The Rat in the Python #MondayBlogs #Fifties #Memoirs #Humour

Many of you will have enjoyed Trish’s writing here before. She is one of my many talented students that I’m privileged to tutor each week. Hope you equally relish this dip into the past. For some of you it’s a small history lesson, for others, a memory. I am not saying which group I belong to!!

The following words belong to Trish…

If you haven’t heard of a liberty bodice, believe that half-a-crown is something to do with impoverished royalty and never had the experience of slapping a television to stop the grainy black and white picture from rolling, then this book is probably not for you.

It is intended for us Baby Boomers who, in the stability following the Second World War, formed a statistical bulge in the population python. It is a personal snapshot of a time that is as mystifying to my children as the Jurassic Era -and just as unrecognisable.

My intention is to nudge some long-forgotten memories to the surface, test your own recollections and provide statistics to put it all in context.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

The Rat in the Python

Chapter One The House

It would be fair to say that most houses in this country pre-date our generation and so this topic should present few surprises.

However the external appearance is deceptive. We’ve all seen old postcards of towns and can instantly recognise many of the buildings. But what of the insides?

They were different.

In my day none of my friends had fitted carpets and central heating was unheard of. We did have carpets, and the ones I remember were hideously patterned, but they were square or rectangular, circular or oval and housewives in a hurry could lift a corner and sweep the dust and dirt under them.

Heating
We had a coal fire downstairs and my mother would plait and weave strips of newspaper, lay them like a nest in the grate and build a carefully-constructed pyramid of coal in the centre in and around more of these strips. Then she’d light the paper. If it looked as though it was going to sulk and go out she’d produce a sheet of galvanised zinc like a flat shield that she’d hold over the front of the open fire to ‘draw’ it up and once it was going properly we’d feed it with great hunks of coal the size of bread loaves that you could later split open with the poker.

My father would hold the paper he was reading in front of a flagging fire to quickly perk it up. This wasn’t always successful. A dark patch would appear in the middle of the newsprint before the hastily dropped paper burst into flames. Occasionally we’d use a toasting fork to dangle bits of bread in front of the fire but conditions had to be just right. Too soon after the addition of fresh coal and you had a brittle piece of bread with smoked edges; wait until it was too hot and the bread itself would flame and char. There was also a knack to balancing the bread on the fork so that as large a flat surface as possible presented itself to the heat. I lacked this knack. The bread would tear around the prongs and slide down towards the handle or I’d have it so delicately balanced that it would fall off into the gritty ashes or the blaze itself

Paraffin heaters were also popular; ugly great brutes that reeked and smoked but put out an impressive bit of heat. When I first heard ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ I thought of these heaters and even now I can see the blue ring of flames that had to be set at just the right height to balance heat against pollution. And if you’ve lived in a house with a paraffin heater you won’t need me to remind you of that all-pervasive, oily smell.

The non-smelly heating involved electric bar fires. Virtually everyone I knew had at least one of these in the home. They ranged from those of impressive size which stood proudly in the fireplace as a soulless coal substitute, to small, portable ones. These consisted of one or two tightly-wound bars of wire in front of a shiny concave area designed to reflect heat back into the room. You’d flick a switch at the side to turn on one or both bars and then you’d wait to see if either began to glow red. Eventually they’d click and creak and produce a vicious belt of radiant heat from bright-orange elements which were ‘protected’ by a few widely-spaced strips of thin steel. From a Health & Safety perspective these were a nightmare by anyone’s standards. On the other hand, as few families of our acquaintance used fireguards for their coal fires – or their paraffin heaters, for that matter – I suppose it points to a time when Darwinism ruled; parents warned offspring of the dangers and, if they didn’t want to end up as a Cautionary Tale, children kept fingers and other bits at a safe distance.

In the winter, when houses which had never heard of double glazing shivered and quivered, sash windows rattled and draughts moaned through closed doors, the family snuggled up in front of the heat source. Those old advertisements of parents and children in a compact group do reflect the times, but the togetherness was often down to a primitive need to be warm rather than a desire to spend time with each other. Anywhere further than six feet from a fire was as foolhardy as a penguin trying to go it alone in the Antarctic Those of us who got as close to the heat as was possible, without actually spontaneously combusting, suffered from chilblains. I don’t know if anyone in this country still gets chilblains but for me it was an expected accompaniment to the cold weather. My feet were affected more than my hands and I can remember stamping them hard on the ground on my way to school in an attempt to calm the dreadful itch of them.

