My Review of Walls of Silence by Helen Pryke for #RBRT #FridayReads

wall of silence

I received this book from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team

 I gave  Walls of Silence 3*

Book Description:

Living in the mountains of Sicily, Maria has the perfect childhood until the tragic accident that changes her life forever. The events that follow will take her away from her home town to the streets of Milan, in an ever-increasing spiral of abuse and deception. Will she ever be able to trust anyone ever again? Set in turbulent 1960s Italy, Walls of Silence is the story of a girl who must find the courage and strength to survive her family’s betrayal and the prejudices of her country.

My Review:

First of all, I’d like to say how fascinating the Book Description is. Just enough to tempt the readers in without giving away the story, as so often happens.

I always try not to give spoilers with my reviews but with Walls of Silence I found it difficult to write the following without giving any of the story away. I hope I’ve succeeded.

 To say I enjoyed the whole of this book isn’t totally true; I enjoyed Helen Pryke’s writing style and the fact that all the way though she convinced me of the danger to the protagonist, Maria, if she revealed what was happening to her. There are deeply disturbing sections and the actions of some of the characters are distressing. It is a dark book.

I did have a few problems with pace of Walls of Silence. After being instantly drawn into the story through the Prologue, it then slowed, drastically. I love Prologues and this one was strong; I was intrigued by Pietro’s story. But then the abrupt change to Maria’s story; the flashback, left me a bit stranded. I kept wanting to know the reactions of both Pietro and  his and Maria’s daughter, Antonella, who, presumably , were learning about Maria’s life together. I have to be honest though; I’m not at all sure how else the author could have written it. I just wanted more of these two characters after such an interesting introduction to them

I felt the first half of the first chapter was too drawn out (although I realised later that it was to introduce some of the characters we, as readers, would meet again towards the end of the book). But  I did like the second half; Maria’s early family life in Sicily and the descriptions of the characters in her community, ruled so completely by the Catholic Church during the era of the 1950/60s.

This variation in the pace of the plot, some parts too drawn out, others too quickly passed over, was, I felt, a little awkward.

But I thought the characters that Maria met throughout her difficult life were well drawn and the dialogue was believable and rounded out most of them.

However I did have a problem with the relationship between the protagonist and Pietro; it did feel a little contrived and unsatisfactory. to me as a reader.

 Still, as I’ve said I did like the author’s style of writing, I found the descriptions of the settings brilliantly evocative and the story very moving. And Walls of Silence is an excellent title; it gives the claustrophobic sense on enclosure, secrecy, despair that Maria and the other women experience.

And, I must say i do like the cover; to me it embodies the whole story.

After I wrote this review I read the book description. Part of the proceeds from this book will go to a women’s centre in the UK. This kind of statement always gives me a problem; I feel guilty if I don’t rate the book higher. But then I always try to give an honest review, so will leave the above as written.

What I can say yet again, is that Helen Pryke writes well and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2qylmKx

 Amazon.com:http://amzn.to/2pDzQEa 

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:

jan

 

remember-no-more

REMEMBER NO MORE

 BY JAN NEWTON

Genre: Crime

Series: A DS Kite Mystery # 1

Release Date:  16 March 2017

Publisher: Honno Press

A DS Kite novel – a city detective joins the mid-Wales force
bringing new insights and ruffling country feathers

Newly promoted DS Julie Kite is at a crossroads.  Her husband’s desire for a different life takes her away from urban Manchester and its inner city problems to tranquil mid-Wales. It is to be a clean slate for them both. On her first day at Builth Wells police station, Julie is thrust unexpectedly into the centre of an investigation into a suspicious death in a remote farming community.

Back in Manchester, Stephen Collins is set free from HMP Strangeways.  Bible in hand he makes his way to mid-Wales, the scene of the heinous crime for which he was imprisoned, in order to confront those who had a hand in his incarceration.

The twists and turns of the investigation into solicitor Gareth Watkin’s death force

DS Kite to confront her own demons as well as those of her rural community and, ultimately, to uncover the lengths to which we’ll go to protect our families…

My Review:

This is a plot with many twists and turns. The depths of the historic layers are slowly revealed alongside the introduction of the protagonist, Detective Sergeant Julie Kite and her struggles in both her work and home life. I loved the author’s ability to balance  – and juggle – both, and to keep the reader interested throughout the story. For me the genre of crime fiction can only work if there are false leads, clues that baffle or can give a ‘eureka’ moment. Remember No More does all these.

