Today I’ve been invited onto @JanBaynham’s Blog #MondayBlogs #Interviews #Research #GuestPost #Authors

When Jan asked me to write about research, I started with one purpose, to research the subject of research, and then to explain how I use it…

If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? – Albert Einstein, (1879-1955), German physicist who came up with the theory of relativity, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.

Here’s the link to Jan’s website: https://janbaynham.blogspot.com/

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Places in our Memories: With Marjorie Mallon #MondayBlogs #Memories #Gardens and Sculptural Treasures

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I am so pleased to welcome MJ Mallon. I have known Marjorie through her great support of other writers, especially with her work as poet, a blogger, and a book reviewer. She is also founder of the Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club. I have long admired her work.

Welcome, Marjorie.

Thank you so much to Judith for inviting me to talk about my places in our memories.

There are so many precious memories in our lives gathered from childhood to adulthood and beyond. In this series,  I would like to talk about my love of botanical gardens – in particular Cambridge Botanical Garden in UK, and my respect for sculptural/artistic and wonders of engineering science.

In particular, nature has been a wonderful inspiration in my writing… I visited the Botanical Gardens in Cambridge often, working nearby – and being in the lucky position of having a free pass from my work!  My employer encouraged us to attend an in-house mindfulness course which further enhanced my sense of awareness, allowing me to utilise all my senses on my daily walks.

I am a visual writer gaining ideas from immersing my consciousness in the world around me. I remember our first task in Mindfulness training was simply to eat a raisin slowly, savouring it, and noticing any sensations as we did!

The mindful magic of the garden kept me enthralled, with the leaves of the trees gently rustling in the breeze, or shedding, or colour changing their welcome celebrating all the seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, the changes in colour delighting me.

Let me introduce you to some of the  unexpected animals and birds who greeted me there… one day I spotted a ginger cat who became one of the inspirations in Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose as did the cute robin and the dragonfly.

Here are some poems and photos from the collection…

Red, Devil’s Needle,

Or luck bringer with kind eyes?

Ancient, sweet fellow,

Secret magic bestower,

Change tumbling on fragile wings.

© M J Mallon

Bench,

A bird,

Red-breasted,

So, tame you rest,

Beside me robin,

Two friends on a park bench,

One human, one of nature,

I appreciate your kind time,

Until you away… exploring far,

Hinting at possibilities you go. 

I wonder what you notice in your world.

And why you choose that ground to explore,

When you could have stayed here with me,

In mindful meditation.

Maybe you’ll visit me,

Christmas day, perhaps?

To bring good cheer,

Until then,

Peace to,

You.

Tree and nature poems are also the focus  in my latest poetry collection: The Hedge Witch and The Musical Poet and nature will also feature in my soon to be published Do What You Love.

I have to say I miss the gardens now I’ve moved away from Cambridge. I am currently spending time in Portugal in a long stay holiday residence and the rest of the time in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Whilst  I was in Edinburgh I was delighted to be asked to provide copies of two of my poetry collections: Mr. Sagittarius and  Prose and Lockdown Innit Poems About Absurdity to prestigious libraries in the UK: National Library of Scotland, The Bodleian Library Oxford University, National Library of Wales, Cambridge University Library, The Library of Trinity College Dublin, and The British Library in London. And… my Curse of Time fantasy series, (which is with a Japanese Publisher,) are now held at my old school FP library at George Watson’s College, Edinburgh. It’s nice to know a little piece of me is to be kept for posterity for people to read in the UK!

So, with regards to poetry, my botanical delight has served me well! Giving me a chance to explore a happy place in my writing.

Further memories… sculptural and artistic in nature… drew my attention and captured my heart in Cambridge, England… the Corpus Christi grasshopper clock in King’s Parade and Juniper Artland’s Anya Gallaccio’s crystal grotto provided the initial inspiration for dark fantasy The Curse of Time series, Bloodstone and Golden Healer which are published by Next Chapter Publishing. And… I was so lucky to meet and be invited to lunch with the world renowned inventor of the clock, Dr. John C. Taylor, OBE  in Cambridge, UK, which was definitely a highlight of my life in 2017! There was such synergy in the meeting as he loves clocks and crystals too! Talking to him has given me such a respect for the wonders of engineering innovation.

More about the three clocks on his blog – the grasshopper, the midsummer fly and the dragon! https://www.johnctaylor.com/the-chronophage/

Just to add – exciting news on Marjorie’s behalf. Her next new book is out to preorder.

Blurb

Do What You Love Fragility of Your Flame Poems, Photography & Flash Fiction is a personal poetry collection celebrating how the fates may have a part in all that we do.

With special poems and short reflective moments inspired by family, flowers and nature, love, scrumptious morsels, places I’ve visited, lived and intend to live in, the friendships and hopes I have for the future.

The overarching theme is to live a life well lived… And to do what you love.

float along with me

create clouds of sweetest joy

to do what you love

hold fate’s hand as we venture

near and far on life’s journey

Release Date: 25th November 2022, able to preorder via the following links.

Until we meet again… sweet robin, dragonfly, cat and scary grasshopper… and all the other creatures both real, created or imagined… Goodbye, adeus, tchau!

Next Chapter Publishing

Acclaimed YA Fantasy series, The Curse of Time:

Bloodstone and Golden Healer

For details of publications please visit:

https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/mj-mallon

Kyrosmagica Publishing

Acclaimed Poetry and Flash Fiction

Poetry and Flash Fiction: The Hedge Witch and The Musical Poet

https://bookstoread/u/mv1oev

Poetry, Prose and Photography: Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose http://mybook.to/MrSagittarius

Pandemic Poetry: Lockdown Innit Poems About Absurdity

http://mybook.to/Lockdown Innit

Pandemic Anthology: This IsLockdown

http://mybook.to/Thisislockdown

Kyrosmagica publications are available on Amazon kindle, Kindle unlimited and paperback.

Short Stories in Anthologies:

Bestselling horror compilations

Nightmareland compiled by Dan Alatorre

“Scrabble Boy” (Short Story)

Spellbound compiled by Dan Alatorre

“The Twisted Sisters” (Short Story)

Wings of Fire compiled by Dan Alatorre

“The Great Pottoo” (Short Story)

Ghostly Rites 2019 compiled by Claire Plaisted“Dexter’s Creepy Caverns” (Short Story)

Ghostly Rites 2020 compiled by Claire Plaisted

“No. 1 Coven Lane” (Short Story)

For all my publications and contributions to anthologies please refer to my Author Blog: https://mjmallon.com and my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/M-J-Mallon/e/B074CGNK4L/

All my links are available via: https://linktr.ee/mjmallonauthor

Author Bio

MJ’s favourite genres to write are fantasy YA, Paranormal, Ghost and Horror Stories, various forms of poetry and flash fiction. She celebrates books, the spiritual realm, love of nature and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious at her blog home: https://mjmallon.com

She’d describe herself as a reading, blogging and photography enthusiast!
M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad to Portugal. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in Edinburgh. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile to greet her.

She writes fantasy/magical realism because life should be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic! Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even it if appears that the odds are stacked against you like black-hearted shadows.

ABOUT M J Mallon

My favourite genres to write are Fantasy YA, Paranormal, Ghost and Horror Stories, various forms of poetry and flash fiction. I celebrate the spiritual realm, love of nature and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious at my blog home: https://mjmallon.com

I’d describe myself as a reading, blogging and photography enthusiast!

M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained, and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in the Venice of Cambridge with her six-foot hunk of a rock god husband. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile.

I write fantasy/magical realism because life should be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic! Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even it if appears that the odds are stacked against you like black-hearted shadows.

Places in our Memories with Jan Baynham #Mondayblogs #Memories

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m so pleased to hand over to Jan Baynham. Jan and I first met in 2014 at a book event, and she’s been a friend ever since. We meet up every now and then to talk writing and she’ was always been a great supporter of the Tenby and Narberth book fairs. Jan is going to tell us about her childhood memories

When I began to think about what I was going to write, I was immediately transported back my happy childhood growing up in a tiny village in mid-Wales. I was born in 2, Beech Cottage, Newbridge-on -Wye.

2, Beech Cottage

And for the first few years, we lived with my lovely granddad whose house it was. I vaguely remember standing behind a wooden board slotted into grooves in the front door posts he’d made to stop me escaping onto the street. No elaborate safety gates in those days! Granddad worked on the Llysdinam estate and although I don’t remember it myself, I recall Mum telling me she’d been embarrassed when Lady Delia came to see him and I’d invited her to ‘Step your leg over and come and see Grandad’!

My grandfather was very keen gardener, and we always had an abundant supply of fresh vegetables and soft fruit. I remember spending hours playing in his garden, especially watering the plants with a large metal watering can.