It goes without saying that when the downstairs was cold, the upstairs was colder. In a time before electric blankets and duvets all we had to protect us was a sheet, blankets and a hot water bottle. Some expensive hotels still use sheets and blankets in preference to duvets but they have the benefit of centrally heated rooms that make them an affectation rather than a necessity. It didn’t seem to matter how many blankets were heaped on the bed, the only bit that felt warm was the bit right next to you that had leached the heat from your own body. Hot water bottles were very welcome but imperfect. Unimaginative relatives knitted weird, lank, garter-stitched covers for them but I never used mine because they absorbed some of the heat intended for me. This meant that at first the bottle was too hot to touch and I’d put my foot against it for as long as I dared before snatching it off at the last moment (exacerbating the chilblain situation). For the briefest of times the temperature was perfect, and it was a real comfort. On waking you quickly learned not to move beyond your imprint in the bed. Everywhere else was inhospitably cold and you could watch your breath curl around the room whilst you mustered the courage to get up. The hot water bottle, by now endothermic, was resolutely avoided until the last moment when both feet would dart down, snatch it up the bed and leave it on top for re-filling that night.

Sometimes, presumably after vivid dreams, I’d wake in the night to find myself either entangled in a nightmare of Witney blankets or shivering because one end was still attached at the foot of the bed but the rest were in a heap on the floor. In the latter case, it was impossible to simply pull them up and go back to sleep; they had to be individually replaced in the right order or they’d be sliding off before you could start counting sheep again.
I was a student when I used a duvet (or continental quilt as they were billed then) for the first time. It was synthetic and the filling quickly moulded itself into clumps that refused to even themselves out again. Nevertheless, from that moment on I knew there was no going back to sheets and blankets.

And there’s nothing more irritating than blankets with rucks in them, unless it’s blankets that don’t line up at the bottom of the bed, or blankets that don’t reach your chin. Or blankets.

Heating also leads me to the issue of plugs and sockets.

My grandmother had a friend who would make sure before she went to bed that every socket had a plug in it. She explained it was to stop the electricity escaping into the house. In her day, as in mine, those sockets were round and the plugs that went into them were round-pin plugs. They were usually brown bakelite and the flex that went into them was covered in a woven material that frequently frayed into long wispy bits at the ends. It’s weird but I don’t remember the changeover from round prongs to square. Did I sleep through it? Did it happen so slowly that it crept up in tiny steps until the old was gone and the new already commonplace?

I suspect that when houses were first wired for electricity they were done in a half-hearted way because no one could think of many uses for the stuff and so one socket per room was considered more than ample. Then people decided on table and standard lamps to cast a warm glow on father reading his paper or mother darning the socks, wirelesses that needed wires, gramophones, electric fires, irons. The only way to deal with such a constraint was to buy adapters and stick one into another until there were sufficient sockets to satisfy demand. The weight of the massed plugs vying for space was frequently enough to drag the adapters away from the wall and someone would have to push them back in to restore power. As I write this, one of the public information films of the time has surfaced in my head and it shows such a cluster of adapters smoking in protest before bursting into flames. It wasn’t just my family, then…

The kitchen
The kitchen seems to be at the forefront of change. In the 50s there were rich pickings to be had for anyone with an innovation that was labour-saving or which made the heart of the home look more modern. Into the 21st century, the wheel has turned in the opposite direction and the more modern look involves a return to butler sinks and free-standing shabby chic furniture in place of the streamlining of the fitted kitchen but, like a return to blankets, there is space for these when other things allow them to be decorative features over the practical.

When I was a child, like most of my friends it was assumed that my mother would stay at home and be a housewife whilst my father would go out and work to keep her there. Women were given housekeeping money and were expected to make it stretch to cover all our needs. A housewife wore an apron to protect her clothes that were comparatively expensive in a time before cheap, supermarket-produced goods. To make ends meet she would frequently cook the same things on the same day of the week so Monday’s meal would be something that made use of the leftovers from Sunday’s roast. She would cook the meals on a white, enamelled stove and ours had bluish-black chips showing where pans had knocked against the enamel. There would also be whorls of grey scratches around the rings where spills had been scrubbed clean.

