But there’s always time to meet new authors and new fave books. I’m delighted to alert you to a fab share-fest from (my wonderful publisher) Odyssey Books. Throughout October, they’ll be featuring one author a day from their amazing list. I just love their ‘mission statement’: Odyssey Books : where books are an adventure.
Welcome, Cindy, it’s lovely to have you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Cindy: I’ve had a lifelong interest in the countries of the Middle East, particularly Turkey and Iran. I lived in Turkey several years ago and have returned regularly ever since. While there I learned to speak Turkish. The idea for my first novel came from talking to the migrants and refugees who came from Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. I also think that a novel about Iran’s recent history is relevant at the moment.
I taught English language for most of my life and the main character in the novel is an amalgamation of the many students I met. It took me five years to research and write The Afghan Wife. I’ve been in demand this year to give talks about Iran because it is such a topical subject.
However, as a writer I cut my teeth on writing travel articles and had several published in airline magazines for Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and one was translated into Arabic for Emirates. I also wrote short articles for the Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend magazine. So by the time I came to write the novel, I’d had plenty of practise as a wordsmith.
That sounds rather exotic and completely fabulous. You lived in Turkey and speak Turkish: that’s amazing.
Esfahan, Iran. Photo by Cindy Davies.
What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
Am I allowed to have two? (haha of course!)
The first is when Karim and Zahra meet for the first time before the Iranian Revolution. She’s a teenager from a small town in Afghanistan and he’s a sophisticated Iranian in his twenties. This is pre-revolutionary Iran and the Shah is still on the throne. Zahra makes some terrible social gaffes—thinking that a house in Martha’s Vineyard in the USA is actually in a vineyard. When he says ‘your tiny hand is frozen’ she doesn’t get the reference. Her social innocence endears her to him immediately.
The other scene is when Karim is trying to get back to his house after taking part in a raid on the American embassy. It’s midnight and pitch black. Four young hooligans, armed with sub-machine guns, are in a jeep which comes tearing down the deserted lane Karim is running along. He’s terrified that if they spot him they’ll open fire.
Ooh, very exciting! I’ve noticed that your characters seem very real. How do you make them believable?
I know everything about them—I write a biography of them in point form even down to what their favourite colour is. The author has to know how a character will think and feel in any given situation. Very occasionally, though, a character will surprise me.
One of my reviewers obviously found Karim so real that she wrote that if she ever met him any time, any place, he would be her man. I didn’t have the heart to say that he really only existed in the novel and even then he wasn’t perfect.
Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
Leo Tolstoy the 19th century author was a master at writing love scenes. Think of the scene between Anna and Count Veronsky at a deserted railway station: she’s already attracted to him, but she’s married. She steps off a train at a deserted station, the steam from the train clears… and he’s standing there!
Although by modern standards seem wordy, the nineteenth century novelists like the Brontë sisters understood the human condition. People want to read good stories.
I love Kate Atkinson, Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks, Margaret Atwood, Joan London(WA writer). Australians Liane Moriarty and Jane Harper are excellent story-tellers.
I read a lot, always with a critical eye as I ask myself how the author is keeping me interested.
Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Don’t procrastinate—get started on that book!
Great advice. What’s next for you in the world of writing?
I have at least four synopses already written but no novel planned out as yet. I have a ‘snippets’ folder for ideas. I’m currently collecting malapropisms. Recently someone said to me ‘I believe you collect small vinegrets about people.’ She meant vignettes of course—I added that to the file, I’ve got a character in my who makes these kinds of mistakes all the time.
That’s an interesting project! (Mrs Malaprop returns *I’d better be careful*)
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
I identify with Zahra, my character in The Afghan Wife. She had no choice but to escape from Afghanistan with her husband, cousin and young son. As a migrant to Australia myself, I arrived with three young children and had to make a new life here. Zahra’s situation was worse because she had a violent husband and a manipulative cousin. Zahra was strong for the sake of her child and eventually she made the best of what life had thrown at her.
