Silence is the story of a girl who must find the courage and strength to survive her family’s betrayal and the prejudices of her country.

My Review:

First of all, I’d like to say how fascinating the Book Description is. Just enough to tempt the readers in without giving away the story, as so often happens.

I always try not to give spoilers with my reviews but with Walls of Silence I found it difficult to write the following without giving any of the story away. I hope I’ve succeeded.

 To say I enjoyed the whole of this book isn’t totally true; I enjoyed Helen Pryke’s writing style and the fact that all the way though she convinced me of the danger to the protagonist, Maria, if she revealed what was happening to her. There are deeply disturbing sections and the actions of some of the characters are distressing. It is a dark book.

I did have a few problems with pace of Walls of Silence. After being instantly drawn into the story through the Prologue, it then slowed, drastically. I love Prologues and this one was strong; I was intrigued by Pietro’s story. But then the abrupt change to Maria’s story; the flashback, left me a bit stranded. I kept wanting to know the reactions of both Pietro and  his and Maria’s daughter, Antonella, who, presumably , were learning about Maria’s life together. I have to be honest though; I’m not at all sure how else the author could have written it. I just wanted more of these two characters after such an interesting introduction to them

I felt the first half of the first chapter was too drawn out (although I realised later that it was to introduce some of the characters we, as readers, would meet again towards the end of the book). But  I did like the second half; Maria’s early family life in Sicily and the descriptions of the characters in her community, ruled so completely by the Catholic Church during the era of the 1950/60s.

This variation in the pace of the plot, some parts too drawn out, others too quickly passed over, was, I felt, a little awkward.

But I thought the characters that Maria met throughout her difficult life were well drawn and the dialogue was believable and rounded out most of them.

However I did have a problem with the relationship between the protagonist and Pietro; it did feel a little contrived and unsatisfactory. to me as a reader.

 Still, as I’ve said I did like the author’s style of writing, I found the descriptions of the settings brilliantly evocative and the story very moving. And Walls of Silence is an excellent title; it gives the claustrophobic sense on enclosure, secrecy, despair that Maria and the other women experience.

And, I must say i do like the cover; to me it embodies the whole story.

After I wrote this review I read the book description. Part of the proceeds from this book will go to a women’s centre in the UK. This kind of statement always gives me a problem; I feel guilty if I don’t rate the book higher. But then I always try to give an honest review, so will leave the above as written.

What I can say yet again, is that Helen Pryke writes well and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2qylmKx

 Amazon.com:http://amzn.to/2pDzQEa 

Today I’m interviewing #author Dianne Noble about her latest book Oppression#FridayReads

Dianne

I was so intrigued by the sound of this book by Diane that I couldn’t resist chatting with her  about it.

 Hello, Dianne and welcome.

Thank you, Judith, good to be here

Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?

Oppression tells the story of Beth, married to a rather controlling man, who witnesses the attempted abduction of a young girl in a North Yorkshire town. She manages to prevent it but ultimately can’t stop the girl, Layla, being sent to Egypt in a forced marriage. In time, Beth finds the courage to defy her husband and travels to Cairo to look for Layla. Appalled to find her living in the City of the Dead, a sprawling necropolis where homeless people live, she nevertheless is filled with admiration for the way Layla has started a one woman crusade to persuade other oppressed women to rebel and she vows to help her.

It’s a must-read because of the subject – we can all be oppressed by others if we are not strong – and also because Egypt is portrayed so evocatively you can imagine yourself there.

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Does your book have a lesson? Moral?

I believe it does. We must all try to find courage, however little it might be, to address wrongs. Some of us are braver than others but we can all be brave to some degree.

What is your favourite part of the book?

I thinks it’s when Beth is sitting in pitch blackness and abject fear, in the tomb house where Layla lives. These houses incorporate a grave – Beth is sitting over one – and they are without water, sanitation or power. She doesn’t know where Layla is but, despite her terror, she realises that she herself is leading an oppressed life, albeit in a lesser way, and decides to put her own house in order.

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?

I like to feel I have complete control but often the characters behave in a way I hadn’t planned. For example, when Beth is caught up in a political demonstration and is rescued by rugby playing Harry, I hadn’t planned on their relationship becoming physical. Beth, however, had other ideas…

What character in your book are you least likely to get along with?

Beth’s appalling mother who has found religion, become one of the Chosen and feels she is on a fast track to sainthood, yet is totally lacking in compassion.

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. It deals with the appalling treatment meted out to women in Afghanistan by the Taliban and is the sort of book whose harrowing details keep one awake at night. I in no way consider myself a feminist, but a humanist. There are the most terrible injustices dealt out to women all over the world and this is only one of the many books which deals with it.