The food was kept in cupboards or, if you had the space, in a pantry. Vegetable racks held greens with yellowing outer leaves and a limited selection of root vegetables that were prepared in the sink. The first kitchen sink I remember was a white, enamelled one with a green stain under the cold water tap. Taps – which invariably had knobbly cross-shaped tops – seemed to drip with a frequency uncommon today.

Milk was kept in a small fridge (and ours was the envy of our neighbours because it had a freezer compartment that was big enough for some ice cubes or a block of waxy ice cream). I knew someone who still put her milk and cheese in a milk-safe. This was a terracotta container that was placed over the items and doused in water. In hot weather the evaporating water kept the contents cool and at a time when milk arrived daily that was usually enough.

Without the benefit of freezers, a lot of our food came in cans and, before we bought our first rotary, or butterfly, can-opener, the lids had to be removed using a metal lever that was used to punch triangular holes around the top until you could bend the jagged edge back and get at the contents. The rotary opener was a vast improvement on this but there always came a time when it would slip its way round without cutting. You’d have to try clipping it onto the can at a rakish angle and grip really, really tightly, praying that it would get far enough round for success. Inevitably there would be a couple of patches that the opener had grooved but not cut and these were now more difficult to reach. We weren’t the first family, I’m sure, that would resort to sliding spoon handles into the gap, trying to prise the lid back.

There were very few kitchen gadgets in our house when I was a child. We did have a rotary whisk which I found mesmerisingly exciting. Chips were cooked in a saucepan with a wire basket to hold, remove and drain them. You’d put a slab of lard into the pan, heat it up until it was smoking, put the prepared chips into the wire basket and lower it, hissing and spitting like a trapped cat, into the fat. It is no surprise that chip pan fires also feature prominently in my memories of public information warnings.

The cupboards were filled with china, and there was always one cupboard that had the best china in it to be used when visitors came. Cups always had saucers, and mugs were unheard of in the home. If I fast forward to the beginning of the sixties I enter a different world of colour and melamine. We thought melamine was cool and trendy and it spun and clattered without breaking when dropped onto the equally colourful Marley tiles arranged checkerboard-style on the floor. We threw out our melamine when earthenware became popular…

As a child it wasn’t uncommon to have three cooked meals a day. Breakfast might be scrambled eggs on toast or a fry-up, lunch would generally consist of something meaty with vegetables plus a pudding and the evening meal would be a more substantial version of lunch. All of these meals were cooked from scratch which generated a good deal of washing up. As a consequence, mothers around the country would be continually reaching for their Marigolds and balancing the washed items on the wire rack on the draining board to be dried with a tea-towel that had a stripe down each side.

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It’s Who We Are by Christine Webber #TuesdayBookBlog

 

who we are

 

I was  lucky enough to win a copy of It’s Who We Are and gave the book 4*out of 5*

Book Description:

Five friends in their fifties find themselves dealing with unforeseen upheaval as they uncover long-hidden and devastating family secrets. Meanwhile, the world around them seems to be spinning out of control.
The events of It’s Who We Are take place between October 2016 and June 2017, against a backdrop of all the political uncertainty and change in the UK, Europe and America.
The story is set in East Anglia, London and Ireland, and is about friendship, kindness and identity. Most importantly, it highlights how vital it is to reach for what enhances rather than depletes you

My Review:

 This a contemporary read set against the detailed background of political upheaval, both through Brexit, the Trump presidency and economical uncertainly.  And there are some wonderful descriptions of the city of London and County Kerry in Ireland that give a great sense of place and the portrayal of the homes and work places belonging to the characters are really well written.

I did like the author’s easy to read style of writing and, right from the start of the novel, became engrossed in the plot which centres initially on the lives of five characters in their middle-ages: 

Wendy, a career woman, on the brink of the disintegration of her marriage with elderly parents and two sons who are making their own way in life.

Julian, a single gay man, struggling with his career as a performer ans singer.

Philip, whose uncertainty with his marriage leads him to take a younger lover and is convinced he need to make radical changes to his life. His elderly mother is a vibrant active woman who owns an exclusive hotel in the West of Ireland.

Araminta, lonely and struggling with life in general,with  an elderly father in a nursing home.

Michael, an Irish Catholic priest, lonely and questioning his faith.

All wonderfully rounded characters, with many layered personalities, whose both spoken and internal dialogue distinguishes them on the page.