A great choice. What’s been your best achievement since the publication of your novel?
I was placed third in the Kathryn Hayes competition,’When Sparks Fly’ operated by the New York chapter of Romance Writers of America. I was thrilled, especially as my novel is not strictly a romance but is in the Women’s Fiction category. I’ve also been the keynote speaker at one of the biggest book groups in Sydney, as well as at the NSW Society of Women Writers.
Congratulations! Here’s wishing for more success, and more books arising from your ideas. Thanks for speaking with me today, Cindy.
Nicola Pryce writes romances featuring Cornwall, adventure, drama, handsome heroes, and foregrounding remarkable women – an irresistible combination. If you’re a bit keen on Winston Graham’s Ross Poldark, or Jane Austen’s Captain Wentworth, or any well-written historical fiction, then you need to meet Nicola asap. Not in 1773. Now!
*Plus read on for a bonus scene!*
Welcome, Nicola. It’s great to meet you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Nicola: If I have to reveal secrets, then it’s that I sail, certainly, but not across vast oceans. I’m more of a harbour hopper, sailing in and out of the towns and secret coves in Cornwall that I describe in my books. My characters inhabit my world, only 226 years before me. I follow their footsteps – every mile they walk, I walk; I have been to every harbour they anchor in, every river they row up, and every inn they dine in. Every mad dash they make across Bodmin Moor, I’m racing behind them. The houses they live in are all there, the streets they walk, the moonlit rose gardens and clifftops where they meet. And I wake to the same hammering in the shipyard, the same bleating of the sheep, the same crowing of the cockerel.
That’s great to know! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
My favourite scene is in The Captain’s Girl. My aristocratic heroine, Celia Cavendish, finds herself on a fast cutter in the charge of the rather secretive Captain Arnaud Lefèvre. It is two in the morning, the wind is gentle, the stars bright above them. Captain Lefèvre serves freshly caught seabass, grilled on a bed of herbs; they drink Chablis, watch a shooting star, and all the while the south coast of Cornwall is drawing closer. As she breathes the salt air, relishing the wind in her hair, Celia feels free for the first time in her life. At daybreak, she must return to rigid protocol and social niceties, but more importantly, she must explain her sudden absence.
Oooh, how intriguing! If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
Badly! I could see it hadn’t gone well when I saw Madame Merrick staring down at me from the first floor of her dressmaking establishment above Pengelly’s Shipyard. The sun was glinting on her lorgnettes and knew that as soon as I opened the door, her hawk-like eyes would pin me into submission.
And I was right. Her silk petticoats rustled as she swung to face me. Elowyn and Mrs Pengelly took refuge in the storeroom, but I knew I must stand my ground.
‘A figment of your imagination? Her French accent is always more noticeable when she’s cross. ‘I think not!’
I had to be brave. Most would turn and run, but I had to explain.
‘You’re a character in my stories, Madame Merrick. You don’t exist off the pages of my books.’
A rise in her perfectly arched eyebrows, a slight ruffle in the feathers of her headdress, and then a smile – and it’s always worrying when Madam Merrick smiles.
‘Well, perhaps it is not such a bad thing. Maybe it is better they think you have fabricated my existence. Yes, let them think that – let them believe, I do not exist. It might well work in my favour. Will you take a glass of punch with me?’
I had to say I would, but only a small glass as I know only too well what goes into Madam Merrick’s punch.
Oh, that’s marvellous, Nicki, thank you so much! An extra scene. Yippee!
Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
I was a dreamy child, a boarder from the age of eight in a school with limited television and a large library and I spent rather more time reading than I should – even finishing Gone with The Wind by Margaret Mitchell in orchestra practice with tears rolling down my cheeks!
I read everything I could, from Agatha Christie detective novels to John Wyndham’s science fiction, but mainly I read historical fiction. I loved Jean Plaidy, Anya Seton, Elizabeth Goudge, Georgette Heyer, Huge Walpole, R F Delderfield, as well as all the Angelique books which we had to cover in brown paper! I did English A level and I enjoyed discovering the Classics.