Who is your favourite author?

Probably Kate Atkinson for the sheer complexity of her novels, beginning with Behind the Scenes at the Museum which had me hooked for life as a fan.

What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you?

There are quite a few, I’m a bit accident prone. When I worked for Barclays Bank in the 70s I ran a sub-branch and for security reasons a taxi would transport me there each day to and from the main branch. One memorable day I arrived back and as I slammed the car door shut, it closed on the hem of my rather smart suede skirt which fastened top to bottom with the metal poppers you sometimes get on jeans. The taxi drove away and the pop pop pop was audible as my skirt was ripped from my body and I stood in North Street Rugby in my knickers and tights. How I wished I’d worn an underskirt.

What gives you inspiration for your book(s)?

Travel gives me the settings. I have no problem at all imagining where my characters will be but what they will be doing takes longer. The actual plots take work, an idea here, another one there, and eventually they form a cohesive story. I envy those whose plots arrive in their heads like a bolt from the blue. It’s never happened to me!

Where can we find you online?

Website:  www.dianneanoble.com

Twitter: @dianneanoble1

FB: facebook.com/dianneanoble

 

 

My Review of The Mistress of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon #RBRT #FridayReads

#RBRT Review Team

mistrtes of blackstairs

I was given this book by the author as a member of #RBRT in return for an honest review

I gave The Mistress of Blackstairs 4*out of 5*

The Book Blurb:

Everyone thought she was dead…

In 18th century Covent Garden, Madam Moineau, is the mistress of Blackstairs, an establishment catering to the finest clients in London.

The mysterious, veiled lady of Paris was better known in the past as a former courtesan and went by the considerably less exotic moniker of Georgina Radcliffe, or Georgie to her friends.

In the winter of 1785 two men appear in Madam Moineau’s life.

Rogue artist Anthony Lake has recently returned from Europe. Lake is on his own assignment, searching the streets of London for the daughter he only recently discovered he had fathered.

He learns that the child’s mother is dead, brutally killed and Anthony finds himself on an unexpected mission to avenge his ex-lovers’ murder.

Nearly ten years after he left Madam Moineau, then known as Georgina, for dead, Viscount Edmund Polmear returns to London.

He has a new fiancé in tow and is soon to be found around Blackstairs, seeking a further mistress for his own pleasure.

His sudden appearance is a shock for the victim that he believed he left for dead, forcing Madam Moineau to face the horrors of her own past head on.

Anthony Lake and Madam Moineau’s lives become inevitably and inextricably entwined as they find themselves up against the fearsome and unforgiving Viscount Polmear.

My Review:

Although the story has a slow start for me, I thoroughly  enjoyed this book once I  persevered. Catherine Curzon has obviously researched the era well and I do like her style of writing.

 The characters come alive on the page with the excellent, drip-fed descriptions of their appearances. Even minor characters are well rounded and easily envisaged. I especially liked the many layered portrayal of the protagonist, Georgina Radcliffe aka Madam Moineau whose back story is revealed in a steady and interesting style throughout. And her foster daughter, Molly, shown to be a child of the streets, behaves just as I would expect; living where and how she exists. Interestingly she is portrayed with a mixture of pathos and humour. Anthony Lake; an empathetic and charming character, even though shown to be a  bit of a rogue, I liked as soon as he put on an appearance. As for the  Viscount Polmear…instantly dis-likeable, as all good antagonists should be.

A lot of the story is carried on dialogue which is strong and it is easy to follow who is speaking even without dialogue tags.

 Although it is a time- honoured and steadily paced plot (most of the time) of ‘ boy meets girl’ and initially disliking each other, the story is so multi-faceted and played out in such an intriguing way that I read it in one sitting.

I so wanted to give The Mistress of Blackstairs  five stars but there were a couple of disappointments for me.  I love novels that give me a sense of place through descriptions using all five senses and although the interior settings were brilliant I got little sense of the streets, of the places in London at the at time (except for the lovely descriptions of the fires on the corners of the streets), that the characters move around in.

 And, although the lead up to the ending is exciting, the actual denouement feels too rushed and, I’m afraid, a little predictable, although I accept it would be disappointing (for me anyway) if it hadn’t factually ended as it did.

 All in all though, an excellent read and one I have no hesitation in recommending to readers who enjoy historical fiction.

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today With Clare Flynn #MondayBlogs

Over the next few months I’ll be chatting with authors who, like me, write Family Sagas, (#familysaga) a genre that can cover many countries, years  and cultures.I am thrilled that so many excellent writers have agreed to meet here with me. I’m sure you’ll find them as fascinating as I do. All I can say is watch this space. Your TBR list of books will be toppling over!!

image-1

 

Welcome Clare, thank you for being here today.