The book, initially split into short sections that enlarge on, and give insight to, the lives of each of the characters is fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed the first two thirds of It’s Who We Are. And I gradually realised that, somehow, they were all connected.And, indeed, friendships were formed.

 And it was at this point I needed to suspend disbelief; all the characters, in one way or another, had shared histories or once removed coincidental relationships with one another. And, in a few short months, formed extremely close friendships to the exclusion of any other acquaintances. The descriptions of the way these characters interacted was extremely well written but it did seem to be an extremely insular portrayal.

I don’t give away spoilers in my reviews so I won’t dwell on the revelation that the plot then pivots on. But it is following that disclosure that, for me, the coincidences became too many and too easy.  I  bow to the author’s knowledge as a trained psychotherapist; her obvious expertise on  issues of  personal identity. And I did appreciate the wonderful balance between sadness and loss, juxtaposed with joy and contentment instilled in her writing. But, as the book progressed through the last third of the story, I just felt it was both a little rushed and that all the issues were tied up too neatly.

All  that said, I will reiterate that I did like Christine Webber’s style of writing and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read It’s Who We Are. Despite the points I made above I did enjoy the read and would recommend this novel.

 One last observation; I love the cover; the slightly out-of-focus head-shots, the seascape,the idea of the freedom of flight through the images of the birds, the mutes colours. Wonderful!

Buying Links:

 Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2FMBzze

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2BZFN4u

 

 About the Author:

An image posted by the author.

After a break of 29 years to write over a dozen non-fiction titles, Christine Webber returned to writing fiction in 2016. The result was a novel called ‘Who’d Have Thought It?’ which is a romantic comedy about the change and challenges we encounter in mid-life. ‘Who’d Have Thought It?’ is now also available as an audio book – both in digital and CD format. 

Christine is a former singer, TV presenter, agony aunt, columnist and Harley Street psychotherapist. 

Nowadays she is focusing on fiction – though she still pops up on the radio from time to time.

 

 

My Series of Author & Poet Interviews #author #poet Narberth Book Fair#BookFair. Today with Wendy Steele

Titleband for Narberth Book Fair

Throughout this months I ’ll be posting interviews with the authors and poets who will be taking part in our Book Fair:  http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/.

There are forty authors, so, obviously, there are many genres for both adults and children. There will be talks an writing and books, creative writing workshops for adults  workshops & talks and fun workshops for children, activities for the children  Children’s Page and a fun book trail through Narberth, the gorgeous little market town in Pembrokeshire.  Location.

All free!!

And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed.

And, as usual, there will also be the writing competition: this year is a poetry competition:  competition . Submit a poem, in any form, of 20 lines or less, on the subject of : –

BOOKS AND READING.

Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/ who have been very generous in their support of the event.

Although, five years ago,  I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2  and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new  (although is still a great supporter), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting through our raffle; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ . 

Our author today is the multi-talented Wendy Steel

 

Wendy Steele

 

What do you love most about the writing process?

I love seeing my characters play out a story that’s been banging around in my head, watching it evolve and develop, often from a single idea. I enjoy editing and finishing less but the joy of completing a draft ready for first readers, makes up for that. Of course, feedback from readers is the greatest joy of all.

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

I was forty years of age when I read Moon Magic by Dion Fortune. My childhood love of the moon and everything Egyptian and my personal discoveries about paganism, hedge witchery and the Kabbalah were brought together when I read that book. With new confidence, I wrote my first published novel, Destiny of Angels.

Who is your favourite author?

My favourite author is the late, much missed, Sir Terry Pratchett. I read Wyrd Sisters first before devouring every book he had written. I’m a visual reader and writer and Sir Terry conjures up images and scenes in the most beautiful and economical way. His use of language can make me laugh or cry. Magic.

DestinyWrath

 

 

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

An average week will include 16-18 hours of writing plus 7-12 hours of social media/marketing.

I love big chunks of time to write, to immerse myself in the story and characters. My best writing time is if my partner is working away and I don’t need to teach in the evening. I’m happy to write for 12-14 hours in one hit.

The reality is that I rarely get 4 hours at a time but I carry chapters of first draft with me, in case I have the opportunity to read and revise and make notes for the following chapters. Typing them up involves me in the story quickly, often leading to me writing on; I’ll do anything to maximise my writing time.

