My Review of Queen of Trial and Sorrow by Susan Appleyard #RBRT #FridayReads

Queen of Trial and Sorrow by [Appleyard, Susan]

 

I was given this book by the author as  a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in exchange for a fair review.

 I gave Queen of Trial and Sorrow  4* out of 5*

 Book Description:

A B.R.A.G. Medallion winner, this is the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of King Edward IV and the mother of the Princes in the Tower. As an impoverished widow, she was wooed and won by the handsome young king and believed her dreams had come true. But she was soon swept up in the War of the Roses, enduring hardship and danger as her husband struggled to keep his throne. When he died Elizabeth was unable to protect her family against the ruthless ambitions of the man he trusted above all others. It was the king’s brothers, the unstable Duke of Clarence and the loyal Duke of Gloucester, who would prove to be Elizabeth’s most dangerous enemies.

My Review:

 I really liked this novel. I like the author’s style of writing; told in first person point of view from Edward IV’s wife, Elizabeth, it is almost as though she is holding a one-way conversation with the reader. Although I found it a compact and exacting read that took a lot of concentration (I am a very slow reader) I enjoyed this interpretation of  Elizabeth Woodville’s life in Queen of Trial and Sorrow.  Every emotion resonates through each chapter and throughout all the years that we are following her; the happiness, the sadness, the fears and apprehensions. The main plot of her time, before, during  and after the Court years is threaded through with subplots of intrigues and politics.

There is no doubt whatsoever that an enormous amount of research has preceded the writing of this book; it’s a fascinating account of the era.

 The characters are multi-layered and some were ever-changing as time went by depending on the intrigues and striving for personal gains.  Both those characters who are portrayed as good and those shown as wickedly self serving are plausible; their actions believable – if at times inconceivably cruel or dangerous.

 The dialogue was written as I imagined was spoken at the time; the syntax and the language rang true to that period for me. And it was easy to follow which character was speaking even without the dialogue tags.

 The descriptions of the settings; the buildings and the places the characters moved around in, the clothes, the ceremonies were all very evocative. The only  problem  I had was that sometimes I felt these descriptions were a little laboured and ‘heavy’. I would have preferred a lighter touch; I thought these sections slowed the story down

However, this is a very small objection and I’m sure anyone who loves to read historical  novels will love Queen of Trial and Sorrow . I have no hesitation at all in recommended this book by Susan Appleyard

Buying links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2qGE6EB

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2pGiV77

 

 

 

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with Jane McCulloch #MondayBlogs

 Over the last few months and into July 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!!

jane mcculloch headshot

Welcome Jane, thank you for being here today.

 Thank you for the chance to chat here, Judith

Tell us, about your writing; does writing energise or exhaust you?                                                                                    

Both!

What are common traps for aspiring writers?  

To think it is easy!

Does a big ego help or hurt writers? 

No, but confidence helps.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?                         Perhaps a bit of both.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?                No.  Emotions and imagination are the tools you can’t do without.

Full Circle: Volume 3 (Three Lives Trilogy)

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

I know several, but one writer in particular has helped me and become my mentor. (Stephen Carver)

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?                                                         

Both – in the family saga there was a link between each of the three books.  My next book stands on its own.

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

Re-write and don’t be afraid of making major changes or cuts.

Triangles in Squares (Three Lives Trilogy Book 2)

What is the first book that made you cry?                                                                                  Jane Eyre – the death of Helen Burns.

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

I came to writing fiction very late after a career of writing and directing in the theatre – so it was difficult to change to fiction.  Once the first book was published I knew I was on the right lines.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?                                                             Paid advice (TLC) 

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

When reading “The Forsyte Saga” and quickly moved into that world.

Parallel Lines: Book One of the Three Lives Trilogy

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?  

A great deal – but I have been lucky enough to meet some fascinating people.  However –  general observation of people around you is vital to building characters.

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

At this moment, only one.

What does literary success look like to you?        

Interest and appreciation from readers.

What’s the best way to market your books?   

I wish I knew.  I’m hopeless.