 Good to be here, Judith

Firstly, could you tell us what made you decide to write in your genre?

It was not a conscious decision. The story of my first novel, A Greater World, came first and just happened to be set in 1920 and then I decided I liked the distance and perspective history gave to me and so stuck with the genre for the next books. I won’t guarantee that I will always stick to historical though!

What other authors of your genre are you connected/friends with, and do they help you become a better writer in any way?

I have many author friends across many genres. I’m a member of ALLi, the Historical Novel Society and The Romantic Novelists Association and I have made some wonderful supportive friendships through all of these. Since moving to the south coast from London last year I have co-founded a critique group with three other authors and an editor and we meet fortnightly to share extracts from our works in progress and give each other feedback. I have found this absolutely invaluable. I hope my editor and beta readers will agree when they get the new book shortly!

A Greater World: A woman's journey

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I think that might be quite a handicap as empathy seems to me to be a critical asset for a writer. I struggle to imagine how you would write about strong emotions of you have never experienced them. That said, you don’t need to have experienced the same emotions if you can empathise and imagine your way into them. Whether or not you feel the emotions it’s absolutely crucial that you are able to convey them vividly on the page. Fortunately I’ve not experienced some of the terrible misfortunes that befall my characters – but I hope that hasn’t prevented me bringing them to life in my books. As crime writers always say – you don’t have to commit murder to write about it.

Do you want each book to stand alone or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I like your description of creating a body of work with connections between each book. I definitely don’t write series – each of my books is a standalone with different characters, locations, periods and so on. But there are themes that connect the books – particularly the idea of displacement – many of my characters are uprooted from a comfortable life and circumstances and plunged into a new world and life – often with a big geographical shift. I also think there are connections n my style of writing and my way of telling a story that makes a book a Clare Flynn book.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Somewhere on an inaccessible floppy disc in a box in my study is a draft of the opening chapters of a thriller I started to write in 1992. I think it’s probably best that it stays there! I also have the first draft of my next book which I am polishing now, ready to get it out to my beta readers. I spend a lot of time “mulling” before I start to write and now if I start a book, I finish it!

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

I don’t find it particularly difficult. I’ve always been in the company of men – especially at work. I’ll leave it to my readers to judge how well I write them!

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I do some preliminary research before I begin – but very light touch. Most of my serious research is done during the writing process. I find reading around the subject helps balance my time and interest relative to writing. I read a lot of general background – for example about the era or the setting. I also do specific fact checking – mostly online – to check for anachronisms etc, to look for added colour – e.g. a song or a movie out in the year I am writing about. Place is very important. I have visited everywhere I write about and some instances revisited many times. For my second book, Kurinji Flowers, I returned to India to work on the final draft and stayed for a fortnight on a tea plantation living in a 1930s bungalow in the location where the book is set – basically reliving the life and walking in the footsteps of my main character. She was an artist so I also did a lot of painting and sketching of the kind of things she would have drawn. I based the Club in the book on a real one and assumed I would be able to visit it and look around, and so I didn’t write to them in advance – I had to practically prostrate myself at the feet of the Club Manager in order to grovel my way inside – and he wouldn’t allow me to take any photos nor to bring my driver with me (“He must wait outside”). Snobbery didn’t die out with the departure of the British! It was well worth the grovelling as it was a time capsule and I was able to use what I saw there directly in the book.

How do you select the names of your characters?

With a lot of brain-aching! I sometimes change the names as I go along as I find they don’t fit. I like going to graveyards and poking around to find unusual names. My last book The Green Ribbons had a lot of unusual and interesting names – Hephzibah WIldman, Merritt Nightingale, Abigail Cake, Mercy Loveless… but my next book has ordinary sounding names like Roger, Brenda, Jim and Pauline. It’s “horses for courses”.

 

The Green Ribbons

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

It definitely energises me.

What would be the advice you would give to your younger writing self?

Make the time to write. Keep at it. Just do it!

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

£75 to join the Alliance of Independent Authors – ALLi. The most brilliant source of knowledge, advice, camaraderie, encouragement and writerly friendship. I can’t imagine how I’d have got by without them.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I’m done with work now! I had a very fulfilling career as a Marketing director – and then as a consultant. I’ve travelled widely with my work, met some amazing and interesting people, and been privileged to work with some of the greatest companies in the world.

Have you ever had reader’s block?

No. I am lost if I’m without a book. A terrible night in my life was being stuck in a German hotel the night before a business meeting without anything to read – I’d left my book on the plane!