 

The Standing Stone - The GatheringThe Standing Stone - Silence Is BrokenThe Standing Stone - Home For Christmas

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

The Naked Witch is my first novel in a new and exciting genre, Witchlit. Similar to Chicklit, the female protagonist is a modern woman, juggling work, an ex-husband, a difficult, demanding mother while also the responsible single parent of a teenage daughter. Readers love Lizzie Martin! She’s a woman of courage, beset by the worries and concerns we have but determined to stand up for what she believes in. Being a witch is part of who she is, rather than the label that defines her.

In three words, can you describe your latest book?

Compelling, thought-provoking and unique.

the naked witch KINDLE(1)

 

What was the inspiration behind The Naked Witch?

I wanted to write a book for everyone, especially women, whatever their usual choice of genre. Lizzie lives her life in a man’s world, as do we all and I wanted to write a story about a woman making her own rules, willing to defy convention and be successful in her own right.

How long did it take you to write The Naked Witch?

Having penned a few Witchlit short stories at the end of last year, the character of Lizzie Martin emerged and her story unfolded easily. The book took me three months to write and a further month to edit once I’d had feedback from first readers.

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

I wrote a few children’s books about Willoughby the Hedgehog in my twenties but I was thirty eight when I began my first novel, Hubble Bubble…and forty one when I finished it! I wrote in forty minute time slots while sitting in the car, waiting for my children to come out of school.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I’ve had useful and encouraging feedback from readers in reviews but I also get messages and meet fans at book fairs. I’m delighted to say they find my books inspiring, feeling they can identify with the characters…and more than one of them wants to be Lizzie Martin!

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

I’m not sure if it’s a talent but I can recite the alphabet backwards. I taught myself at the age of about twelve…I have no idea why. I learned to read music, when I learned to play the piano, at the age of four, the same age as when I learned to read words.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

When I lived in a town, I used to have writing trousers, a huge, baggy pair of black tracksuit bottoms which was my preferred attire to write in. Now I write in pjs.

I love beginning a new story with a fresh pad of A4 paper and my Waterman fountain pen.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Apart from renovating my current residence and attempting to tame four acres of land, I dance. I learned belly dance from the age of forty, taught it for four years and, while exploring other dance genres, discovered ATS® Belly dance. I’ve been teaching this style as Tribal Unity Wales since March 2014. Belly dance is a fabulous, full body work out and classes are a great way to make friends and keep fit.

Smiles

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

I can only recall one incident that was amusing to those watching while embarrassing for me at the time…five months pregnant with my daughter, I fell through a garden chair and got stuck…even I laughed as my friends attempted to extract me!

Give us a random fact about yourself.

Belly dance gave me confidence at a time when I was coping with a debilitating illness and struggling with self image. I wanted a tattoo but money was put to more practical use, bringing up three children so at the age of fifty, ten years later, I had my first tattoo, a delicate triskele that I adore. The eight pointed star of the warrior goddess Ishtar soon followed. Last year, I asked the fabulously talented Abi Hack to design a tribal band for my arm, incorporating a thirteen petalled lotus and a mandala that my daughter and I share, both of which adorn my right arm.

 Wendy’s Links:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Linkedin
Amazon author page
Good Reads
The Phoenix and the Dragon

 

My Series of Author and Poet Interviews Narberth Book Fair with Rebecca Bryn,

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting interviews with the authors and poets who will be taking part in our Book Fair:  http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/.

There are forty of us so, obviously, there are many genres for both adults and children. There will be talks an writing and books, creative writing workshops for adults and fun workshops for children, activities for the children and a fun book trail through Narberth, the gorgeous little market town in Pembrokeshire.   

All free!!

And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed.

And, as usual, there will also be the writing competition: this year is a poetry competition: Submit a poem, in any form, of 20 lines or less, on the subject of : –

Books and Reading.

Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/ who have been very generous in their support of the event.

Although, five years ago,  I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2  and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new  (although is still a great supporter), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting through our raffle; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ . 

I’ll be chatting with one ot two of them each week. Today it’s the turn of  the author, Rebecca Bryn, to chat to us.

Rebecca Bryn

Please tell us, Rebecca, what do you love most about the writing process?

Creating an alternative, believable reality and populating it with the people I could never hope, and sometimes never want, to be.

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

Imparting some small piece of knowledge, self-awareness, or understanding, and challenging my readers’ preconceptions, as my tales have challenged mine and informed me of who I am.