By the time my sister was born, we’d moved to 3, Pendre, another terraced house just a few doors away on Crown Row. I still spent a lot of time at Beech Cottage, though. One memory I have of that time is playing in the large shed at the top of granddad’s garden. In there was an old wind-up ‘His Master’s Voice’ gramophone and lots of brittle seventy-eight records no longer considered good enough to stay in the house. For me, Wit provided hours of fun. I can remember winding the handle as fast as I could and then listening to the music slowing down as it needed winding up again. Another memory I have is when my mum and sister had an appointment in Llandrindod, Granddad looked after me. We had Lyons cupcakes as a treat and I can still taste the thick solid chocolate icing on top as I peeled back the silver foil cake case.

Newbridge-on -Wye

Looking back, I realise that Beech Cottage must have been a tied cottage because when he retired at the age of sixty-five, Granddad came to live with us. By then, we were living at the other end of the village. I remember going for lots of walks with him. He made a swing for my sister and me and when friends came to call, they would always keep themselves amused on the swing if we weren’t ready. Now I was a bit older, my granddad taught me to play Whist. I still love playing cards but now it has to be Patience as no one else is interested in playing. I knew I’d made it when I was able to attend the local Whist Drive in the Reading Room as his partner.

The village school was small and often we would have the same teacher for a few years. Miss Lewis was my favourite. Many of the children lived on farms or in hamlets outside Newbridge. I learned to ride my bike on the village green in front of the school. I can see it now. It was a maroon Raleigh with straight handlebars. My dad taught me to ride. When I thought he was till running behind me holding the saddle, I was actually riding independently. That bike gave me complete freedom, enabling me to cycle anywhere. At weekends and at holiday time, I remember setting off for the day on my bike to call on friends to play. The church bells chiming six o’clock would be my signal to go home.

If I saw a phone box out in the countryside, I would often ring my dad at work. I can remember the receptionist’s voice on the tannoy at Auto Palace where he worked. ‘Five, telephone, please’ would echo down the phone. I can’t imagine I’d be as patient as my lovely dad if I was called to the telephone just to have a chat about where out on the Common I was.

Fields, woods and riverbanks formed my playground. Picnics by the rock pools at Llan Cam and swimming in the river at Black Bridge in the summer, as well as lighting fires in the tunnels to the side of the bridge over the river Ithon, are all memories that resurfaced while writing this piece. We had to walk along the railway line to get to Black Bridge, something that would be frowned upon as highly dangerous nowadays. My first ever published short story was entitled ‘Sledging in Mansell’s Field’ and recounts a true story of how we used to sledge down the hill in a field close to where I lived to see who could clear the stream at the bottom and not land in the water.

Laddie

After coming home by six o’clock, I would be ready for bed by the start of The Archers and go upstairs when it finished at seven. Our cocker spaniel, Laddie, had worked it out that when the Archers’ music started that would be the time that Dad came through the door and would bark loudly. Often, we would see the orange headlights of my dad’s car coming along the lane behind the house. I’m still a huge Archers fan to this day.

I very much enjoyed looking back on these early childhood memories, grateful for the freedom I had to explore and make my own fun. A big thank you, Judith, for inviting me to take part in your series.

About Jan:

About Jan Baynham

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction. From then on, she was hooked!

Fascinated by family secrets and ‘skeletons lurking in cupboards’, Jan’s dual narrative novels explore how decisions and actions made by family members from one generation impact on the lives of the next. Her first three novels look at the bond between mothers and daughters as well as forbidden love. Setting plays an important part in Jan’s stories and as well as her native mid-Wales, there is always a contrasting location – Greece, Sicily and northern France. Her next books will involve secrets and sibling relationships; the first set in 1945 and 1964 takes the reader back to Sicily where two sisters work together to prove their father’s innocence of a wrongdoing.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband.

To find out more about Jan, she may be contacted on:

Twitter@JanBaynham https://twitter.com/JanBaynham

Facebook – Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit

Blog – https://janbaynham.blogspot.com

Places in our Memories: With Robbie Cheadle #MondayBlogs #Memories

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m welcoming Robbie Cheadle, someone I’ve known and admired as an online friend for many years.

Thank you, Judith, for inviting me to talk about my memories.

As a little girl I was quiet and self-contained. The oldest of four daughters, my mom was often busy with a new baby and so I spent a lot of time alone. I do believe I was a lonely child and passed my time reading, listening to Broadway musicals on my mother’s record player, and doing numerous artistic projects.

By the time I was eighteen, I’d lived in twenty-one houses and attended fourteen schools. Twelve of my school changes occurred before I was twelve and once, I changed schools twice during the same academic year.

I never developed lasting and strong friendships with other girls which may have been a consequence of all these disruptions. Instead, my sisters and I played together. Their births were the highlight moments of my younger years.

A typical picture of me as a child

My time as a baby and a toddler are grey mist to me, but the first powerful memory I have is of the entrance of my sister, Catherine, into my life. She displaced me as the only one and I wasn’t pleased about it at the time.

I wrote a short story about Catherine’s birth, she was born prematurely at 32 weeks, and the subsequent turmoil that ensued. The story is called The New Baby and is included in an anthology called Memories of Mom: Rave Soup For The Writer’s Soul Anthology, 2022 available here: https://www.amazon.com/MEMORIES-MOM-Rave-Writers-Anthology-ebook/dp/B09ZRK4L6B

The following extracts illustrate how I recall feeling about my new sister:

“I prayed: “Thank you, God, for sending me a sister. I don’t mind being an only child though, so would you please take her away and give her to another girl who really wants a baby sister?” 

My prayer went unanswered, and my mother continued to visit the hospital every morning.”

“On the morning Catherine came home from the hospital, everything started to change. I no longer went to school as my mother didn’t want to risk me picking up a cold or other illness. I stayed at home and helped Mom look after my sister.  

The baby was a disappointment. She was nothing like the baby in my nursery rhyme book. That baby was pink, with golden curls and fat, dimpled hands, and feet. My new sister was pale and almost translucent looking. I could see blue veins under her delicate skin, and she had bruises on her head from the drip. Her hands were tiny and clenched and she had no hair at all. When she cried it came out as a faint mewing and I couldn’t see how she would ever be any fun at all. She also took up nearly all of Mom’s time with her numerous feeds, nappy changes, and other needs.”

The entrance of Hayley into my life was unremarkable. We were living on a plot in Honeydew, Johannesburg, and my life was filled with exploration of the tracts of veld that surrounded our house.

Hayley was a howler and I remember my mother walking round and round the sitting room with her while she cried and cried. Her endless crying is how I remember Howling Hayley. She did, of course, grow out of it eventually and became one of my living dolls.

A defining memory I have of Hayley as a baby is one evening when I took the screaming bundle and walked her around to give mom a break. She went to sleep in my arms and Mom and I watched an episode of the television production of She (by Rider Haggard) together. It contained the scene where Ayesha goes into the fire and ages from a young and beautiful woman into a hideous, shrivelled 2,000-year-old woman and then disintegrates into ash. I have never, ever, forgotten that scene and I’ve read the book several times. It is a favourite of mine.

Laura is the youngest and she arrived when I was nine, Catherine was five, and Hayley was one.

Laura’s birth coincided with my family’s relocation from Johannesburg to George in the Western Cape. My grandparents on my father’s side had moved to George a year previously and they had persuaded dad to move to this beautiful city.

Dad drove Catherine, Hayley, and I to George. It was a fourteen-hour drive as frequent “wee” stops had to be made with three small girls in the car. We were driven to George ahead of my parents moving as Mom was heavily pregnant at the time with our new sister. The new baby would be born at the hospital in Johannesburg. We three girls would be cared for by our grandparents for two weeks until my mother was able to make the long car trip.

I loved George. It was totally different from dry and dusty Johannesburg with its violent thunderstorms and frightening lightning and thunder. George was green. There was an abundance of trees, flowers and bushes and it rained a lot of the time.

My grandparents lived in a cottage near the outskirts of the town and their tar road suddenly ended about 1000 metres from their house and became a dirt road and then a dirt track that led into the forest.

The forest was dark and mysterious. Full of huge, tall trees and thick bushes and foliage. We were forbidden from going into the forest on our own as it was easy to get lost amongst so many trees that all looked the same.

Along the sides of the dirt road were trenches where the municipality had been digging. I don’t know why they were digging there but the trenches were so much fun. Catherine and I climbed into the trenches and walked along them, hidden from view.

The bottoms of the trenches were covered in clay. It was deliciously squelchy and sticky, and we loved the feeling of the clay between our bare toes.

One dinner time, I told Granddad Jack about the clay. He said you could make things from it and dry them in the sun. The sun would bake them and make them hard.

What a delight! The very next day, Catherine and I went into one of the trenches and mined for clay. We scooped the clay into a plastic bag and hauled it out of the trench. Very soon, we were sitting on the back doorstep and making all sorts of pots and figurines out of clay. It was a happy time for me.

One morning, Granny Joan said that Mom and Dad were in the car and on their way to George. Catherine and I were excited, but Hayley was too young to understand what was happening.

Eventually, late in the afternoon, the car arrived with both my parents and a very funny looking, wrinkled, and red baby. I got such a fright I ran away. I thought that Laura was the ugliest baby I had ever seen.