I couldn’t begin to write if I hadn’t got decades of wonderful books behind me. I think the most important asset for a writer is to be a reader.

What do you think is the best way to market your books?

If I can get in front of people I can sell my books – especially if I do a reading. Sadly that’s not very efficient in either time or money! I’m still figuring out the best way to market my books. People think as a career marketer it must be easy for me. Well it isn’t!

Kurinji Flowers

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes I do read them. I rejoice in the good ones and move on from the bad ones. No one wants to read a bad review but every author gets them occasionally. You just have to get over it. It takes all sorts. Take a look on GoodReads at some of the one-star hammering that great authors receive!

Would you like to talk about your latest book here.?

My latest book will be coming out later this year. It’s set in WW2 in Eastbourne, the seaside town I moved to last year. The town was subject to extraordinarily heavy bombardment by the Germans – firstly to soften it up before the planned invasion that Hitler cancelled, and later as it was easy for planes to zip across the Channel and dump bombs without having to cross the radar and anti-aircraft fire – then zip straight back. The book is the story of Gwen, a buttoned-up Englishwoman and Jim a young Canadian soldier. The town was the base for thousands of Canadians during the War. I like to put people together who in normal circumstances would never have met. This is a key element of A Greater World and Kurinji Flowers and to some extent Letters from a Patchwork Quilt.

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My most recently published book is The Green Ribbons (2016). It is set in a Berkshire village in 1900. Many readers have said it reminds them of Jane Eyre – the main character is orphaned and compelled to earn a living as a governess – but I think the resemblance stops there.

Please supply links to all your social media including websites.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/clarefly

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/authorclareflynn/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/clarefly/

My website – http://www.clareflynn.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jan

 

remember-no-more

REMEMBER NO MORE

 BY JAN NEWTON

Genre: Crime

Series: A DS Kite Mystery # 1

Release Date:  16 March 2017

Publisher: Honno Press

A DS Kite novel – a city detective joins the mid-Wales force
bringing new insights and ruffling country feathers

Newly promoted DS Julie Kite is at a crossroads.  Her husband’s desire for a different life takes her away from urban Manchester and its inner city problems to tranquil mid-Wales. It is to be a clean slate for them both. On her first day at Builth Wells police station, Julie is thrust unexpectedly into the centre of an investigation into a suspicious death in a remote farming community.

Back in Manchester, Stephen Collins is set free from HMP Strangeways.  Bible in hand he makes his way to mid-Wales, the scene of the heinous crime for which he was imprisoned, in order to confront those who had a hand in his incarceration.

The twists and turns of the investigation into solicitor Gareth Watkin’s death force

DS Kite to confront her own demons as well as those of her rural community and, ultimately, to uncover the lengths to which we’ll go to protect our families…

My Review:

This is a plot with many twists and turns. The depths of the historic layers are slowly revealed alongside the introduction of the protagonist, Detective Sergeant Julie Kite and her struggles in both her work and home life. I loved the author’s ability to balance  – and juggle – both, and to keep the reader interested throughout the story. For me the genre of crime fiction can only work if there are false leads, clues that baffle or can give a ‘eureka’ moment. Remember No More does all these.

 The story is told from an omniscient point of view, weighted mostly from the protagonist’s viewpoint and this works, as I have the feeling we will be hearing more from DS Kite. But there is also an insight to the other characters and this adds depth to the them; to their struggles, their loyalties, their place in both the community and their families. The characters are well rounded and it is easy to empathise with some of them – and to recognise the weakness and malevolence in others. 

 The dialogue works well, differentiating the Welsh born characters and contrasting with the accent of Julie Kite and other Northern England characters. The internal dialogue gives greater perception to them all. I liked the slow internal acceptance of the protagonist’s change of life and work situation from Northern England to Wales.

I think one of the great strengths in the author’s writing is the descriptions of the settings. If I can’t picture the world the characters live in, it doesn’t work for me. Jan Newton  bases her book in mid Wales. The details are authentic and give a tangible sense of place. I admired  her ability to bring the sense of place alive. I was immediately drawn in by a very early description: ” the road was hemmed in either side by reeds and grasses, which had been bleached by the winter’s snow and were still untouched by the spring sunshine…”.And later, “the car rattled over a cattle grid and a vista of villages and isolated farms opened up below them as the road hair-pinned to the right, before descending along the edge of a steep valley. the tops of the hills were the pale browns of moorland, but the valley bottoms were already lush with meadows and hedges.” Good stuff!!

If I had any reservations about the story it would be about the relationship between the protagonist and her husband. But this is only because I wanted to know the background of their marriage. Perhaps this is just the author being enigmatic; maybe this is something to be revealed in the next story of DS Julie Kite. 

