My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today With Adrienne Morris #Mondayblogs

 Until the beginning of July I’ll be chatting, as I have been  over the last few months, 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!!

Adrienne

Hi,Adrienne, thanks for joining us here today.

Many thanks for inviting me, Judith.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

My father was an Irish/German police officer who could entertain crowds for hours with his policing tales. He saw the humor, pathos and hope in every dysfunctional situation he encountered. My mother was the quiet storyteller. She told us about ourselves by retelling (as if things happened only yesterday) all the human events involving our gene pool going back centuries. My mother also loved to read to us. Pride and Prejudice was her favorite.

How long have you been writing?

My 1st grade teacher illustrated a story I wrote about a kitten who loved to take showers before taking tea. I envied writers throughout life but avoided doing it seriously until after a blood clot almost took my life.

What kind of writing do you do?

I’ve wrestled with what to call my writing. Family saga? Historical fiction? Big house story?  I’m obsessed with family dynamics, history and flawed people. Once a reader said he was uncomfortable with how often my characters made the wrong decisions. Welcome to my world!

 Peeling back the layers of my characters’ inner worlds is the most exciting part of writing. Beneath the respectable facades we all present there are mixed emotions and secrets we keep hidden. I find people almost always more lovable for their flaws. If you’re looking for perfect heroes and villains you won’t find them in my books. People are far more interesting than that.

What are some of the references you used while researching your first books?

The House on Tenafly Road 2

My first novel, The House on Tenafly Road, was inspired by a partial copy of a 19th century missionary woman’s diary. Her husband was in the US military after the Civil War presumably fighting Indians or protecting the newly freed slaves of the South. My plan was to write a short story about the woman’s misguided attempts to “civilize” the Indians, but one day while doing laundry it came to me that her husband, John Weldon, had a secret morphine addiction due to treatment given to him during the war.

This led me to the Army War College where sober and kind old gentleman soldiers served up treat after treat of army memorabilia and precious relics. If I wasn’t writing I was reading (a great many 19th century army wives’ journals and books—back then they traveled in the field with their men). I joined a Civil War re-enacting group and donned corset and hoops to get a taste of the era (playing a nurse and writer (I was jokingly asked to play a prostitute once or twice but demurred). Many researchers at small institutions lent their help for little tidbits to include in the novel which grew and grew.

While my family went to amusement parks, I scribbled away taking notes in libraries anxiously glancing at the clock and not wanting the days to end.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

My love of humanity shines through most, but it is a gritty love. My characters go through the wringer. Each has a burden to carry and scars to prove all they’ve been through. I couldn’t have written my books before going through plenty of trials of my own. My parents instilled in me a sense of compassion but were both crazy enough to give me plenty of dysfunctional material to work with.

What did you enjoy most about writing these books?

My favorite part of writing is when the characters take over and become real. Although I know where I want them to be in the end, I’m often not sure how they’ll get there. When reading a section later I’m sometimes surprised and delighted by a witty or awful thing said by a character. It no longer feels like I wrote any of it at all.

What inspires you?

Anything 19th century inspires me. A Civil War historian gave me an old nib pen and blue/black ink with a copy of the alphabet as it was written in the 1860’s. I wrote my first two novels using that pen and ink. As soon as I picked up the pen (even if it was in the loud classroom where I worked) I was immediately brought back into my story.

I also love old houses, Aaron Copland music and walks in the woods. I’m a people watcher and love hearing (and stealing) stories from friends and family. They don’t mind.

What did you find most useful in learning to write?

My four years of Catholic school education were a huge gift. The nuns and brothers were sticklers about good grammar. They didn’t expect us to magically understand gerunds. I loved grammar.

Writing every day was and is the best teacher.

Are you a full time writer?

I’ve cut out almost every activity in my life that isn’t a necessity so I can write. I do have a family, grow a lot of our food and take care of our dairy goats so my life is very full. Visitors love coming to the peaceful farm but leave feeling exhausted for me. I sometimes think of cutting back this or that thing but I love everything. That’s a good place to be in life.

What are some day jobs you have held? Have any impacted your writing?

I worked on a number of organic farms where people elevated the organic life to almost religious status. Only certain viewpoints were acceptable if you wanted to be embraced by the other workers. This inspired my character Buck Crenshaw’s trip to a 19th century utopian society where he gets taken in by a charismatic leader who convinces him that God has special plans for him. 

