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

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

 

anne marie brear

 

Welcome AnneMarie, lovely to have you here today.

 Good to be here, Judith

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

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

What is the first book that made you cry?

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

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Writing energises me – promoting exhausts me!

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Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?

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

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

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

What does literary success look like to you?

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

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

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

How do you select the names of your characters?

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

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

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

What was your hardest scene to write?

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

 

McKenzie (1) (1)

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

My day job!

What is your favourite childhood book?

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

Does your family support your career as a writer?

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

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

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

Links to AnneMarie:

http://www.annemariebrear.com

http://annemariebrear.blogspot.com

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

Twitter @annemariebrear

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with Merryn Allingham#MondayBlogs

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

Today, I’m chatting with Merryn Allingham. Merryn was born into an army family and spent her childhood on the move. Unsurprisingly, it gave her itchy feet and in her twenties she escaped from an unloved secretarial career to work as cabin crew and see the world. The arrival of marriage, children and cats meant a more settled life in the south of England where she’s lived ever since. It also gave her the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually teach at university.

Merryn has always loved books that bring the past to life, so when she began writing herself the novels had to be historical. She finds the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries fascinating eras to research and her first book, The Crystal Cage, had as its background the London of 1851. The Daisy’s War trilogy followed, set in India and London during the 1930s and 40s.

Her latest novels explore two pivotal moments in the history of Britain. The Buttonmaker’s Daughter is set in Sussex in the summer of 1914 as the First World War looms ever nearer and its sequel, The Secret of Summerhayes, forty years later in the summer of 1944 when D Day led to eventual victory in the Second World War. Along with the history, of course, there is plenty of mystery and romance to keep readers intrigued.

merryn

 

 

Hi, Merryn, good to see you here, I’m looking forward to our chat. 

Thanks for inviting me, Judith. 

Please tell us How long have you been writing?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve needed to put pen to paper. As a small child, I wrote poems, at grammar school there were short stories that I never dared mention – creative writing was definitely not encouraged. Then the long letters home while working as cabin crew (pre internet and mobile phones) and at least two ten year diaries. Deep down, though, I knew it was a novel I had to write. But between family, pets and my job as a lecturer, there was little time to do more than dabble. However, when the pressures eased, I grabbed the chance to do something I’d always promised myself – to write that novel.

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

I worked for twenty-five years as a university lecturer teaching English Literature and when I came to write, it proved a two-edged sword. I’d spent years analysing how a piece of writing worked (or didn’t) so in theory I knew the basics. But that same background of academic research and teaching was a huge barrier to writing popular fiction and I hadn’t a clue how to begin, although I knew I wanted to. Then one morning I woke up and the idea was there. I would start where I felt most comfortable – in the Regency with a book along the lines of Georgette Heyer, whom I’ve read and reread a hundred times since my teenage years.

What process did you go through to get your book published?

It wasn’t until I’d completed the book, that I thought about a publisher. You can see how naive I was! I discovered that Harlequin Mills and Boon was one of the few who published Regency romances and were happy to accept unsolicited manuscripts. When I read they were willing to help polish my work if the writing showed promise, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

It took a long, long time for them to get back to me and in the meantime I’d made a start on novel number two. When eventually I received their feedback, it was complimentary. They liked my voice, they liked the characters and the plot but – you soon learn there’s always a ‘but’ – there were elements that didn’t fit what they wanted in a Mills and Boon novel. Would I care to revise? I certainly would. I set about getting the manuscript as right as I could before resubmitting. Another long wait followed, six months this time, and then ‘the call’ came (by this time I was half way through a third novel – the bug had truly bitten). I remember I was sitting on the sofa feeling doleful from a bout of December flu when the phone rang. Despite the coughs and splutters, it felt pretty special hearing an editor say I was being offered a two book contract.

What kind(s) of writing do you do?

I started publishing over six years ago, producing six Regency romances under the name of Isabelle Goddard. Writing category historical romance proved a great apprenticeship, but left me wanting to broaden my scope and move into mainstream women’s fiction. It also left me wanting to create something a little darker. It hadn’t escaped my notice that with each succeeding Regency, the mystery element of the novels had become more pronounced. It seemed a natural progression then to segue into writing suspense, but still with an element of romance. In 2013, I adopted a different writing name – Merryn Allingham – and launched myself into the new genre.