Poor little Lu! She looked like that because she had become dehydrated during the long drive.

In retrospect, I was fortunate to grow up in a family with three sisters. We all still live in Johannesburg and our families spend the high days and holidays together.

Back row: Robbie and Laura.
Front row: Catherine and Hayley.

Thank you, Judith, for giving me this opportunity to share about my memories of my childhood. I’d like to close with this poem I wrote about my sisters for Catherine’s fortieth birthday.

A sister is … by Robbie Cheadle 

 a thief, stealing attention that is rightfully yours;   a port in a storm, when your house of cards falls; 
a fountain of knowledge – your problems, not hers;   a megaphone whose voice is louder than yours; 
an expert on everything you try for the first time;   a comedian who’ll dance and make you laugh till you cry; 
a cloths horse, ‘specially when she’s borrowed your clothes;   a home where your children are always welcome; 
a confidant with whom you share secrets and hopes;   a purse to help you out of a bind
a competitor who always shines brighter than you;   an advisor when your spirit is battered and bruised; 
a shoulder to cry on when life lets you down;   a beauty queen, who’s face is fairer than yours; 
a diary of shared memories, the old and the new;   a voice of reason, when yours has taken a day off; 
a provider of wine, in good times and bad;   an embarrassment who recalls your drunken antics; 
an artist, who’ll make up your face, if you beg; the best thing anyone could ask for. 

From Open a new door, a collection of poems by Robbie Cheadle and Kim Blades available here: https://www.amazon.com/Open-new-door-collection-poems-ebook/dp/B07K4RRC4W

Author CV – Roberta/Robbie Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with eleven children’s books and two poetry books.

The eight Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie and Michael have also written Haunted Halloween Holiday, a delightful fantasy story for children aged 5 to 9. Count Sugular and his family hire a caravan to attend a Halloween party at the Haunted House in Ghost Valley. This story is beautifully illustrated with Robbie’s fondant and cake art creations.

Robbie has also published two books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie has two adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories, in the horror and paranormal genre, and poems included in several anthologies.

Robbie Cheadle contributes two monthly posts to https://writingtoberead.com/, namely, Growing Bookworms, a series providing advice to caregivers on how to encourage children to read and write, and Treasuring Poetry, a series aimed at introducing poetry lovers to new poets and poetry books.

In addition, Roberta Eaton Cheadle contributes one monthly post to https://writingtoberead.com/ called Dark Origins: African Myths and Legends which shares information about the cultures, myths and legends of the indigenous people of southern Africa.

Follow Robbie Cheadle at:

Follow Robbie Cheadle at:

Website:

https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog
https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/bakeandwrite


YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVyFo_OJLPqFa9ZhHnCfHUA


Goodreads
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15584446.Robbie_Cheadle

Purchase links:
TSL Publications (paperbacks)

Lulu.com (paperbacks and ebooks)

Amazon US (paperbacks)
https://www.amazon.com/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ


Amazon UK (paperbacks)
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ

Places in our Memories: With Carol Lovekin #MondayBlogs #Memories

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m really pleased pleased to welcome Carol Lovekin.

Since Judith invited me to contribute to this strand, I’ve spent weeks mulling over too many memories of a myriad places. A moment here, a memory there, this place briefly visited and only half remembered; this one part of the fabric of my life. And it occurred to me, perhaps I could take the premise literally and highlight ‘places’ plural.

Maggie, my mother

Many of these places and moments featured my mother. She was and remains a huge influence in my life. She was Irish, she played the piano and had a way with words. My mother held space, she had an authentic sense of the importance of place and my memories are littered with moments and memories of her.

The word ‘moment’ reminds me of the Kate Bush song, Jig of Life* and the line, ‘I put this moment, here…’ In the song she asks, ‘Can’t you see where memories are kept bright?’ I can and still do: places with moments stitched to their seams. And at the centre, my mother invariably making more sense than, at the time, I gave her credit for. These memories are in no particular order.

Memory:

I’m nine and can barely swim; riding on my father’s shoulders in a chilly stretch of the river Avon, roped off to resemble a lido. There are rocks underfoot and he slips. I’m falling, it’s cold and deep and I’m swallowing water . . . drowning. . . drowning. . .

I didn’t of course. Dad hauled me out and ‘kissed me better’ while my mother announced her disapproval. (‘I told you not to do that, Ken! What’s the point of the rubber ring if she doesn’t use it?’) And that was indubitably that. Instead of throwing me back in, they fussed, although, to my horror, my mother did suggest a swimming pool and proper lessons. Really? No way; it has a Deep End!


It wasn’t until I became a mother myself and the children were learning to swim that I made myself venture back into the water. It didn’t last. The children were soon fearless and there were too many rivers near where we lived, too much deep water. Years later – decades in truth – I started going to the local pool and discovered a real love for swimming. I’m not very good and I still don’t entirely trust deep water, but I’ve come a long way from that day when I was a little girl, tumbling from my daddy’s shoulder.

Memory

With my green-fingered mother in the garden of the house I grew up in. It’s full to overgrown perfection with flowers. A drooping rose and Mum’s pulling a stick from the undergrowth. ‘That’ll do it.’ The rose firmly staked. Weeks later, noticing the straggler has expired, but the steadying stick is beginning to throw off green shoots.
‘That’s magic,’ says my mother. ‘Gardening is magic. If you have a garden, you’ll always have a place to be peaceful.’

(My father photographed it. He rarely took photos of people which is why I have so few from my childhood.)

The rose eventually grew into a rambling, delicate pink wonder with a glorious scent. We never did identify it. Mum just called it her magic rose.

Over the years I’ve made several gardens. All of them magical, all of them with a pink rose of some sort or another. Now I am ‘reduced’ to a balcony, I’m looking for one that will work in a small space. A pink one, of course. In memory of that perfect place. And my mother.

Memory

My mother, quietly and with no drama, delivering my first, born-too-quickly-for-the-midwife, daughter.

One of Dad’s exceptions and one of my favourite photographs.


‘She’s got her eyes open already,’ says Mum. ‘That’s girls for you.’ She hands me the baby and yes, her eyes are wide open and I know she can see me.
Mum, smiling, nodding her head. ‘We’re a proper matriarchy now.’
And that’s when I became a ‘proper’ feminist.


Memory

I’m in my bedroom. Mine, at last, because Dad has given up his darkroom and decamped to the shed, so my sister and I can have our own rooms. I’m scribbling a story for ‘English Composition’ homework.
‘It’s rubbish,’ I say to my dusting, tidying mother.
She straightens the bookshelves. (She’s bought me most of the books.)
‘Read all the books,’ she says, ‘and you’ll write better stories
.’

She wasn’t wrong. Now, decades later, I find myself realising, although my mother didn’t live long enough to see me published, she is everywhere in my books. Not always obviously, but nonetheless there. I write about mothers and daughters a lot and it took me a while to understand how my own mother influenced some of the mothers I imagine. I like to think she would have approved.

So long as the stories come, I shall continue to write them, and both consciously and unconsciously place my mother at the centre of them.


* Hello, old lady
I know your face well

I’ll be sitting in your mirror…
Will you look into the future…?

One with the ocean and the woman unfurled
Holding all the love that waits for you here… 

I put this moment here…

© Kate Bush

Find Carol here:

Twitter: twitter.com/carollovekin

Website: carollovekinauthor.com/

Amazon: www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B01ADAWMPC



Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Liz Jones

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK  who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno. 

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Liz Jones

Hello and welcome, Liz. Good to have you with us here today.

Glad to be here, Judith.

Please tell us, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

The Queen of Romance is my one and only (so far…)

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Through a long and tortuous process… My original title, The Many Lives of Marguerite was okay, but didn’t really tell the reader anything. Eventually, I came up with The Forgotten Queen of Romance. The ‘forgotten’ was later dropped… 

What inspired the idea for your book?

It all began when I visited what I thought was just her husband’s grave (that of the controversial Welsh author Caradoc Evans). Then I discovered Marguerite, this incredible woman who had been a bestselling romance author, whose book The Pleasure Garden was became Alfred Hitchcock’s first film, who had appeared in a film alongside the legendary Gloria Swanson, and had run a thriving repertory theatre company in my home town of Aberystwyth. Yet now she lay forgotten alongside her husband, without even her name on the gravestone. I had to find out more…

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?

The scenes about Marguerite’s childhood in India, during the days of the Raj. I have never been to India and knew little about the Raj, so I had to draw heavily on a combination of research and imagination. But I found this research fascinating. The mindset of the British in India was astonishingly racist and elitist. They were also making huge sacrifices for the sake of the British Empire, which they genuinely believed to be a noble project.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

I enjoy visiting places and getting and writing about them in situ. Visiting Broadstairs, where Marguerite lived and ran a theatre company just before the war, was great fun, as was visiting the site of another of her homes, near Aberdyfi, high above the Dyfi estuary.   

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why.