As a teacher I helped my students to become more confident writers as I tried to become one myself. Their enthusiasm and courage inspired me. I also discovered the abandoned house that was the inspiration for The House on Tenafly Road across the street from the school I taught at.

 The Dew That Goes Early Away 2

How do you feel about eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

Now that I have a Kindle I enjoy eBooks, but I still prefer to read on paper. As a writer I LOVE eBooks! It’s so fun to be able to play with covers and make changes to your work. It’s great to have control over pricing and marketing. Indie publishing is a great way to go if you love adventure and learning new skills.

Who doesn’t dream of a big book deal? But once I realized how little control you have in conventional publishing and how few books ever make an author a lot of money I was convinced that alternative publishing was for me.

What do you think is the future of reading and writing?

Storytelling has been around since the beginning of time. Some people predict books and reading will fall away as people consume visual media, but there will always be readers. If we’re honest, a lot of people weren’t reading even before the digital revolution. There is a trend toward embracing retro things. Books may be part of that trend.

I remember getting an encouraging rejection letter once. The agent loved my book. She told me she put her heart into convincing her co-workers that it should be published but said that they could not get behind a big book that didn’t fit perfectly into a genre. They were afraid of my new author status as well.

Discoverability as an indie author is a challenge, but I was struck recently when prowling the local bookstore by how many books on the shelves probably wouldn’t be purchased or read. As writers we have to figure out how to remain sane despite not being JK Rowling.

I do this by reminding myself that I’m living the dream no matter the number of sales. I also greatly appreciate each review and each friend I make as I live the writer’s life.

What projects are you working on at present?

I’ve just finished editing the next book in The Tenafly Road Series. My cover designer and I met for a photo shoot. Our model was a little hung-over, I suspect, but it was a fun time dressing her in a ball gown I used when doing living history years ago.

Weary of Running 2

Before starting the edit on the final book in the series I’m finishing up designing my author website (my husband gave me the challenge). This has been a scary thing for me. Plugins, security, etc.  Not my strong suit but I’m really proud of the new site: adriennemorris.com.

What made you want to become a writer?

It was a calling. For all of my life it was there. I tried to escape it—such is the nature of fear of failure—but it kept coming back, this urge to write. Now I wonder what took so long!

What does your typical day look like?

Milk the goats, feed the sheep and chickens. Drive kid to school. Write. Pick the kid up from school. Milk the goats, feed the sheep and chickens. Make supper. Send kid to bed. Social media stuff or read. Bed.

This changes with the seasons. Some months are spent writing in the field as the animals graze. August is about tomatoes and cucumbers. Visitors usually swamp the farm then too so little writing gets done. Autumn is a good time for research and planting crops that come up in spring—like new books!

What is your writing style?

I’m not sure but my influences are Wallace Stegner, George Eliot and Laura Ingalls Wilder. The toughest criticism is the stuff you know is true. J  When I published my first novel I did it as a dare. When it was reviewed and picked as an Editors’ Choice book for the Historical Novel Society I was thrilled, but I still knew that there were some grammatical and typo errors (I’d paid someone to edit the book but he confessed that he got too into the story to correct much and assured me that a publisher would take care of that—he assured me I’d get an agent easily–lol).

When a review came in saying that the book was “captivating, heartbreaking and inspiring but horribly edited,” I knew I had some more work to do. I revised the manuscript and felt much better about the whole thing.

What has been the best compliment?

I love when people tell me my characters feel like family to them.

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

When writing about flawed humanity there’s no better book to read than the Bible. I thought the book was mainly about judgement until I read it. Now I see that it is about imperfect people being used in a great redemption story. I love happy endings. My characters are reflections of different parts of myself; the good, the bad, the ugly. I love writing redemption stories. We are all so messy, but I like believing that through love we can help to redeem each other.

Links to find Adrienne:

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

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

jane mcculloch headshot

Welcome Jane, thank you for being here today.

 Thank you for the chance to chat here, Judith

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

Both!

What are common traps for aspiring writers?  

To think it is easy!

Does a big ego help or hurt writers? 

No, but confidence helps.