A couple of last mentions; I love the cover, the image is wonderful, I feel it is the scene that the buzzard sees in the Prologue. Oh, I do like prologues!

 I enjoyed reading Remember No More. It’s an extremely good debut novel and I do hope this is not the last we hear of DS Julie Kite and her collegues. 

This is  a book I have no hesitation in recommending to any reader who enjoys a good strong crime mystery.

I’ve also interviewed Jan. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/2oBcgHY

 BUY LINKS

http://www.honno.co.uk/dangos.php?ISBN=9781909983564

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Remember-No-More-Jan-Newton/dp/190998356X/

https://www.amazon.com/Remember-No-More-Jan-Newton/dp/190998356X/

https://wordery.com/remember-no-more-jan-newton-9781909983564

 jan_newton_allen_raine_winner_2014 sm

ABOUT JAN NEWTON

Jan grew up in Manchester and Derbyshire, spending her formative years on the back of a pony, exploring the hills and moorland around her home.  She lived and worked in London and Buckinghamshire for 19 years until moving to Wales in 2005, where she learnt to speak fluent Welsh. Jan has won several writing competitions, including the Allen Raine Short Story competition, the WI Lady Denman Cup, and the Oriel Davies Gallery competition for nature-writing. She has been published in New Welsh Review.

A WORD FROM JAN NEWTON

I wrote my first novel when I was seven, all about the adventures of a little green one-legged spaceman, who crash-landed his tiny ship in my north Manchester suburb.   We had plenty of adventures, Fred and me, filling fourteen Lancashire Education Committee exercise books and earning me two gold stars in the process.  But when I was eight, a rotund Welsh Mountain Pony by the name of Pixie trotted into my life, and writing was immediately relegated in favour of all things equine. 

It took more years than I care to admit for me to resume my writing career.  In 2005 we moved to gloriously inspiring mid Wales.  In 2009 I stumbled across an Open University creative writing module and the rest, as they say, is history.  After completing my OU degree, I fulfilled a lifetime ambition and enrolled on an MA course at Swansea University.  The whole experience was magical.  It was like being taken by the hand and led back to a place where my imagination could run riot.

I began by writing short stories, which I love, but I always feel disappointed when I have to say goodbye to my characters so soon, and so the next challenge was to attempt a novel.   It’s been a fantastic experience, from its shaky start in a brand new exercise book, but now, finally, I have my second novel.  I still have a horse – this one’s been with me for over twenty years – but these days I seem to be able to allow the two obsessions – books and horses – to run side by side.

Twitter:  @janmaesygroes

Blog:  https://jannewton.wordpress.com

Website:  www.jannewton.net

 GIVEAWAY

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4be03017222/?

jan

 

 

 

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with AnneMarie Brear #MondayBlogs

Over the next few months I’ll be chatting with authors who, like me, write Family Sagas, (#familysaga) a genre that can cover many countries, years  and cultures.I am thrilled that so many excellent writers have agreed to meet here with me. I’m sure you’ll find them as fascinating as I do. All I can say is watch this space. Your TBR list of books will be toppling over!!

 

anne marie brear

 

Welcome AnneMarie, lovely to have you here today.

 Good to be here, Judith

Could you start by telling us what literary pilgrimages have you gone on or would like to go on, please?

This summer I would like to go to Haworth and visit the Bronte museum.

What is the first book that made you cry?

When I was a child living in Australia, I read a book about a man and his dog walking the roads in the outback looking for work. I remember at one stage they get knocked over and the man gets taken to hospital and the dog is left to roam the roads looking for him. The man recovered and went looking for his dog. One night the man is sitting by a camp fire and thinking his dog is gone, when suddenly the dog sees the campfire and knows it is his master. I cried buckets! I wish I could find that book again.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Writing energises me – promoting exhausts me!

Grace's-Courage-final

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

AnneMarie Brear is my pseudonym. It’s my maiden name.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I write the stories that are in my head to tell. They might not be the ‘in demand’ genre, or the hottest new thing on the market, but they are stories I wanted to tell. Stories that I’m proud of and hope readers enjoy.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I am friends with a great number of authors (bestsellers and new writers), due to being a member of various organisations such as Romantic Novelist Association and Romance Writers of Australia. I find mixing with other authors help me know the publishing industry better, and my critique group have for years helped me refine my stories into sellable books.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Each book of mine stands on its own. However, Kitty McKenzie has a sequel, Kitty McKenzie’s Land, and I’m currently writing a third book connected to it about Kitty’s grandchildren.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

To be patient. I signed with a few very small publishers at the beginning and it was a waste of my time. Those publisher didn’t last long. But I did learn a lot. I learned how to work with an editor and how the publishing process works.

