Questions and Answers About my Writing Life.
What is it you most enjoy most about writing?
Being transported into other lives, making friends with my characters and falling in love with my heroes. I love being in control of what happens next, because it’s impossible in real life. It a great escape and meditation for me when I’m in the writing zone.
Your novel Arlette’s story is superb and has received high acclaim. It depicts the Nazi massacre of 642 people at Oradour-sur-Glane in SW France. Why did you choose this subject and how did you research?
I’d previously written two contemporary novels and wasn’t even thinking about writing historical fiction. I had heard of a place called the ‘ghost village’ that had been left frozen in time after two hundred Nazis had invaded, towards the end of the war. The village is called Oradour-sur-Glane. It wasn’t just a little hamlet, it was a thriving community with schools, hotels, restaurants, doctor’s surgery, hairdressers, butcher’s, bakers and a beautiful spired church. As I walked around the deserted streets, looking inside the broken homes with rotting furniture and rusting cars still parked in garages, I felt compelled to tell the story from a fictional character’s point of view to help keep history alive for generations to come.
I researched the facts through visiting a museum dedicated to the massacre and re-visiting Oradour three more times. I watched footage of Oradour before the tragedy, read factual books, scoured the Internet and spoke to elderly French citizens living in the new Oradour, built half a mile away from the ruins.
It’s a huge responsibility to tell a historically accurate story using fictional characters. I wanted to honour those who had died but at the same time, I didn’t want to glamourise the situation like some films can do. I hope I did them justice and that my book goes some small way to helping keep the story alive.
There’s a blog post with photographs before and after the massacre in a previous post.
Amazon Link: Arlette’s Story: amzn.to/2lAyIlb
Would you say your second novel, Magnolia House, is all about finding positives out of negatives? If so, what was the inspiration behind this.
I’m intrigued by obsessive compulsive behaviour and I like to help my characters overcome emotional difficulties. I truly believe that writing like this is a kind of self-help therapy. I can sort out my characters’ problems better than my own. Writing is also escapism for me. I can control emotions, actions, responses and romance in a way that can’t be done in real life. So yes, Magnolia House was about finding positives out of negatives and I’m also thrilled to hear that lots of readers love Mason (Ace) who was witty and laugh out loud funny. I even giggled at my own innuendos I wrote for him!
Amazon link: Magnolia House: smarturl.it/fttfc2
Tell us about your book, You’ve Got My Number.
You’ve Got My Number was actually the first novel I wrote, although it was published as a third book. It’s set in a beautiful village that I lived in for ten years although I’ve renamed the place in my book. I’m fascinated by the way two people can interpret the same thing in different ways. It looks into the psyche of people and how they react when things don’t go their way. Some stay strong and take one day at a time, but my antagonist in YGMN tells a lie to get his own way, and that lie grows and grows and begins to affect other people’s lives.
Amazon link: You’ve Got My Number: http://amzn.to/35Q19jB
Can you tell your readers about your latest book, Spring Breeze.
Although it's only a part of my story, I've written about the roundup of Jewish families in the Velodrome d'Hiver (winter stadium). Operation Spring Breeze took place in July 1942 when over thirteen thousand Jewish citizens, including four thousand children, were rounded up in Paris and kept in horrendous conditions in the stadium. But despite the heart-rending subject, there are hard fought victories, incredible bravery, selflessness shown in the face of danger, friendships that shine through adversity and proof that love can always find a way in the most desperate of circumstances.
Spring Breeze takes you on a trip around Paris, visiting the Tuileries Gardens, the Jeu de Paume museum, the Eiffel Tower, the Moulin Rouge, the banks of the River Seine, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe and also the miles of underground tunnels beneath the city - the catacombs.
You are a person of many talents and also make jewellery and create art from free motion sewing. Tell us how they came about.
That’s very kind of you to say, but I’m just an amateur at sewing and jewellery making. It’s like a meditation for me. When I’m creating I’m not worrying about anything, I’m totally focused. Hours can pass while I’m making something, which is great relaxation for me. I have a small gift business at www.buttonmooncreations.com
How long does it take you to write a book?
I wrote one book in four months and my current WIP is over two years and still only three-quarters finished. It depends what else is going on in my life, I suppose. I’m a devil for editing as I go along, so that slows the process too.
What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?
I would say keep reading – a lot. I recommend joining a writing group where you can make friends with like-minded people and attend workshops, because we never stop learning. Importantly, have your work looked over by a critiquing service, writer friend or if you’re very lucky, the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, before sending it off to agents or publishers.
What’s the hardest thing about writing a novel?
Feeling guilty for the time I put into something I love, and therefore I procrastinate by doing housework etc.
How do you market and promote your work?
An online presence is very important for authors, so I have a Facebook page, a Twitter page and a website. I print leaflets and pay a nominal amount for them to be posted in shop windows, community noticeboards or leave in waiting rooms (after first asking permission). I’ve contacted WH Smiths and Waterstones and have done book signings and talks in both. It’s lovely to actually meet my readers. I’ve also been interviewed on the radio, which was nerve-racking beforehand, but when I got chatting, I relaxed into it.
Have you any tips for new authors?
Don’t give up on your dream. Keep learning, keep reading, keep writing.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
In the beginning of my writing path, I called myself an aspiring writer. I was told by a wonderful Twitter friend (@Mariam_Kobras) that if I was writing I was already a writer, not an aspiring one. This small message gave me more confidence in myself.
Do you have any rituals when writing?
It’s not really a ritual, but I need silence. When I write it’s like watching a film in my head and I have to take notes while I watch the story unfold. If there’s music playing or television on in the background, I find it impossible to hear what my characters are telling me.
Tell us three fun facts about yourself:
At the age of 40 I had my first (and only) tattoo. I have my children’s names on the inside of my right wrist. Rose, Luke, Jack.
I’ve worked in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in a military hospital’s neo natal unit.
I make miniature book earrings.