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

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

Full Circle: Volume 3 (Three Lives Trilogy)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triangles in Squares (Three Lives Trilogy Book 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parallel Lines: Book One of the Three Lives Trilogy

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

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

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

At this moment, only one.

What does literary success look like to you?        

Interest and appreciation from readers.

What’s the best way to market your books?   

I wish I knew.  I’m hopeless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your hardest scene to write?    

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

What is your favourite childhood book?                                                                                      

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

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

Does your family support your career as a writer?  

Yes they do, in that they take an interest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2pjSZOn

Twitter: http://bit.ly/2oYdopG

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with Janet Gogerty #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!!

janet

Today I’m chatting with Janet Gogerty. Janet has been writing for nearly 10 years and still enjoys being part of two writing groups. She’s inspired by anything and everything and enjoys writing about ordinary people; but usually they find themselves experiencing strange events!
When she was encouraged to tackle a novel her daughter suggested she used her short story ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ as she wanted to know what happened to Emma, whose fate had been left in the air at the end of the story. The novel became a trilogy, Three Ages of Man and finally Lives of Anna Alsop, published in March 2015. Janet still enjoy writing short stories and these have been published online, on paper and in audio. She’s just published her third collection of short stories and also writes a regular blog .

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

Thank you, Judith. glad to be here.

First, please tell us, where your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. came from?

Noddy is the first book I can remember having read to me. Apparently I wanted ‘Noddy Goes To The Seaside’ over and over again, so maybe that is also where my love of the sea comes from. Every year at Christmas I was given a Rupert annual; my mother always tried to get away with reading the abridged rhymes under each picture, but I always wanted to hear the full story in the long paragraph.

As for writing, perhaps it started in scripture lessons in junior school. At each lesson we had to write a Bible story in our own words on one page and draw a picture on the other page. I loved doing this, but always felt there was something missing. Reading the gospels as an adult I discovered what was missing, not enough character development, I wanted to know more about the lives of all these people; disciples, Jesus’ family, locals having miracles performed on them…

How long have you been writing?

Seriously for nine years.

What kind(s) of writing do you do?

Novels, short stories, blogs, book reviews and poetry when pushed.

What are some of the references that you used while researching your first two books?

‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ is pure fiction, but with its mixture of music and medicine I used my own appreciation of music and my GP sister’s medical knowledge. As for the science fiction aspect, the newspapers, television and the internet are full of news about what is happening in the world of science and what could happen.

‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ started as a short story with Emma’s fate left literally hanging in the air. It became my longest novel and evolved into a trilogy. At its heart is my favourite theme, what happens to ordinary people when the extraordinary happens to them? The Dexter family are as ordinary as you can get, but Emma is different. To have a genius in the family is difficult, even without the strange events that her mother has kept secret for so many years.

Brief Encounters of the Third Kind

‘Quarter Acre Block’ was inspired by my family’s experience as Ten Pound Pommies and is written from the point of view of mother and daughter. I used my mother’s memories to imagine what it would have been like for the adults.

‘Quarter Acre Block’ is about a family emigrating to Perth, Western Australia in 1964. Will it be a dream come true or will they be stranded in a strange country knowing they can never return?

Quarter Acre Block

In both novels I used real life experiences to create the fictional families.

What do you think most characterises your writing?

Keeping it grounded in everyday life, even when the most extraordinary things happen to my characters. Liberal doses of dark humour.

What did you enjoy most about writing these books?

My characters taking charge of their lives. Writing without being sure what was going to happen next.

I know that feeling! So, tell us, what inspires you?

Anything, anybody and everywhere. Initially I started writing seriously when I went to a writing group for the first time; we had a given title each week and that triggered ideas as well as the impetus to put words down.

What did you find most useful in learning to write?

Going to the writing group and reading out aloud; getting the immediate reaction of others and then the following week a written appraisal by our tutor.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

Full time in that I don’t have a paid job. I’m sure I would not have found the time or the mental focus to write when I was working and busy with the family.

Dark and Milk

What are some day jobs that you have held?  Have any of them impacted your writing?

I have done many different jobs; career disasters, ordinary jobs, full time mother, voluntary work. The many different people I’ve met are as important as the varied places, but all my experiences are a great resource for ideas.