At 42, I completed an Open University degree and found myself drawn to the eighteenth century and that has certainly influenced the books I write. My favourite author is Jane Austen, but it was Daphne du Maurier and Winston Graham who introduced me to Cornwall through their books.
The Rebecca and Poldark effect, eh? Perfect. Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
I left school at 18 telling everyone I was going to write a historical novel, but my nursing career and my three children took up all of my time.
Ten years ago, at 52, I decided my children needed to know the real me. They knew me as their mother, and a nurse, but they didn’t know the stories that were always in my mind. I had never written anything down, but I decided to return to the child I was, to the incurable romantic who had read her way through school. So I began writing my first novel – Pengelly’s Daughter. It took me three years. I had never written anything before, but it was picked up by an agent, and then Corvus Books wanted a second book, and a third and a fourth.
What would I say to my myself ten years ago? I’d say, ‘Sit down, take a deep breath because you’re NEVER going to believe this …!’
Indeed, what a fabulous story. Good for you! What’s next for you in the world of writing?
I’m currently writing the fifth book in my series. Each book is written through the eyes of a different heroine. You get to know the new heroine in the previous books and so Book 5 follows The Cornish Lady. It’s now 1799 and Amelia Carew is facing a terrible dilemma.
You can follow the order on my website http://nicolapryce.co.uk/ but all my stories can be read as stand-alone books. I put photos to illustrate the history behind my stories on my website, so there’s background information as well.
Uh-oh, that’s a few more for my TBR pile – but thank you so much, these sound wonderful. And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
This is such a difficult question because, let’s face it, the trouble with books is that you get to fall in love with so many heroines as well as heroes. I would, of course, love to be Elizabeth Bennet, but – and I might regret this – I think I’m going to go for the daring-do, the energy and romance, and the sheer glamour of Marguerite St Just.
I’d like to be beautiful, graceful, witty, highly intelligent and I’d get to go to fabulous balls and wear stunning silk gowns. I’d have the whole of London falling at my feet, and I’d speak fluent French. I’d also have the very good fortune of discovering that the man I loved, and who had disappointed me so very terribly, is none other than the divine Scarlet Pimpernel.
I’d be just as cross with Sir Percy, just as hurt and disappointed; just as petrified of Citizen Chauvelin, and just as desperate to save my brother. But I’d be her, so I’d have her courage – her extraordinary bravery as she sets off across the channel to save her husband. Yes, can I be her, please? The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.
Thank you so much Clare for inviting me to share your Last Word of the Week. I’ve had a lovely time answering your questions.
Thank you Nicola, you’ve been a great guest and I’d love to talk again – how about when Cornish Saga 5 appears?! In the meantime, of course Baroness Orczy would love to host you in her novel :-).
Marianne: Thanks so much for having me, Clare, and congratulations on the publication of The Ruined Land.
Thank you! It’s very exciting, but let’s talk about you today (or this post will be VERY long!). Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book really ought to know?
Ooh, that’s a hard one, I’m not sure readers need to know anything about me at all! However, part of A Little Bird Told Me is set during the British heatwave of 1976 when I was the same age as my main character, Robyn. I have a particularly strong memory of that summer because my family moved back to the UK after a couple of years in Germany. We found huge cracks had appeared in our lawn, the tarmac on the roads melted and there were ladybirds everywhere. The hot weather was wonderful for us kids but did make everyday life harder for the adults.
We also owned a TV for the first time and I remember suddenly being exposed to pop music, kids’ programmes and lots of American shows and films. It was quite a revelation!
That probably explains the great sense of setting in your novel – you were almost there! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
There’s a scene early in A Little Bird Told Me that happens after the nine-year-old Robyn is given a gift by a stranger. She’s too tired to tell her mother about it that night and instead asks for her favourite bedtime story about how the family came to live in their home. The story is so familiar to Robyn that she joins in with the telling of it.