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

If the book has a specific background I do a great deal research.  If it from my imagination I don’t need to – except to check facts.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?                                                       Anything creative has a spiritual element.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?           I’m never quite sure I have got into the male head!

How many hours a day do you write?                                                                                           This varies – depending on how the writing is going.

How do you select the names of your  characters?                                                                  This is something I take great trouble with and enjoy.  I try and make the name fit the character.

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

So far I have been lucky and had mainly good reviews.  I try to be fair and if a bad review is valid I want to learn from it.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will   find?                        

Maybe only recognition of traits in a character that a few people will see.

What was your hardest scene to write?    

I think those that were nearest to me emotionally, i.e. someone dying in the last book of the Trilogy.

What is your favourite childhood book?                                                                                      

A little unknown book called “Groundsel and Necklaces” written and illustrated by Cicely Mary Barker.  It still moves me to tears.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?                                                         Making an actual start.  Once the first paragraph is written, I’m off.

Does your family support your career as a writer?  

Yes they do, in that they take an interest.

How long on average does it take you to write a  book?                                                          It really depends on the sort of book but on average about 6 months.

Jane has been quite conservative with her answers so I thought I would add  a little more about her here:

Since leaving the Central School of Speech and Drama – a long time ago – I have worked as a writer, playwright, librettist – and theatre and opera director.
After a long association with London’s famous Old Vic Theatre I formed a company of my own, The English Chamber Theatre. Dame Judi Dench is the President.
Since its formation I have written, devised and directed over thirty works – many of them biographical in content.-and because of the nature of chamber work they had small casts and I have been lucky enough to have worked with some of our greatest actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Fenella Fielding, James Bolam, Timothy West and many others.
In 2005 I moved from theatre to opera directing and for the company Opera UK I wrote several English versions of the librettos including ‘The Merry Widow’, ‘Carmen’ and ‘La Traviata’.
I also wrote the libretto for an Easter Oratorio ‘The People’s Passion’ which was televised for BBC1 with Jessye Norman and Sir Thomas Allen heading the cast.
I wrote an original opera for children ‘Hello Mr Darwin’ and a Christmas carol, ‘This Christmastide’ which was sung first by Jessye Norman and has since become very popular both in the States and the UK.
My writing work also includes, work for the radio, television and recording studio.
Now I seem to be concentrating on novels. My first, ‘Parallel Lines’ was published in January 2015. It is the first in a family saga trilogy. The second book, ‘Triangles in Squares will be published later this year. The last in the trilogy, ‘Full Circle’ will be published in 2016.

And a teasing taster of Jane’s new book to come; publishing date to follow soon

Image may contain: 2 people, text and close-up

Find Jane here: http://amzn.to/2pLqN8O

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2pjSZOn

Twitter: http://bit.ly/2oYdopG

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today With Caroline Warfield#MondayBlogs

Over the last couple of months I’ve been 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 and I’ll be continuing into July. 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!!

Carol Roddy - Author

Welcome Caroline, and thank you for being here today.

Thank you for interviewing me, Judith.

Firstly, please tell us how came to write a family sagas?

I didn’t set out to do that at first. When I wrote my first historical romance I created four friends, envisioning boyhood backstory for them. Once I created my first characters and began to write, however, their web of family and friends grew quickly. When I finished the four books I had planned for my Dangerous series, there was a brief moment in which I wondered what I would do next. Characters from all four books, the children and relatives of my heroes and heroines began clamoring to have their stories told. They are standing in line with little patience.

The obvious next question is, do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?

It is a bit of both. They speak up in snatches and then go elusive on me. I often envision the ending first, but I have to figure out each main characters turning point point, that spot in the center of the book where they decide to make a change that impacts the entire rest of the story. James Scott Bell calls that the “mirror moment.” Usually once I get that the characters and I are on good enough terms that the story picks up speed, as if they say, “Ah, you understand me now. Let’s tell this story.”

Is your next series open-ended do you have a pre-set series arc?