 

WDH (1)

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

The publishing of my first book taught me to not write such long stories. I didn’t need to write over 100k words and to do so was a little indulgent.

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?

It’s probably Nicola’s Virtue. It’s a great story. It’s set in Australia in the 1860s and about a governess who left Britain and travelled to Australia to seek work, but on arriving found it very difficult to find work as governess. I based that story on real letters sent by governesses sent back to Britain. Miss Maria Rye, the founder of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society started the scheme to send women out to British colonies to work.

Nicola's-Virtue-final (1)

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Only the current book I’m writing now. Thankfully, all my older books are published and available for sale, and my new books are in the process of being released.

What does literary success look like to you?

Being able to write for a living. I’ve not achieved that yet but I it’s my dream.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I have researched my eras (Victorian and Edwardian/WWI) for years. So each book is easier for me to write. However, I do more research as I write each novel, because each novel is different and requires different specific knowledge. My sagas tend to have working class and high middle class involved, so I need to research how country houses are run, as well as, a coal mine or farm. I need to create villages and make them real for the era my book is set. My recent books have been set in WWI, so I have done a lot of research about the war and the years of 1914-1918. I love research, so it is no hardship for me to get involved in it.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I like traditional names. I use genealogy a lot. Finding census records is now a lot easier, and I have also researched my family tree so I can see the names of those times. It’s very helpful.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes, I do read all reviews. The bad ones, which so far are few, thankfully, hurt me, but I can’t let it get me down. The good ones make me smile and feel happy that others have enjoyed my stories too.

What was your hardest scene to write?

A death scene. Actually all death scenes are hard. But one in particular in Kitty McKenzie’s Land was sad to write.

 

McKenzie (1) (1)

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

My day job!

What is your favourite childhood book?

Enid Blyton – The Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair. But also The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell.

Does your family support your career as a writer?

Yes, my husband supports me very much, as do the rest of my family and friends.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

I work full time in a day job, so my writing must fit around that and my family. It can take from 8-12 months to write a historical novel.

Links to AnneMarie:

http://www.annemariebrear.com

http://annemariebrear.blogspot.com

https://www.facebook.com/annemariebrear/

Twitter @annemariebrear

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with Jenny Lloyd #MondayBlogs

Over the next few months I’ll be chatting with authors who, like me, write Family Sagas, (#familysaga) a genre that can cover many countries, years  and cultures.I am thrilled that so many excellent writers have agreed to meet here with me. I’m sure you’ll find them as fascinating as I do. All I can say is watch this space. Your TBR list of books will be toppling over!!

 

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Hi, Jenny, Lovely to see you here today

Thank you for inviting me to this interview, Judith. The questions you’ve asked have given me reason to reflect upon my writing life and the why and how I write what I do. It has been a challenging and enlightening exercise which I have thoroughly enjoyed!

What made you decide to write in your genre?

When I began researching my family history and discovered the real-life stories of my ancestors. Discovering the tragedies in the lives of my grandmother, and her grandmother, set me on a journey to find out why and how such things could happen. Researching the religious and social norms of the times made me realise just how absent were the rights of women and how entrenched were the inequalities and double standards. There were no support systems, no safety nets, and society and its institutions served to reinforce traditional attitudes and beliefs that women were both a dangerous temptation to men and inferior to men. Women were always to blame in cases of sexual assault and rape, and women had to be controlled and contained within a life constrained by familial and marital duty. Across Britain, women who attempted to see their assailants prosecuted were openly jeered, mocked and humiliated by courtrooms of men. It is a disgrace that women were ever treated thus. I remember that time, back in the eighties, when they were closing all the old mental asylums. Aged women were coming out who had spent their entire adult lives in mental institutions. Some had been sent there in their teens for having got themselves pregnant out of wedlock. It was shocking. Inequalities applied to all women, but in isolated, rural communities such as in Wales, influenced by the rigid, non-conformist, hell-fire preachers of the time, the expectations placed on women to uphold ideals of purity were equal to the punishment if they were discovered to have fallen short. I have no doubt that many grew up in loving families, married loving husbands and lived contented lives in these idyllic surroundings; but for those who were failed by families, lovers, or husbands, it was a very different outcome. My grandmother had a terrible life, just terrible.

What other authors of your genre are you connected/friends with, and do they help you become a better writer in any way?