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

I write historical novels so research is essential, and it’s something I enjoy hugely. Delving into history, I get to live in different houses, wear different clothes, meet different people and confront different choices. For The Buttonmaker’s Daughter, I did several months’ research in addition to what I already knew of the period, reading up on the social history of the country house, for instance, plotting the timeline of the First World War, understanding the pressures that led to emigration, and so on. The book is set in the summer of 1914, a cataclysmic moment for this country, and I feel a deep attachment to the world that was lost then. The First World War affected millions of lives across every class and community, with so few understanding the reality of the war they were called to join.

merryn-cover

                                                          http://amzn.to/2ln5iWu

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

It’s interesting how often a place begins the process for me. I mull over possibilities of what might have happened there, and who it might have happened to. The mulling probably goes on for a couple of months. Then I might do some reading around the subject. For example, last year I travelled on the Orient Express to Venice and was blown away by the beauty of its art deco carriages. I wondered what it must have been like to travel on the train the whole way to Constantinople, as Istanbul was once known. That led me to reading about the last days of the Ottoman Empire which in turn led to a fairly detailed plot outline for a new book. The outline will change as I write almost certainly, but I have a structure now to work with. At the least, I know where the story will start and how it will end. The rest should fall into place as I write.

How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?

This is another instance of place playing a significant role. I was on a visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, ‘lost’ because they were only rediscovered in 1990 and since that time have been lovingly restored. The gardens’ heyday was the late Victorian/Edwardian period when owners spent a great deal of money, time and effort, in creating a beautiful and exotic paradise. But, when in 1914, war came to England, everything changed. Over half the staff perished in the mud of Flanders and the gardens were left to a slow disintegration.

Our guide that day had a fund of anecdotes and it was a single image from one of his stories that lodged in my mind and set me writing. On one particular day in the summer of 1914, every gardener on the estate downed tools together and walked side by side to Redruth, to enlist at the local recruiting centre. Most of those men never returned. The Day Book, which should have listed every job done on the estate that day, carried only the date and poignantly was never used again. The image of those men, honourable and courageous, walking together to enlist in what they saw as a just cause, stayed in my mind, and I knew I had to record that moment in a novel.

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

I try to do both. There’s a temptation, particularly under pressure from publishers, to repeat what has worked before, but readers can get bored with what is virtually the same story, just a different setting and different characters. I try to vary how I tackle each project. Daisy’s War is a trilogy exploring several themes across the three books but with each a complete story.

daisys-war

http://amzn.to/2meJiwt

The Crystal Cage is a novel with parallel time lines, that interweaves the lives of a modern day heroine and her Victorian counterpart.

 

the-crysatl-cage

http://amzn.to/2meFtr8

And the Summerhayes books (the second novel, The Secret of Summerhayes, is due out in August) are centred on one location but set thirty years apart, during the two World Wars. What remains constant in all the novels, though, is the mix of social history, suspense, and romance.

What do you like to read in your free time?

My choice of reading is fairly wide. I try to keep up with books in my genre – at the moment, I’m looking forward to reading Nicola Cornick’s The Phantom Tree. I also read some of the latest literary fiction and often go back to old favourites such as 19th century novels. Then there are the books I read for my book group. We’re currently into a season of Virago and I’ll be introducing one of my favourites, A Pin to See the Peepshow by F Tennyson Jesse. I read the book years ago and liked it a lot, and found the television series excellent.

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

I’d tell myself to get rid of the censor in my head and allow the words to flow. I’ve learned from experience that some will be rubbish, some will be reasonable and a few will be nuggets of gold. I’d realise that I need to be disciplined and write as regularly as possible. And finally I’d counsel myself to learn patience – it often takes a long time to get anywhere.

About the book

My latest book published on January 12th is The Buttonmaker’s Daughter. It is set in the summer of 1914 in a country mansion called Summerhayes. Nestled in the Sussex countryside, the Summerhayes estate seems the perfect country idyll, but it faces the threat of a war that looms ever closer. It also faces threats nearer to home. The daughter of the house, Elizabeth, is at odds with a society based on rigid gender and class divisions. She has struggled unsuccessfully to become a professional artist and now is forced to fight against her family’s choice of husband. Her adolescent brother, William, already a disappointment to his father, must confront his true sexuality. And a long-running feud with the Summers’ neighbours, fuelled by money and jealousy, intensifies to breaking point. As the sweltering heat builds to a storm, Elizabeth, her family and household, face danger on all sides. The summer of 1914 will change everything for them, as indeed it did for so many.

Find Merryn here:

Website: www.merrynallingham.com

Facebook: www.tinyurl.com/m322ovu

Twitter: @MerrynWrites

Pinterest:  http://tinyurl.com/jnapbpm

Amazon UK: http://tinyurl.com/zxm9ku4

 

 

 

 

The Tenby Book Fair is moving and Being Renamed…The Narberth Book Fair. Ta dah!!