How do you feel about eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

As a reader I love both. My Kindle was a birthday present a few years ago and I wouldn’t part with it. I did not fill it with free old classics, but made a point of reading other independent writers. But it is also great when you hear about a well known book, look it up and download it in seconds. I still love beautiful new hardbacks from a bookshop or paperbacks from the charity shop to take on the bus or to the beach hut.

As a writer, digital publishing changed my whole approach; from hardly having used a computer, or learned to type when I first started writing, it has been a steep learning curve that I am still on.

Times and Tides

What do you think is the future of reading and writing?

They’re here to stay, they have not been beaten by radio, cinema, television or computers.

What is your role in the writing community?

Locally I am part of and help run writing groups. On line I enjoy exchanging ideas in writers’ forums, reviewing other writers’ books and having stories and articles published.

Lives of Anna Alsop (Brief Encounters Trilogy Book 3)

What projects are you working on at the present?

I am hoping to finish my current novel this year. ‘At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream’ will be different again from my other novels. The lead character is a young private detective who lives in a camper van and specialises in missing persons because his girlfriend Anna is missing. Each case for him is a complete short story, but of course his search for Anna and the strain it puts on his relationship with his own family is threaded through. He also features in a novella which should be finished soon.

I am planning to publish another short story collection.

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

Yes; writing comes in so many styles I think someone could write with no feeling at all, but it would come across to the reader as cold and remote. Most readers like to feel engaged.

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

I write what I want to write, but my second novel ‘Quarter Acre Block’ lent itself to a genre, a family drama in recent history.

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

One novel, one novella and a collection of short stories waiting to be put between the covers, or behind one digital cover!

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

Do I know how men really think? I don’t want my male characters to be composites of my father, brother, husband and sons, nor do I want heroes to be the perfect unattainable men of my dreams!

Three Ages of Man (Brief Encounters Trilogy Book 2) by [Gogerty, Janet]

How do you select the names of your characters?

I borrow shamelessly from my mother’s friends, aunts and uncles, my school class mates and my children’s friends to get the names right for generations. But unusual names are good for characters who are outsiders.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Energise me; staying up too late editing or trying to finish doing something on line is tiring, but aren’t writers supposed to stay up late?

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

If someone ‘gets’ my book I love it; if they have enjoyed a novel as a good story I am delighted. If you read a bad review it should make you feel like a ‘real writer’, of course you just feel depressed, but consoled by the thought of readers who did like it.

Visit my website where the sun is always shining.

http://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/

My Facebook author page:

https://www.facebook.com/Beachwriter/

I am an author at Goodreads where I have a blog, ‘Sandscript’ and also write regular book reviews:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7236471.Janet_Gogerty

My other blog, Tidalscribe on WordPress:

https://wordpress.com/posts/tidalscribe.wordpress.com

Visit me at The Writers’ Room

http://thewritersroom.co.uk/page/janet-gogerty-brief-encounters-of-the-third-kind

Introducing Honno Author, Sarah Gethin.

 

sara-gethin

Sara Gethin is a pen name of award-winning author Wendy White. She grew up in Llanelli, an industrial town in south west Wales, and graduated in theology and philosophy from Lampeter, the country’s most bijoux of universities. She has been a primary school teacher, an assistant in a children’s library and a childminder. She writes for and about children. Her own children are grown up, and while home is still west Wales, she now lives in a small town with a castle. She and her husband enjoy travelling to Ireland and spending as much free time as possible in their Dublin bolthole.

Hi  Sara, lovely to have you with us today.

Good to be here, Judith

I’d like to chat with you about your debut book for Honno. But first please tell us a little about when you started writing?

I joined a writing class run by Swansea University around fourteen years ago when my youngest child started secondary school. I was working as a supply teacher and had some time on my hands – and I was probably feeling a little redundant in the ‘mothering’ department. I’d enjoyed writing as a child, filling notebook after notebook with stories, and even as an adult I always had plenty of make-believe rolling around my head, but I never seemed to find the time to write anything down. Joining the class, and the homework we were set, gave me a reason to write, and I soon found I loved it. Even now I still rework some of the pieces I wrote back then – in fact, one short story became the basis for my novel.

What do you write?