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

A bit of both. Walt in Touching the Wire, though a fictitious character, was based on my maternal grandfather because I needed a person I loved deeply in order to be able to contemplate writing such a harrowing story. Jem in For Their Country’s Good was a real person; he was my great-great-great uncle and there is a lot of fact in that story. Most of my other characters are out of my own damaged and devious psyche…

What do you think makes a good story?

Characters that live, flawed and imperfect, who make wrong choices and drive the story in unexpected directions. A believable plot. Settings in which you can immerse yourself and forget reality for a while.

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

Product Details

Product DetailsProduct Details

 

Six. I love them all, but then I’m biased; I fall in love with the characters. I think I’m most proud of For Their Country’s Good. I wrote it for my family: it’s part of their history too.

What genre do you consider your books? Have you considered writing in another genre?

Loosely thrillers. I’ve written contemporary, historical and dystopian, all with a romantic thread, but I like to think they’re thrillers with a twist.

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

My latest is On Common Ground, Book Three of For Their Country’s Good, so, really, to get the full impact you need to read Books One and Two first. The story takes us back to Victorian England and immerses us in the poverty and inequalities of that time. The lack of rights for women, even over their own bodies – rape in marriage was legal until relatively recently – the brutality of the transportation system where young men and women were transported, with little hope of ever earning the fare to return home, for crimes such as ‘stealing two lengths of ribbon’ or ‘being fraudulently in possession of a shovel’ (Yes these are real crimes) in order to build an empire in Australia on convict labour: the strength of love to withstand everything life throws at it. Love, social inequality, and injustice are subjects dear to my heart. You have to read this series!

Does your book have a lesson? Moral?

Never give up?

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

Do they ever! Reins? What are they? I have a beginning point and an idea of how and where the story will end. Between the first page and the last looms this chasm of blank white paper. I put my trust in my characters and follow where they lead. They land themselves in some awful situations and expect me to write them out of them.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I have had some hundred or more fabulous reviews, and one or two not so fabulous ones. A letter I received from an elderly Hungarian lady, whose parents died in the Holocaust, made my entire writing career worthwhile. She thanked me for writing Touching the Wire, saying that after seventy years she could finally contemplate the process of forgiveness. I wept when I read her letter, as I wept when I wrote the novel. I’m filling up just thinking about her.

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

I am a woman of hidden talents, most of them well-hidden, but I can turn my hand to most things. I paint in watercolours, mainly seascapes. I’ve tiled floors, mixed concrete, and dug ponds, and the same rough hands have embroidered pictures and made intricate patchworks. I just love to create.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have a habit of constructing sentences backwards. And I have dyslexic fingers when typing. I have learnt not to call my characters Hnery or Hnerietta, for example.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Painting, walking, reading, gardening – anything except housework.

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

Should I admit to this? I was once rather non-PC with a black gentleman who came to carry out an inspection when I ran a village Post Office. Post Office inspectors are like policeman: not known for their chattiness or sense of humour. I’d tried to be friendly, but he was having none of it and even refused my coffee. While he was pouring through my books with an eagle and disapproving eye, I had a phone call from my future husband whose dog was due to whelp. She was a black Labrador, and the father of the pups was a tortoiseshell Collie, so we were hoping for pretty puppies. The news was that Katie had begun giving birth and was still in labour. The part of the phone call the inspector heard went as follows.

Me ‘Oh, good, I’m a granny.’

The inspector broke a frugal congratulatory smile.

Me ‘How many has she had?’

He rose one eyebrow a quarter of an inch at this.

Me ‘What colour are they?’

The expression on his face was absolutely priceless.

Sorry, but I couldn’t help myself…

 Another incident that was embarrassing at the time but funny in retrospect is retold in ‘Ooh Air Margrit’ Download it free at http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/rebecca-bryn.html Find the link immediately beneath my author biography.

Give us a random fact about yourself.

I love Marmite.

Links to Rebecca:

 

 

I’ve Decided To Go Wandering For A While… At Least In My Head #amwriting

So many things have happened over the last year (and some are still ongoing) that have stopped me from writing. So now I’m giving myself a break and I’m going a wandering. I need to finish/tidy-up/sort out the prequel to my trilogy

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Its working title is Foreshadowing.

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And it’s been languishing on the PC for far too long.

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 I’ll be popping back every now and then to post one of the eight reviews of books that have toppled off my TBR pile- and that, I am ashamed to say, have been neglected.