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Welcome to the first post of the Narberth Book Fair.

Just to let you know that we have decided we have outgrown the Church House in Tenby.  Having searched around for a suitable place we have found the perfect venue. So the Tenby Book Fair will no longer be held in Tenby. In fact it will no longer be the Tenby Book Fair but the Narberth Book Fair. We are quite excited  to be having a new challenge and I’m sure we will be bigger and better… just in a different hall. In a different town.

From now on the Book Fair will be held at the Queens Hall there. Check out their website    https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/. As you can see it’s a vibrant and busy venue in a bustling little town full of interesting shops, antique places, cafes and restaurants. And there is a large nearby car park. But, sorry… no beach.

The date will be Saturday, the 23rd September. 10.00am to 4.oopm.

I’ve been to a few craft fairs at the Queens Hall with my books and always there is plenty of footfall.

A little information on Narberth; the former capital of Pembrokeshire boasts one of the best high-streets in the county. It’s a gorgeous little market town in the east of Pembrokeshire. Multi coloured Edwardian and Georgian buildings line the high street which has developed quite a reputation as a shopper’s heaven. many of the cafes, pubs and restaurants are award winners..

Transport:  Narberth has a railway station about a mile outside of town. And there are quite a few taxi firms based around and in Narberth. And, I’m sure, one or two of the authors who would be willing to pop there to meet stranded fellow authors 

Accommodation: Check out this website: http://bit.ly/2grbFXY. But I’m sure there are more dotted around

The History of Narberth:

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The town has grown around the walls of its stone castle, but the name is older than the castle. Narberth is derived from ‘Arberth’, the pre-Norman name for the district (or commote). This Celtic heritage is also represented in the myth and legend of the Mabinogion – ancient Welsh folk tales that were written down in the 14th century, originating from an earlier tradition of oral storytelling. Two branches of the Mabinogi in particular are centred on ‘Arberth’, which was reputedly the court of Pwyll, Prince of Dfydd.

So.. we have already had many of our usual authors wanting to take part in our inaugural book fair in Narberth. But we’re always thrilled to welcome new authors. Those interested in taking part please contact me: judithbarrow77@gmail.com 

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Wednesday’s Interview with #Honno authors – today with Jacqueline Jacques

The sixth  of my Wednesday interviews with fellow Honno authors. And today we’re meeting the prolific and entertaining Jacqueline Jacques.

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Quick Introduction:  Who are you? 

  • I am a retired primary school teacher (latterly Special Needs) born on Anglesey in the war and brought up among the bomb ruins and privations of post-war London.  I now live, fat and sleek, surrounded by greenery, on the edge of Epping Forest in Essex.  My life revolves around writing and research, painting, reading, sharing cookery ‘experiments’ (sometimes successful) and gardening with my husband and seeing friends and family for meals, out and in. I love visiting the London Art Galleries, theatre, cinema and concert halls, but a relaxed evening in, playing board games with ex-colleagues or discussing books with other members of the local book club is often just as enjoyable. And you can’t beat a good drama on TV.

 

What first inspired you to start writing?

  • I have always loved stories.  As a small child I was often to be found curled up in a corner – Sally Suck-a-thumb, nose in a book – away with the fairies or, when playing with friends, acting out adventures of my own devising.  All through school, writing stories was what I enjoyed the most. As I grew older, I fantasised about being an actress or a novelist but was persuaded that these were unrealistic dreams, not for the likes of a responsible working class girl who had to earn a living.  So, with a degree in Sociology, I became a primary school teacher, specialising in Art and Clay-work!  Don’t ask!  I wear my ‘ology’ lightly, with equal amounts of guilt and amusement, my signing up for the course having been born of sheer desperation, a means of escape from a hated job in the Civil Service.  As luck would have it, during Freshers’ week I met my lovely husband, Peter. During the next twenty-something years the only writing I did had to do with school reports and curriculum documents.  It wasn’t until my children left home that I was properly able to indulge my life-long desire to write fiction. I swapped my kiln for an Amstrad word processor (not so different, perhaps, given the craft of moulding stories from words) and booked up for evening classes at the local college. After a few short stories my creative writing teacher said, ‘I don’t know what you do now but you must give it up and write.’ So I did.

 

Tell us about your new book.