I love the way families create these little narratives about who they are and how soothing children find this kind of repetition. In the story, it’s a nice little moment before Robyn starts learning the truth behind her mother’s tale.
Yes, that’s a great family insight. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
I think the child Robyn would be fascinated but adult Robyn would be a mix of furious and resentful. At the beginning of the story, she’s trapped by the events of her past and if she discovered that none of that was real I can see a fair bit of foot stomping.
Oh yes, I can see that! Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
My favourite reads over the summer have been Circe by Madeline Miller and The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. I have always had a soft spot for myths and legends but these new retellings from a female perspective combine fantastic writing and innovation and that’s inspirational.
I agree entirely. Some great tips there, thank you! Now, take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Ten years ago, I had a super active toddler and was coming to terms with a second miscarriage and the death of my Dad. I was pretty exhausted, feeling guilty that I wasn’t like those other mums that set up new businesses in the evening after the baby’s in bed. The thought of writing a book was a very distant dream indeed.
So, I’d tell myself, and anyone else in similar circumstances, to try and worry a little less, be kind to yourself when you need it and enjoy the small moments. A year later I was pregnant with my second child, which was wonderful and unexpected, and my oldest was starting at playgroup. It was that extra time at home with the baby that allowed me the space to think about writing.
So much can change in ten years, can’t it? Kindness is essential, especially to yourself at such times. What’s next for you in the world of writing?
I’m editing another novel at the moment or will be just as soon as the kids are back at school this week. It’s about a young woman who, partly out of loneliness and partly because of her own history, is drawn into the public outpouring of concern and grief surrounding the case of a missing child. Her involvement leads to a series of deceptions that carry her deeper and deeper into trouble.
Oooh, that sounds interesting! Do let us know when it gets to print. And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
Hmm, I’m not sure whether I should be answering with a character that I think is most like me or a character that I would most like to be. That would make quite a big difference!
Reading Circe right in the middle of school summer holidays this year, I found a passage where she discovers that the island she’s been exiled to is quite beautiful, has all the wildlife she needs to pursue her sorcery and, to top it off, her home is self-cleaning and her food replenished fresh every day. I had a very strong urge to be Circe in that moment!
Excellent answer! Thanks so much, Marianne, for sharing with me on Last Word of the Week.
Ardent Australian author Sue Parritt (who was born in England) has penned an impressive collection of novels across genres: future dystopia, WWII history, and contemporary fiction for a start. Sue’s writing is all about humanity and how we interact with each other. Providing great characters, detailed settings and fascinating plots, Sue Parritt is a writer to follow wherever she leads.
Author Sue Parritt
Welcome, Sue. I’m thrilled to be able to speak with you today. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Sue: I am a feisty sixty-nine-year-old, passionate about peace and social justice issues. My goal as a fiction writer is to continue writing novels that address topics such as climate change, the effects of war, the harsh treatment of refugees, feminism and racism. I intend to keep on writing for as long as possible, believing the extensive life experiences of older writers can be employed to engage readers of all ages.
I’m totally with you, Sue! Writers must write, and from the heart. What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
The scene in my fourth novel, ‘Chrysalis’ p.311 where my protagonist, Jane leaves the comforting cocoon of her sixty-year life to face an unknown future.
“Water seeped into Jane’s shoes as she disembarked at Heathrow central bus station. Stepping away from the puddle, she waited impatiently for luggage to emerge from bus bowels. At least the rain had stopped and grey clouds parted to reveal a washed-out sky of palest blue. She tilted her face, felt a hint of warmth to come. The perpetual promise of spring, new life, new growth and in this her sixty-first year, an opportunity for complete renewal. In an instant she had unzipped, cast-off, dashed over to a nearby rubbish bin and tossed her old jacket inside.
And there was a butterfly underneath, damp wings trembling in straw-coloured sunlight as she prepared to take flight.”