My series title is Children of Empire, and all the books will be set just before or in the early years of Victoria’s reign.  Long term it is open ended, but I envision sets of three with interrelated series arcs. The first set involves three cousins. The Reluctant Wife is Book 2 of that set. Their lives have been torn apart by lies and deceit (it won’t suprise anyone that a woman was involved) and they have been driven to the far reaches of the empire. Over the course of three books they struggle to find their way home. I mean that literally in some cases and metaphorically as well. The cousins all appeared first as boys in my holiday novella, A Dangerous Nativity. The sons and daughter of the hero and heroine of my first book Dangerous Works are beginning to speak loudly now, asking for their arc to be next. I understand they are all scholars of some sort. At least one is an archaeologist and another wishes to study the plant life in far off Australia.  Time will tell what we decide to do.

3covers

What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

I had a harsh review recently, that gave me pause. Each of my books is also a standalone romance. I do not write particularly explicit scenes, but my belief is that in fictional romance as well as life, sex happens, it binds people together. I try to focus my sensual scenes on relationship and emotion, and generally those scenes occur late in the book, deep into the relationship. One book is an exception.  An impulsive indulgence occurs early in Dangerous Weakness because my goal with the hero (who in the other books was always in perfect control) was to have him fail, require him to seek forgiveness, and end with him begging for help. The reviewer couldn’t make it past the rather abrupt sexual episode and told me so in no uncertain terms. I think authors of romance are often between a rock and a hard place on this subject. Too much? too little?  Even attempts to add heat ratings fall flat, because peoples comfort levels differ. I’m still chewing on that one.

What has been the best compliment?

I love to hear that the story surprised them, that twists were unexpected, that the unusual setting delighted. Best of all I like to hear, “I can’t wait to read the next one.”

What do you like best about this next book?

The Reluctant Wife begins in India and ends in England; the center is a journey. I love journeys. The hero, a clueless male with more honor than sense, never stops trying to do the right thing, even if he occasionally gets confused about what that is. The heroine is a courageous wounded duck with more love bottled up than she finds comfortable. They fall in love in spite of themselves and have to figure out how to make a life together. My favorite character, however, is the hero’s daughter, Meghal, a precocious and intrepid six year old who has spent her  whole life in a small village in Bengal, but who isn’t fazed  by  steamships, camels, wealthy cousins, or villainous arsonists. She believes family matters most and makes sure her father knows it too. One of my beta readers has already said she can’t wait for Meghal’s story. That one will happen around 1850. Hmm—another voice calling for a story.

TheReluctantWife_850

Have you thought about joining with another author to write a book?

If you mean to write a single title novel? No. I have participated in anthologies, however. In fact, my novella “Lord Edmund’s Dilemma,” a sweet Regency, will be in A Holiday in Bath, which comes out May 9. With my friends the Bluestocking Belles, I am part of an annual holiday anthology. A Dangerous Nativity was in one of them.

What do your friends and family think of your writing?

My husband is delighted to see me happy and productive and home. Some folks who knew me as a technology manager are astounded. Some of my cousins actually read the books and share them with people. That tickles me. Some, of course, ignore me, and that’s fine. Historical romance isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Do you write alone or in public?

Alone.  My office has windows all around so I can stare out at trees and birds.

Music or silence?

Music. Each book has its own mood. This one lent itself to movie sound tracks. I listened to a lot of Titanic, Braveheart, and The Last of The Mohicans.

Do you set goals?

I try for 1-2000 words a day first thing in the morning. it is hard to keep to it when I’m promoting a new release.

What comes next?

My next book, Holiday in Bath.  A Holiday in Bath (Timeless Regency Collection Book 7)

The Unexpected Wife is due for October release.

Find Caroline here:

Website http://www.carolinewarfield.com/

Amazon Author http://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Warfield/e/B00N9PZZZS/

Good Reads http://bit.ly/1C5blTm

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/carolinewarfield7

Twitter @CaroWarfield

Email warfieldcaro@gmail.com

 

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.

9780993332418

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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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?

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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.

