Source: Rebuilding Bodies & Souls
My interview at Books by Women.
Source: Rebuilding Bodies & Souls
My interview at Books by Women.
Today I’m honoured to host my friend and fellow author, Jennifer Young. Her latest novel, After Eden, (book 2 in the Dangerous Friends Series) is released today and she has generously agreed to tell us a little about writing a series, something I’ve never done. Welcome, Jennifer. Congratulations on the latest release. Over to you:
I never set out to write a series.
When I plotted, researched and eventually wrote Blank Space, the first in my Dangerous Friends series, I thought I was writing a stand-alone romantic suspense novel. Bronte and Marcus, my hero and heroine, had serious and almost unresolvable issues, but when I got to the end of the plotting stage, the two of them went off into the sunset for their requisite Happy Ever After.
(That isn’t a spoiler, by the way. The book’s a romance. Of course, they were going to get together…it’s in the rules of the genre.)
The problem is that when I got to the end and read it back…well, it was grim reading. Sure, they were in love, but sometimes love isn’t enough. The difficulties which kept them apart at the beginning were so great — traumatic for Bronte, guilt-inducing for Marcus — that they couldn’t be resolved in that final chapter.
I tried. Believe me, I tried, because it’s romance, and those are the rules. But I couldn’t do it. Bronte was well within her rights to stare back at me from the page and refuse to go gently into the arms of someone who’d treated her the way Marcus did. I wouldn’t have done, knowing that he, though with the best of intentions, had an association with her ex-boyfriend, Eden, that caused her a whole shedload lot of problems. She had a lot to forgive and it couldn’t happen overnight, no matter how attracted the two of them are to one another. Any reader would have known it was contrived; it would have rung horribly false.
In the end, I left Bronte and Marcus with hope, and so far at least no-one seems to have found the ending unsatisfactory, but their story was far from over. So, in order to tie up their relationship, there had to be a second book — the story of what happened after Eden. And at the end of that, I knew there had to be a third — a further progression in their relationship, a further adventure in which they find themselves.
For a happy ending, the things that draw the protagonists together must be stronger than the things that keep them apart — but there are a lot of things, in these two and out of themselves, that conspire against them. Theirs will be a long fight.
“After Eden,” muses Bronte, early in the second book, “how could it be the same between Marcus and me?”
About the Author:
Jennifer Young is an Edinburgh-based author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. After Eden is the second in her Dangerous Friends series of romantic novels set in Scotland’s capital city.
Books three and four are coming soon.
After Eden is available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited
For more information, you can follow Jennifer on:
Today it’s a pleasure to have historical fiction author, Samantha Wilcoxson with us to chat about her writing life. Her latest novel, Queen Of Martyrs was released on April 12th, 2017, and is the third book in the Plantagenet Embers series. Welcome, Samantha.
How have you found the publishing process so far?
Now that I’ve been through the process a few times, I enjoy taking responsibility for my work from start to finish. Self-publishing offers many challenges in editing, formatting, and design, but it also offers incredible creative freedom. I used to spend days getting things to look just right, but once I came up with a system of formatting from the moment I begin a new project it became much simpler. The independent writing community is extremely supportive, and I have received help and encouragement from more people than I can say.
What inspired you to write this story?
A friend recommended that I write about Queen Mary upon completing Faithful Traitor. I was already gearing up to travel back to the beginning of the Plantagenet dynasty when he pointed out that I had left readers wanting to know more about what happened to that little girl whom Margaret Pole had loved as if she were her own. At first, I dismissed the idea, not having much interest in carrying on into the Tudor dynasty and certain that Mary’s story must have already been told. What I found when I began looking for historical fiction sympathetic to Mary’s point of view was that I was wrong. I quickly became passionate about filling that void.
Can you tell us a little about your novels?
What has become the Plantagenet Embers trilogy, began with a desire to write about one woman, Elizabeth of York. Hers was a story that had gone largely untold despite her proximity to kings, tragedy, and mystery. When she was mentioned, it was often as an inactive bystander to events. I wanted to look at the tumultuous events of the end of the Wars of the Roses and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty more deeply from her personal point of view. By the time I had completed Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, I knew that I had to carry on with the story of Margaret Pole, a woman overlooked to an even greater extent than her royal cousin. Before I knew it, I was looking at a trilogy of the York remnant rather than a stand-alone novel.
Each of these novels is told from a close third person point of view. Therefore, the reader sees history play out as it would have been seen by the protagonist. I do not jump to a battle scene but wait with Elizabeth as she prays for her husband’s safe return. Margaret is left to wonder what is going on at court and get her news where she can, so the focus of her story is not on Henry VIII’s scandals outside of where they personally impact Margaret. Mary’s story is told the same way, though, in her case, she does become the reigning monarch. Each woman’s personality colors the way they interpret and react to well-known historical events.
Are you a full-time author?
I would have to say sort of. I do not have a job outside of writing, but I do have three children. My working hours are generally limited to when I do not have any of them home or housework to do, but that is another great benefit of a writing career. It easily fits within and around the other demands upon my time. I look forward to truly writing full time in a few years when they are all off to college.
How do you approach your writing and research? Do you plan strategically or do you wait to see where the muse takes you?
As I suspect is true with most authors, I do a little bit of both. I begin with researching the person that I have chosen to write about. Because I live in the US and write about England, that generally means ordering lots of books rather than research trips, though I was blessed enough to take a trip to the UK in 2015. I begin with a detailed timeline of my protagonist’s life, including both personal events, such as marriages and childbirths, and the broader historical events going on around them. Based on these facts, I begin to create personalities and motivations that make sense to me, evolving that timeline into a personal story. In each book, characters have blossomed into more than I thought they might be when I began. Cecily of York is an example of that from my first book. I did not plan to make her a major character or to give her such a spunky personality, but she has ended up a readers’ favorite. The same thing happened when I was able to bring Catherine Gordon, the wife of Perkin Warbeck, into Margaret’s story. I hadn’t previously realized how much their stories intertwined. It is fascinating to see where that stark list of facts can take my characters.
Have you ever been tempted to write in another genre?
I started out writing another genre because I was intimidated by my beloved historical fiction. My first published work is middle-grade inspirational fiction titled No Such Thing as Perfect. I also published a middle-grade historical fiction novel, Over the Deep, before convincing myself that I needed to explore my true passion. I’m so glad I did! There is no place I would rather be lost than in historic England.
Though I do not ever see myself stepping away from writing about history, I am also taking the plunge into nonfiction with a group project coming out this summer from Pen & Sword Books. The British Stripped Bare will be a look at romance throughout the history of Britain, and I am privileged to work on it with a group of wonderful writers. My personal contribution will be a look at the barriers to making a marriage in Tudor England and a few scandalous couples who snuck around them.
What part of the research process is the most enjoyable?
It is a joy to see historical figures come to life centuries after they are gone, even if it is only in my imagination. I love finding little tidbits of information in biographies that make great story elements, such as the fact that Margaret Pole and Catherine Gordon served Princess Mary together or Elizabeth of York’s odd final progress while she was ill and pregnant. A great biography can be just as compelling as historical fiction, and I appreciate the glimpse into the way people thought and lived differently. I especially enjoy exploring the way faith was such an important facet of their lives. This especially comes out in Mary’s story, of course, with her attempt at counter-reformation, but each of these women made many of their important life decisions based on teachings of the church. It is such an entirely different worldview than we hold today, and I find it captivating.
Like any incurable bibliophile, I have many, but I am also devoted to trying new authors. Sharon Kay Penman is probably the greatest inspiration for my writing. My style is my own, but her dedication to extensive research and giving life to those long dead is a philosophy I have attempted to emulate. I also adore the writing of CJ Sansom. His Matthew Shardlake has to be my most beloved fictional character. When he is hurt or disappointed, my heart aches. Toni Mount’s new Seb Foxley series greatly reminds me of Shardlake, so I have a growing attachment to her books as well.
Of course, every writer also has their favorite classic authors. Mine is Charlotte Bronte. Villette is a book that spoke directly to my soul, and I love the eloquent use of descriptive language in each of the Brontes’ novels. They have a way of writing about matters of the heart that make the reader say, ‘Yes! That’s just how it feels!’ Edith Wharton is another favorite. I love the slow build and inevitable heartbreak.
That’s a tough one! I would have to say Hebrews 10:24. ‘Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.’
I’m not much of a movie fan, though I have a soft spot for Star Wars. I prefer period dramas, such as Downton Abbey, The Borgias, Victoria, John Adams, North and South, The Crown, and even the questionably accurate The Tudors.
Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer and history enthusiast. She has written three novels and works as a freelance writer. Living with her husband on a small lake in Michigan with three kids, two cats, and two dogs, Samantha has plenty of writing inspiration.
‘Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen’ has been named an Editors’ Choice by the Historical Novel Society. This most recent of Wilcoxson’s novels has been long-listed for the 2016 HNS Indie Award.
Universal Book Links
To find out more about Samantha please see:
Source: Book Review: The Beauty Shop
By Author Leigh Holland via leighholland.com
This week I have the pleasure of author Pam Lecky, who has written a beautiful piece about the story and the inspiration behind her latest release, In Three-Quarter Time, a historical WW1 romance.
If you have ever spent time digging around in your family history, you will know how addictive it can be. Like Sherlock Holmes, you start to chase down the tiniest clue you find. Unfortunately, Irish records are notoriously difficult to find back beyond 1880 or so. Our census records were destroyed by fire during the Irish Civil War and although we were technically still part of the British Isles at the time, no copies appear to have been kept in the UK. Every time I think about it I want to cry.
So it was a very lucky break when my only surviving uncle casually dropped a gem of information. My grandfather had first dated my great aunt. She died of TB while he was in America and on his return he hooked up with my grandmother. Unfortunately, that was all anyone knew about it but the writer in me just couldn’t let it be. Needless to say, I didn’t unearth any further details but constantly found myself thinking about how it might have been. My short story, In Three-Quarter Time, is the result. It is ninety-nine percent fiction of course, but I guess it gave me a sense of closure.