This scene reflects my feelings on taking early retirement eleven years ago to concentrate on creative writing. I took a risk giving up paid work but have no regrets. Like Jane in the final sentence of ‘Chrysalis,’ “today I know for certain true freedom lies within and I alone can birth its endless possibilities.”
How wonderful! How brave! If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
Sannah the Storyteller, protagonist ‘Sannah and the Pilgrim.’ “As a storyteller I am familiar with the imaginary. An articulate speaker, I employ both voice and body to weave a spell around my audiences, make them believe whatever the government dictates. But never forget that in my clandestine role of Truth-Teller, I share the truth about Earth’s degradation with readers and other characters to evoke essential action.”
Sannah is a great character, very brave, compassionate and intelligent. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
I have always read widely, however some of my preferred authors are: Helen Garner, Margaret Drabble, Mary Wesley, Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, Kate Grenville, Anita Shreve, Joyce Carol Oates and Elizabeth Jolley.
From my days as a sickly child reading Dickens in my grandparents’ kitchen, I have found inspiration in fiction. Each narrative presents a microcosm of lives and worlds, providing for me not only a rich reading tapestry but also the stimulus to create my own stories.
We share some favourite authors too. I just knew it would be fun to speak with you! Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Have faith in your writing, learn your craft and never give up no matter how many rejections you receive.
Great advice. What’s next for you in the world of writing?
Back to the future for my eighth novel, working title ‘The Doorkeeper.’ Set in Safety Beach on the Mornington Peninsula in 2100, this novel will deal with overpopulation and extended life expectancy in an increasingly climate-challenged world and the inhumane solutions adopted by a government determined to rid Australia of unproductive citizens. My protagonist will be forced to take up a position as a Doorkeeper, one of the hated individuals that choose who will be granted a continued lifespan or be euthanised.
Yikes, that sounds all too scarily possible. And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
I would be ‘Jo’ in ‘Little Women’ – the tomboy, the writer, the one that isn’t afraid to flout the conventions of a society that seeks to confine her.
Dear Jo! What a role model! Thank you so much for talking with me, Sue, and all the best for your future writings!
Today I’m speaking with Gill Thompson. Gill has spent most of her career lecturing in English at sixth form level, but her hankering to write fiction has never gone away. She enrolled in and completed a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, and says it was the best thing she ever did.
Gill understands both ends of the writing process: the planning and editing required to produce a text, and the reading and analysis it takes to appreciate it. She says she is now finally fully joined up! The writers among you will find her website full of wonderful writing tips, and the readers will be very interested in her wonderful historical novel The Oceans Between Us about the post-WWII child migrant process. So relevant in today’s context of the movement of people seeking refuge and safety, and with a foot firmly in both the UK’s and Australian social history.
Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Gill! It’s lovely to have you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
That’s a difficult one! My book is about a child migrant from Britain to Australia just after World War Two. I don’t have any personal connections with that story (I’m old, but not that old!) – and in fact I agonised for quite some time about whether it was my place to tell it – but the support I received from ex migrants, and from The Child Migrants Trust, the charity that reunites parents and children, gave me the encouragement to go ahead. The fact that many people have written in their reviews of the book that they are grateful to have found out about this event makes me feel I’ve done the right thing.
My only common ground with the novel is that it is about a mother separated from her son. A few years ago, our son set off on what we now call his ‘gap decade’ (!) as he found a way to combine work and travelling. He is now settled in Bucharest where he met the girl of his dreams and they are getting married next month. I am happy for him, but I know how my character Molly feels at being separated from her child. It’s really hard! I certainly think I wrote those scenes from the heart.
Separation, especially for an unknown time, is really hard! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
I submitted three chapters from the novel as my dissertation for the Creative Writing M.A I undertook in order to help me write the best book possible. I remember describing a scene from that section that I was particularly proud of to my husband. Instead of giving me the approval I desired, he pointed out that I had missed an essential part of the plot. We argued about it for ages. I went away and sulked, then reluctantly conceded he had a point and finally, begrudgingly, I rewrote it. To this day, that scene, which features my protagonist Molly acknowledging that her son Jack must have died in the bomb blast that destroyed their home, is one of my favourites. It was clearly right to put it in. I’m not going to tell my husband that though!