Marguerite as a biographical character was eccentric, endlessly fascinating and also infuriating! The men in her life were (with one exception) pretty awful to here. The character I felt by far the most empathy for was Pauline Bloch, the German Jewish refugee who was Marguerite and Caradoc’s live-in maid during the war. The poor woman was traumatised and not receiving the help and support she needed – least of all from Marguerite who was too wrapped up in her own marriage and money problems to care.  

I was privileged to read some of Pauline’s letters, written some thirty years later, where she reflected on her time with Marguerite and Caradoc. She was a strong, determined and remarkably fair-minded woman who had overcome so much.

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

Pauline, without a doubt.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you tantalize us with a snippet of your plans for it? If not, your plans for your next book?

All I can say is I’m researching another biography. It’s far too soon to reveal any more!

 At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

I don’t think you can really call yourself a writer after just one book. Although now I do write most days – features for magazines, mostly.

 Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

With a name like Liz Jones? Of course I have! If ever I write a book that’s completely different (a novel, for instance), I might just dream up a far more exotic name for myself!

 What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?

Writer’s block is something I experience every day. Sometimes I can overcome it. Other times, I suddenly find that cleaning the sink or organising my bookshelf is suddenly far more pressing than writing… Yet once I’m really in the writing zone, I find it difficult to stop. If only I found it easier to get there in the first place – I’m still working on that!   

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Peace, quiet, not too much clutter and, above all, a room of my own. (Virginia Woolf said it all really…)

 Are there therapeutic benefits to modelling a character after someone you know?

As a writer of non-fiction, I’m afraid I can’t really answer this!

 What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Beginning.

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

That’s a very big question! There are so many different kinds of good writing. If I had to say, I think it’s honestly – writing where the author strips away any ‘show-offy’ bits and tells the story with sincerity and integrity, rather than indulging in writing that draws attention to itself. Having said that, I can’t resist the odd flourish or purple passage, although I try not to overdo it! 

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why? 

As a biographer it has to be character! I have to feel fascinated by a character to want to write about them.

 How do you use social media as an author?

I’m on Twitter, which I’ve found pretty useful, in a low-key sort of way. I know Twitter has a bit of a toxic reputation, but it’s great for connecting with other authors and keeping in touch with Honno and the wider world of books. What I also like about Twitter is that it’s okay to promote your own work there – unlike facebook, where too much self-promotion tends to be frowned upon! 

 Why did you [choose? Honno as a publisher?

The honest answer is because Honno is based in my home town of Aberystwyth. When my idea was still embarrassingly sketchy, I contacted the lovely Janet Thomas (a member of the Honno committee and hugely experienced editor). Thanks to Janet’s unstinting encouragement, I began to feel that my idea really could work as a book. Later, as a first-time Honno writer, I felt supported by the team throughout the whole process – from the initial edits to the marketing. Becoming a Honno author is like joining a very special women’s club! 

Author Bio:

Dr Liz Jones is a prize winning writer of creative non-fiction and journalism, and a creative writing tutor at Aberystwyth University. Her book, The Queen of Romance (Honno), a biography of Marguerite Jervis (aka Oliver Sandys and Countess Barcynska), ‘the most successful author and theatre entrepreneur you’ve never heard of’, was selected for The Independent‘s book choices for May, 2021.

Twitter: @LizJonesAber

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Sara Gethin

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.  

If you’re in the area we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno.

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Sara Gethin

Hello and welcome, Sara. And thank you for being with us today. 

 It’s good to be here, Judith

Please tell us how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

I’ve written two novels for adults, and I’m going to add an optimistic ‘so far’ to the end of that sentence, as I have another storyline percolating in my head. ‘Not Thomas’ was my first novel. It’s a contemporary story about a neglected five-year-old boy and the people who are letting him down – spectacularly – and those who try to help him. The children in my second novel, ‘Emmet and Me’, are also failed by the adults around them. The background to that story is the extremely harsh industrial school system of 1960s’ Ireland. Picking a favourite from only two books feels like an impossible choice, but the most recently published is ‘Emmet and Me’, so I’ll choose that one.

What inspired the idea for your book?

The inspiration for ‘Emmet and Me’ came from a memoir I read by a man who’d been brought up in an industrial school in Letterfrack, Connemara. Those schools were filled with children whose families had fallen on hard times, and they were run, mainly, by the Catholic Church. They operated all over Ireland from the late 1800s, and some of them – a handful of the infamous ‘laundries’ – were still open in the 1990s.

The Letterfrack school was notorious for the extremely harsh treatment meted out by the Christian Brothers who ran it. Peter Tyrrell, the author of the memoir I read, wanted to draw attention to the terrible plight of children in these schools during the 1950s and ’60s. He felt ignored by the people in power, and eventually took his own life by setting fire to himself on Hampstead Heath. The character of Emmet came to me very clearly after reading Peter’s memoir, and I knew that at some point I was going to write about a boy growing up in the inhumane conditions of a rural industrial school in 1960s’ Ireland.

What was your hardest scene to write, and why?

There’s one scene in ‘Emmet and Me’ that readers have said makes them shudder. It’s where one of the characters has a rather nasty and unusual accident. The peculiar thing is I didn’t realise, until I went back to edit that passage, that I’d described an incident I’d witnessed as a child. That same accident happened to a friend I was with in a field when we were seven years old. I had buried the memory until I wrote about it for the book. Writing that scene initially wasn’t as difficult as going back to edit it, and discovering I was reliving the incident from my own childhood.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

I loved writing the conversations between the two central characters, the ten-year-olds Claire and Emmet. The children meet in school and become forbidden friends. They’re misfits. Emmet is looked down on as he lives in the industrial school, or ‘orphanage’ as the locals call it. Claire feels out of place because she’s been uprooted from her Cardiff home and dumped at her granny’s isolated cottage. Both children love reading and horses, and Emmet and Claire bond over a copy of Black Beauty. It was great fun to write conversations alternating between Welsh and Irish accents, although it was also quite a challenge!

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

There are two girls in Claire’s class who are referred to by everyone as the ‘House Girls’. They live in the local orphanage, and they stand out a mile in school because their uniforms are different from the other girls’. They’re ignored or teased by the children in their class, and the teachers treat them appallingly too. Despite this, they show Claire nothing but kindness. I’d love to expand their story one day.

*At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

The first book I wrote was the collection of stories for children, ‘Welsh Cakes and Custard’. When I found it on the shelf of my local library, I truly felt like a writer. That was back in 2013, and I’ve written three more books for children since then, plus two novels for adults. I still get a huge thrill when I see them on the shelves of Llanelli library, although I really hope they get borrowed too!

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

I write my children’s books under my real-life name, Wendy White, but I use Sara Gethin as a pen name when I write for adults. That’s because the stories I’ve written for children, so far, have a light touch and are humorous, whereas my stories for adults are in a totally different vein. That’s not to say there’s no humour at all in my novels – I really hope I make my readers laugh or smile a few times when they read ‘Not Thomas’ or ‘Emmet and Me’. But it’s certainly true to say there are darker moments in the stories too.

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

I love to have music on in the background while I write, but not just any music – it needs to be a playlist I’ve put together for that specific piece of writing. Sometimes the playlist consists of one song, repeated over and over, for a particular scene. I find music is the easiest route back into the mood I’m trying to create for a book, especially if I’ve had to take a break from writing. When I’m struggling to find the words, it’s normally because I haven’t yet discovered the perfect piece of music.

How do you use social media as an author?

Ah, social media – love it or loathe it, it’s not going away any time soon, is it?

I’m mainly active on two platforms – Twitter and Instagram – with an occasional dip into Facebook. My favourite is Insta. I could waste many happy hours on there, scrolling through images of gorgeous scenery and beautiful book covers. My own posts are mostly of sandy walks and shipwrecks. Cefn Sidan is my local beach, and it’s very photogenic. I’ve also been known to post the occasional book-related pic.

On Twitter, I love following authors and talking about books I’ve read or am looking forward to reading. I mostly retweet other people’s news, with a shameless flurry of self-promotion when I have a new book out myself, and I’m always so grateful when people share my news too. Pre-pandemic, when I’d organise signings in book shops, I’d tweet about them before and afterwards. My book launch for ‘Emmet and Me’ last year was a Zoom affair. I tweeted  about that to an extremely annoying extent, I’ve no doubt! But it was wonderful to have so much support from the Twitter community for the launch event, and for the new novel too.

Why did you choose Honno as a publisher?

I love the fact that Honno is run by a committee of women, and I’ve been a fan of the publisher and their books since my student days, many years ago now. Long before I began writing, I knew it would be wonderful to be published by them. I feel it’s a huge honour that my two manuscripts were chosen for publication by Honno, and I’m very proud to be featured among the fabulous female writers they have on their list.

Thank you so much, Judith – I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to talk about books again! I’m so looking forward to getting together in May for the Honno Book Fair at Narberth. It will be a very special event indeed! Sara x

Sara Gethin Bio:

Sara Gethin is the pen name of Wendy White. She grew up in Llanelli and worked as a library assistant before becoming a primary school teacher. Her debut novel, ‘Not Thomas’, written in the voice of a neglected five-year-old boy, was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize. While home is still west Wales, she and her husband spend much of their free time in Ireland.