 The story is told from an omniscient point of view, weighted mostly from the protagonist’s viewpoint and this works, as I have the feeling we will be hearing more from DS Kite. But there is also an insight to the other characters and this adds depth to the them; to their struggles, their loyalties, their place in both the community and their families. The characters are well rounded and it is easy to empathise with some of them – and to recognise the weakness and malevolence in others. 

 The dialogue works well, differentiating the Welsh born characters and contrasting with the accent of Julie Kite and other Northern England characters. The internal dialogue gives greater perception to them all. I liked the slow internal acceptance of the protagonist’s change of life and work situation from Northern England to Wales.

I think one of the great strengths in the author’s writing is the descriptions of the settings. If I can’t picture the world the characters live in, it doesn’t work for me. Jan Newton  bases her book in mid Wales. The details are authentic and give a tangible sense of place. I admired  her ability to bring the sense of place alive. I was immediately drawn in by a very early description: ” the road was hemmed in either side by reeds and grasses, which had been bleached by the winter’s snow and were still untouched by the spring sunshine…”.And later, “the car rattled over a cattle grid and a vista of villages and isolated farms opened up below them as the road hair-pinned to the right, before descending along the edge of a steep valley. the tops of the hills were the pale browns of moorland, but the valley bottoms were already lush with meadows and hedges.” Good stuff!!

If I had any reservations about the story it would be about the relationship between the protagonist and her husband. But this is only because I wanted to know the background of their marriage. Perhaps this is just the author being enigmatic; maybe this is something to be revealed in the next story of DS Julie Kite. 

A couple of last mentions; I love the cover, the image is wonderful, I feel it is the scene that the buzzard sees in the Prologue. Oh, I do like prologues!

 I enjoyed reading Remember No More. It’s an extremely good debut novel and I do hope this is not the last we hear of DS Julie Kite and her collegues. 

This is  a book I have no hesitation in recommending to any reader who enjoys a good strong crime mystery.

I’ve also interviewed Jan. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/2oBcgHY

 BUY LINKS

http://www.honno.co.uk/dangos.php?ISBN=9781909983564

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Remember-No-More-Jan-Newton/dp/190998356X/

https://www.amazon.com/Remember-No-More-Jan-Newton/dp/190998356X/

https://wordery.com/remember-no-more-jan-newton-9781909983564

 jan_newton_allen_raine_winner_2014 sm

ABOUT JAN NEWTON

Jan grew up in Manchester and Derbyshire, spending her formative years on the back of a pony, exploring the hills and moorland around her home.  She lived and worked in London and Buckinghamshire for 19 years until moving to Wales in 2005, where she learnt to speak fluent Welsh. Jan has won several writing competitions, including the Allen Raine Short Story competition, the WI Lady Denman Cup, and the Oriel Davies Gallery competition for nature-writing. She has been published in New Welsh Review.

A WORD FROM JAN NEWTON

I wrote my first novel when I was seven, all about the adventures of a little green one-legged spaceman, who crash-landed his tiny ship in my north Manchester suburb.   We had plenty of adventures, Fred and me, filling fourteen Lancashire Education Committee exercise books and earning me two gold stars in the process.  But when I was eight, a rotund Welsh Mountain Pony by the name of Pixie trotted into my life, and writing was immediately relegated in favour of all things equine. 

It took more years than I care to admit for me to resume my writing career.  In 2005 we moved to gloriously inspiring mid Wales.  In 2009 I stumbled across an Open University creative writing module and the rest, as they say, is history.  After completing my OU degree, I fulfilled a lifetime ambition and enrolled on an MA course at Swansea University.  The whole experience was magical.  It was like being taken by the hand and led back to a place where my imagination could run riot.

I began by writing short stories, which I love, but I always feel disappointed when I have to say goodbye to my characters so soon, and so the next challenge was to attempt a novel.   It’s been a fantastic experience, from its shaky start in a brand new exercise book, but now, finally, I have my second novel.  I still have a horse – this one’s been with me for over twenty years – but these days I seem to be able to allow the two obsessions – books and horses – to run side by side.

Twitter:  @janmaesygroes

Blog:  https://jannewton.wordpress.com

Website:  www.jannewton.net

 GIVEAWAY

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4be03017222/?

jan

 

 

 

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

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

 

anne marie brear

 

Welcome AnneMarie, lovely to have you here today.