Oooh, a marital secret, how exciting :-). If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
What an interesting question! (Don’t people always say that when they don’t know the answer?!) I think it would have to be an indigenous Australian girl called Rosie. Whilst I was researching the story of the child migrants, many of whom were falsely told they were orphans in order to lure them to Australia, I came across an eerily parallel account of the ‘Stolen Generation.’ These were Aboriginal children, taken from their parents as part of the White Australia policy. In my story, Jack and Rosie meet and bond through their common experience of loss. Having seen Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play Our Country’s Good, (based on the Thomas Keneally novel of the same name) and read Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines, I’d become fascinated by the rich spiritual life of indigenous Australians, particularly their belief in the power and role of dreams. I’ve tried to convey this through my characterisation of Rosie who sometimes has supernatural insights. Of all my characters I think she would have understood the slender line between reality and fantasy and wouldn’t feel threatened by being told she was fictitious.
That’s a really great answer – and it actually makes Rosie more real to me! But more about you: can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
I love the novels of the late Helen Dunmore. She had such skill at writing compelling human stories against the backdrop of historical events. I wouldn’t place myself in the same league as her but she is definitely a big influence. I read quite a lot of Tim Winton’s books when I was researching my story as I think he conveys the landscape and atmosphere of Western Australia so well. My central character, Molly, loses her memory so I read a few stories about memory loss such as ‘Pieces of Light’ by Charles Fernyhough and ‘Briefing for a Descent into Hell’ by Doris Lessing. I also love Maggie O’Farrell’s dexterity with words and the way she gets inside people’s minds so convincingly. Finally, Anne Tyler has an amazing ability to convey huge life issues within seemingly inconsequential events. I can only dream about writing as well as any of these authors, but they have certainly given me something to aspire to.
Ah, we have a lot of reading tastes in common! Lovely. Now, take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Ten years ago my parents had both recently died and my husband was in the middle of a decade of ill health which he was seemingly unable to recover from and which doctors were baffled by. I was trying to care for him whilst supporting our family with my job as a teacher. I’d wanted to write since I was very young but life always got in the way. My father had written text books on Photography but always had a secret ambition to write a novel. I think he passed that on to me! Although he died in 2001, I was able to enrol on my Creative Writing M.A with some of the money he left me. It was hard at times, with Paul so ill, but I managed to scrape through it, and my novel ‘The Oceans Between Us’ started to evolve.
Eventually Paul recovered and I had the space to give the manuscript more of my attention. It took me nine years before it was published but I am so glad I stuck at it. I often wish I could travel back to 2009, when life felt so bleak, and tell my former self that my dream of writing a novel really would come true, and that life really would get better. I wish my father had known how my writing aspirations would end up.
That’s a great story, and I have some similar experiences and feelings. What’s next for you in the world of writing?
I have now written a second novel, ‘The Child on Platform One,’ about a mother and daughter separated by war, which comes out next March. It’s gone through two rounds of edits so I just have the proof reading to do and then it’s finished. To be honest, I don’t have a single idea for book three at the moment. I think the creative well has run dry! I am going to give myself the summer off. We have our son’s wedding to prepare for and my daughter and her husband are having an extension built so I have a feeling they will be bringing our two adorable granddaughters to stay with us on and off through July and August so I will have plenty to keep me busy. I am hoping inspiration will strike by the autumn though so that I can get writing again. I think I would miss it if I didn’t.
Oh, yes, I do hope there’s more to come! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
I am currently obsessed by Eva, the protagonist of my second novel. She is a musical prodigy living in Prague during the late 1930’s. Later, when she is taken into a concentration camp, she uses her musical talents to mount a defence against the Nazis. I don’t have a musical bone in my body but I am fascinated by the power of creativity to triumph over adversity.