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Hilary Shepherd

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK – who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno. 

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Hilary Shepherd

Hello and welcome, Hilary. Good to see you here today.

It’s good to be with you, Judith

Could you tell us, please, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

Five written, three published. My favourite is ‘Albi’.

What inspired the idea for your book?

The book is based on a village in Aragon in Spain where we have a house. Over the last 20 years we’ve been told a lot of stories about the impact of the Civil War on neighbours who have all died now. Our house is full of farm implements that would have been in common use then and the sound landscape has changed little – the streets are too narrow for traffic so human voices dominate. The sheep flocks still graze to the sound of their bells and the shepherds call to them as they always did. The golden orioles still sing. I couldn’t not write about it!

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why.

Albi himself, a nine-year-old boy who is catapulted into a strange and forbidding world but is still only a child. I think of him whenever I’m in the village and things he got up to and it’s a jolt to remember sometimes that he exists only in my head. And in the heads of my readers.

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?

The ending, because there were so many threads to draw together and I wanted to do justice to my characters and also to history, which doesn’t have resolutions.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

The pranks Albi gets up to, and the irony of what he sees compared with what he understands.

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Now I’m older, a comfortable chair. 

 What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

At the moment it’s to keep writing when making physical things seems so much less of a self-indulgence. This is a knock-on of covid though I’m not sure why. At the moment I find myself preferring to make a window than spend time at my desk, which isn’t very conducive to finishing off my next novel.

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

Writing that isn’t tied to the earth by too many words in the wrong places.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

Both – they leapfrog each other until it gets difficult to remember which was the trigger, though I’m pretty certain the characters come second but then drive the plot, sometimes surprisingly.

 How do you use social media as an author?

I’m afraid I don’t. I used to, but I really didn’t like it.

 Why did you Honno as a publisher?

Because they were there, and because Caroline responded so generously to my first submission. Since then I’ve come to appreciate the community that Honno is and the chance to be aware of others’ progress through the otherwise deeply solitary experience of being published.

About Hilary:

I live on a hillside in the middle of Wales where I have spent most of my adult life farming and woodworking, and also writing. My first novel was set in the Sudan where I lived for two years, the second in Ghana, and the third in Spain. Writing about other places is a wonderful way to spend time in them when life keeps you somewhere else.

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Annette Purdey Pugh

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK – who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing the each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno, the publishers.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Annette Purdey Pugh.

Annette Purdey Pugh

 . Hello and welcome, Annette. Great to see you here today. 

 Glad to be here, Judith

Please tell us, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

So far, I have only had one book published: A Murder at Rosings, published 2021.

So, what inspired the idea for your book?

I’ve always loved Pride and Prejudice, but the immediate inspiration was an indulgent afternoon watching the BBC adaptation. It just occurred to me that it would be fun to use some of the characters in a murder mystery.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

It was all great fun to write! This, of course, has a lot to do with Jane Austen’s wonderful characters, who formed a basic framework upon which to build. I was provided with a ready-made villain, in the form of the obnoxious Mr Collins, and a natural suspect, in Mr Bennet. Lady Catherine’s grand establishment at Rosings was ripe for population with all those servants necessary to run it and I greatly enjoyed bringing them to life, together with the two ‘detectives’ who investigate.

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?

The character I most enjoyed writing about is Mary Bennet. As Jane Austen depicts her in Pride and Prejudice, she is very dull, especially when compared with her sisters, and we learn very little about her, except that she is studious and can be given to pompous pronouncements. This leaves her character open to exploration, and, as my novel progressed, I found my sympathy for her growing. Her visit to Rosings with her father, and her experiences there, both before and after the murder, cause great changes in herself and her life. Hopefully, if there were an alternative universe where fictional characters came alive, she would be happy with the outcome.  

If you’re planning a sequel, can you tantalize us with a snippet of your plans for it? If not, your plans for your next book?

I have thought a lot about a sequel, but I do feel that my story came to a natural conclusion at the end of A Murder at Rosings. However, I have been toying with the idea of continuing with the history of the house itself, with reference, of course, to past events.

Meanwhile, I have been working on a completely different mystery concerning buried bones and old wrongs in the Cors Caron area of Ceredigion.

 At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

I’ve enjoyed writing stories and poems all my life and have won prizes in the Learners’ Section at the National Eisteddfod. I took two full-length Open University courses in Creative Writing and found them immensely fulfilling. However, I don’t think I would ever have considered myself a ‘writer’ until Honno agreed to publish my novel, A Murder at Rosings – and, even now, I feel a bit reticent about it!

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

This is a big question! For me, good fiction writing is a combination of the following: An interesting storyline which draws the reader in quickly and maintains their interest throughout; characters who arouse the reader’s sympathy and a desire to know what happens to them next; a style of writing which flows well and is appropriate to the subject matter. Above all, a piece of prose, whether fiction or non-fiction, should be readable and enjoyable. If it’s a struggle to get from page to page, then it’s not for me.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why? 

As a writer, the characters definitely come first, though I’m not always sure where they come from in the first place. I like to see where they will take me, and it is not necessarily in the direction I might have sketchily planned for them. Sometimes, a peripheral character may turn out to be crucial to the plot, when that finally emerges. In writing A Murder at Rosings, I was more than half-way through before I had any idea as to the identity of the murderer, or the circumstances, but the characters eventually led the way. As a reader, I think I have always been most interested in the characters; I faithfully follow some detective series, for example, not so much for the mysteries as for the detectives’ evolving personal lives!

How do you use social media as an author?

I’m very new to social media and did not use it at all until my book was published, when I saw that it is useful for authors to have some social media presence. Consequently, and with the encouragement of an old friend, I joined Twitter, and enjoy interacting with others on that platform – although I am often lured away from writerly things by politics! I try to mention my book in posts from time to time, sometimes including a relevant photo. Twitter is also a good source of advice from other writers, whom I have found to be really supportive. Finally, it is full of news of literary events and publication opportunities, as well as of the myriad of new books which come out every week.

Why did you choose Honno as a publisher?

I sent my manuscript to Honno on the advice of my sister-in-law, who used to work for Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru. I was encouraged by their website, where I was told that all submissions would be read, and by the fact that it is a company run by women, with the aim of publishing Welsh women’s writing. As an added bonus, it’s based in Aber!

Biography

Annette Purdey Pugh grew up in Flintshire and graduated in English from Lancaster University. She studied Creative Writing with the Open University, and has won prizes for poetry and prose at the National Eisteddfod of Wales. In a varied career, she has worked as a medical librarian, an optical adviser, and a milkwoman. She lives with her husband on the family farm in West Wales, where they keep 300 sheep. A Murder at Rosings is her first novel.

Connect with Annette:

Twitter: @APurdeyPugh

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Crystal Jeans

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno. 

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Crystal Jeans.

 Hi and welcome, Crystal. Good to see you here today.

It’s good to be with you, Judith

Tell us, please, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

I’ve written four books and though my latest, The Inverts, is my favourite, I have a special place in my heart for The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise, as it was my first.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Someone else did actually – Catherine Merriman, a fellow Honno author, suggested it. She was my teacher at the time and she lifted it out of the text. It was in reference to an illustration from my Children’s Book of Bible Stories – it showed tigers and lambs and people frollocking in paradise (I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness). I’d wondered if the tigers were vegetarian in paradise.

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?

No particular part was difficult. Overall, it was hard trying to splice together what was essentially a collection of personal essays into a novel. Emotionally, it was hard writing about my mother as I wasn’t on speaking terms with her at the time. But I got to flex my magnanimity muscle, which made me feel very noble (we’re fine now). I also struggled with fictionalising it. Looking back, I could have gone further. I was too close to it.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you tantalize us with a snippet of your plans for it? If not, your plans for your next book?

I’m not writing a sequel but I would like to return to creative non-fiction one day. I thought I’d scratched that itch with The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise but apparently not. I’d like to write very honest essays about sex. I will never write about my family again. I felt awful when VToP came out – my mother loved it but she was very anxious about how she might be perceived and I felt bad for her. Guilty. Right now I’m working on a historical fiction novel. It’s too early for me to talk about.

 At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

When I started writing my first novel at age 21. It was terrible by the way.

 Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

No. I love my name. And it already sounds made-up.

What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?

Hell. I’ve only had writer’s block once, when I was pregnant. I watched a lot of TV and felt very empty.

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Tea and nicotine. Radio 2 played on low. And a walking treadmill or a knee stool. Sitting at a desk for years has ruined my back.

 Are there therapeutic benefits to modelling a character after someone you know?

Yes. Writing about my mother made me really think hard about how she might have felt at certain points of her life, like when she lost her own mother at 14. As I said, we weren’t speaking at the time, and part of the reason I ended up wanting to make up with her was the empathy I felt recounting (fictionalised) parts of her life.

 What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

The first draft. I absolutely love the editing process though. It’s like a fun puzzle and I could do it all day.

 How do you use social media as an author?