I do read a lot of books by other historical authors, regardless of whether I am socially connected with them. Some are awesome, are the most excellent of writers, and fill me with aspiration and ambition to improve.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I think that to sustain the amount of energy needed to write a full-length novel you must feel passionate about your subject. Personally, I write from a sense of outrage at the cruelties and injustices which have sprung from socially sanctioned inequality. Wherever there is inequality, there will always be those who will use that imbalance of power to their own ends, whether that be in a marriage, a community, or society as a whole. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to feel that strongly – it fuels the fire and underlies my feeling that I must write to the best of my ability to do the subject justice. If I thought I failed to do that, I would give up writing and leave the job to someone else.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I don’t write in a particular style for the sake of originality. As a reader, I am slightly put off if I feel the author is trying to be original either in their choice of subject matter or in the portrayal of their characters. Originality, in that sense, can be at the expense of authenticity, I think. I don’t know about originality, but I am quite particular in how I like to tell a story, i.e. I tend towards more than one point of view because that gives a more rounded, unbiased story, I hope. As in Leap the Wild Water, I thought it essential to know Morgan’s side of things, too; that was all part of illuminating the ‘how and why’ such things can happen. And I like to twist things up, not for the sake of it, but for instance, though Megan has her own voice in the narrative, we learn a great deal about Megan through Morgan’s eyes, and vice versa – their private thoughts and feelings about each other are particularly revealing. I put a great deal of thought into viewpoint and who will be telling which aspect of the story, before I begin. I think if someone told me I must write in a different style to that which is very much my own in order to ‘deliver to readers what they want’, I would be totally gutted. Too many novels are written to a ‘formula’ which has obviously proved, at some point in the past, to have made for a ‘popular’ novel. There has been a noticeable increase in this type of novel in recent years, so I guess agents and publishers believe it is what the reading public wants but it isn’t what this reader wants, and it isn’t the kind of novel I want to write.

 

leap-the-wild-water

I have to say here, this is the first book I read of yours; I loved it.http://amzn.to/2lkjDFg

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

Let’s face it, I do take my readers on an emotional roller-coaster. They’re going to love some characters, despise others. They’re going to feel angry, exasperated, and outraged at the things some of these characters get up to. They’re going to cry. They’re going to laugh too, I hope; in short, all the emotions I feel when I’m writing. I do make demands on my readers but I am always careful not to depict anything in a gratuitous or graphic way.

Do you want each book to stand-alone or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’ll bow to the judgement of one of my readers on this one, who told me he’d read the last one, Anywhere the Wind Blows, without having read the first two books and though he really enjoyed it, he went on to say he’d now read all three and felt they should definitely be read in the order they were written!

wind-blows

http://amzn.to/2lkDG6J

 

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

A trunkful of my earlier attempts. Until Leap the Wild Water I hadn’t managed to complete a single full-length novel.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

I grew up with six brothers. Although not one of the characters in my books is remotely like any of my brothers, I do feel that growing up with them has offered me some valuable insights into the male psyche. Morgan, the main male character in Leap the Wild Water, is very much Welsh and very much a man of his time and place. I found his character easier to write than Megan’s, at times.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Right now, I am coming to the end of a few months of research in preparation for the next book. The next one will have a whole new set of characters and will be set in an earlier time, and across a wider social stratum, so I’m beginning again from scratch. I did a lot of research before I began writing the Megan Jones trilogy. A vast amount doesn’t get used but it all adds to my understanding and portrayal of the domestic, social and geographical contexts in which those people had to live out their lives. I research anything and everything which helps me do that. There are so many old documents, journals etc., available online now, it is a social historian’s dream.

How do you select the names of your characters?

Sometimes, they may be given the name of an ancestor – Morgan is an old Welsh family name going back many generations. Often, though, a character’s name will have a deeper meaning. Megan’s mother, Esther, gives Megan’s baby the name of Fortune. Not only did she rob Megan of her child but of the opportunity to name her. That one act alone said so much about Esther and her attitude to and relationship with her daughter. Esther named the child Fortune ‘because that is what she will cost us, one way or another’. That was all Esther could see. Fear of public shame and loss of reputation blinded her to everything else. She quite literally throws away a fortune in the form of her own beautiful granddaughter.

What was your hardest scene to write?

Without a doubt, the scene when Megan realises her baby has been taken. To do that justice, I had to ‘become’ Megan while writing it, get right there inside her head and heart. Even now, recalling it, it still has the power to move me to tears. A young mother who read Leap the Wild Water asked me if what happened to Megan had happened to me because the scene seemed so real she felt I must have experienced the same. I haven’t, except through Megan.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Both. When I am writing the first draft I’m flying. It is the most exhilarating experience, ever. It is only after finishing subsequent drafts and publication that exhaustion sets in and I honestly have to walk away from writing for a few months.

What would be the advice you would give to your younger writing self?