 Good to be here, Judith

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

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

What is the first book that made you cry?

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

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Writing energises me – promoting exhausts me!

Grace's-Courage-final

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

WDH (1)

 

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

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

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?

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

Nicola's-Virtue-final (1)

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

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

What does literary success look like to you?

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

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

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

How do you select the names of your characters?

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

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

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

What was your hardest scene to write?

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

 

McKenzie (1) (1)

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

My day job!

What is your favourite childhood book?

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

Does your family support your career as a writer?

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

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

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

Links to AnneMarie:

http://www.annemariebrear.com

http://annemariebrear.blogspot.com

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

Twitter @annemariebrear

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with Jenny Lloyd #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!!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hi, Jenny, Lovely to see you here today

Thank you for inviting me to this interview, Judith. The questions you’ve asked have given me reason to reflect upon my writing life and the why and how I write what I do. It has been a challenging and enlightening exercise which I have thoroughly enjoyed!

What made you decide to write in your genre?

When I began researching my family history and discovered the real-life stories of my ancestors. Discovering the tragedies in the lives of my grandmother, and her grandmother, set me on a journey to find out why and how such things could happen. Researching the religious and social norms of the times made me realise just how absent were the rights of women and how entrenched were the inequalities and double standards. There were no support systems, no safety nets, and society and its institutions served to reinforce traditional attitudes and beliefs that women were both a dangerous temptation to men and inferior to men. Women were always to blame in cases of sexual assault and rape, and women had to be controlled and contained within a life constrained by familial and marital duty. Across Britain, women who attempted to see their assailants prosecuted were openly jeered, mocked and humiliated by courtrooms of men. It is a disgrace that women were ever treated thus. I remember that time, back in the eighties, when they were closing all the old mental asylums. Aged women were coming out who had spent their entire adult lives in mental institutions. Some had been sent there in their teens for having got themselves pregnant out of wedlock. It was shocking. Inequalities applied to all women, but in isolated, rural communities such as in Wales, influenced by the rigid, non-conformist, hell-fire preachers of the time, the expectations placed on women to uphold ideals of purity were equal to the punishment if they were discovered to have fallen short. I have no doubt that many grew up in loving families, married loving husbands and lived contented lives in these idyllic surroundings; but for those who were failed by families, lovers, or husbands, it was a very different outcome. My grandmother had a terrible life, just terrible.

What other authors of your genre are you connected/friends with, and do they help you become a better writer in any way?

I do read a lot of books by other historical authors, regardless of whether I am socially connected with them. Some are awesome, are the most excellent of writers, and fill me with aspiration and ambition to improve.

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

I think that to sustain the amount of energy needed to write a full-length novel you must feel passionate about your subject. Personally, I write from a sense of outrage at the cruelties and injustices which have sprung from socially sanctioned inequality. Wherever there is inequality, there will always be those who will use that imbalance of power to their own ends, whether that be in a marriage, a community, or society as a whole. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to feel that strongly – it fuels the fire and underlies my feeling that I must write to the best of my ability to do the subject justice. If I thought I failed to do that, I would give up writing and leave the job to someone else.

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

I don’t write in a particular style for the sake of originality. As a reader, I am slightly put off if I feel the author is trying to be original either in their choice of subject matter or in the portrayal of their characters. Originality, in that sense, can be at the expense of authenticity, I think. I don’t know about originality, but I am quite particular in how I like to tell a story, i.e. I tend towards more than one point of view because that gives a more rounded, unbiased story, I hope. As in Leap the Wild Water, I thought it essential to know Morgan’s side of things, too; that was all part of illuminating the ‘how and why’ such things can happen. And I like to twist things up, not for the sake of it, but for instance, though Megan has her own voice in the narrative, we learn a great deal about Megan through Morgan’s eyes, and vice versa – their private thoughts and feelings about each other are particularly revealing. I put a great deal of thought into viewpoint and who will be telling which aspect of the story, before I begin. I think if someone told me I must write in a different style to that which is very much my own in order to ‘deliver to readers what they want’, I would be totally gutted. Too many novels are written to a ‘formula’ which has obviously proved, at some point in the past, to have made for a ‘popular’ novel. There has been a noticeable increase in this type of novel in recent years, so I guess agents and publishers believe it is what the reading public wants but it isn’t what this reader wants, and it isn’t the kind of novel I want to write.