Here is a little extract to tempt you!
Dublin was wilting in an Indian summer. To the west, a bank of steel grey cloud hung low on the horizon and the air was heavy with the promise of a storm. Lily looked up at the raucous gulls wheeling above the Liffey and wrinkled her nose at the strong and disagreeable smell wafting up from the water. The quays were never a pleasant place to linger on a hot day but they were waiting at the tram stop for Anthony. They had arranged to accompany him to Kingsbridge Station where he would board the train for Queenstown and from there the boat to America.
It was a busy Saturday afternoon and the cobbles echoed to the sound of horse hooves and the rattle and hiss of trams. Josie paced up and down, her cheeks pinched and pale, her eyes scanning the sluggish stream of pedestrians going about their business.
“Could we have missed him?” Josie asked. She checked her watch again. “It’s already a quarter to.”
Lily changed position and wished she had worn more comfortable shoes. As she turned, she caught a glimpse of herself in the window of McBirney’s Department Store. Her reflection did nothing to improve her mood. Her hair clung in damp curls to the side of her face and the cream linen suit, which had seemed an excellent choice that morning, was looking limp and sadly wrinkled. She was no beauty, like Josie, but she prided herself on always looking her best. She straightened her hat, tucked a stray red curl behind her ear and turned back towards Josie.
“I imagine he has been delayed saying goodbye to his family,” she said, trying to hide her impatience.
Josie gave her an apologetic smile. “Of course, that would be it – his mother is too unwell to travel to the station to see him off.” She resumed her pacing. Lily wished Josie didn’t always wear her heart on her sleeve. A little dignity would not go amiss.
Pam Lecky is an Irish writer of historical fiction with a particular love of the late Victorian era/early 20th Century. She is a busy working mum with three children, a dog and two cats! Yes, life is hectic.
She has a particular fascination with all things 19th century, from food and clothes to architecture and social history.
Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was published in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; made ‘Editor’s Choice’ by the Historical Novel Society; long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award; and chosen as a Discovered Diamond in February 2017.
She has just published a short story set in her native Dublin, In Three-Quarter Time. It is a love story set against the backdrop of WW1.
Find out more about Pam here:
Buy The Bowes Inheritance here at Amazon
Buy In Three-Quarter Time here at Amazon
Brilliant article by author Anna Belfrage.
It’s a pleasure to host you here today, M.C.V. Egan. Welcome. To get warmed up, can you please tell us about the premise of Death of a Sculptor.
Thank you very much for inviting me. Death of a Sculptor is a murder mystery in which the reader sees the story from a variety of points of view. It is divided into three parts; Bruce’s Loves, Bruce’s Children and Two Years Later.
The book begins with Bruce Jones; a world-renowned sculptor’s funeral. It explores the relationships of those who loved Bruce, with each other and with Bruce.
You started out originally as a historical novelist with your debut, The Bridge of Deaths. Since then, you’ve crossed genres, becoming recognised as a multi-genre author. How do you find switching between writing about the past and the present?
Aside from Sci-Fi or Fantasy where I would be obliged to create actual worlds, I would like to think that I am capable of writing in any subject I find interesting. The Bridge of Deaths does have a huge modern day angle, as I do like contemporary, but it revolves around the research of a 1939 plane crash.
I may someday try a full historical as I’ve spent so much time researching the 1930s and I am fascinated by the era.
What sort of research did you have to do for this book?
Death of a Sculptor is a suburban women’s fiction. It takes place in South Florida, which I have been calling home for almost 30 years. It did not involve much research other than a few poisons to decide how to murder Bruce and play on not being too obvious.
What inspired you to write the story?
I married young the first time. I was married for five years and divorced. Through friends of my youth, I knew that my first husband had married several/many times after our failed five-year marriage. I joked that he must have a marriage/love shelf life.
Out of the blue, a couple of years ago, he contacted me via e-mail. He actually found me through The Bridge of Deaths! He wrote me a long and complicated e-mail, one that beckoned a proper answer. My initial reaction was not a kind and positive one. That very day I attended a writer’s workshop led by Deborah Sharp ( http://deborahsharp.com/ ) as part of the workshop we were given a writing prompt; a funeral.
It was very cathartic to kill (on paper) my first husband and attend his funeral, and I imagined myself walking into a service where all his ex-wives were present. The piece I wrote for the workshop got a good response. They especially liked my phrase “The ex-wives’ pew” I thought it was going to be a short story but then I started giving all the ex-wives a personality…
Today my ex and I are very good cyber buddies and I wish him the very best. I never imagined when we divorced in 1986 that we would ever be friends.
As the story grew, it was no longer about Lars but to give it an interesting edge I decided to murder Bruce; Lars, by the way, was not a sculptor. I chose that because I wanted to give the character a huge tell in his infidelities; as far as I know my first husband was not unfaithful, and the spark that ignited the idea, was simply that, a spark.
Do you have a favourite scene?
I do. I particularly like the scene when Bruce’s ashes are cast to sea. I have had a bit of feedback on that one from readers.
Which authors do you feel have influenced you the most?
I feel all authors have influenced me. Some to realize my limitations, I cannot imagine creating a world as Sci-Fi or Fantasy authors do. Some authors to aspire to in storyline: I absolutely love W. Somerset Maugham and so many others whose work I deeply admire.
There are many Indie authors I have come to admire and learn so much from. I am very fortunate to live in Palm Beach County Florida, where I get to take workshops from a wide variety of fabulous authors.
Would you share an outline of a typical writing day for you.
I am unfortunately not that organized. I had very little opportunity to write last year and I am trying to get back on track. I have a wonderful writing coach, Prudy Taylor Board, and belong to a critique group where we meet twice a month. I do wish to find a good writing discipline and structure, but my life the last couple of years has been rather unstructured I am afraid.
If you could have dinner with any author(s), living or deceased, who would it be?
So hard to choose. There are so many. So I will dream the impossible and choose W. Somerset Maugham.
What are you working on next?
I am working on Novellas as based on each character from Death of a Sculptor. I am now working with a fabulous writing coach and have more than one project going.
Thank you so much for giving us such a wonderful insight into your writing and your books, Catalina. I wish you all the very best with the new release and continued success in the future.
EXCERPT from DEATH of a SCULPTOR
In Hue, Shape and color © M.C.V. EGAN
Mary: Wife No. 1
Thunder, lightning and rain, that was what we had at our wedding. However, on the day of his funeral, the Florida heat and humidity made my face shiny with perspiration. My hair looked like a dark Brillo pad. My children requested I attend the funeral of my first husband. Bruce Jones, the world-renowned sculptor.
The parking lot was already packed with an unexpected variety of cars. I then realized that it was not peak season. The South Florida snowbirds are attached to their cars and they migrate with them back and forth each year.
I noticed a police car and a uniformed man by the entrance. Even for Bruce a bit much; however, since 9/11 security has been tight everywhere.
The valet attendant opened my rental car door. “Welcome ma’am. Your daughter is waiting for you.”
“Thank you. Please make sure you keep the car in the shade. August Florida heat and sun are not my friends.” I pulled a five-dollar bill from my purse to tip him, but he shook his head and mumbled, “No, thank you.” After all It was Palm Beach. I probably should have pulled out a twenty.
I was surprised that the building looked like an actual church, at least from the outside. The church had a long name. It was Universal something or other; apparently, a place of worship with neither affiliation nor strictures. Bruce’s life had, after all, been too outré to pretend he followed any conventional religious norm.
“Thanks for coming, mom.” Clair’s voice shouldn’t have surprised me, but I stood still, focused on carefully dabbing my shiny nose. I clicked the compact shut, smiled and answered, “Anything for you and Aaron sweetheart.” She nodded as she guided me where to sit. It was toward the back of the church; the ex-wives’ pew.
“Please mom, don’t look at me that way. This funeral is a time for forgiveness and closure.”
Clair always found a way to get me to do whatever she wanted. The last thing I wanted was to be in the company of the women sitting there. I touched my frizzy hair, regretting my rejection of the keratin treatment.
Wife number two, Leslie, was the first to say hello. “Mary, you look lovely. It’s been years.”
“It has, thankfully,” I replied. The other two simply nodded, and I nodded back. Leslie, the one Bruce left me for, handed me a packet of tissues and winked. Forcing a smile, I took them. The idea that she assumed I planned to cry had not crossed my mind. I pulled the compact out of my purse again to check my makeup; it looked fine. Through the mirror I saw the reflection of the fifth and last Mrs. Bruce Jones, the widow. She was standing waiting for the ushers. I shook my head in disbelief. There next to Brooke was the coffin. The ushers waited with the coffin for the minister’s signal. It had images of Bruce’s artwork. Digital photography makes it possible to decorate anything in living color. Some of the images were blocked from my view by the ushers, but not mine. There I was paraded as a nude sketch. Each one of Bruce’s loves had a color and mine was pink. It was kitsch…even worse, it was downright tasteless.
Bruce had a type. We all had brown hair, and pretty faces with full lips and straight noses. The eye color varied as did our size and build. His type was limited to our physiognomy. I clicked the compact shut, and the other ex-wives faced me, startled by the sound. I shrugged with a coy apologetic smile. Look at the five of us; he had a type.
Bruce’s love also had a shelf life. He took the seven-year-itch need to scratch very literally. Some marriages were shorter, because sometimes the divorces got complicated and his new loves always overlapped with the old. Public or private, his relationships always lasted seven years.