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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/

 

 

 

 

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today With Jan Ruth #authors

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 Jan, lovely to chat with you today.

 Good to be here, Judith

May I start with asking you what process did you go through to get your books published?

This is an enormous question but a good one to start with! My first novel – written in 1986 – attracted the attention of an agent working for Andrew Mann Ltd. Anne Dewe was trying to set up her own company, Love Stories Ltd. It was a project aiming to champion those books of substance which contained a romantic element but were perhaps directed towards the more mature reader and consistently fell through the net in traditional publishing. Sadly, the project failed to get the right financial backing. Many years later my second novel, Wild Water, was taken on by Jane Judd, literary agent. Judd was a huge inspiration, but the book failed to find the right niche with a publisher. It didn’t fall into a specific category and narrated mostly from the male viewpoint, it was considered out of genre for most publishers and too much of a risk.

Amazon changed the face of the industry with the advent of self-publishing; opening up the market for readers to decide the fate of those previously spurned novels. I went on to successfully publish several works of fiction and short story collections myself, along with the professional services of a freelance editor, and a bespoke cover designer. Then in 2014, I received an offer to re-publish all of my material, which at the time consisted of 7 novels. I signed these to Accent Press, thinking a small publisher with a good reputation would hopefully increase sales and visibility for me. This didn’t happen and I was very disappointed in the quality of material produced and the lack of sales and marketing. Unfortunately, 2015 was a negative time for me, but with help from the Alliance of Independent Authors – who negotiated full global rights to be reinstated – I’ve happily returned to the freedom of independent publishing.

My books are available globally through Amazon as ebooks or paperbacks and locally, across all North Wales libraries and at Hinton’s of Conwy bookshop. I’m happier keeping the whole process in my control and since all my material is based in North Wales, concentration on the local aspect suits me very well.

 

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What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your genre, that isn’t so?

I probably write closest to the romance genre, but there are huge misconceptions about this type of novel. I think it possibly stems from memories of the old fashioned type of Mills & Boon to the other extreme, that of Fifty Shades. The presumption that the romance genre is either hearts and flowers or a dirty book with handcuffs featuring every other page, is common. There’s also a certain amount of disdain.

Fiction which does not fall neatly into a pigeon hole has always been the most difficult to define. In the old days such books wouldn’t be allowed shelf space if they didn’t slot immediately into a commercial list. But genre has become blurred and blended. Publishers hate this, but as an independent it’s possible to write the book that begs to be written without the restrictions placed on authors by agents and publishers.

I’ve been described as a combination of literary-contemporary-romantic-comedy-rural-realism-family-saga; oh, and with an occasional criminal twist and a lot of the time, written from the male viewpoint. No question my books are Contemporary. Family and Realism; these two must surely go hand-in-hand. So, although you’ll discover plenty of escapism, I hope you’ll also be able to relate to my characters as they stumble through a minefield of relationships. This is why I hesitate to use the word romance. It’s a misunderstood and mistreated genre in the literary world. If romance says young, fluffy and something to avoid, maybe my novels will change your mind since many of my central characters are in their forties and fifties. Grown-up love is rather different, and this is where I try to bring that sense of realism into play without compromising the escapism.

Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two?  Summarise your writing process.

I used to make a crazy amount of notes and generally feel stressed about the process. Now, I find it develops better by instinct and intuition. I always know how it want it to end and how I want the characters to develop. If I over-plot, the writing becomes too stilted. I like to discover emotions and motivations along with the character, and I can’t do that if it’s all predetermined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What inspires you?

Landscapes, music, horses, history, the complexities of people’s lives and how the future is shaped by what’s gone before.

The only historical event I can remember with any accuracy is good old 1066 and The Battle of Hastings. At school I was hopeless at dates, in fact anything to do with numbers, but I used to love history because sooner or later it usually involved writing essays. Now though, I suspect there may be more to it. The longer I live and the more places I visit in the world, the more connected I feel to my roots, or more specifically my spiritual home, Snowdonia.

