Please introduce yourself and your books.
My name is Rosaline Riley and I am the author of two books – The End of the Road and Clad in Armour of Radiant White.
I was born, grew up and went to school in Wigan, Lancashire. Since then I have lived and worked as a student and a teacher in London, Birmingham, Bristol and Solihull. I now live in Streatham in South London.
All my life, I have considered myself to be a writer. But the writing was almost always in my head, only making its way on to paper on rare occasions, until, late in life(!) I took myself in hand and began to take it much more seriously.
Why this reluctance to put pen to paper?
Well, as a child, I wanted to be a novelist – to write a whole book, not just short stories. But the problem was paper. Where would I get enough for a whole novel? I knew that my mother would buy me an exercise book (one of those red Silvine ones with the multiplication tables on the back) but they only had about forty pages in them. Even with the smallest handwriting I could manage, one wouldn’t have been enough and I felt sure that she would have refused my demand for . . . how many? . . . twenty at the very least!
So I contented myself with ‘writing’ in my head. I found that the best way to do this was if I was doing something else with my hands, and I spent many childhood hours batting tennis balls against walls whilst composing my stories. (As a consequence, my ball skills are excellent – even to this day!)
What was I ‘writing’ back then? Well, not anything that I had personal experience of, that’s for sure. There were lots of boarding school stories, I remember, all heavily dependent on whatever I happened to be reading at the time. I even had my very own Chalet School series! (Goodness knows how many exercise books would have been needed for that.)
When did you start writing your stories down?
Over the years I made several attempts to write a novel but I never came anywhere near to finishing them. I always let life and family get in the way.
For many years I worked as a literature tutor in the Lifelong Learning Department at Warwick University, teaching the novel to mature students. The longer I did this – reading and studying other people’s novels – the more I knew that I really ought to write one of my own, before it was too late. Then we moved to London in 2006 and I had to give up this teaching. So, without a job, I had no excuses left. I’d already started Clad in Armour of Radiant White. Now I had to finish it.
What facets of your life, both personal and professional, are woven into your books, if any?
Clad in Armour of Radiant White is a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of Ellen, growing up in Lancashire in the nineteen-sixties. It is set in two towns which are fictionalised versions of the towns where I grew up and where I went to school. A lot of the details – places, events, situations, etc. – are very autobiographically based. The story is fictional.
I had always wanted to write this novel and I think one of the reasons it took me a long time to do so was because I needed to find a story/stories on which to hang my autobiographical details and not to make my autobiography (albeit disguised) the story itself. If that makes sense. Once I had the outline of the plot, I was away.
The End of the Road is set in Solihull and Streatham, and this time the places are ‘real’ and named. There are lots of personal details in this novel too, although yet again the story is pure fiction. And as the plot hinges around an abduction, I think this is very apparent.
There are two objects in this one – a green cagoule and an IKEA high-chair – which caused my family much amusement when they read about them. This kind of recognition is fine. But I do strive to make it difficult for fundamental comparisons to be drawn between ‘real’ people and the characters in the book. Creating original characters should be the aim of the novelist, I think.
You are a self published author. Why?
When I’d finished Clad in Armour of Radiant White I tried to get an agent, but with no success. It wasn’t consider ‘commercial’ enough. So I put it aside and started on a second novel. I did a Creative Writing course at Birkbeck and then a six-month Novel Writing course at the Faber Academy. At the end of this, I did have a couple of agents interested in The End of the Road but (at the end of the day) they didn’t take it further. I sent it out to a bunch of other agents but it soon became clear that I was wasting my time. Times were hard in the publishing industry; no-one wanted to take on first-time novelists.
So I could either give up or self publish. And, as I felt that both books were good enough, I chose to do the latter. And I have to say that I’ve been very pleased with my decision. The feeling of being in control is gratifying, and my (albeit modest) expectations have been more than met.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Now that I’ve finally launched both books into the world, I can start writing my next one. I’ve been thinking about this for some time and have lots of ideas floating around in my head. It’s going to be set in Australia – a country my husband and I fell in love with several years ago. And we might even have to make another trip there – for research purposes!
What single piece of advice would you give new authors?
The words of Nigel Watts (Writing a Novel): ‘. . . a writer is someone who writes, not someone who thinks about writing.’ Which is what I keep telling myself every time I reach for my bat and ball.
Both of Rosaline’s books are available from Amazon.