I was nineteen when I first walked into his classroom. He was tall and muscular. I felt a tingle at the base of my neck when I saw his back, as if somehow I already knew. When he turned to face me, I was gone and completely in love. I fell in love with Bruce and the sculpture next to him all at once. I soon learned he made love in a way no other man did─not that I was very experienced then─Bruce traced every inch of my body with every part of his. At twenty-four, he already made a good living from his sculptures, but teaching remained his passion. As he grew older and wealthier, he taught short workshops in different parts of the world. His last one had been just a few months before his untimely death. He was after all, only sixty-two.
It was clear by the careful shape of his sculptures that he knew the shape of my legs, ankles, feet, and every other part of my body. His sculpture venues varied, his talent knew no boundaries. Bruce loved and sculpted as instinctively as the rest of us breathe. Whoever inherited the rights to his art would be wise to market his sketches as limited edition lithographs. Bruce liked to keep those private, but he always added color to the sketches in a way that made them works of art unto themselves. Bruce was as gifted with hue and color as he was with shapes. Those were the sketches that someone had the poor taste to use for the coffin. As the ushers moved around I heard the reactions of the other ex-wives, a blend of gasps and giggles. We recognized all the shapes and colors.
Focused on raising our children, I had not noticed when the sculptures started to change. That was when Leslie entered the picture. Bruce may not have planned to divorce me, or at least for years I tried to believe that, but then Leslie got pregnant.
Our marriage, his first as well, was the longest marriage, it lasted ten years. Three of those, Bruce had spent loving Leslie, but playing house with me. His marriage to Leslie was far shorter. I could tell by the sculptures he had loved her for seven years. We all met him through his art in one way or another. Wife number three, Petra, worked in an art gallery. Although not an artist she was very involved with his work. I derived great pleasure from the public scandal when he hurt Leslie that way, leaving her for a mere merchant. By then Bruce had a name, an art, and a face that was recognized everywhere. Leslie had ended my marriage, so curiosity as to who had ended hers interrupted my life for a time. Hers was the only one of Bruce’s love stories I followed carefully, aside from my own.
Aside from relishing in Leslie’s pain, his personal life did not pique my interest. I knew my children were always respected and old enough to voice concern if anyone mistreated them. I could not remember if it was the third or fourth wife who was the only one of us who did not have children with Bruce.
Chopin’s somber Marche Funèbre snapped me back to the moment. The elaborate coffin encasing Bruce’s body had been placed on a movable catafalque. The catafalque with squeaky wheels carried Bruce’s body in a guided procession down the aisle. He was always a large man and had managed to become larger as he aged. His appetite for food and drink superseded all his other appetites.
Leslie whispered in my ear, “She doesn’t look sad.”
Glancing over at the person in question, I nodded in agreement. The widow could not be described as grieving. Grief is, of course, different in all of us. The body language of grief, though, is universal; the defeated, slumped shoulders, head bowed, tears flowing. Leslie was right. The widow was crying, but they almost looked like tears of relief.
A montage of Bruce’s works on a screen at the side of the altar shaped in a semicircle created the focal point. The aisle inclined and my pew toward the back provided a good vantage point. The incline was slight, but pronounced enough to give those of us in the back a full view. The ushers seemed to be holding back the coffin so it would not speed down the aisle. The wheels continued to squeak. Bruce would have hated this. The minister or priestess─I am not sure what title this universal church gave them,─had a very unpleasant voice and thus was difficult to listen to. No voice, even a pleasant one, could compete with Bruce’s art. For all the rotten things I would be happy to tell you about Bruce Jones, his art was not something anyone could criticize. Even the most prestigious critics raved about his talent and his work.
The slides were in chronological order. The memory and pain from the sting of betrayal flooded me as it had twenty-eight years earlier. I could see Leslie through the corner of my eye and the blush that betrayed her shame.
As wife number two, she had been party to betrayal because she too had been betrayed. I know Leslie grew to love my children very much. I guess she saw me as an extension of that love in some ways. I felt terrible. I had been so curt.
My hand reached to her shoulder in a gesture of solidarity and forgiveness when the images on the screen segued to show the shape of ex-wife number three. My heart ached for Leslie because we had similar builds, and many would not have been able to distinguish when Bruce transitioned from sculpting my body to sculpting hers.
Ex-wife number three, Petra─a very tall woman, with long slender limbs─had a body that blatantly displayed the transition from Leslie to her replacement. The unquestionable change in shape left no doubt Bruce’s affections had shifted again. Leslie, pregnant with her second child at the time, lost the baby to grief, a loss I also knew well.
At that point, I did need the tissues Leslie had given me, but I was shedding tears for her, not for Bruce. I miscarried a child with my second husband. I understood her pain and sense of loss. Mine, too, was the last child, the child I never had.
Bruce never sculpted pregnant women. Consequently, wife number three, the one who had never been pregnant had seven years that boasted more sculptures than the rest of us. At the seven-year mark, Bruce’s transition into a new love story, a new model. Petra’s telltale sobs showed her grasp of Bruce’s tell. After all, loving Bruce was a gamble. The change of model in the sculpture showed his change of heart. Petra was from a foreign country, I never paid much attention where. My kids interacted with her, and she welcomed them with kindness. In tandem, Leslie and I passed her the tissues.
Petra took both tissues we offered and her lips moved in a quiet whisper; the words were obviously meant for Leslie, though I could discern they were, “I am sorry”
My daughter, Clair, had always lived up to the dual meanings of her name; clear and famous. Clair could see things with great clarity, and she could convey them as such. I could only assume that she knew the ex-wives belonged together, ‘for closure and forgiveness’ as she had said.
Clair’s modeling career had started in her teens at her insistence; she was not pushed nor did anyone suggest she should model. She knew she was very attractive, and she knew she could convey her beauty and charm to an audience, a photographer, a camera.
Her modeling spun into acting. She was as natural on a screen as on a stage. It came to her with ease, though she was happy to take classes and learn. My Aaron is also successful, but he is a behind-the-scenes sort of person. I took great pride in knowing that I had always been a good mother. I had known how to allow my children to forge their own paths.
Not everything in my life succeeded, but I was a success at being a mother. I recognized Bruce’s love shelf life because I had one of my own, with a trail of the remains of ended marriages or relationships. Mine perhaps more impressive than Bruce’s.
I guess Bruce might have been the love of my life. But now in my mid-fifties, I questioned whether a spouse or companion had any viable use? I loved art, my passion, and although my work is not as popular or renowned as Bruce’s, I have achieved a certain level of success.
About M.C.V. Egan
M.C.V. Egan is the pen name chosen by Maria Catalina Vergara Egan, the author of The Bridge of Deaths. Catalina was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1959, the sixth of eight children, in a traditional Catholic family. From a very young age, she became obsessed with the story of her maternal Grandfather, Cesar Agustin Castillo, mostly the story of how he died. She only spent her childhood in Mexico. Her father became an employee of The World Bank in Washington D.C. From the early 1970s at the age of 12, she moved with her entire family to the United States.
Catalina was already fluent in Southern English as she had spent one school year in the town of Pineville, Louisiana with her grandparents. There she won the English award; ironically being the only one who had English as a second language in her class. In the D.C. suburbs, she attended various private Catholic schools and graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland in 1977.
She attended Montgomery Community College, where she changed majors every semester. She also studied in Lyons, France at the Catholic University for two years. In 1981, due to an impulsive young marriage to a Viking (The Swedish kind, not the football player kind) Catalina moved to Sweden where she resided for five years and taught at a language school for Swedish, Danish, and Finnish business people. She returned to the USA where she has been living ever since. She is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Swedish.
Maria Catalina Vergara Egan is married and has one son, who together with their five-pound Chihuahua make her feel like a full-time mother. Although she would not call herself an Astrologer she has taken many classes and taught a few beginner classes in Astrology. This is one of her many past times when she is not writing or researching.
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Today I’m honoured to have my friend and fellow author Jennifer Young here to talk about writing and her latest release.
Welcome, Jennifer. It’s a pleasure to have you here today and congratulations on the release of your latest novel, Blank Space.
Can you tell us which book has influenced you the most?
I’m not conscious of being particularly influenced by any one book, but if I have to choose one, it’ll be Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow, by Peter Hoeg. The writing is extraordinarily strong and, although it’s years since I read it, I still have several lines from it stuck in my head. And the ending haunts me.
What’s the most beautiful book you possess?
Oh, oh, oh! I don’t have beautiful books: they’re all read to pieces. So I’m going to go for one with some beautiful photographs in it: a travel guide to Iceland.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I loved The Lord of the Rings, which is strange because I’m not at all a fan of fantasy novels. My mother read it to my sister and myself when we were too young to read it for ourselves, and I think the storytelling is very strong and the writing vivid. I’m also fascinated by the many influences in the book, particularly from the Norse sagas.
Can you describe your writing process?
I don’t really have a process, as such: it depends what I’m doing. Broadly speaking I do my chores in the morning and think about writing while I’m doing them, then try and make space to write for a few hours in the afternoon. In reality, there are periods when I don’t write at all, and if I’m feeling inspired I can sit down and write all day. It depends what’s in my head at the time.
What advice can you give to writers at the beginning of their journey?
It is a journey (though one that never ends), and you’ll make progress, though sometimes it’ll feel slow. Surround yourself with other writers, who make wonderful fellow travellers. And enjoy every step of the way.
What is the most moving book you have ever read?
I’m going to go back to Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow, for exactly the reason as I gave above. The ending will never leave me, and every time I’m walking on snow I find myself thinking of it.
If you could have dinner with any writer(s), living or dead, who would you choose and why?
I’d love to meet Beatrix Potter, especially if she could host me in Hill Top (her home in the Lake District). I love the Lakes just as she did. I sense that she inhabited her fictional world almost as she did the real one, and I’d love to talk to her about that. And her books show that she had a fine, gentle sense of fun.
Are you self-published or traditionally published?