What a great creation, and a good choice. Thank you so much Gill for sharing with me today on Last Word of the Week.
Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Well, that’s a couple of things we have in common! Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective who investigates family secrets in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published online and in anthologies. Her ‘Identity Detective’ series explores the themes of identity, family history, secrets and adoption reunion. Sandra is now writing Sweet Joy, third in the series, set in London during The Blitz.
Sandra Danby Author
LWOTW: Welcome to last Word of the Week, Sandra! Tell me, when did you write your first story?
SANDRA: I must have been six or seven when I made my own magazines, writing the stories but cutting pictures out of my mother’s ‘Woman’s Weekly’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines. I’m still rubbish at drawing but clearly I was showing early signs of the magazine editor I would later become. I have no clear memories of all those stories but I do remember writing an ambitious series about a sea-going cat that travelled to all the exotic faraway places I wanted to go. My early writing was always about adventuring into the unknown, being brave and fighting battles, influenced by the Famous Five and Swallows and Amazons, combined with an avid curiosity about life beyond the East Yorkshire dairy farm where I grew up.
Curiosity is so essential for a writer. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
I would describe myself as an imaginative planner. The over-active imagination that saw me told off as a child at school for dreaming, well she’s still here but is now forged with the organised focussed journalist who likes to plan and research. I must have read thousands of words about how other writers do it, but every writer has to find their own way. As I wrote my first two novels, with a third abandoned in a box, plus countless short stories, I’ve experimented and learned to loosen my planning and to listen to my dreams. The phase of writing I love the most is when story points fly into my head at random, often in that first dozy thirty minutes on waking.
A waking dream! That sounds very, very useful. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
A reader coming up to me at a fair and saying ‘I’ve read the first two, when’s the next out?’ There’s no better motivation for pushing on with the next book.
Oh, that’s a marvellous question to hear! What are you most busy with at the moment?
I’m straightening out the kinks and twists in the plot of my third novel, ‘Sweet Joy’. It’s the sort of job that has to be approached with a completely clear sharp brain or things can get out of hand and ideas mysteriously disappear. It’s incredibly satisfying when connections are made and your brain says ‘of course that goes there’ when you’ve had a blank spot for sometimes months.
There is sometimes the sense that your subconscious (or maybe your characters…) knew what had to happen all along… If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t give up. It’s a long haul; you have to be in it for love. Writing is a job, not a hobby.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Green, but only green as in the nature that surrounds us. I never wear the colour green, I think because I hated my 1970s bottle green school uniform. My favourite green is the landscape of the Yorkshire Wolds, endless rolling green hills and a wide horizon.
the Yorkshire Wolds – photo @SandraDanby
How beautiful it is. Thank you so much for sharing with me today, Sandra.
Belinda lives in country Victoria (Australia) with her devoted and beloved husband, surrounded by books, cat-fur, and half-eaten cake. Belinda divides her days between writing rom-coms, baking, and indulging her love of comic books.
Belinda’s happy and uplifting novels are often described as ‘funny’ and ‘flirty’, and maybe that’s a reflection of herself as well as her style. I think I’ve just met an incurable romantic!
Belinda Missen author
Welcome, Belinda, it’s lovely to meet you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Opening with the tough questions! What do I think people ought to know? Well, I suppose they ought to know that my books are lovely, will leave you feeling fuzzy, and feeling good and, now that I’ve been unleashed on the world, there’s no stopping me.
Seriously, though, I’m a mid-thirties (still clutching that demographic) girl who loves the love. I bake and cook and wrangle my cats, and my husband is pretty awesome, too.
Baking! Anytime you want to drop something by… Hehe! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
There’s on particular scene I love in An Impossible Thing Called Love where William and Emmy explore London together. They tend to do a lot of that, but there’s one moment I especially love where they’re wandering about the Tower Bridge together, talking about the building, the sites around them, and generally enjoying one of their first bits of togetherness in a few years.