I don’t. I’m beyond crap at using social media to promote my work. I don’t have a lot of time for it, or enthusiasm. I don’t really understand how Twitter works – am I supposed to add anyone who adds me? I personally have never bought a book because I’ve seen an author’s Twitter feed. I buy books through word-of-mouth. My agent tells me that it does make a difference for some authors – those who seem like they actually enjoy it. I think if I was in my teens/early twenties when my books came out, I would have been brilliant at social media book promotion because I was such a flaming narcissist and attention seeker back then. Now, the prospect fills me with dread and low-level anxiety.

 Why did you choose Honno as a publisher?

Honestly? None of the big London publishers would accept unsolicited manuscripts, I couldn’t get an agent, so I tried the Welsh indies, who did accept unsolicited MMS. Honno turned out to be a great fit though and I have nothing but praise for Caroline, my editor.

Bio

Crystal Jeans has had three books published by Honno – The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise, which was shortlisted for the Polari Prize, Light Switches are my Kryptonite, which won Wales Book of the Year in the English language for fiction, and The Homeless Heartthrob, a collection of short stories. The Inverts was published by Borough Press in 2021. She lives in Pontypridd with her wife and two children.

My twitter – @crystaljeans1

My Review of Making Waves, the sequel to Inside Out by Thorne Moore

As with Inside Out, I was given an ARC copy of Making Waves by the author, in return for an honest review.

I gave Making Waves 5* out of 5*

After reading this book I was happy to give the following endorsement: “Thorne Moore’s writing has three great qualities: the variety of genres, an exceptional sense of place, and characters that come alive on the page.”

I reviewed Inside Out here: https://bit.ly/3tNqwyI. Although both books are brilliant stand alone stories, I recommend reading Inside Out first.

Book Description:

Two hundred years in the future, with the Solar System in the hands of mega-corporations…
Tod Fox, commander of the Heloise, has delivered six rash volunteers to Triton, control centre of Ragnox Inc. But then he took one away again.
Now volunteers and crew face a new chapter in their lives, as human resources at the mercy of Ragnox Director, Jordan Pascal, or as allies of Pan, under Benedict Darke, the relentless enemy of the Triton regime.
Where will their allegiance lie? There is no middle ground in Arkadia. It is war. No mercy. Victory at any price.

Volume II of Salvage. Sequel to Inside Out

My Review:

I need to start by saying that Making Waves is only the second Science Fiction book I have read (and, yes, the first was Thorne Moore’s book, Inside Out). So I have little knowledge of this genre. But my interest in this author’s work is – and has long been – the psychological underpinning of the stories: I am always instantly gripped from the very first lines and by the way she presents the characters with all their foibles, their strengths, their weaknesses. And, juxtaposed with that aspect, are the settings they are living in. Backgrounds that inevitable affect their actions.

Even so, I was taken by surprise in Volume ll of Sequel: some of the characters act… well… out of character. Or, should I say, not with the personalities I expected after reading Volume l. The author gives them a new dimension. The travellers who journeyed to Triton on the ISF Heloise and the original crew of ISF Heloise, are instantly recognisable by their spoken and internal dialogue and by the subtle inclusion of details from their back stories. But they have extra facets to their characters, greater depths in their portrayals by their reactions to what is happening in the plot. Once engaged with that I applauded the courage, the innovative adaptation to the lives they are forced to endure, and I despaired of the evil of those connected with Ragnox on Triton and the desperate conditions there. And I was fascinated by the varied and complex new characters associated with Pan; Benedict Darke, that add even more interest to the story.

Trying hard to resist giving away spoilers here.

And, yet again, as in all her books, and although it’s an alien world. it’s the author’s inherent ability for writing descriptions (sometimes in only a few words) of the settings that evoke a sense of place. That gives credence to this excellent plot.

A plot that is intricate in the way it moves along, twisting and turning, yet with an ease that brings together the expected and unexpected, as in ‘real’ life.

This is a cracking book that kept me riveted and immersed. And, as I said in my review of Inside Out, Making Waves is a novel I would recommend to any readers who enjoys character-led stories – whatever the genre.

The author:

Thorne was born in Luton and graduated from Aberystwyth University (history) and from the Open University (Law). She set up a restaurant with her sister and made miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, as does Luton.
She writes psychological mysteries, or “domestic noir,” exploring the reason for crimes and their consequences, rather than the details of the crimes themselves. and her first novel, “A Time For Silence,” was published by Honno in 2012, with its prequel, “The Covenant,” published in 2020. “Motherlove” and “The Unravelling” were also published by Honno. “Shadows,” published by Lume, is set in an old mansion in Pembrokeshire and is paired with “Long Shadows,” also published by Lume, which explains the history and mysteries of the same old house. She’s a member of Crime Cymru.

Find Thorne at

Website:https://thornemoore.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThorneMoore

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thorne.moore.7

Buy Making Waves from:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3sZufKR

A few Moments With Carol Lovekin #MondayBlogs #Interview @Honno

Handing over to Carol for a moment

Hello, dear reader, and welcome.
Like you, I am a guest; invited by Judith to appear on her blog and answer some questions. This is an event, frankly. Since lockdown has put paid to physical book launches and fairs, sitting down to write about my author self and my books is a treat. So thank you, Judith!
   Judith and I are both published by Honno, the Welsh women’s Press. It’s the longest standing women-only press in the UK and I think I can safely speak for both of us when I say it is an honour and a privilege to be a Honno Girl. That said, we’re not girls anymore! We are both women of a certain age who, although we were already writers, came to publishing later than some. Judith was first published by Honno in 2010; my debut came out in 2016.
   Although we write in very different genres, our stories share some similarities. We both write strong women characters and explore family dynamics, not least, the relationships between mothers and daughters, and sisters.
   I recall first meeting Judith at a Honno gathering before I was published. Ghostbird, my debut, had been accepted but I was very much the new girl. Judith immediately struck me as down-to-earth, friendly and very funny. I was soon to learn her dry wit and no-nonsense Northern persona sat comfortably alongside her kindness and supportive nature.
   Over the years we have become good friends. (I’m still a bit star-struck to be honest. Judith really is a wonderful novelist and her published output is prolific.) It’s an extra special pleasure then to chat with her on her blog.  

Now let’s learn a little about Carol and her books

Judith: What do you love most about the writing process?

Carol: The opportunity to create story, Judith. Showing up and losing myself in the process. The lightbulb moments which illuminate a previously dim corner, or the ones that change the narrative’s trajectory. Being led by my characters because I threw away my breadcrumbs and allowed them to show me the way. Days when I punch the air because an unexpected tangent is about to make the story so much better.   

Judith: Are your characters based on real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

Carol: I’ve never knowingly based a character on a real person. I do confess to having ‘borrowed’ certain character traits. For instance, the narcissism of Allegra in Snow Sisters definitely has echoes of someone I used to know. The wonderful thing about it is of course, you don’t have to worry about being accused of writing negatively about a narcissist. They would never believe they could be that flawed therefore the character couldn’t possibly be based on them!

Snow Sisters

Judith: If you could write about anyone fictional/nonfictional who would you write about?

Carol: No one comes to mind. My writing feet are firmly set in the land of make-believe. I would be scared of mucking up a story about someone I admired!

Judith: What do you think makes a good story?

Carol: The perfect hook. An opening sentence that causes me to stop, go back and read it again. A sense of place and a central character who immediately piques my interest. To use a cliché: somebody who makes me care about them. They can be unreliable so long as they are largely sympathetic. And language – I am quickly put off by lazy language, which isn’t the same thing as bad editing. A good storyteller with a grasp of her craft will still shine through a tardy edit.  

 Judith: How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

Carol: The only ones I’m prepared to own are the three I’ve seen published plus the one in transit. There are the cobwebbed stories of course, in the back of metaphorical drawers. And the one I seem to have been writing forever, whose destiny is to be discarded each time a new, more exciting idea crops up. (My mentor calls it ‘the one my other books bounce off’ and a writer friend described it as being like ‘an old lover you parted with on good terms – between great passions, this lover is comfortable. . ’  (Like old lovers, some stories are best left to fade?)
   Not sure I have a favourite but okay – for the sake of a good yarn, I’ll have a go. Ghostbird because it was my first published book and Cadi, the central character, retains a special place in my heart. She presented herself, fully formed from a dream and I knew everything about her. She made writing what was a vague outline a possibility. Snow Sisters because it validated me as more than a one-trick pony and I love the relationship between the sisters, Verity and Meredith. My heart still aches for Allegra – a narcissist yes, but made that way by circumstances and upbringing. Wild Spinning Girls, my most recent book is my favourite because I can see my process as a writer; the improvements that come with practice I guess. And it has the best ghost! If I ever come back, as a ghost, I want to be Olwen!

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Judith: Have you considered writing in another genre?

Carol: Good question, Judith. When I began writing Ghostbird, I thought, naïvely and a little smugly, that I was writing literary fiction. I had nothing else to call it to be honest. I knew nothing about how genre works in publishing – in book shops – and in any case, I disliked the idea of being pigeonholed. Time has taught me that the Lit Fic label is as meaningless as the Women’s Fiction one.
   (My favourite quote about genre comes from Matt Haig who said: “
There is only one genre in fiction. The genre is called book.”)