I’m what I believe these days is known as a hybrid author. I’m traditionally published by Tirgearr, a small independent (principally ebook) publisher, but I’m branching out into self-publishing with my latest book, Blank Space. It isn’t that I’m unhappy having a publisher — far from it. I just wanted to see if I could do the whole thing myself.
Which genre do you write?
I write romance, mainly contemporary and romantic suspense, though I have trespassed into women’s fiction and I’d like to try pure suspense, or even change genre completely and move to literary fiction. I go where my mind takes me — and it can take me anywhere. I’m a bit of a jack of all trades, which probably isn’t a good thing!
Please tell us about your latest published work.
Blank Space is the first in a series of romantic suspense books set in Edinburgh, featuring the radically-minded Bronte O’Hara and undercover policeman Marcus Fleming. In Blank Space, they meet when she discovers him unconscious in her kitchen, and as the series goes in their relationships develop. Their backgrounds and politics divide them and yet they continue to be drawn together with each new adventure.
When Bronte O’Hara finds an injured man in her kitchen in the run-up to an international political summit in Edinburgh, a world she thought she’d left behind catches up with her. When the man makes his escape, the police seem less interested in finding out where he went and how he came to be there than they are in Bronte’s past – more specifically, her ex-boyfriend, Eden Mayhew. Eden’s an anarchist, up to his neck in any trouble around — and he’s missing. The police are keen to find him, certain that he’ll come back. Who can she trust – and what has Eden’s disappearance got to do with the handsome stranger?
My first thought, when I discovered the body on my kitchen floor, was that it was a criminal waste of an exceptionally handsome man. My second was that I’d seen him somewhere before. And even as I crossed myself, I realised. He wasn’t dead.
I dropped my bag, sending the ingredients for the evening’s supper spilling out across the floor, and fell to my knees beside him. He lay on his back, one arm thrown theatrically wide, the other clasped across the patch of scarlet which flooded his shirt. As I watched, the deep stain broadened, livid red seeping outwards from between his fingers. His thick, dark hair was glossy with blood from a separate wound to the back of his head. You didn’t need to be a doctor to see where that came from; the trickle of red on the edge of the kitchen unit gave it away. My mind raced. He’d fallen. How? Why? And what would happen next?
I must call an ambulance. Then the police. But first, I must be sure he was alive. Curiously unable to help myself, I reached out a tentative hand and touched his cheek, the almost-bloodless skin shadowed with stubble. It was warm. Under my touch, he responded, mumbled something, and opened his eyes.
To think that a near-dead face could contain eyes of such live, vigorous blue. Breathless in my alarm, I froze, my fingers still touching his cheek as we stared for a moment, each measuring the other up, each trying to make something rational from this suburban nightmare. Was he friend? Was he foe? Had I saved him or condemned him?
He decided first, in my favour. He smiled.
He didn’t fear me. That was enough to reassure me, tip my panic into irritation.
‘What the hell are you doing in my kitchen?’ I demanded, my voice breaking into the near-silence of the midsummer evening.
A breeze crept in through the open door from the back green. Next door’s cat, an incorrigibly curious tabby, poked a questioning whisker round the glass door, smelt blood, and bolted.
He tried to sit up, struggled, gave up. ‘Give me your phone,’ he said, in a voice that was stronger than it had any right to be under the circumstances. ‘I’ll call the police.’
I reached for my bag, keeping my eyes on his face as if it was possible that this pale and debilitated stranger could harm me. Though if he’d been well and strong, then yes, he could have done. If he’d wanted. ‘I’ll call them now.’
‘I’ll call,’ he contradicted me, a trace of impatience on his voice. ‘Don’t you have a first aid kit? Get a cloth or something. Stop the bleeding.’
I’d have argued but common sense prevailed, so I handed him my phone, stood up to fetch a clean tea towel, and dampened it under the tap. By the time I turned back, he’d manoeuvred himself into a sitting position; the grimace etched on his face showed it hadn’t been easy. He groped about on the floor, as if to see what had hurt him.
‘What happened?’ I dropped to my knees again, folding the damp tea towel between my fingers. Strange how calm you can be under pressure, but I’ve never been one to panic.
A shadow passed across those eyes, a frown across the face. ‘I don’t know.’
‘And what are you doing in my flat?’ Lifting his bloodstained shirt, I looked with care at the wound that scarred his well-muscled torso, and found that it was deep but clean. ‘I think you’ll live, but this might hurt.’
‘I can bear it,’ he muttered, but he winced as I sponged the blood away, pressing the damp cloth against his side
‘Answer my question.’ I took advantage of his pain to challenge him. ‘Who are you?’
‘Never mind.’ There was an edge to his voice, one that hadn’t been there before; the terse tone of a man who’d assessed his situation and found it more precarious than he’d first thought. He closed his left hand over my right one, a steel grip on my wrist. ‘All right, Florence Nightingale. That’s enough first aid. Where’s your car?’
‘It’s outside.’ Making the mistake of lifting my eyes from the wound, I understood then that he hadn’t called the police, or even intended to, and that he’d been reaching out for something entirely sinister. It wasn’t a big knife that I found myself staring at. It was one of the smaller ones from my set of Sabatier kitchen knives. But I knew from experience exactly how much damage that four-inch, tempered steel blade could do. ‘Don’t be stupid. You’re hurt. I could take that off you if I wanted.’
‘You could try,’ he agreed, after a second’s consideration, ‘but I wouldn’t advise it. There’s no need for a struggle, and I don’t want to hurt you.’
‘Then put it down.’ My voice dropped to a whisper. Outside, a child cried, a child that should have been in its bed. The cat meowed at next door’s window. I could call out, if I dared, and see if someone came. But I didn’t. ‘You’re hurt. You can’t go anywhere by yourself.’
‘Yes,’ he said, his voice still steady. ‘That’s true. But I can’t stay here. Because whoever did this might come back and finish me off.’
I waited a moment longer, my gaze locked onto his. I’d heard a noise when I came in, a door banging, and I’d thought nothing of it. I was too used to the interminable sounds of other people’s lives around me. Now it seemed all too possible that I hadn’t just stumbled on the outcome of a crime, but had blundered right into the middle of one and by so doing might have prevented a murder. His murder. As I stared into the eyes of this dangerous stranger, the thought that crystallised in my mind was a stark one. I didn’t want him to die.
I’m a writer. Is that enough?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember; my first story was scribbled in pencil in a spiral bound notebook. It was called The Battle of the Black Watch and it began (something) like this: “I was woken in the early hours of the morning by my teddy bear, Thomasina, dancing a Highland fling on my tummy“.
I was eight, at most.
I read a lot when I was a child, but I wrote more. I wrote a spin-off of The Lord of the Rings, kind of prototype fan-fiction, complete with songs. I wrote about everything. In the days when you watched what was on telly because there was no choice, I watched rugby and skiing and wrote immature adventure stories about both. I went to university to study English but changed my course to do geography. At that point my stories became more heavily influenced by setting.
Then I grew up. I had to go to work, where I would jot down notes in meetings and look as if I was doing something economically sound. In fact I’d just thought of a plot point. Then I gave it all up to bring up the kids. I went to classes to keep my brain active. I went to writing classes. And someone said to me: “you should send that story off to The People’s Friend“.
I did. It was published.
I like short stories, as it happens; but my real love is novels. They allow you to develop characters and add more twists to the plot. So I moved on to writing novels. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers Scheme (because aspiring writers need help). I submitted and was rejected. Submitted and was rejected. Repeat ad nauseam.
In August 2013 the cycle of rejection broke and my first novel, Thank You For The Music, was accepted by Tirgearr Publishing. They’ve since taken four more. Just for the experienceI’ve self-published, Quintet: Dark Tales With a Twist, a book of those short stories that grew from my writing class.
I’m still writing, novels and short stories. I’m still being rejected, more often than I like. But I’m still going. I blog. I write travel articles. I can’t help myself. Because writing is like life, a roller coaster ride.
Feel free to join me:
Book Blurb: The Beauty Shop by Suzy Henderson England, 1942. After three years of WWII, Britain is showing the scars. But in this darkest of days, three lives intertwine, changing their dest…
Today I’m delighted to welcome my friend and best-selling author of the Du Lac Chronicle Series, Mary Anne Yarde, who has dropped by to share her views of her life as an author.
Welcome, Mary Anne. It’s a pleasure to have you here with us today.
Can you tell us which book has influenced you the most?
Book? Surely you mean books! As soon as I learnt to read, I had my nose stuck in a book. I was lucky that I had a much older sister, so I inherited all her hand-me-down books, which caused no end of arguments. My sister was very particular about her books. No bent pages, no cracked spines, they had to look like new…always. In fact, even now, how she reads a book is a mystery to me, they all look like they have just come off the shelves of a bookstore. Unfortunately, that all went out the window when I got my hands on them. Very soon they were dog-eared, with occasional notes in the margin. Scandal!
By the time I hit eleven, my sister’s bedroom was better than the local library, and I would sneak in and help myself to her growing collection of Mills and Boon Romance novels. Needless to say, I learnt a lot from those books!
In 1995 a book came out that touched me deep inside in a way no other book had. I was a teen, and my boyfriend was going away on a school camp for a week. I was more than a little miserable as I faced the trauma of being apart from him! He took me shopping, I guess he wanted to cheer me up, and we ended up in a bookstore — no surprise there! There was a book near the front that caught my attention. It was Nicholas Evan’s debut novel. I am sure most people have heard of The Horse Whisperer, it was made into a film starring Robert Redford, but let’s not talk about that. The Horse Whisperer is, in my opinion, one of the truest accounts of human emotions that I have ever read. Guilt, Anger, Pain, Jealousy, Compassion, this book has it all, but above everything else, The Horse Whisper is about Love. I ignored my boyfriend for the rest of the day while I read The Horse Whisper in one sitting — I don’t think that was quite what he had in mind when he bought it for me. Even now, after reading a countless number of books, The Horse Whisper still does it for me. When I read it, it feels like coming home. As for the boyfriend, he forgave me, and a couple of years later he asked me to marry him, but in all those years we have been together, he has never bought me another book…I can’t understand why not?!