Twenty years ago we moved from Cheshire to North Wales. Although Cheshire has its history and pretty rural surroundings aplenty, Wales is far more extreme in both aspects. The castles and the rugged hillsides strewn with stone settlements, druid circles and Roman roads bring out the historical muse in me. To think that I am treading the same path as someone who lived in the Iron Age, is both fascinating and humbling. Snowdonia kick-started my stalled obsession with writing in a very positive way.

 

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I love the way ancient history here is often blurred by myths and legends, shape-shifters and superstitions. Rich then, in history and romance and easy enough to blend both, with a touch of fantasy and suspense. Especially so when the winter sun is low in the sky, sending out early shadows to creep across the crooked stones of derelict homesteads and graves. And late sunsets in summer, when the scudding clouds floating in a fiery sky take on the shape of dragons and rearing horses. Or maybe, when the druid’s circle is shrouded in mist and… can you hear something? Like the clink of marching armour and the clash of swords…there’s something moving out there, or is it just my imagination?

So although I write contemporary fiction, I’m very much inspired by a historical landscape.

What are some day jobs that you have held?  If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.

Every single job I’ve ever had has been useful from a writerly or research point of view. Two well known high street stores in particular (both of which I loathed working in), supplied endless fodder for Kate’s despised job in Silver Rain. I loved being able to get my own back and behave as I’d really wanted to do all those years ago – through the character!

The most influential has to be estate agency. I worked for many years in property, and this knowledge formed the base for my central character in the Wild Water series, Jack Redman. I wanted to create a main character who didn’t have an especially glamorous job, an anti-hero, a lovable hapless male who kept getting it wrong.

I worked in a pharmacy for a while (I’m saving that one!) and then a short stint at home caring, which gave me valuable insight into a tough job, something I discovered I couldn’t do… but the character of Linda in White Horizon, took on these memories in her own way, warts and all. This area of personal knowledge created a believable background for her leap into nursing.

And then the horses. A lifetime of being around horses and once upon a long time ago – a pony trek leader – has allowed me to develop an equine series which is very much rooted in over forty years worth of experience around riding schools. The characters I’ve met along the way in this industry have been the most incredible mix of extremes, from gypsies to rich racehorse owners – collectively, a wonderful example of English diversity and eccentricity.

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

I do read them. I think there’s sometimes rather too much emphasis placed on them, and then they become too powerful. Some new authors use them as validation or a yardstick to see if they’ve got something right, but the best place to seek this sort of advice is well before the book is published. Reviews on Amazon or Goodreads represent opinions of the general public and it’s as well to be prepared for rejection, or simply the fact that not all readers will connect to your novel, no matter how technically perfect it may be. I think overall, it’s a poor system, open to much manipulation and best taken with a big pinch of salt.

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What do your plans for future projects include?

I’m currently half-way through Strawberry Sky, which is the third part of the equine series. After this I do have a Christmas novella partly planned out in as much as it documents my year with a publisher. It follows the story of an accountant who is sacked for writing a novel at work. It will be mostly funny but there is a dark thread in there as well, which is my trademark! I do like to mix dark humour with drama. And I’d like to move into non-fiction – I have a real hankering to write a book of local walks with lots of historical detail and photography.   

Thank you for being here today, Jan. Please let us know how we can discover more about you and your books.

website: including all book links & blog: http://janruth.com/

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JanRuthAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JanRuthAuthor

amazon author page: http://Author.to/Ruth 

That’s all for now, folks. Next week I’ll be chatting to Terry Tyler: http://amzn.to/2jTfp3i. , a prolific Indie writer and one of my favourite authors.

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected!#MondayBlogs

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Well, yes.looking back down the years and now we no longer let the holiday apartment attached to our house, I know it was worth it. We loved letting, despite the unexpected. It  brought us many friends; visitors who returned year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We loved seeing them again. And we were fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there were downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the Sports Fanatic.