   Once I realised Ghostbird was a ghost story my first thought was, ‘Who knew?’ My second was that it suited me. There was a palpable shift in my thinking and my next two books were specifically planned as ghost stories – with hints of Welsh Gothic – and with an emphasis on family dynamics.  
   Having found my “niche” so to speak, I see no reason to deviate.

 Judith: Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book? And why it’s a must read?

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Carol: Wild Spinning Girls came out just before the first lockdown and unlike so many of my writer friends I was able to have a physical launch. I remain hugely appreciative of this.
   The book is, like my previous ones, a ghost story. It concerns Ida Llewellyn, a young woman who loses her job and her beloved parents in the space of a few weeks. Her life thrown off course she sets out for Wales and the remote house her father has left her. When Heather, the daughter of the last tenant turns up, Ida is confronted by a series of terrifying events, not least the ghost Heather claims is her dead mother. The two young women embark on a battle of wills and in the process uncover a dark secret that has lain hidden in the house for twenty years.
   Anyone who likes a ghost story rather than a horror one; family intrigue and mother daughter relationships will, I think, like Wild Spinning Girls. There is a ballet theme too and allusions to the fairy tale, The Red Shoes. It has been described as ‘stunning and utterly unforgettable’ and ‘a timeless tale alive with a wild, old magic.’

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

Carol: Reins!? I was about to say, ‘I wish’ but as I mentioned previously, what I particularly love about the writing process are the tangents. Yes, I am a serious plotter – other than scribbled outline notes I’m reluctant to type Chapter One until I have a pretty good idea what the story is about, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Equally, I’m open to suggestions!
   Like real people, fictional characters evolve. And often indulge in spontaneous hijacking. It can be startling, but it really is part of the process. When characters behave in ways that differ from my original concept, it makes them more real to me. I can only hope it does the same for my reade
r.  


Judith: If you could spend a day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that time?

Carol: What a brilliant question! It would have to be Olwen. I adore her as a ghost and love her as a living woman. Her story is a thread though, with only hints about her life before she died. I’d like to go for a long walk with her, take a picnic and sit “out on the wild moor near the stone where the black birds watch” where she grew up; ask her to tell me about her life, the one I have half imagined for her and only vaguely outlined.   

Judith: When did you write your first book and how old were you?

Carol: I wrote my first story when I was about ten or eleven. It was called The Veiled Lady and although I hadn’t written the end, I read it to my younger sister. I told her she would have to wait until the next day for the dénouement. The next day came but because she did something to annoy me, I refused to finish the story. We are both in our 70s now and she still hasn’t forgiven me.


Judith: Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

Carol: I used to be a ballet dancer and drew on that dormant past when I wrote Wild Spinning Girls.

 Judith: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Carol: I have a pair of writing earrings. They’re odd – their partners lost. Because they were so pretty, I paired them up and wear them when I’m working.  

Judith: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Carol: In the middle of what Marion Keyes calls, The Pandemonium? Think about not being in it? *Wry grin* Covid restrictions on meeting family and friends and attending book events apart, my life is pretty much as it was. I walk (I’ve always walked alone), read a good deal the way most writers do. In the morning I practice Qigong and have recently taken up yoga.
   I like to knit, watch long series on telly and tend to my house plants. Currently, I’m obsessed with growing avocado trees from the stones. It’s fascinating, watching the tap root emerge in water, the stone splitting and a tiny green shoot pushing its way up. Potted on these shoots soon begin turning into tiny trees and over weeks and months they can become really tall.     

Judith: What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you? Not particularly to do with your writing?

Carol:Does tripping over outside the chip shop and landing on my face count? Or on my knee, running (why would I even do that) to open the door to answer the postman? Or breaking my leg tripping over an inch of iffy pavement in the dark? Three times in two years and I’m not even kidding. I’m an accident waiting to happen, Judith, but you have to see the funny side. And small things amuse me every day. I am drawn to the absurd and see it everywhere. It’s what keeps me cheerful I think.      


Judith: Give us a random fact about yourself.

Carol: I’m continually and endlessly home-schooled. Seriously – I left school with two O-levels and once I caught up with myself and refused my father’s “education is wasted on girls” doctrine, I began educating myself. I’ve been doing it ever since.


All my books are available from my publisher, Honno: www.honno.co.uk

LINKS:
Website: carollovekinauthor.com
Twitter: twitter.com/carollovekin
Instagram: www.instagram.com/carollovekin
Honno: www.honno.co.uk/authors/l/carol-lovekin

Thank you for being with us today, Carol. And for giving us a glimpse unto your writing world.

I loved being here, Judith. Thank you

Judith Barrow Author MA BA (Hons) Dip Dramahttps://judithbarrowblog.com/
https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77

https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3
https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6

The Heart Stone Kindle Edition
The Memory Kindle Edition

A Few Moments with RNA Saga Author Liz Harris #RNA #TuesdayBookBlog

Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog https://bit.ly/2VhEPg7, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts, who you’ll soon be able to read about here.

I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers.

This is the ninth of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m thrilled to be with Liz Harris

Hi Liz, and welcome. Lovely to see you here today.

Pleased to be joining you, Judith

When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one story?

At the outset, I’d intended to write a family saga centred upon the Linford family. There were to be three books, throughout the course of which the reader would follow three main story lines. I’d planned to end the first book in 1938, by which time I expected the novel to be about 120,000 words long.

The first book began at the end of 1919. 118,000 words later, I was still only in 1933, and I realised that I’d have to rethink my original idea. I decided that the reason I’d written so much at that stage was because each of the three story lines at the heart of the novel had so much meat on it that it could, in fact, have carried a novel on its own. And at that moment, I decided to extract each story line and make each into a 90,000 word novel.

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.Because of this change of plan, the three books in the Linford Series are contemporaneous. The challenge to me was to ensure that not one of the novels tells readers what happened to family members who are not central to that novel, and who have a story of their own. I’m delighted that a number of those who’ve reviewed the first two books in the series, The Dark Horizon and The Flame Within, have commented that each book can be read on its own, and that they can be read in any order.

Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

This is difficult to answer. In the case of a series that focuses on a family, as does the Linford Series – Book 1 tells the story of Lily and Robert Linford, Book 2 the story of Alice and Thomas Linford and Book 3 is the story of Dorothy Linford – and where there is a love story at the heart of each novel, it’s hard to divorce the two since the romance involves a member of the Linford family.

But to answer the question as it applies to my novels, it is the love story in each book that drives the story on, but this is ultimately a saga about a family. The relationships between the members of the family are as important in their way as the relationship between the hero and heroine, and they frequently impact upon each other.

Generally, in a novel where the romance is more important than the family story, I imagine that the spotlight would have to be on the hero and heroine throughout most of the novel. That works really well for a vast amount of romantic fiction, but that is not how I see a family saga, which, to my mind, is generational.

How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in.

Extremely important. A saga is an historical novel. An historical novel isn’t a non-fiction account of an historical period or an event. While it’s a novel that shows the reader how people lived at the time during which the novel is set, it goes beyond that – it transports the reader to that period.

People who read sagas want to walk alongside the characters who inhabit that fictional world, and to get to know the central families and what motivates them, and authors can only recreate the world in which their characters move if they have a sound knowledge of every aspect of the history of the relevant period.

How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

I use a huge piece of white card, purchased from the Art department in a local store, in order to keep the family tree in front of me. I draw a chart on part of the card on which I record the ages of the main Linfords in the years that are key to the story.

I keep an online up-to-date chapter plan for every novel, which I fill in at the end of writing every chapter. This enables me to locate very quickly something that I’ve written earlier in the book. On the chapter plan, I record the page at which the chapter begins, the time and place where it’s set, a brief outline of the content, the word count, and notes. The notes’ column is for key points that crop up in that chapter, such as hair colour, eye colour, name of servant, etc.

I have such a plan for each novel, and it’s easy to refer back to the plan when necessary. I find such a plan essential for purposes of continuity, and extremely helpful when it comes to editing the novel.

A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world, How important is the time period to the development of your narrative.

I think it’s very important. Just as we are reflections of the customs and beliefs of our time, so, too, should our characters reflect the mores of their time. Thanks to TV and films, most people today know enough about the 18th century, for example, for it to jar if they read a book with 18th characters who see the world through a 21st century sensibility. Authors should be alert to this.

If readers are to be drawn into a fictional world set in years gone by, a sense of place is vital. One of the ways of achieving this is subtly to introduce aspects of a time period that are different from those today. This will stimulate images of the period in the reader’s mind. These differences can also be used for dramatic effect, and might well even give birth to ideas for the story. A character could, for example, embody an aspect of life that is pertinent to the period in which the novel is set, and this could help to propel a page-turning plot.

Many thanks for having me as your guest, Judith. I’ve very much enjoyed thinking about, and then answering, your questions.