So to answer your question, it would be The Horse Whisper that has influenced and inspired me the most.
That’s such a coincidence – I adore that book and I loved the film too. Fantastic choice. What was your favourite book as a child?
I was a pony-obsessed child, so any book to do with horses found its way onto my overcrowded bookshelf! If you asked my childhood self what my favourite book was, then I would say Anna Sewell’s, Black Beauty. I had a very old 1920’s copy of Black Beauty, and I loved everything about that book — from the size of the book itself to the smell of its musty old pages! The story, of course, was a bonus. I must have read that book 100 times. It now sits on my daughter’s bookshelf — she loved it too!
Snap! Another common interest we share – I was horse-mad too and loved Black Beauty. Can you describe your writing process?
I always write in the afternoon, sat on my bed and curled up under a blanket. I put my headphones on and, depending on what type of scene I am writing, I find some music to listen to. I prefer listening to movie soundtracks, especially ones composed by James Horner. He composed the score for films such as Braveheart, Titanic, Legends of the Fall and Avatar. I could listen to his music all day!
I write using a laptop. I find it hard to sit up at a table, so I rest the computer on my lap, no doubt the posture police would have something to say about that!
Before I start to write, I will re-read what I had written the day before, and make any necessary changes and then carry on writing the story. Often I can be side-tracked when I need to look something up, but I don’t mind about that because I love researching the past.
I drink far too much tea when I write and have had to stop buying biscuits because I completely lose track of how many I have eaten while writing!
I only write for around two hours a day, sometimes a little bit more, any longer and I find my concentration starts to wander.
What advice can you give to writers at the beginning of their journey?
If you want to write, you have to read. Read as much as you can by a variety of authors. Then, you must write. Write as often as you can — practice does make perfect. Do not become disheartened, ever. Some days will be harder than others and sometimes you may feel like giving up. Don’t. You are creating a world with your words, a world that people may well want to lose themselves in one day. Writing isn’t a profession, it is a calling, and if you don’t answer that call, then you may well regret it for the rest of your life.
That’s fantastic advice and so true. What is the most moving book you have ever read?
The Horse Whisper; it really does have it all!
If you could have dinner with any writer(s), living or dead, who would you choose and why?
I would love to have dinner with Historical Fiction author, Tony Riches. Tony writes the most breathtakingly beautiful stories about the Tudor Dynasty. I love his work, and he kind of took me under his wing when I was starting out in this whole publishing process. I would like to buy him dinner to say thank you!
Are you self-published or traditionally published?
I am a self-published author, and I love it!
You write historical fiction. What is it that draws you to history?
When I was a very young child, my mother was given a set of encyclopedias. Can you remember the massive encyclopedias they used to have at school? That is the kind of book I am talking about! Now, I couldn’t read at the time, but I used to drag these heavy books down from the bookshelf, very mindful I would get in trouble if I dropped them. I would place them on the floor, lie down next to them and flick through the pages.
My mum tells me that I had a favourite encyclopedia (like you do when you are three years old) and that was the one about World History. So my love affair with history started on the living room floor with an encyclopedia that was almost bigger than me!
My mum was a keen National Trust member, so we used to go on trips to great houses all the time. I loved — still, do — exploring old houses and trying to imagine what it would be like to live in one!
In the summer holidays while the other children were outside playing I would have my nose stuck in a history project. Once, I dedicated a whole summer to learning about the First Crusade — Like you do! I took history at school, and I went to University to study it as well. It has just kind of stuck.
I grew up near Glastonbury, which is not only rich in history but folklore. I have been fascinated with the life and times of King Arthur and his knights, and although he is a tough cookie to track down historically, Arthur is embroiled with folklore.
About 13 years ago, I because interested in folklore and the stories the past generation used to tell. Folklore is often looked down upon by some historians, it is not an exact science and let’s be honest, most of it is pure fantasy, but I think folklore gives you a fascinating insight to the people of the time. Why were these stories told? Was it for sheer entertainment value or was there a darker reason? A swaying of the masses maybe, a form of propaganda, and that fascinates me. Put history and folklore together and you have a potent mix, and I love creating stories that have one foot in a myth and the other in history.
Please tell us about your latest published work.
The Du Lac Devil (Book 2 of The Du Lac Chronicles)
The best-selling Du Lac Chronicles continues:
War is coming to Saxon Briton.
As one kingdom after another falls to the savage might of the High King, Cerdic of Wessex, only one family dares to stand up to him — The Du Lacs.
Budic and Alden Du Lac are barely speaking to each other, and Merton is a mercenary, fighting for the highest bidder. If Wessex hears of the brothers’ discord, then all is lost.
Fate brings Merton du Lac back to the ancestral lands of his forefathers, and he finds his country on the brink of civil war. But there is worse to come, for his father’s old enemy has infiltrated the court of Benwick. Now, more than ever, the Du Lac must come together to save the kingdom and themselves.
Can old rivalries and resentments be overcome in time to stop a war?
Paperback available December 2017
Mary Anne Yarde is the bestselling author of The Du Lac Chronicle series. Born in Bath, England, Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury — the fabled Isle of Avalon — was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.
At nineteen, Yarde married her childhood sweetheart and began a bachelor of arts in history at Cardiff University, only to have her studies interrupted by the arrival of her first child. She would later return to higher education, studying equine science at Warwickshire College. Horses and history remain two of her major passions.
Yarde keeps busy raising four children and helping run a successful family business. She has many skills but has never mastered cooking — so if you ever drop by, she (and her family) would appreciate some tasty treats or a meal out!
If you’d like to learn more about Mary Anne and her books, then do follow the links below:
Amazon Author’s page http://www.amazon.com/Mary-Anne-Yarde/e/B01C1WFATA/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
We’re so excited to have historical novelist, Suzy Henderson, here on the POTL Blog today. Her debut novel, The Beauty Shop, sounds fantastic and we’re deciding which of us gets to read it first. S…
This evening in the Library I am delighted to have my friend and fellow historical fiction author, Suzy Henderson, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an aut…
Suzy, it is so good to meet you! Tell us a little about the path you have traveled to arrive at the destination we call ‘successful author’! Don’t hold back!
Well, I was born and raised in Sunderland, a north-east town in England that’s now a bustling city. I always loved to read and found that books could take you to new places and give you great adventures. I suppose being an only child I was lonely at times, and so books became my passion, but I never once dreamed of being a writer. Fast forward a number of years, and I found myself working in a hospital – how did that happen? I became a qualified nurse and then moved south and trained to be a midwife. I got married, had two children and decided to take a career break…
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Book Blurb: The Beauty Shop by Suzy Henderson England, 1942. After three years of WWII, Britain is showing the scars. But in this darkest of days, three lives intertwine, changing their dest…
Suzy Henderson is the author of The Beauty Shop Suzy, it is so good to meet you! Tell us a little about the path you have traveled to arrive at the destination we call ‘successful author’! Don’t …
Today I’m delighted to welcome author Nicky Clifford into the spotlight. Welcome, Nicky! Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello and thanks for inviting me. I’m married with two children and I work part-time for a local charity. Writing has always been my passion, but I never felt confident enough to pursue my dream so I entered the corporate world of HR & Training. Now my sons are teenagers, and with the amazing support of my husband, Mark, I finally feel able to focus on my writing.
What genres do you write and why?
Never Again is a romance, as are my three other completed and three half-finished novels hidden away in my ‘to be revamped at some stage’ folder! I have always been intrigued by the numerous and bumpy paths to romance, combined with the complex ‘will they, won’t they’ couples’ dance as they journey towards their ‘happy ever after’.
When did you first become aware of wanting to be a writer?
At primary school, I loved writing poems and making up stories. I was always told that I had a “lively imagination”; I’m not sure that was thought to be a good thing! Everywhere I went I had to have a pad with me (and still do!) in case some line for a poem or some other idea popped into my head. My mum used to keep all my letters; by the time they spilled out of the biggest box you can imagine, I had to do some much-needed culling!
Which authors do you feel have influenced you the most?
When I was a teenager, I went through Mills & Boon at the same speed as most other teenagers go through tubes of sweets, although I did go through sweets as well, but maybe not at quite the same pace . . . Enid Blyton was one of my favourite authors; the suspense and magic that she weaved through her words gave me hours and hours of wonderful escape, which ignited my imagination.
Please tell us about your latest published book or your current WIP.
Never Again is a contemporary romance: Mountains, Mystery, Romance: Can you run from your past? Harriet Anderson’s life is spiralling out of control. Unused to such mayhem, she ditches her high-powered job to take refuge in the Swiss Alps where she meets Philippe Smith, a crime writer with a dark and shadowy past. Thrown together by chance, is their fate intertwined? Will the karma and romance of the mountains and the quaintness of the Alps soothe their troubled souls? Or will their rocky paths create avalanches that cannot be avoided…
What do you love the most about writing and what do you dislike?
I love it when my writing flows, and when I look back at what I’ve written, I’m often astounded that this is something I created. What I dislike are certain aspects of life that interrupt my writerly flow, particularly the boring admin and house-cleaning, gardening-type things, but excluding, of course, friends, family and my husband and sons! Seriously though, I do have to execute more discipline when I am in the midst of editing my book, particularly if it is for the 5th, 6th or 7th plus time!
What do you love most about being an author and what do you dislike?
Holding my book in my hand is the most indescribably amazing feeling – that is what I love the most, oh and of course when someone loves reading my book – that is pure gold! I’m not so fond of the complicated process of self-publishing and the times when self-doubt whispers persistently in my ear.
Can you share with us the next book on your reading list?
