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A run on the dark side with Claire Fitzpatrick

Claire Fitzpatrick is an award-winning author of speculative fiction. She writes tales of terror and dark possibilities, in both short story and novel form. Her latest collection of meticulously researched, nerve-rattling stories was recently reviewed in my favourite magazine, Aurealis (issue #124) where it is described as ‘a wicked joy to read’

I’m thrilled – not to say a little spooked – to meet this other Claire of the incredible words.

Metamorphosis by Claire Fitzpatrick zoom

Metamorphosis by Claire Fitzpatrick zoom

Hi, Claire! Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?

Claire: I think the main thing readers ought to know is that my stories are semi-autobiographical. Every story reflects some aspect of myself, my emotions, my desires, fears, etc. A lot of them reflect my feelings regarding my Epilepsy, BPD, and being a mother. I’ve had Epilepsy since I was 12 (I’m 28) and was formally diagnosed with BPD when I was 26. I also have a wonderful 7-year-old daughter who inspires me to write more and become a better person. She can be quite a handful – she has ASD, and stresses the hell out of me sometimes, but we do so many creative things together; she’s my annoying best friend. I’m also an artist. I paint between writing, and I’m currently building a mansion out of paddle-pop sticks. I’m crafty when I procrastinate. My house is filled with books and paintings. I also have a cat named Cthulhu and don’t own a TV. Are those things readers really ought to know? They are now!

And fascinating things they are. Cthulhu, eh? I bet the cat can say that name better than I can, being an alien of sorts…

What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

Huh. No one has ever asked me that before. I rather like one of the final scenes in my novel Only The Dead. It’s a death scene; well, rather, one character finds another character’s body. I remember feeling rather proud of myself when I finished writing it. I also received a wonderful review with a nod towards that scene, so it made me feel quite thrilled I’d managed to evoke such a strong emotion from a reader.

only the dead

Sounds gripping! Now, if I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

There’s a character named Cassie in Only The Dead  who’s a badass motorcycle-riding artist and Vietnam War protestor. If I told her she was imaginary she’d probably tell me to get fucked and offer me a joint.

She sounds very real – which is exactly what you want from 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?

Of course. I still have all the Sonya Hartnett books I stole from my high school library. I’m a hoarder and have a few hundred books, many of which I’ve owned since I was a teenager. Notable authors include Isobelle Carmody (of whom I named my daughter after), Anne Rice, Catherine Fisher, Clive Barker, Jostein Gaarder, Emily Rodda, etc.

I started writing at a very early age. The first ‘book’ I wrote was essentially fanfiction. I was fed up of waiting for the fifth Harry Potter book to come out, so I ended up writing my own book. It was called ‘Harry Potter and the Magic Broom’ and it was actually quite depressing. Harry felt all sad he couldn’t see Ron and Hermione over the holidays, and then he found a magic broom which gave him a sense of euphoria every time he rode it. Now that I’ve come to think of it, I believe it was a metaphor for antidepressants. I started self-harming when I was 12, so I’m pretty sure it was just another way to express myself. Weird. After I wrote the book, and a half-finished sequel, I developed my own characters, my own ideas. A lot of my early fiction were adventure stories, mostly about pirates. Incidentally, I still have those early books.

Returning to other authors…. Anne Rice, in particular, has a special place in my heart. I first read Anne Rice when I was 18. I had a pretty shitty home life, so I left home and moved in with the first man who paid attention to me. He was horribly cruel, a drug addict, would alienate me, and steal my money. During the period of three years all I wrote was scraps of things here and there. Yet the only nice thing he did for me is buy me Anne Rice books as a form of penance for my suffering. I was so lonely, I’d read her books from cover to cover and imagine I was in New Orleans with the vampires and the Mayfair witches, and that my life was as exciting as theirs. When I finally left the relationship, I felt so inspired by Rice’s world I immediately started writing again. And then I wrote ‘Madeline,’ my first published horror story, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Metamorphosis by Claire Fitzpatrick

What an amazing backstory! Lots of material – but very glad you’re through to the far side of it. Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

Fuck. Umm. Don’t worry your Epilepsy held you back from the Air Force. Don’t worry you didn’t get into university on your first go. Don’t worry you failed year 11 high school English class. Everything will make sense one day. It may be dark and horrible. You may think self-harm is something you need to do. But life – though it gets a hell of a lot harder – will get more manageable, I promise. Also, drink and party as much as you can. 21 is a really young age to become a mother. I won’t judge your breakfast rums. For now.