About the Author;


Liz is the author of the historical novels The Road Back (US Coffee Time and Romance Book of the Year), A Bargain Struck (RoNA shortlisted for the Best Historical Novel), The Lost Girl and the novella, A Western Heart. Her almost-contemporary novels are Evie Undercover and The Art of Deception. Liz’s latest two novels, The Dark Horizon and The Flame Within, are the first two books in the Linford Saga, which is set between the wars.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Novel Society, Liz gives talks and workshops at conferences and literary festivals, and regularly speaks to WI and book groups.

Links:

Website: www.lizharrisauthor.com

Twitter: @lizharrisauthor

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

Instagram:  liz.harris.52206

A Few Moments With #RNA #Saga Writer Elaine Roberts #TuesdayBookBlog

Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog https://bit.ly/2VhEPg7, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts.

I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers.

This is the eighth of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m thrilled to be with Elaine Roberts, who, alongside Francesca Capaldi Burgess (who I interviewed in the second of this series) is one of the RNA Saga Writers who runs the Write Minds blog .http://bit.ly/3qIydoy

Welcome, Elaine, and thank you for spending some time with us.

Thank you for inviting me on to your blog Judith, it’s lovely to be here.

  1. When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one story?

When I wrote the Foyles Bookshop Girls it was written as a one off, which was born from a Victorian novel I had written and not published, whereas The West End Girls was always a series. I’ve always wanted to write about families and relationships so that definitely put me in the saga category, even if I didn’t realise it when I started writing.

  • Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

I think most books have romance in them regardless of the genre but I would say my novels are more about relationships, which include family, friends and romance. We all have good and bad relationships, and they all have their ups and downs, that’s what makes them interesting. I believe as a reader you can empathise with what’s going on in a characters life, where you may not be able to with the war as a backdrop. War aside, every generation has had to deal with similar issues, which could be anything from financial hardship, alcohol or family relationship problems. I love writing about families and friendships, it’s the dynamics of it all that interests me, so it’s all in the mix for me.

  • How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in?

Research is a big topic, I would say you can’t write a historical/saga without doing the research. I always look on it as similar to an iceberg, what I put in the books is the tip of it but the amount I actually do is the chunk that sits under the water. I have a tendency to get lost in the information, especially on the internet. It’s a wonderful asset, but it’s always best to check the information is correct. For that reason I prefer to use reference books. I have a numerous amount of books on WW1, including recipe books, theatre shows, cinemas and a book that was written for a child. One of my most precious books details the timeline of when the bombs were actually dropped in London and how many were killed and injured in each case. I purchased several old maps of London, which have enabled me to work out things like routes taken to work and often, to add a complication, I discovered that road names have changed over time. I visited museums, including the Imperial War Museum, and downloaded some of their podcasts. Archive libraries were also valuable, to gain more information. I have pages of old newspapers, so that headlines could be mentioned in my novel. Pinterest is great for images of the time. The BBC Schools website is an excellent place to go, because it’s factual, but written for children, so easy to understand. I looked at the census for popular names at that time, as well as my own family tree. For my first book, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, I also looked at the history of the company and found some fabulous stories. All of it can help form the story line and give the feel for the time. The Foyles Bookshop Girls At War was written because I had seen a photograph of the devastation caused when a munitions factory blew up.

  • How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

Once, I fell into the trap of having a year long pregnancy for one of my characters. Thankfully, that was quite early on in my writing so that taught me  I needed more than my memory to keep on top of these things. I now have spreadsheets and chapter breakdowns, which are colour coded. I also create a family tree to remind me who is related to who, where they live, it also contains the character’s date of birth, when they passed away, and any anniversaries I might need to remember.

  • A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world, How important is the time period to the development of your narrative.

That’s a difficult question because it depends on the story and the event that’s leading it. My novels tend to run over no more than a two year period but everything can change quite quickly in a war setting and dealing with loss.  Showing a character dealing with things outside their normal life, is portraying they have the strength they didn’t know they had is a change. Personally I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule about it, but if there is I’m prepared to be corrected on it.

Thank you for the interesting questions and for having me on your blog, Judith.

It’s been so interesting, Elaine. Thank you

About The West End Girls

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1914. 

Growing up on a farm in the country, Annie Cradwell has always dreamt of singing on stage. So when she hears her friend Joyce has a room to spare in London, she sets off with best friend Rose for an adventure beyond anything they could have imagined

In London, Annie and Rose stumble into jobs at the Lyceum Theatre. Being a dresser to capricious star Kitty Smythe wasn’t exactly what Annie had in mind. But then the musical director, Matthew Harris, offers her singing lessons. And Annie starts to wonder – could this be her chance? Or is it all too good to be true? 

With the threat of war in the air, everything is uncertain. Is there a place for hopes and dreams when so much is at stake? 

Annie, Rose and Joyce are three girls with very different dreams – but the same great friendship.

Amazon: The West End Girls

Author Bio

Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way again until she picked it up again in 2010. She joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. Elaine is very proud of her debut novel, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, which went on to become a saga trilogy. Her late husband always supported her dream and encouraged her to write. She, and her extended family, live in and around Dartford, Kent and her home is always busy with children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting.

Amazon: Author Page

Amazon Link:    The West End Girls

Facebook Author Page:  Elaine Roberts Facebook Author Page

Twitter:   @RobertsElaine11

A Few Moments With #RNA #familysaga Writer LinTreadgold #TuesdayBookBlog

Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog https://bit.ly/2VhEPg7, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts.

I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers.

This is the seventh of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m thrilled to be with Lin Treadgold

Welcome Lin, it’s lovely to see you here today.

Glad to be here, Judith.

Let’s start by my asking you, when you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one account?

When I began writing ‘The Tanglewood Affair’, my second book, I knew precisely where the story was going, and therefore it was easy to write.  It could only be labelled as a family saga, and when I’d completed the work, the genre was spot on.  However, in my first book, I spent many hours changing the story, and what was purely a romance novel, became a family saga.  Sometimes the genre is laid out in front of you without you realising what it is you are writing about.  I am now a saga writer, but I really don’t want to be labelled as such throughout my writing career.  I hope to make changes to my genres as I move forward with the romance theme.

Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

I think that when I write a novel, I am very aware of the balance between the family saga and the romance.  The saga part of the story should lead the reader to empathise with the characters. Whereas romance is what brings it all together. So, in my opinion, the two should have a delicate balance, tilting this way and that. You have to ask yourself if you’ve spent too long on the romance, and vice versa.

How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in.

You cannot write a novel without doing your research.  I think that’s what makes the book very real to the reader, to read about places they have visited.  Also, it has to ring true as well. For example, my first book ‘Goodbye Henrietta Street’ was based on the Isles of Scilly and in Whitby, Yorkshire.  The feedback from my readers is that they have visited the places I mention in the story, and it makes them want to go back there.  This book has sold in Austria, Portugal and Sweden and the USA, and those readers have told me I made it so realistic that they wanted to visit the beautiful islands on the south-west coast of England.

So now I am writing my third and fourth books, and the research I had to do for my World Ward II story ‘The Trail to Freedom’ (not yet published),  has been a long haul, but the book is now ready for the publisher.  You can never stop researching your work.  There will always be a reviewer who points the finger at incorrect research.

How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

I think it’s essential to keep a record of the timelines for your story—Eg. The ages of the characters, when and where, etc.  On book number four, I have a lot more characters,  and so I have written a family tree at the front of the book, but I keep records as well to ensure that, e.g. young Jamie isn’t six years old and then suddenly he’s only five. 

A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world. How important is the timing of the development in your narrative?

The essence of a good saga is to hold the reader’s interest as the story unfolds.  There will be the usual ups-and-downs of life, but the writer should be aware of the exact timing on where to make those exposures throughout the book.  There is no sense in having  ‘John leave his wife ‘ halfway through the book.  I would start his story at the beginning and show the consequences of his actions and how those actions lead from one set of circumstances to the next.  So yes,  regarding the period of development, the writer must know where in the book the revelations will take place to help keep the story moving forward and make those changes,  from troubled times to resolve.

Goodbye Henrietta Street

The Tanglewood Affair

The Trail to Freedom (Coming soon)

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Author Biography

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Lin Treadgold

In 2015 Lin Treadgold returned to the UK after spending 15 years in The Netherlands. She gave up her profession as a driving instructor to be with her husband and his job as a professional in the steel industry. Now retired, they live in the heart of Devon with their Jack Russell dog, Dylan.

Since writing her first book in 2012, ‘Goodbye Henrietta Street,’ nominated for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award, Lin has spent her time refurbishing her new home and writing a further two novels.‘The Tanglewood Affair’ is her second book. She recently completed her third book, The Trail to Freedom’ centred around World War II and the war letters her father wrote during his time in a prisoner of war camp In Italy. Book number four will be a sequel to this.

Lin is the group organiser for the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Exeter Chapter, and enjoys art, photography, and wildlife. After sailing around the world in her youth, she has acquired plenty of life experiences to assist her future novels.