 

leap-the-wild-water

I have to say here, this is the first book I read of yours; I loved it.http://amzn.to/2lkjDFg

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

Let’s face it, I do take my readers on an emotional roller-coaster. They’re going to love some characters, despise others. They’re going to feel angry, exasperated, and outraged at the things some of these characters get up to. They’re going to cry. They’re going to laugh too, I hope; in short, all the emotions I feel when I’m writing. I do make demands on my readers but I am always careful not to depict anything in a gratuitous or graphic way.

Do you want each book to stand-alone or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’ll bow to the judgement of one of my readers on this one, who told me he’d read the last one, Anywhere the Wind Blows, without having read the first two books and though he really enjoyed it, he went on to say he’d now read all three and felt they should definitely be read in the order they were written!

wind-blows

http://amzn.to/2lkDG6J

 

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

A trunkful of my earlier attempts. Until Leap the Wild Water I hadn’t managed to complete a single full-length novel.

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

I grew up with six brothers. Although not one of the characters in my books is remotely like any of my brothers, I do feel that growing up with them has offered me some valuable insights into the male psyche. Morgan, the main male character in Leap the Wild Water, is very much Welsh and very much a man of his time and place. I found his character easier to write than Megan’s, at times.

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

Right now, I am coming to the end of a few months of research in preparation for the next book. The next one will have a whole new set of characters and will be set in an earlier time, and across a wider social stratum, so I’m beginning again from scratch. I did a lot of research before I began writing the Megan Jones trilogy. A vast amount doesn’t get used but it all adds to my understanding and portrayal of the domestic, social and geographical contexts in which those people had to live out their lives. I research anything and everything which helps me do that. There are so many old documents, journals etc., available online now, it is a social historian’s dream.

How do you select the names of your characters?

Sometimes, they may be given the name of an ancestor – Morgan is an old Welsh family name going back many generations. Often, though, a character’s name will have a deeper meaning. Megan’s mother, Esther, gives Megan’s baby the name of Fortune. Not only did she rob Megan of her child but of the opportunity to name her. That one act alone said so much about Esther and her attitude to and relationship with her daughter. Esther named the child Fortune ‘because that is what she will cost us, one way or another’. That was all Esther could see. Fear of public shame and loss of reputation blinded her to everything else. She quite literally throws away a fortune in the form of her own beautiful granddaughter.

What was your hardest scene to write?

Without a doubt, the scene when Megan realises her baby has been taken. To do that justice, I had to ‘become’ Megan while writing it, get right there inside her head and heart. Even now, recalling it, it still has the power to move me to tears. A young mother who read Leap the Wild Water asked me if what happened to Megan had happened to me because the scene seemed so real she felt I must have experienced the same. I haven’t, except through Megan.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Both. When I am writing the first draft I’m flying. It is the most exhilarating experience, ever. It is only after finishing subsequent drafts and publication that exhaustion sets in and I honestly have to walk away from writing for a few months.

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

Believe in yourself, write for the love of it, and don’t allow your self-belief, hopes and dreams to be undermined or destroyed by selfish, insecure people. People who really care about you would not place obstacles in your way.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

john-waterhouse

I have this reproduction of ‘Boreas’ by John William Waterhouse hanging above my writing desk. I first came across it not long after I’d finished the first draft of Leap the Wild Water. I was astounded when I saw it because it was so close to my vision of Megan picking the wild daffodils on the hill above Carregwyn. It was as if the painter had had the same vision as me, but a hundred years before me. I had to buy it. Only when I’d finished the last book in the trilogy did I realise that the painting represents the entire trilogy – there is Megan amid the daffodils (Leap the Wild Water) and in the back-ground there is a raven flying (The Calling of the Raven) and of course, the subject of the painting is the north wind (Anywhere the Wind Blows). Every time I look at this picture it reminds me of the power of the subconscious, and in my moments of self-doubt it serves to remind me that I once thought myself incapable of writing just one novel, let alone three.