Before I go any further I think I should mention that although we live along a quiet lane we are only a five minute walk to the village. In the centre is the local Co-op. The frontage is very old fashioned; it’s an old building. For years there’s has been talk of building a new store on the outskirts  (actually about five hundred metres behind the existing one, on the edge of common land) but nothing has come of it. In winter the place trundles sleepily along; goods not available because of snow somewhere up country.  the odd garbled message over the tannoy that everyone ignores, staff huddled in corners exchanging local gossip, wandering around, trying not to make eye contact in case you want to ask them something. It’s a place to meet up with local people who haven’t been visible all summer due to being too busy keeping holiday visitors entertained.

Which, as an aside, reminds me of a time I asked Husband to go and buy a red cabbage from the Co-op.

After half an hour he returns, empty handed and looking stunned.

No red cabbage?’ I enquire.

‘No, couldn’t find one. Asked an assistant. She said cabbages were on the veg stall and there  was red food colouring in the baking section.’ He shook his head. ‘You couldn’t make it up!’

In summer the place comes alive: more than one assistant on the tills, lots of bustle, filling up shelves,assistants eager to help. Lots of happy visitors always glad for a natter, which inevitable ends with the comment,”you are so lucky to live here.’

I don’t argue… we are.

The visitors! (Should add here there is a sign asking customers not to shop in their nightwear) Apparently beach wear is acceptable. Nowhere else have I seen people shop half undressed: men in shorts (even Speedos … don’t think too long on that image; not nice mostly), bare chests and nothing on their feet, accompanied by shoals of similarly dressed and bare-footed children.  All very  jolly… until someone runs over toes with a trolley. Or they step in something.

None of this, by the way, has anything at all to do with the Sports Fanatic.

The couple arrived late one Saturday evening. The man struggled out of the car and walked, wincing, slowly along the drive, using two sticks, irritated-looking wife marching in front of him.

‘He’s sprained his ankle,’ she said, tilting her head towards him and without introducing herself. ‘happened yesterday. I came home from work and there he was, lying on the settee, bandaged up. Apparently,’ she stressed the word, ‘apparently our neighbour took him to hospital.’

‘Good of him,’ her husband said. ‘Nice chap.’

Wife snorted. ‘Fine start to our week,’ she said.

‘Mrs Morris?’ I asked. I knew they were down for a family reunion. Her family reunion.

She ignored me. ‘This way, is it?’ Pointing towards the apartment door and stomping off.

‘She’s a bit cross,’ her husband offered. Struggling with sticks he held his hand out to Husband and shook it. ‘I’m Simon,’he said, ‘you got Sky Sports in there?’

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The following day it was the the reunion. The husband apparently had hardly moved from the settee in the living room of the apartment. 

Mrs Morris was no less cross than before. ‘He’ll have to stay here,’ she said. ‘he says he’s in a lot of pain and can hardly stand.’ She stared at Husband. ‘I’ll be out all day. Would  you go in and see if he’s okay every now and then, perhaps give him a cup of tea. I’ve left sandwiches on the coffee table for his lunch.It really is a nuisance.’

Husband was clenching jaw, the ears were giving off warning signs..

‘It’s fine,’I said, hurriedly. ‘Don’t worry.’

Half an hour after she’d driven off Husband went in to the apartment ‘ I can’t find him, he said.

‘In the loo?’I offered.

‘No! Anyhow, he’s not supposed to be able to move around at all.’

The implications of that suddenly struck us.

‘I’m not bloody clearing up after him if anything happens,’ Husband says.

I don’t answer but I knew it wouldn’t be me, either.

We searched around the apartment, then the garden.

‘He won’t be out here,’I said. ‘He can’t walk.

Just then Mr Morris came running around the corner of the house, a pack of six cans of pale ale in his arms.

We stood and looked at one another

Then, without an ounce of shame, he  said, ‘can’t stand her family. Anyway, there’s loads of sport on the telly I don’t want to miss.’

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And with that he grinned, walked past us and into the apartment.

Not quite sure what happened the rest of the week but Mrs Morris left on the Friday and the last we saw of Mr Morris was him trudging off the drive, carrying his suitcase, to make his way to the railway station on the Saturday morning