Believe in yourself, write for the love of it, and don’t allow your self-belief, hopes and dreams to be undermined or destroyed by selfish, insecure people. People who really care about you would not place obstacles in your way.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

john-waterhouse

I have this reproduction of ‘Boreas’ by John William Waterhouse hanging above my writing desk. I first came across it not long after I’d finished the first draft of Leap the Wild Water. I was astounded when I saw it because it was so close to my vision of Megan picking the wild daffodils on the hill above Carregwyn. It was as if the painter had had the same vision as me, but a hundred years before me. I had to buy it. Only when I’d finished the last book in the trilogy did I realise that the painting represents the entire trilogy – there is Megan amid the daffodils (Leap the Wild Water) and in the back-ground there is a raven flying (The Calling of the Raven) and of course, the subject of the painting is the north wind (Anywhere the Wind Blows). Every time I look at this picture it reminds me of the power of the subconscious, and in my moments of self-doubt it serves to remind me that I once thought myself incapable of writing just one novel, let alone three.

raven

http://amzn.to/2lRQH4z

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Every book, text book or fiction, that I have read. My text-books have educated me and through reading novels I have learned how to go about writing one.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I didn’t write Leap the Wild Water until I was in my fifties so I’ve always had to do other work and fit my writing around that. I left home, and school, within a month of my fifteenth birthday. I was desperately unhappy and thought running away would fix things. It didn’t. My first job was with Laura Ashley, making those beautiful, Edwardian style dresses and blouses with all the pin-tucks and lace. I was a ‘mother’s help’ for a wealthy couple in London, for a time. We lived in an enormous, luxurious flat over the King’s Road. That introduced me to a very different life from that of growing up on a farm in Wales! It was great while it lasted but when the job ended, I decided to leave London as the ‘hiraeth’ for my beloved Wales had become overwhelming. For most of my life, my work has involved textiles, making clothes or furnishings. I trained as an upholsterer, too. None of it, really, what I most wanted to do but drifted into and did to pay the mortgage and the bills, as we do. As the years went by, my frustration grew until I twigged that my hopes and dreams were as important as anyone else’s. From that day on, I began to dedicate every spare moment I could to writing. Even while working, I’d be writing. I’d keep a notebook beside me all the time, hand-stitching curtains while pausing to write the stories unreeling in my head. And I began to try to make up for all those years of education lost through leaving school so young, reading everything I could lay my hands on and discovering those subjects which most fascinated me – social history and social psychology, subjects which have greatly informed my writing.

Have you ever had reader’s block?

What’s that?! Did you mean writer’s block? If the latter, only when I am in between novels. I am capable of devoting vast quantities of energy into not beginning a new novel, to the point where I must begin or go insane. Once begun, the main reasons I don’t get writer’s block are that the characters are more in charge than I am, and I always end a writing session with an unfinished scene so I’m always looking forward to what happens next.

Has there been any author’s work you disliked at first but grew into?

Nope. For me, reading fiction is an escape. I know within the first chapter of a book whether I’m going to love it. It works for me from the off or it doesn’t work at all. There are so many books I want to read, so many things I have still to learn, life is too short to spend it reading anything which does not transport, inspire or instruct me.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

What do you think is the best way to market your books?

Somebody tell me the answer to that one, please!

 (Laughing! Yes, please do, someone.)

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I am incredibly lucky in that I have never had a bad review (not when I last looked, anyway!) and I am eternally grateful for every one of the reviews I’ve received. I don’t ask for them or expect them, so it is an absolute delight when I get one. I regard it as an act of pure generosity when people take the time and thought to write one. Those reviews have encouraged me more than anything else to keep putting my stories out there.

Would you like to talk about your latest book here?

I most enjoy portraying the darker side of human nature. The worst characters fascinate and horrify me in equal measure, and none more so than the malicious gossip, Mary Williams, who really comes into her own in Anywhere the Wind Blows. Generally, most of my characters redeem themselves at some point but Mary wholly fails to do so. She is an envious and bitter woman without boundaries or conscience when spreading scandal and rumour, and breath-taking in her ability to say anything, regardless of truth, to destroy those she envies and resents. And isn’t it always the best people, the nicest people, who are the targets of the Marys of this world? Unfortunately for Megan and her brother Morgan, they find themselves the targets of Mary’s vindictive spleen during the aftermath of Eli’s shocking death. Mary has made trouble for Megan in the past but in Anywhere the Wind Blows, when love and a chance of lasting happiness arrives with Cai Traherne, Megan is to discover just how dangerous an adversary Mary is. I won’t say how it turns out!

Please supply links to all your social media including websites.

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

https://jennylloydwriter.wordpress.com/