raven

http://amzn.to/2lRQH4z

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Every book, text book or fiction, that I have read. My text-books have educated me and through reading novels I have learned how to go about writing one.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I didn’t write Leap the Wild Water until I was in my fifties so I’ve always had to do other work and fit my writing around that. I left home, and school, within a month of my fifteenth birthday. I was desperately unhappy and thought running away would fix things. It didn’t. My first job was with Laura Ashley, making those beautiful, Edwardian style dresses and blouses with all the pin-tucks and lace. I was a ‘mother’s help’ for a wealthy couple in London, for a time. We lived in an enormous, luxurious flat over the King’s Road. That introduced me to a very different life from that of growing up on a farm in Wales! It was great while it lasted but when the job ended, I decided to leave London as the ‘hiraeth’ for my beloved Wales had become overwhelming. For most of my life, my work has involved textiles, making clothes or furnishings. I trained as an upholsterer, too. None of it, really, what I most wanted to do but drifted into and did to pay the mortgage and the bills, as we do. As the years went by, my frustration grew until I twigged that my hopes and dreams were as important as anyone else’s. From that day on, I began to dedicate every spare moment I could to writing. Even while working, I’d be writing. I’d keep a notebook beside me all the time, hand-stitching curtains while pausing to write the stories unreeling in my head. And I began to try to make up for all those years of education lost through leaving school so young, reading everything I could lay my hands on and discovering those subjects which most fascinated me – social history and social psychology, subjects which have greatly informed my writing.

Have you ever had reader’s block?

What’s that?! Did you mean writer’s block? If the latter, only when I am in between novels. I am capable of devoting vast quantities of energy into not beginning a new novel, to the point where I must begin or go insane. Once begun, the main reasons I don’t get writer’s block are that the characters are more in charge than I am, and I always end a writing session with an unfinished scene so I’m always looking forward to what happens next.

Has there been any author’s work you disliked at first but grew into?

Nope. For me, reading fiction is an escape. I know within the first chapter of a book whether I’m going to love it. It works for me from the off or it doesn’t work at all. There are so many books I want to read, so many things I have still to learn, life is too short to spend it reading anything which does not transport, inspire or instruct me.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

What do you think is the best way to market your books?

Somebody tell me the answer to that one, please!

 (Laughing! Yes, please do, someone.)

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

I am incredibly lucky in that I have never had a bad review (not when I last looked, anyway!) and I am eternally grateful for every one of the reviews I’ve received. I don’t ask for them or expect them, so it is an absolute delight when I get one. I regard it as an act of pure generosity when people take the time and thought to write one. Those reviews have encouraged me more than anything else to keep putting my stories out there.

Would you like to talk about your latest book here?

I most enjoy portraying the darker side of human nature. The worst characters fascinate and horrify me in equal measure, and none more so than the malicious gossip, Mary Williams, who really comes into her own in Anywhere the Wind Blows. Generally, most of my characters redeem themselves at some point but Mary wholly fails to do so. She is an envious and bitter woman without boundaries or conscience when spreading scandal and rumour, and breath-taking in her ability to say anything, regardless of truth, to destroy those she envies and resents. And isn’t it always the best people, the nicest people, who are the targets of the Marys of this world? Unfortunately for Megan and her brother Morgan, they find themselves the targets of Mary’s vindictive spleen during the aftermath of Eli’s shocking death. Mary has made trouble for Megan in the past but in Anywhere the Wind Blows, when love and a chance of lasting happiness arrives with Cai Traherne, Megan is to discover just how dangerous an adversary Mary is. I won’t say how it turns out!

Please supply links to all your social media including websites.

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

https://jennylloydwriter.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

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

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with Margaret Kaine#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!!

margaret

Today I’m chatting with Margaret Kaine. Margaret was born and educated in the Potteries and now lives in Eastbourne. Her short stories have been published widely in women’s magazines in the UK, and also in Australia, Norway, South Africa and Ireland. Ring of Clay, her debut novel, won both the RNA’s New Writer’s Award in 2002 and the Society of Authors’ Sagittarius Prize in 2003. She has written several romantic sagas about life in the Potteries between the 50’s and 70’s,and translations include German and French. All are published as eBooks, paperbacks and hardbacks, also Large Print and Audio – cassette and CD. I’m thrilled to have Margaret here.

Welcome, Margaret, lovely to see you here today.

Good to be here, Judith 

Tell us, what made you decide to write in your genre?