That’s precious advice, thank you! What’s next for you in the world of writing?

I’m currently working on two projects. The first is a novelette, of which I’ve almost completed a first draft. The story is about the grief and pain one feels regarding suicide, but I’ve disguised it as a supernatural horror. I think! Unfortunately, over the past four years, three of my friends have committed suicide, so it’s a subject that’s often on my mind. I’m enjoying writing this, as I’ve managed to throw in cantankerous off-beat character I’m hoping will get a few laughs.

The second project is a novella, something I’ve been working on slowly for the past two years. It’s a dark fantasy novella, tentatively titled ‘Therianthropy,’ and is about shapeshifters, the moral obligations of humans, what it means to have a soul, and the difference between being a human and a monster. ‘Therianthropy’ is my major work, and it’s something I’m taking my time with. I’m currently being mentored by the esteemed author Paul Mannering, who is helping me conclude the draft. I originally started the book as a mentorship with the fantastic author and illustrator Greg Chapman, so I suppose, in a way, it’s a collaborative project. Three heads are better than one! 

Oooh, that sounds wonderful. I want it now! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

Someone else’s. My characters are fragments of myself, and that’s horrifying enough.

Great answer. Thank you so much Claire for sharing with me on Last Word of the Week.

Claire’s Links:

Website – https://www.clairefitzpatrick.net/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/witch.of.eldritch

Twitter – @CJFitzpatrick91

IG – wetoo.arestardust

Metamorphosis – https://ifwgaustralia.com/title-metamorphosis/

On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Metamorphosis-Collection-Stories-Claire-Fitzpatrick-ebook/dp/B07TCJX6X2/

Latest news: #WeLoveOurAuthors

Every day throughout October, awesome Odyssey Books is celebrating one of its authors with a feast of shares including FREE SAMPLES!

Now is the time to discover your new favourite.  Look under Odyssey News every day in October to meet yet another fab author. Remember, this is where books are an adventure!

My feature day was Saturday October 12th. If you want to learn some of my secrets and get some freebies of my writing, here’s the link:

https://www.odysseybooks.com.au/2019/10/12/clarerhoden-weloveourauthors/

Rosalie Ham: author and extra

Rosalie Ham is an Australian author most famous for her debut novel The Dressmaker, a black satire about love, payback, and 1950s haute couture, which was made into a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, and Hugo Weaving in 2015.

Recently I was fortunate enough to meet Rosalie at an event where she explained how the movie was made, her part in it, and the challenges of shifting a story from prose to film. Rosalie was so inspiring that, grabbing my courage in both hands and telling myself that being scared every now and then is good for me, I introduced myself and asked if she would consider appearing on the Last Word of the Week blog. And here she is! 

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Thank you for joining me today, Rosalie. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?

Rosalie: I tend towards the ironic, and so some readers don’t ‘get’ that sort of tone or my black humour, but I get that not every book is for every reader.

That’s a great way to think about it, very wise. What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

I have favourite scenes in all four novels, so I’ll pick a couple. In The Dressmaker it’s at the end when Sergeant Farrat is sitting on top of The Hill. Everything around him is razed, the landscape burned flat to the ground, smouldering and smoking, cinders floating. The District Inspector of Police arrives and asks, ‘What happened?’

The sergeant replies, ‘There’s been a fire.’

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At the beginning of Summer at Mount Hope Phoeba, Lilith and Maude are sitting on the narrow bench of the family sulky which is stranded in the middle of a roadside dam. The three 19thcentury ladies are wearing their Sunday best, sheltering from the sun under their vast, ostrich plumed hats. Their skirts are bunched on their laps exposing the lacy trim on their bloomers, their boots are up on the dash, slimy green water swirls just below their bottoms and the tail of the horse supposedly conveying them to Church floats before them. In the quiet of the country lane, they hear a carriage approach. It is the grand Britzka containing the wealthy neighbours from the vast property to the west. Maude speculates, ‘They may not notice us.’