I began by writing children’s books under my real name of Wendy White. My first – ‘Welsh Cakes and Custard’, published by Gomer Press – won the Tir na n-Og Award in 2014, and that was really encouraging. It spurred me on to write two more children’s books, ‘Three Cheers for Wales’ and ‘St David’s Day is Cancelled’.

All the time I was working on these, I was also writing a novel for adults. It’s called ‘Not Thomas’ and will be published by Honno Press this June. It’s about a five-year-old boy who’s returned to the care of his mother and isn’t allowed to see his beloved foster father anymore. His mother’s hiding a drug addiction and she badly neglects him. Despite the subject matter, the novel does have plenty of lighter moments too. I decided to adopt the pen name of Sara Gethin for this new venture to make a clear distinction between my light-hearted children’s books and my darker writing for adults.

not-thomas-front-cover-for-ai-1-12-16

 

What drew you to this genre?

Having been a primary school teacher, I guess it was natural that I’d lean towards writing for and about children. In fact, every job I’ve ever done has been child-related, from my first Saturday job on a market stall selling toys, to a stint working in Mothercare and then at my local children’s library. I’ve been a child-minder too in between teaching jobs. I was interested in writing a novel that had a child’s viewpoint, and although the central character in ‘Not Thomas’ isn’t based on one child in particular, some of the things he experiences have happened to children I’ve known through teaching.

What process did you go through to get published?

I took what might seem an unusual route to have ‘Not Thomas’ published, as I didn’t send it to an agent or direct to the slush pile of a publisher. Last year I came across a ‘Meet the Editor’ scheme run by Honno Press, a publisher of women writers living in Wales or with a strong connection to the country. Honno’s scheme offers an opportunity to have the first fifty pages and synopsis of your novel read by an editor – in my case, Caroline Oakley who previously worked for Orion – followed by a face to face discussion. I nervously applied and was delighted when Caroline liked the start of my novel enough to ask to read the rest. When she offered to publish it, I was walking on air for weeks.

The process with my first children’s book was different. I rather naively sent the manuscript of a story to Gomer Press without checking what they publish. It didn’t meet with success. Gomer publishes stories with a Welsh dimension that celebrate the culture of Wales, and my story didn’t have that. Fortunately the editor was kind, complimented me on my writing style and encouraged me to rework it and send it to her again. I appreciated her praise but very foolishly ignored her advice and just put my story away in a drawer. It took me five years to realise that I could rewrite my story giving it a Welsh flavour – quite literally, as it was about food. When I submitted for a second time, it was accepted.

How do you market your books?

A very good question. When I was writing my first book, I didn’t give a thought to how I would actually sell it – I simply assumed the publisher would take care of all that. While I do get a lot of support from the lovely marketing people at my publishers, I quickly discovered that books don’t sell themselves – well, mine don’t anyway! I’m quite active on social media, with twitter and Facebook accounts, and I have a Sara Gethin website which includes a weekly blog. I visit schools and libraries, and give talks to writing and WI groups. I also take part in book-signings at WHSmiths, Waterstones, indie bookshops and book fairs.

While in the beginning I was very nervous about talking to people about my books, I now really enjoy doing book-related events. Meeting lots of different people and chatting about writing is, for me, one of the perks of being an author. And it’s very rewarding when someone tells you how much they’ve enjoyed your book.

What else have you written?

I occasionally write short stories and was lucky enough to have a story short-listed for the Colm Tóibín International Award in 2016. I’m working on a novel for young adults and recently the start of this was highly commended in the Winchester Writers’ Festival competition. I also enjoy writing poetry, although I usually average only one or two a year.

Where can we buy your books?

‘Not Thomas’ is available from Honno Press and Amazon in paperback priced at £8.99, and also in e-book.

My children’s books are available from bookstores in Wales and online from Amazon and Gomer Press directly.

Thank you for the interview today, Sara.

Thank you, Judith!

Social Media and Book Links for Sara Gethin

Website & Blog: saragethin.com

Facebook: @SaraGethinWriter

Twitter: @SGethinWriter

Amazon author page:

 www.amazon.co.uk/Sara-Gethin/e/B01N80LC5M

 Social Media and Book Links for Wendy White

Website: wendywhite.org.uk

Facebook: @wendywhitewriter

Twitter: @Wendy_J_White

Amazon author page:

www.amazon.co.uk/Wendy-White/e/B00JVWMDGW

 

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.