Simply because I always loved to read family sagas. Born and educated in Stoke-on-Trent, the area known as the Potteries, I always had a dream of becoming a writer. But once married and with a family, two dogs and a career as a lecturer in further education, there never seemed to be any me time. It wasnt until I had an empty nest, that I came to this wonderful world of writing fiction. I attempted short stories at first, gaining encouragement and constructive critiques from a writers workshop – Id advise anyone to join a good one – and had my share of rejections, but eventually became published widely in womens magazines in the UK, and also in Australia, Norway, South Africa and Ireland. Then obeying the maxim to write about what you know, I wrote and finished my first novel, Ring of Clay, set in the Potteries after WW2. Published by Poolbeg in Ireland, I was thrilled when it won the RNA New Writers Award in 2002. The following year, the same novel won the Society of Authors Sagittarius Prize, sponsored by Terry Pratchett. Hodder & Stoughton bought the UK & Commonwealth rights and I continued to write six more romantic sagas about life in the Potteries between the 50s and 70s. It was a nostalgia trip for me really, but I enjoyed so much describing life as I remembered it in this distinctive industrial area.

Ring Of Clay by [Kaine, Margaret]

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

This is an unusual question, and my answer is that I would doubt it. Even literary writing needs emotion and imagination.

Do you want each book to stand-alone or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

All of my books are stand-alone, even Ring of Clay and Rosemary, although they are connected with the latter being a sequel.

Rosemary by [Kaine, Margaret]

How do you select the names of your characters?

Oh, names! I cant continue until I have my main characters names. I will try several as I begin a novel, and know within a page or two whether one strikes a chord with me. And then it becomes a challenge, as I know I wont be able to write a word until Ive found the right one, otherwise I cant seem to see the person. The internet is a wonderful tool for this, especially for checking whether a name is correct for the era.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

When the writing is going well, nothing has ever given me such a buzz, so I suppose at the time it gives me energy. But I admit that later – usually in the evening – I can feel quite tired. This happens especially if Ive been writing an emotionally draining scene, or if Ive been in what I call full flow, and forgotten how long Ive been sitting at the computer. But writing has enriched my life in so many ways, that I cant imagine not having it in my life.

Ribbon of Moonlight by [Kaine, Margaret]

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

One of my biggest regrets is not to have begun writing at a much earlier age. With hindsight, I should have made the time to creatively express myself. And yet, somehow it wasnt in my mindset. I admire so much young women who manage to write successful novels while bringing up a family.

Friends and Families by [Kaine, Margaret]

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

My subscription to join the Romantic Novelists Association. Its a wonderful organisation offering encouragement, support and friendship. I have learned much about my craft from attending the annual conferences they hold in different parts of the country. They also provide several glittering occasions to socialise with other authors, many of whom become good friends.

Song for a Butterfly by [Kaine, Margaret]

Have you ever had reader’s block?

Im afraid I just cant get into any books about vampires or zombies.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Now was it Little Women or Black Beauty? I read both as a child and dont think any books since have moved me more.

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

Yes, I do read them, I cant resist it. Besides one can learn much from perceptive comments. Naturally the good ones are my favourites and can put a spring in my step all day, and eventually one learns to expect that not everyone will like your book and to accept negative reviews. What does annoy me is when people put reviews on Amazon, lowering the average star rating with such trite  remarks as I havent read it yet, or the cover was damaged when it arrived. I mentally scream.

Would you like to talk about your latest book here?

The last of my Potteries family sagas, was Song for a Butterfly, but after 7 books in the same genre, I felt I needed a challenge. I decided to write an Edwardian romantic historical suspense set against a more cosmopolitan background, and Dangerous Decisions was published by Choc Lit. I loved doing the research, describing the elegant fashions, the beautiful great houses. The aristocracy certainly knew how to live in style. But supporting that lifestyle would be a veritable army of servants, domestic service then being the main employment and these were often exploited. I have also set my recently completed 9th novel in the same era. With a working title of The Black Silk Purse, the story begins with a young girl being harshly treated in a workhouse, and the way her life becomes intertwined with that of a wealthy spinster. My agent loves it (always a huge sigh of relief), its out with publishers and so Im currently in that period authors know well, of waiting.

 Dangerous Decisions (Choc Lit) by [Kaine, Margaret]

Please supply links to all your social media including websites.

website – http://www.margaretkaine.com

Twitter – @MargaretKaine 

Facebook – Margaret Kaine

Goodreads – Margaret Kaine

Instagram –  Margaret_Kaine