  • ‘Dangerous Images’ (working title) is a Victorian crime story, the second about police artist, Archie Price, (see ‘The Colours of Corruption’ ) whose strong suit is that he can draw a likeness from a victim’s description (like Photo-fit today).  After being injured in a train disaster Archie finds himself billeted in the same house as his neighbour in Walthamstow: Polly Porter, a photographer.  Archie grows fond of the girl, and together, using their separate skills, they track down a prisoner who escaped from the derailed train and the gang who wrecked it in order to free him.  In helping the police Archie makes discoveries about himself and Polly that cause him to confront long-held prejudices. Music-hall artistes and hypnotists, peers of the realm and gypsies, ‘dirty’ postcards and radio masts all have a part to play in the plot.  Honno will publish the book, probably in November.

The Colours of Corruption

What keeps you writing?

 Curiosity drives me, I suppose.  I’m a people watcher: I need to know how a character is motivated, how they develop and move a story along.

Regarding the Archie Price stories, I am really interested in the Victorian period and am constantly researching to find out what the places I knew as a child would have been like fifty or sixty years earlier. What were the people like − people I imagine my grandmother might have encountered as she was growing up?  How did they manage without electricity, telephones, drugs and detergent, in long dresses and corsets, starched collars and high buttoned boots.  Underneath it all were they really so different from people today?

Into that mix I drop a crime, criminals, some sort of catalyst to upset the equilibrium, and like a social scientist, I like to watch the ensuing developments. What changes?  How do the protagonists react?  Who survives, who grows stronger, who goes under and who makes the best of a bad situation?  Why?  Is there anything to be learned?

Archie Price is a police (forensic) artist, but he also paints on commission.  I know a bit about the process of oil painting, but things were different then. From research I learned that you had to mix your own pigments, stretch your own canvas.  How does Archie decide what to paint and in what style?  Is he influenced by developments on the Continent?

Then, of course, it is interesting to examine the detection practices of those days, before fingerprinting and Photo-fit and sophisticated forensic science.  Policemen were thin on the ground and detectives didn’t all have Sherlock Holmes’ powers of deduction (or induction, even).  Were officers of the law up to the job?  And, given the prejudices of the time, including those against women and immigrants and between the classes, what were the influences for change that one can see today?

Finally, having set myself a puzzle I need to solve it, come to conclusions.  I can’t stop writing until I have tied up all the loose ends and pulled some sort of moral from the story.

Do you have a plan to write or are you constantly jotting down ideas and lines?

  • When I start a chapter I seldom know where it is going.  As I write and the character becomes clearer, as I work out how he would behave in the situation into which I have put him, ideas occur to me and I jot them down.

What do you think it takes to stand out from the crowd?

  • A good author should be trying to show the reader something new and unexpected, to make him or her want to carry on reading to the very last page, and then to want to start again.

What is the ultimate goal you hope to achieve with your writing?

  • To be read, enjoyed and remembered.

What is your favourite book? 

  • Most recently it is ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey.  What a clever book!  A tale told by a really unreliable narrator (with dementia), by an author who juggles past and present so skilfully as to keep the reader glued to the page. Flawless.  Otherwise ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ had me hooked, but over a lifetime of reading good books it is very hard to choose.

What ‘s the least favourite book you’ve read?

  • I generally don’t persevere beyond page 17 of any book that doesn’t grab me on page 1 and haul me in.  But I recently read ‘Equilateral’ to the end, for my book-club, and felt it was time wasted.  What was the point? Or the apex, perhaps?

Do you write one specific genre or are you multi-talented?

  • I have had published a saga based on autobiography, three ‘psychic’/so-called historicals (post World War 2), a contemporary politico-science-fiction novel and, most recently, two Victorian crime stories.  I have two finished psychological crime stories in my ‘bottom drawer’ which I hope to refine and get published.  I don’t think that makes me multi-talented, just a writer.  My dad used to play the piano ‘by ear’. ‘You hum it and I’ll play it,’ he would say.  That’s more or less my attitude to writing.

How do you find the promotional aspect of being an author?

  • Frustrating.  Essentially a shy person I don’t like having to promote myself.  I would rather be writing than selling my book.  But if I don’t, who will?
  • I have a website: jacquelinejacques.co.uk, Facebook and Twitter accounts plus an Author page on Amazon but rarely post on any of these.  I am afraid of blogs, that I may say things that will get me into trouble.  That’s why I’m not telling you any little-known facts about myself …
  • My books, published by Honno Press, are: ‘Lottie’, ‘Skin Deep’, and ‘The Colours of Corruption’.

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Jacqueline’s books are available from Amazon.co.uk:

http://amzn.to/1MFtJWv

http://amzn.to/1MFtA5b

http://amzn.to/1EW1MbC

And from Honno:

http://www.honno.co.uk/dangos.php?ISBN=9781906784539

http://www.honno.co.uk/

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