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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.

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                                                          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.

 

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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

 

 

 

 

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

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

jan-ruth

Hi Jan, lovely to chat with you today.

 Good to be here, Judith

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What inspires you?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What do your plans for future projects include?

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

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

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

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JanRuthAuthor

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

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

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

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

Such as the  Tai Chi Naturists.

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 They looked a fit couple in their seventies; Mr and Mrs Wilson from Wigan, (actually not a made up name but it’s so long ago they really wouldn’t remember their holiday here… would they?) when they sprang from their dilapidated Ford Anglia.

 ‘Would you mind if we practised our Tai Chi on the lawn?’ the wife asked right away.

 I sensed Husband’s tension and alarm. When I glanced at him I saw he was breathing rapidly and his eyes were bulging a bit. But his ears were still their usual pink; bright red is the ominous signal of him being overly upset.

‘Not at all,’ I said, intrigued. I’m a great people watcher and we’ve had some fascinating visitors over the years. Many have had picnics and parties on the lawn. Husband has accepted this… mainly. And we haven’t had any complaints from neighbours about noise; in fact some have joined in with the parties. We live off a small lane; there are only three more houses further along. A large bed filled with shrubs and a lilac tree and hedges all around the garden shelter the house from view. Which, sometimes has been a good thing!

We’d had many who’d stayed with us before and did various keep fit exercises on the front lawn. and even a couple who practised their judo . This latter was quite entertaining until the man did his back in (or should I say his wife did his back in for him with a particular enthusiastic throw). They’d had to leave early with the man lying across the lowered back seat with his feet pointing towards the boot and surrounded by suitcases.  ‘Good job it’s an estate car’ Husband said in a casual way turning back to tend to his lawn where the husband had made a large dent.

 I digress.

‘Tai Chi links deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements. See… ‘ the wife explained, taking in one long breath that made her nostrils flare alarmingly as, at the same time, she stretched out both arms. She felled Mr Wilson with one blow. I remember thinking at the time when her husband was smacked on the nose, that he should have known better than to stand so close. After all, from the way her nose whistled when she was taking in all that air, he must have realised she was going to demonstrate. ‘It’s a health-promoting form of exercise,’ Mrs Wilson said, cheerfully, as we all helped her husband back on his feet. ‘Sorry, love.’ She dusted him down. ‘It’s like a form of meditation, you know, exercises the whole of you, not just your body. Helps you to stay calm and gives you peace of mind, like.’

‘You didn’t do it right,’ Mr Wilson muttered.

 She ignored him. ‘We only took it up a month or two back,’ she said to us.

Husband carried their two small suitcases into the apartment, his shoulders shaking.

I clamped my teeth together. When I spoke I knew my voice was a couple of pitches higher than normal but there was nothing I could do about that.  ‘Is that all you’ve brought?’ I peered into the boot of the car, hiding the grin.

‘Oh, yes, just the two bags. ‘Mrs Wilson linked her husband’s arm. ‘We travel light, don’t we Sidney?’

He nodded but said nothing.

There are two things I should mention at this point.

One, my mother was staying with us that week and her bedroom window looked out onto the front lawn.

 And two, we quickly discovered that this elderly couple were Naturists.

 On the second morning after they’d arrived I drew back the curtains of my mother’s bedroom to see the two of them on the lawn, practising their Tai Chi.  Despite their years their movements were graceful, there was no doubt about that. They moved forward in one continuous action, their hands held out in front of them.  But it wasn’t with admiration but in alarm that I watched them; both because they were completely naked, and because I was standing side by side with my mother. And Mum had a wicked sense of inappropriate humour and ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome. She’d be sure to offend them by one of her ‘funny’ jokes. I wasn’t looking forward to trying to keep her away Mr and Mrs Wilson for the next seven days.

 It was when he turned towards the house, bent his knees and squatted that my mother made a choking noise and fell back onto the bed. Laughing!

 Now I know this is totally out of context and misquoted (and I do apologise wholeheartedly to Shakespeare and Cleopatra) … but the words that sprang to mind when I gazed at him, were “Age cannot wither……”

Well it was a very warm morning.