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I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has been such a support over the last few months – friends both in the ‘real’ world and friends who I might never meet but who I appreciate.So, before I get too maudlin… cheerio for now.

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As someone once said…”I’ll be back.”

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http://honno.co.uk/

Today With Christoph Fischer

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Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been be chatting with authors who will be at the Tenby Book Fair, http://bit.ly/27XORTh, the first event of the Tenby Arts Festival http://bit.ly/24eOVtl .  I’m looking forward to having many more such chats over the next couple of months. 

So far I’ve interviewed Rebecca Bryn: http://bit.ly/1XYWbtF, Thorne Moore:  http://bit.ly/1P6zDQh  and Matt Johnson: http://bit.ly/1RUqJFg  . Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing them all and I’ll also be showcasing the publishers who will be in attendance. There may also be a short chat with John and Fiona of http://showboat.tv/ who, as usual, will be filming the event.

Today’s guest need little introduction.  I’m really pleased to be chatting with my  friend, Christoph Fisher. Christoph organised the first Llandeilo Book Fair this year and is now in the process of setting up another: http://llandeilobookfair.blogspot.co.uk/

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Hi Christoph and welcome. Let’s start by asking you what books have most influenced your life?
I’m not sure which ones influenced me the most but here are some books that triggered big events in my life:
After reading “The Idiot” by Dostoevsky I became a true literary addict. Before then I liked reading, now I was hooked. I read all of his work and decided to find a way of living by working with books. I became a librarian.
I switched over to the travel industry after reading “Backpack” by Emily Barr. It is a thriller set in Asia but it is as much about finding yourself as ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ – only with more bite.

  1. How do you develop your plots and characters?

I have basic plans for the story and the characters but I allow them to change as the story moves along. I often find that the great scene in Chapter 13, which I had built up to from the start, doesn’t feel right any more. I allow chaos during the first drafts and then iron things out in the re-writes.

  1. Tell us about your latest book?

Ludwika is about a Polish woman forced to work in Germany to fill the labour shortage during WW2. Although she is better off than other victims of the Nazi regime, her life gets disrupted beyond repair.

Ludwika: A Polish Woman's Struggle To Survive In Nazi Germany by [Fischer, Christoph]

  1. We all need a hero! Tell us about your protagonist(s)? Was there a real-life inspiration behind him or her?

In Ludwika’s case there is real-life inspiration. She was the mother of a friend of mine and I started writing her story after helping them find out more about their mother’s time in Germany.

  1. A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

I usually have a real villain in mind. One in particular found her way into two of my books. I imagine what they would say or do and then the writing comes to me very easily. In the re-writing process I make sure I change enough not to get sued.

  1. What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the world-building within your book?

I used my grandparents as inspiration for two of my books. Their marriage was difficult for various reasons. In “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” I focus on the political circumstances and their life in Slovakia during WW2. In “Sebastian” I write about my grandfather and his disability.

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Did you research for your book?

Yes. I think especially in historical fiction you need to get your facts right. In many cases the research came long before I had the idea for the book, so it wasn’t too arduous during the writing.

  1. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Letting Ludwika go through her ordeals, knowing she was a real person and only in part product of my imagination.

  1. What was your favourite part to write and why?

One chapter in which Ludwika makes a new friend. I wanted to show how even in the darkest hours there can be hope, friendly encounters and a little joy.

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  1. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Yes, I learned that odd choices can make a lot of sense when you look at them closely and know the context. There are often good reasons for what appears irrational or risky.

  1. Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?

I hope people will see that there were many heart-breaking tragedies and stories during that time. In comparison they may pale but for the individual they were still catastrophic.

  1. What are your future project(s)?

I am currently working on the sequel to my medical thriller “The Healer” and also on a humorous murder mystery.

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  1. If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?

Film and book critic.

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  1. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

Website: http://www.christophfischerbooks.com/

Blog: http://writerchristophfischer.wordpress.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6590171.Christoph_Fischer

Amazon: http://ow.ly/BtveY

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CFFBooks

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/christophffisch/

Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/106213860775307052243

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=241333846

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WriterChristophFischer?ref=hl

  1. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers/ new writers

Yes. Readers, please leave reviews for the books and recommend them to your friends. Your support is very important.
To new writers: Be true to yourself and don’t let yourself be discouraged.