I have started reading The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. I haven’t got that far in but am already engaged in the story. The other book I am starting this week is The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory – for me, she brings history alive with plenty of drama and a lot of swishing of underskirts and the regular partaking of gigantic feasts! I now have a compelling incentive to ensure I fit in more reading as, following my interview this week with Bill Buckley at BBC Radio Berkshire, Bill has invited me back to join their Book Club next month!
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
I am much better at everything in the morning, as my energy starts to flag later in the day. I also particularly like it when I am alone in the house, and I can completely lose myself in my world of words without a breath of interruption, that is until the phone rings!
A little extra about Nicky
Having completed a writing course at Reading University, she is a member of her local writing group who have been instrumental in Nicky reaching ‘The End’ of her debut novel, Never Again. Nicky was a keen ice skater, managing to perfect backward crossovers and one-foot turns but has recently hung up her boots to spend more time cycling by the canal and practising ballroom dancing with her husband, as well as relaxing with her friends and family at home in Berkshire.She has decided to make a donation from the book royalties to the charities, Auticulate and Childhood Tumour Trust.
Never Again launched on 21st October and is available in Kindle and Paperback from Amazon:
Today I’m so thrilled to welcome author Hilary Custance Green, who recently released her latest book, Surviving the Death Railway.
Welcome, Hilary and please tell us a little about you…
I’m a Jack of all Trades. I spent twenty years as a sculptor, then went back to university and became a Research Psychologist. To balance the academic life I started writing and publishing fiction. I found it enormously satisfying, so since retiring from the Medical Research Council, I have continued to write. What I write is fiction, but I try and look honestly and realistically at the way individuals cope with what life throws at them.
What genres do you write and why?
This is always a difficult question to answer. I guess it is literary, but at the lighter end of the genre or maybe you would say it is the literary end of general fiction. I explore some serious themes, but I like to write about love and adventure.
When did you first become aware of wanting to be a writer?
I was a reader first – the original bookworm. I dreamt of becoming a poet, but found my own efforts embarrassingly bad. I scribbled endlessly through my teens, but was frustrated by my inept writing skills. The real breakthrough came with the typewriter and then – utter bliss – the computer. Writing became three dimensional, like a sculpture. I could shape ideas, move words, paragraphs, and whole pages. I could clothe a skeleton outline in any order I liked, without losing track of it.
Which authors do you feel have influenced you the most?
My biggest influence during childhood was Kipling – the most mesmerising storyteller, who climbed into the skin of different peoples and animals with ease and made a feast of language. Then there is Mary Renault who combines history, love and the mental life of her protagonists, so satisfyingly. I think she nails that meeting point of erotic and enduring love. Nevil Shute remains a favourite because of the way he is interested in low profile characters – ordinary people who become heroes and heroines in spite of themselves. I admire Sebastian Faulks’s writing, both fiction and non-fiction, and his research is exemplary.
How has your own family history shaped your writing?
In terms of subject matter, not at all. Yet my mother’s social conscience travels with me. My father’s attitude that it is possible to make absolutely anything is certainly built in. Both of them were Cambridge graduates and though neither were academic high achievers, they gave me a respect for reading and thinking and an assumption that there is no fundamental difference between a man and a woman or between nation and nation – except cultural ones.
What do you love the most about writing and what do you dislike?
I think I remain at heart a builder (as I was as a sculptor), someone who loves to take a skeletal idea and clothe and shape it until it comes as near to the original vision as possible. There is a moment in every novel where it tries to fall apart. It is three-quarters written, the major turning points and climaxes are in place, but the glue between them starts to dry out too soon, parts fall off, the balance shifts too far from the centre. Belief is hard to hold onto at this stage.
Like most other writers, I also dislike the aftermath – the promoting and marketing.
Can you share with us the next book on your reading list?
The truth? The book that has just risen to the top of the pile by my bed is Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers! A non-fiction book, by journalist Mary Roach, looking at what happens to bodies after death. The opening line is: The way I see it, being dead is not far off from being on a cruise ship.
Although I read a great deal of fiction, I have a long list of non-fiction waiting, I am also about to read Midge Gillies Army Wives From Crimea to Afghanistan: the Real Lives of the Women Behind the Men in Uniform. This subject is dear to my heart and my mother’s story appears in it briefly.
Some of Hilary’s father’s men (Royal Signals 27 Line Section) in Malaya in November 1941, before capture.
Please tell us about your latest published book.
During my childhood my father, Barry, talked about my mother’s role in WWII. while Barry and his men were prisoners of the Japanese in the Far East, my mother, Phyllis, had kept in touch with the wives, mothers and other relatives of the men in his Signals Unit (69 men).
Phyllis died in 1984, but it was only after Barry’s death in 2009 that I began to search for her papers. I found them, at last, hidden in the archives of a military museum. They included newspaper cuttings, notebooks, address books, a dossier and some 250 letters written to Phyllis from the tenements of Glasgow and the East End of London. I used these letters, along with Barry’s memoirs and Phyllis and Barry’s personal correspondence, to piece together the experiences of the men and women separated by 6000 miles over four long years. These years lasted from the day when the men danced eight Eightsome Reels simultaneously on the platform of Liverpool docks in July 1941, to the autumn of 1945, when forty-one men limped home in ones and twos. What emerges from this and from the post-war letters to Barry and Phyllis is the amazing, unceasing support these men and women gave each other.Surviving the Death Railway: A Far East POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home is my first non-fiction book, and was published this summer by Pen and Sword.
One of the rare ‘letters’ (they were only permitted to write 25 words in capitals) from Phyllis to Barry that arrived in Thailand. It took over a year to reach him.
In the larger, more settled camps, the men put on shows, which Japanese guards enjoyed too. Barry was a chorus girl (Custance Baker) in this one.
Discover more about Hilary and where to find her books here:
This is the excerpt for your very first post.
Via Author Christoph Fischer
It’s taken me far too long to get round to this amazing piece of historical fiction. Why am I publishing this on Welsh Wednesdays?
Not only is the book partly set in Wales, in Caldecot Castle, I’ve actually met Judith in Wales in the run up to the Llandeilo Book Fair in April and have secured myself a signed copy of her book.
At last I got time to read this and must say I am very impressed.
From the first page onwards the prose hooked me into the story of young Margaret, only 12 years old when she is married to someone twice her age. Although the brother of the king, her husband, like his mad brother, is not a great catch.
Told from the young woman’s perspective we gain a great insight into the life of the 1440s court, the life of women and nobility, politics and…
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Just lately a few people have asked me how I managed to grow my Twitter followers from around the 2000 mark to 8000, over the last six months. I’m quite sure that others can do so much better, but I thought there might be some people interested to know what I do, so here goes.
Twitter, like any social media platform, requires input. I decided to start using Twitter earlier this year, I mean really use it. That means reading tweets, acknowledging retweets, thanking new followers for actually thinking you might be worth engaging with. Remember when you were a child, how you were taught ‘manners’? Well, it’s a lesson in manners. You need to be polite, say please and thank you and you’ll find it goes a long way all around the globe.
Now, I hear what you’re thinking – this takes up so much time. You’re right, it does, so you have to prioritise, and do whatever you can to manage it in the best way. When you’re starting out, you probably won’t have a large following so it won’t be as much work. However, now that I’ve reached 8000, I don’t mind sharing that I’m struggling. There are some management tools such as commun.it which are perfect for keeping track of new followers and formulating tweets for you to send out so you keep up with followers and retweets, but you have to pay, and that’s simply not an option for many people, including me.
So, how do you grow? I can only speak for myself, and the key is to engage each day or most days. If you need a break, put a pinned tweet on your page letting everyone know you’ll be back and thank them for their support in the meantime. It’s not rocket science – it’s about thinking of how you relate & engage with people face to face and taking that over to Twitter.
Engagement also requires you sharing content. I share many tweets about writing, history and books for sale. I also share blog posts -mine and others – and anything I come across online such as news and history articles. Twitter is fast and furious and once you hit the send button, your tweet is swallowed up in the belly of the whale, but it’s not gone – it’s around and people are going to see it.And while most will ignore it, some will engage. Another good tip is to share yourself with your followers/friends. This means sending out a tweet about your day – how it’s going, what you’re doing, a picture of where you are, a sunrise, sunset, whatever you like. It allows people to see the real you and often that’s far more interesting.
A note on retweets. If someone retweets you, you have options – you can either retweet one of their posts – and a pinned tweet is better -that’s why we pin, to get retweets. Or, you can retweet them and say thanks. All good. Finally, you can say thanks, but I believe most would love you to reciprocate by retweeting them – especially if they have a business or a product to sell – it’s all word of mouth and marketing.
If you do have something to sell, then the general advice is to tweet perhaps 60-70% other content and the remainder your own, whether it’s a product or a service. People don’t want your products dominating the feed.
If you read a tweet that captures your interest, retweet it with a comment -for example, if it’s a beautiful picture, say so. Often I thank people for sharing links to books and articles – it’s a rich resource for all sorts, including history and music. What’s not to love?
Another nice acknowledgement is to do a weekly or twice-weekly round up of tweets to thank your followers for their support. Now here, what you’ll find is that you’ll establish a regular group of retweeters with a few fresh faces every day, so for me, I don’t have all 8000 followers retweeting me, but I have a small group of around 50-100 who retweet daily. This enables me to keep up and retweet them. In a single tweet, you can add five people usually with a message of thanks.
A final word on reciprocation. If people retweet you, it’s great. But if you never retweet them, or rarely do so, they’ll lose interest. Similarly, if they retweet you but you only like their post, that’s barely meeting them half-way. Retweet for a retweet. A like is better than nothing, but it doesn’t have much influence.
Reciprocation is key, and I can’t stress enough how vital this is. You have to play the game and abide by the rules. If you do, you’ll go from strength to strength. I can’t keep up with 8000 followers. It’s just impossible, and I lose a steady stream daily, of between 20-50, but my new followers are greater in number daily so my following is still increasing. However, many people stick with me for which I’m so grateful because here and there we do engage.