An Impossible Thing Called Love by Belinda Missen
If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
I’ll still with William for this one (An Impossible Thing Called Love). He’d probably laugh, tell you you’re wrong, and continue on his merry way. I mean, he’s still loud enough in my head that he could get a sequel, so I’m quite sure he’d never believe you.
I think I’d like a sequel with the gorgeous William… Oh, let’s get back to the questions! Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
There’s been so many over the years. As a child, I read a lot of Roald Dahl. I was fascinated with The Witches for a while and borrowed that whenever I could. Baby-Sitters Club books also featured in my childhood. I think my teen years involved quite a bit of science-fiction (Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park in particular).
As an adult, I moved into light-hearted rom-coms and women’s fiction. I think I started putting some serious thought into writing when I stumbled onto Mhairi McFarlane and Lindsey Kelk, and I thought of how much I’d love to produce something so fun.
Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Please start writing now. Write and work hard. It will be okay.
I think it will be more than OK! What’s next for you in the world of writing?
I have a lovely little Christmas novella due out in November, titled One Week ‘til Christmas. It’s gorgeous, and is about Isobel and Tom. Isobel finds herself in London just before Christmas as a political reporter. As an odd-job, she’s sent to interview Tom. They form a bond, and explore London together in the week Isobel has left in London.
That sounds like a perfect holiday read. And finally:Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
Oh, I’d have to say Emmy – because I’m a little in love with William (can you tell?).
Yes I can tell! Thank you so much Emmy – I mean Belinda – for having this week’s Last Word!
Sylvia Karakaltsas writes cracking historical novels – you can see my review of her fabulous and moving book A Perfect Stone here. I’m thrilled to have the chance to meet up with her, especially as we have discovered that we both live in Melbourne and can now be coffee mates!
Welcome, Sylvia. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
I guess the main thing is that I write historical fiction and short stories. My short stories are not, however, historical. If anything they tend to be contemporary fiction based on current day observations.
The two historical fiction novels I have written are both set in 1948 so I guess you could say, I like 1948. It’s not so much the year that’s fascinating but the time just after the war when there was still so much turmoil in the world and I find it rich for stories.
I think you have a great grasp of the period. What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
I don’t necessarily have a favourite scene as such but there are scenes which have moved me.. In Climbing the Coconut Tree, two Australians were murdered on a Pacific island and the funeral scene for me was quite emotional to write.
In A Perfect Stone, there are scenes where young children are killed and writing them moved me to tears. Putting myself right in the scene affects me so much that the scenes are, I think, very powerful.
If the author is moved, then the scene has power indeed. Now, if I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?
I think Jim from A Perfect Stone would growl and tell me in no uncertain terms how ludicrous I am. After all he can be cantankerous. He’d probably then add that he liked my new haircut.
He definitely would! He’s such a character!Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
I’ve always loved reading. When I was a young girl, I devoured anything by Enid Blyton – who hasn’t? My goal had never been to be a writer, I had other things I wanted to do and the only constant was my love of reading.
I came to writing just over five years ago and dug into the books and the authors I had loved to study the art of writing. Inspiration came from Anthony Doer, Sonya Hartnett, Emily Bitto, Hannah Kent, Sophie Laguna and Nicole Hayes. Nicole in particular guided me with all three of my books I have the utmost admiration for her incredible skills.
That’s a great road for an author. Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Getting older is so much better than everyone said and that you never stop learning and growing.
How lovely to hear. What’s next for you in the world of writing?
I am well into my next novel. The character, Lucille, seems to be writing her own story despite me trying to send her in lots of directions. She pulls me right back where she wants to go and guess what, we’ve landed again in 1948. I just shake my head and wonder where she’ll take me next.
And finally:Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
I’d probably be Helen from my novel A Perfect Stone. Although she’s probably more tolerant and nicer to her father Jim than me.
There’s a lot of Helen in you, I think. Or maybe vice versa! Thank you so much for sharing with us on Last Word of the Week. Coffee next week?