One thing I will say about being a follower – I NEVER unfollow someone merely because they are termed inactive. If you use certain management tools such as Tweepi or Crowdfire, you can see who followed you, unfollowed you and who you’re not following back. That’s great, but they also suggest inactive followers who you can unfollow. I don’t bother. I’m happy to follow them even if they remain silent forever. What does it matter? Often it comes down to the fact that they are like me, struggling in a sea of followers, thrashing around in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, either that or they left the building.
I also keep lists for writing, authors, history, social media etc, which is great for filtering tweets from individuals and allows you to stay in touch, assisting you with engagement.
What I love about Twitter is that it is immediate – you don’t get that with Facebook so much and also Twitter enables you to connect and meet people far more fluidly and it’s exciting, especially when you connect with like-minded people.
As a writer, I love connecting with other writers and readers, which I do on a daily basis, but as a lover of history, I can reach out to others who are equally passionate about history. What else is there to say? I work Twitter because it’s in my interest to do so. Having just placed my novel on pre-order I have also secured some orders through Twitter in the last 2 weeks. For me, that’s fantastic. What I’ve explained here really covers the basics. You learn more as you go, such as the benefit of using hashtags to gain wider attention. I’m still learning myself.
And for those who feel it’s a waste of time, well, all I can say is that it’s like anything – you only get what you put in. Give, and you shall receive. And for me, even if it does nothing to help me sell books, I gain far more such as friendships, daily chats, new discoveries in history, aviation, events, music, writing, literature, editors, proofreaders and so much more. I have to tell you that for me, it’s my favourite platform and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.
I’ve probably left out many useful tips, but this is all I can think of for now. And remember:
Via Author M.J. Logue
For reasons which are not mine to speculate on, the Historical Novel Society is no longer undertaking indie book reviews at the current time
And a very dear friend of mine has suddenly become a Kindle bestseller.
It’s rather given me food for thought – because, you know, I’ve never achieved more than mid-list success (albeit consistently – that’s not a complaint!), the reviewers are not beating a path to my door, there’s no possibility of a Rosie film.
-There’s the distant possibility of A Cloak of Zeal making it to the silver screen, but that’s different.
The most successful, most widely-shared blog post I’ve ever written, even more so about the one about being mental, was about a bloody Royalist.
My publisher says I’m a good writer, but he’s not keen on the historical definition.
That’s what I am. That’s what I do.
My thing is the…
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Today in the Library we have Kate Braithwaite who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author. You are very welcome, Kate, please in…
I read a book several years ago, an autobiographical account written by an American B-17 pilot. He was some writer and poet, and he would have gone on to write great stories had he not been killed in the Second World War. My heart ached when I read that. I didn’t want that for him. You see, he’d completed his USAAF tour, but he yearned to fly fighters and so instead of accepting the usual honour of being shipped home, he requested a transfer. Tragically, he was killed in action on November 26th, 1944. His name? Bert Stiles, from Colorado.
So, as I was saying, I read a book once and later, while writing, the going got a little tricky and I decided to re-plan. That’s when I heard it for the first time, as clear as day, a whisper in my ear. And it said, “Come with me, honey. Let’s take a walk.”
And so I took that walk, and I saw an ocean for sky, and learned how luck was a lady and so too was death. I learned something about flying those big birds, those mighty Flying Fortresses the guys called “ships” and how difficult and rough it was to fly in formation, to sail through flak and dodge fighters, or sit tight while they zipped by and rolled beneath your wings, all the while feeling the cannon fire hit the aluminium skin that surrounded you, sometimes tearing it open, sometimes ripping through your flesh and bone.
Bert Stiles 2nd from right (front) with crew
I heard yells and shouts over the onboard interphone system while pilots formed up, taking their place within those mighty formations in the sky, while group and wing leaders yelled and bitched at everyone for being in too close, or not close enough, and not in the right place at all. All this at ten-fifteen thousand feet above the tranquil English countryside which had never looked so green and would look even greener when Bert returned.
One particular mission to Leipzig, was rough, with Forts blown up, endless fighter attacks and Bert watching the mass destruction of the low squadron as they’re shot up, blown up and shot down. Only one guy came through it. As they flew home, he notes stoically the secret to survival is to maintain a tight formation, and the journey back to base on that occasion was easy because so many ships weren’t coming home at all. It’s incredibly poignant.
He mentioned some of the guys who went down on that mission. He stated the colour of Maurie’s eyes, and how he was ‘the walking symbol of sex’ and he hoped Maurie managed to bail out. After landing, he thanked Lady Luck for sticking with him.
That walk was an emotional rollercoaster because no one tells it like Bert Stiles. And the magic shines in his eloquent words because he spoke them so simply. There’s nothing fancy and yet it shimmers like sunlight splintering across the Atlantic.
That voice sits with me today and I’m thankful for I have a friend, as writers are allowed to have such friends. We see and we hear what no one else does and that’s a blessing, most of the time. But this voice changed the course of my story, and my main character went from being an English pilot with Bomber Command to an American B-17 pilot. There is no reason for this other than the voice in my ear that day was present, filling what had been a constant silence for so long. It was compelling, vying to be heard, to get a message across and I was merely the vessel to do so.
And so it is that writing is unpredictable, regardless of meticulous planning, you have to listen to stillness and be willing to respond and shape your writing according to the music – as long as it feels right to do so.
Thank you for your service, Bert Stiles, and for your beautiful prose (August 30, 1920 – November 26th, 1944). Lest we forget.
See my books page for more details and updates.
Today in the Library we have Tom Williams, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into his life as an author. Tom used to write about boring things for money…
August 2016 is: Write an Amazon review month!
This post is courtesy of the author, Terry Tyler.
On Monday 25th July, book blogger Rosie Amber wrote this post encouraging readers and writers alike to post a short review on Amazon for any book they’ve read and enjoyed ~ following this up, Terry Tyler is starting this initiative along with other writer-bloggers including Rosie, Cathy from Between The Lines, Barb Taub, Shelley Wilson and Alison Williams.
The idea is that, from August 1st, everyone who reads this uses their Amazon account to post just one review on one book that they’ve read (but feel free to carry on if you get in the swing!). You don’t even have to have read it recently, it can be any book you’ve read, at any time. The book does not have to have been purchased from Amazon, though if it is you get the ‘Verified Purchase’ tag on it; however, if you download all your books via Kindle Unlimited, as many do these days, they don’t show the VP tag, anyway.
Remember, this isn’t the Times Literary Supplement, it’s Amazon, where ordinary people go to choose their next £1.99 Kindle book. No one expects you to write a thousand word, in-depth critique; I don’t know about you, but I’m more likely to read one short paragraph or a couple of lines saying what an average reader thought of a book than a long-winded essay about the pros and cons of the various literary techniques used. Yes, those are welcome too (!), but no more so than a few words saying “I loved this book, I was up reading it until 3am”, or “I loved Jim and Vivien and the dialogue was so realistic”, or whatever!
Why should you write a review?
They help book buyers make decisions. Don’t you read the reviews on Trip Advisor before deciding on a hotel, or any site from which you might buy an item for practical use? Book reviews are no different.
If the book is written by a self-published author or published by an independent press, the writers have to do all their promotion and marketing themselves ~ reviews from the reading public is their one free helping hand.
The number of reviews on Amazon helps a book’s visibility (allegedly). If you love a writer’s work and want others to do so, too, this is the best possible way of making this happen.
It’s your good deed for the day, and will only take five minutes!
Off we go, then! A few more pointers:
If you need any help with writing your review, do click on Rosie’s post, above.
A review can be as short as one word. The shortest one I have is just two 🙂
You don’t have to put your name to the review, as your Amazon ‘handle’ can be anything you like.
No writer expects all their reviews to be 5* and say the book is the best thing ever written; there is a star rating guide on Rosie’s post.
Would you like to tell the Twittersphere about your review? If so, tweet the link to it with the hashtag #AugustReviews ~ and thank you! I will do one blog post a week featuring these links: The #AugustReviews Hall of Fame (thank you, Barb!).
If you have a blog and would like to spread the word about #AugustReviews, please feel free to copy and paste this blog post, provide the link to it, re-blog it, or whatever ~ many thanks, and I hope you will join in to make this idea a success 🙂
Terry Tyler: http://terrytyler59.blogspot.co.uk/
Catch up with Terry on twitter here: https://twitter.com/TerryTyler4
The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms – these are but a small selection of novels written by Ernest Hemingway during his lifetime. They drew much acclaim and helped to establish his position as one of the twentieth-century literary greats. But have you read any of his books? While many applauded him, he equally had to fend off his critics. Love him or hate him, his novels are here to stay, and while some have likened Hemingway’s prose to that of an adolescent, it is his style of prose upon which the light brightly shines.
In understanding how Hemingway became one of the greatest writers of literature in the twentieth century, it is important to look at Hemingway the man to gain an appreciation of his life and experiences and then you will see how they informed and shaped his writing. His life story reads like a novel and is bestowed with richness and all the usual trimmings such as love and loss.
The young Ernest was tall, lean and athletic and enjoyed outdoor pursuits such as fishing and sailing. War, fighting, and death played a prominent role in his life, and the man was voracious, energetic and passionate, embracing experiences and absorbing them body and soul with an insatiable appetite. He enjoyed the company of his male friends and this brought out his competitive streak.
Ernest Hemingway was born in Illinois in 1899. His father was a doctor, and his mother had been a promising opera singer. When he left school at the age of seventeen, he joined the Kansas City Star for several months as a reporter. These early days gave him experience as a writer while war raged overseas in Europe.
At the age of eighteen, Ernest answered the call for ambulance drivers for the American Red Cross and found himself posted to Italy. He went because, as he once said, “I wanted to go . . . My country needed me, and I went and did whatever I was told.”
The world was in the grip of war and, like many young men of his generation, he was eager to make a difference, to do his duty and above all to witness this major event. Working close to the front, it was only a matter of time before he was injured or worse and that day came after one month.
While he recovered in hospital, he fell in love with a nurse, but the relationship was not to last, something which devastated him and it was from his entire experience in Italy that his novel, A Farewell to Arms was born. Within the story, a love affair blossoms, a precious jewel amidst the horror and total despair of war. Often dubbed the best American novel to have come out of World War One, it cemented Ernest Hemingway’s reputation as a leading writer of his time.
Hemingway in France WW2
Afterwards, Ernest returned home to America and a hero’s welcome and became a reporter for American and Canadian newspapers. He spent time in Europe covering the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) and later, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). It was from this that Ernest drew on his experiences in his novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).
Between 1944 and 1945 he travelled to London and Europe, as a war correspondent and he witnessed the first Allied landings on D-Day from a landing craft at sea. From his view of Omaha Beach, he saw the first, second, third, fourth and fifth wave of troops who had fallen in their struggle to reach cover. He witnessed battles and was present at the liberation of Paris – a city he knew well having lived there years earlier.
In 1950, his novel Across the River and Into the Trees was published and garnered much criticism. A year later, when he had completed The Old Man and the Sea (1952) partially spurred on by a swell of fury, he said that it was “the best I can write ever for all of my life,” (E. Hemingway, 1952). The Nobel Foundation awarded Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 “for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style,” (The Nobel Foundation).
While Ernest was beginning life as a reporter, he never lost sight of the rules impressed upon him. Write short sentences and keep them simple. Use short first paragraphs and vigorous English. Over the years, he shaped modern literature with his pared-down prose. He became the masterful pruner of words and his lean prose harnesses a strength that shapes and informs and therein lies the brilliance.
And so it was that a young Ernest Hemingway transcended his journey as a reporter, drawing upon his experiences to become one of the greatest and most cherished writers of the twentieth century, forever immortalised in the works he left behind; his legacy of a lifetime of war, love and loss amongst other things. War undoubtedly left its mark on Hemingway.
War undoubtedly left its mark on Hemingway and he was renowned for writing about it and his first-hand accounts from his front line coverage served as fuel for his own writing. Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr has been quoted as saying, “The way we write about war or even think about war was affected fundamentally by Hemingway.”
After the Great War, Hemingway had to deal with returning to civilian life just as any soldier at that time and in his own town, nothing had changed. But war had changed the men who returned. In his book, “Soldiers Home”, a soldier, Howard Krebs, returns home from war and struggles to reconnect with his life and his family. Krebs cannot love anymore, or pray and feels as if his soul was taken from him by the war. Within this short story, the aftermath is dealt with in such a poignant way, as if Ernest was therapeutically working his own way through the mist as he wrote.
Hemingway’s prose, renowned for its sparseness, its pared-down style, is magical. It was a new twist on literature, and a different way of writing. He used unpretentious words that spoke volumes. And yet, as simple as the prose may seem upon first sight, you soon discover the genius behind the pen, the master crafter, and the beauty conveyed from each page. His novels scream to be read over and over and each time you do so you will discover something new. Hemingway’s prose makes the reader think, assimilate and perceive for there is much to uncover, and it is his style, his unique approach to writing that has propelled him into the literary canon and identified him as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.
When you’re writing, how do you know if you’ve successfully created a sense of place? Crafting a story involves a multitude of ingredients and once you’ve settled on the period and the place where your story takes place, how do you create this world?
The first obvious solution is to visit the place in person. Grab your notebook and walk around the streets of the village or town, soak up the atmosphere. Take a seat in a cafe, drink a cup of coffee and while away the time as you watch life all around you; be observant. As you sit, conjure up all the senses and make notes. What do you hear, smell?
Are you writing historical fiction? You could visit the local museum and check out the tourist information office for places of interest. After that, there will undoubtedly be local historians and other experts who will be more than happy to assist.
Research is essential. If you are writing in the present, then there is not much research to be done, although ‘field trips’ are still useful if you can make them. If not, use the internet. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips and Google Earth is rather useful for places that are just out of your reach. It’s amazing how much more informed you can become by gazing at an online map.
Finally, after the research, it’s time to write. Your characters will need to be dressed appropriately for the period unless of course it’s the present day. But if it’s in the past, then everything needs to be right, including the interior of homes, lighting, cooking, cars and other means of transportation, hair styles, make-up, perfume, music, essentially every detail.
Speech is another consideration, in my opinion (which is subjective so you can disagree). We’ve all heard the ‘period speech’ of the Georgian period, for instance, having watched many dramas over the years. However, when it comes to reading about such times, I have no wish to be bogged down in such archaic language. Using the odd phrase here and there is fine, but I believe that speech ought to feel natural and flow. Clearly the language will always be different to the present day, just not riddled with archaic language. And many great authors have decided against replicating the language of the period, simply because they had no wish to alienate their readers. So it’s worth considering.
Another issue with dialogue is flow. Being grammatically correct is all well and good, but do we all speak like this?
“I will go to the shop later, as I am planning to visit Jane.”
No, we don’t. I for one favour contractions and so would say:
“I’ll go to the shop later, as I’m off to see Jane.”
Now, you can see from the example above how stilted that first line is. It simply doesn’t flow, and it’s not music to my ears. So, it’s up to the individual writer, but I’m for the most natural sounding speech. I read a book recently, by a very well known author who had used this type of speech pattern throughout for one particular character, and I decided it must have been her way of differentiating the voice. I loved the story but the dialogue was frustrating and so out of place and I found myself grumbling each time I read that particular character’s speech.
So, to sum up, natural dialogue will not kill your historical story, and it’s still possible to use certain words or phrases to give it a little authenticity without overdoing things, and as long as your world is depicted in all its original glory, then the reader will gain a sense of place.
And one last tip – get a great book for some good advice, such as, “Get Started In Writing Historical Fiction” by Emma Darwin. I can highly recommend it and I’ve found it very helpful. Happy writing.
Writing is a serious affair and, like an affair, it is intense, fraught with frustration along the way and at times, a battle. Equally, it is bursting with passion and all manner of life experiences. Where and how are our best-loved stories born? Arguably experience is an essential element for many writers. The imagination is only part of the mix.
Ernest Hemingway is one writer who lived and witnessed the fighting of three major wars during his lifetime. Born in 1899 in Illinois, United States, he was working for the Kansas City Star when war broke out in 1914. He volunteered for the Red Cross before the Americans had entered the war and became an ambulance driver in Italy.
Seriously wounded by a mortar shell in 1918, he was rendered unconscious by the blast. When he came too, he picked up an injured Italian soldier lying next to him and carried him on his back to the first aid dugout. For his bravery, Hemingway was awarded the Italian Medal of Military Valour and the Croce DI Guerra.
The blast that injured Hemingway was ferocious; shards of mortar shell fragments ripped into his legs, chest, and head. He was also partially buried by earth in a dugout. In later years, his fiction would portray his war wounding and more besides. It left an indelible mark on Hemingway, the man, and the writer. He once said how he feared the dark and for years could not sleep without a light.
While recovering in a Red Cross hospital in Milan, he met the American nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky. Hemingway was nineteen and Agnes was twenty-six and engaged to a doctor. Over a period of a month or two, they grew closer, holding hands openly and writing notes to one another. Agnes reportedly carried a picture of Ernest with her wherever she went. Late in August, Hemingway wrote a letter to his mother informing her that he was in love. But just as summer gave way to autumn, their relationship also suffered change. Agnes was posted away, and although they maintained contact by writing letters, it seems that the distance apart gave Agnes time for reflection. By March 1919, Agnes wrote a letter to Hemingway breaking off the engagement. He was devastated, having been so in love. However, rather than lose himself in sorrow, it seems he chose to fight back and immersed himself in work and went on to achieve something great.
So, for Ernest Hemingway, going to war brought almost the equivalent of a lifetime’s experience. Not only was he physically scarred and injured, but psychologically scarred too. Putting his experiences to great use, he went on to forge one of his best-loved novels, A Farewell to Arms (1929), which portrays the love affair of a young ambulance driver and a nurse on the Italian front during the First World War. Working as a journalist covering the Spanish Civil War, he would later go on to write For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). This novel captures the essence of the Civil War, illustrating it in all its brutality.
During the inter-war years, he became acquainted with many of the modernist writers of the era, such as Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein. Working as a war correspondent in World War Two, he was present at the Normandy landings and the liberation of Paris. Hemingway went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1952 for his novel, The Old Man, and the Sea, while in 1954, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
His style as a writer bears a similarity to modernist writers in that his prose is very minimalist, tight and direct. Often things are unsaid and left for the reader to concur, but his prose is equally moving, beautiful and eloquent. According to James Nagel, Hemingway’s prose “changed the nature of American writing.”
In considering whether Hemingway’s war experiences informed his writing, Henry Louis Gates believed it was fundamental. After World War One, many of the modernist writers “lost faith in the central institutions of Western civilisation” and created a new style of writing through which meaning is established through dialogue, action, and prose permeated with silences.
He truly was one of the greatest writers, and it was a tragic day in July 1961 when Ernest Hemingway took his life. Having suffered from a form of depression, like his father before him, he committed suicide.
Arguably, without his experience, we would today be devoid of at least three of his greatest works. Like many writers and poets over the years, he has taken periods of political unrest and war and used them to illustrate the brutality and futility of such conflicts. His writing is no polemic but has the power to bring the reader to ponder and question while lost in the beauty of his prose.
Today in the Library we have Ellie Gray, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into their life as an author. You are very welcome, Ellie, please introduce y…
Source: A Conversation with Author Ellie Grey via author Pam Lecky at Victorian Treasures website.