Oooh, yes, these are perfect. From what I have read, I understand that your characters are not completely imaginary, but based on real people. Has anyone recognised themselves in your books?

I suspect most writers create characters using elements of real people. Because characters, basically, carry a theme, creating a plausible vehicle is my main focus. The added personality traits are instilled to make them more memorable and hopefully readers might then find empathy with a character and his or her purpose. Some readers out there might just recognise why a character says and does certain things.

I know that you appeared in the film version of The Dressmaker as an extra. Are you a character in any of your books? Why/why not?

No, I’m not a character in any of my books. Generally, in order to create an effective character for a particular role that character needs to do what you want them to do. Their intention is their narrative drive, if you like, so their intention has to be quite separate to what I might say and do. It’s essential to strive to present a balanced argument, so you need to think about alternate arguments and create characters to present them so they all need to be other than the writer’s personal point of view. The story becomes about the argument rather than how I feel about the point I’m prosecuting. 

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That makes sense. Take yourself back ten years – what would that Rosalie like to tell you?

Trust your ability. Believe in yourself more, go for it, your stories will reach further than you imagine.

Amazing, yes. What’s next for you in the world of writing?

 More writing. I’ve got a few more events to attend this year to promote my last novel, The Year of the Farmer, then there’s a rough first draft of my fifth book that I’m dying to get stuck into. As I see it, there are at least two more novels I could write. And I have a dream that one day I’ll adapt one of my novels to a stage play. And I need to do all of this while teaching part time.

 

Year-of-the-Farmer-677x1024What’s the single most important quality in a writer, in your opinion?

Talent. Some books are written through sheer determination and they’re good. Readers will get much from them, but some writers are different, their stories boil straight from the heart, they burn and shimmer, they’re well-structured and moving, revelatory, unique, life-changing, and above all, memorable. That sort of writing can’t be taught, it comes from the way writers look at the world and convey it to others.

And finally:Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

I’d be Phoeba Crupp from my second novel, Summer at Mount Hope. I’d grow my own grapes and produce fine wine, raise beautiful sheep with superior wool, cultivate exceptional grain crops and work hard with nature. Because I value friendship above romance, I’d carry sad matters of the heart in my back pocket like a spare hanky. When my father betrays me, I’ll turn that to my advantage and make my life a testament to female strength and the fighting rural spirit.

She sounds divine. Great choice.

Thank you so much for sharing with me today, Rosalie. I was indeed a pleasure and an inspiration to meet you.

 

Rosalie’s Links:

Website: https://rosalieham.com/

Twitter: @RosalieEHam

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RosalieHam/

If you’d like to book Rosalie to talk at your school, library or book club (or fundraiser, lunch, valedictory…) please get in touch with Booked Out Speakers, Melbourne on (03) 9824 0177. I can highly recommend her as a speaker!

Rosalie is represented by Jenny Darling and Associates (03) 9696 7750

B.G. Hilton: steampunk, Frankenstein, thieving magpie?

B.G. Hilton has a fascination with the weird and wonderful, from Victorian-inspired steampunk to a place where low fantasy meets high soap opera … and no doubt beyond! Then there’s Leonard Nimoy and Dr Who to add to the mix.

Ben’s debut novel will be published by the awesome Odyssey Books (where books are always an adventure!) next year. It’s titled Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys and promises to be a rollercoaster read.

Ben has published many fab short stories (such as ‘I was a Steam-age Werewolf‘) as well as flash fiction, and you can join the fun with his DIY serial novel at https://bghilton.com/diy-serial-novel/

Welcome to last Word of the Week, Ben, great to meet you! Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?

Ben: I was always an eclectic reader, even when I was young. The seed for my novel ‘Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys’ came from a book of trivia for kids – probably from Scholastic? I’m not sure.

This book had an article about a weird science-fictiony idea, a hoax that people in the Nineteenth Century believed to be true. Somehow, this idea stuck with me for thirty-odd years and became the basis for my novel. I’ve always been interested in Victoriana, so this idea joined with a bunch of other things that fascinated me about the era – the music hall, weird quack medicines, steam power, the Royal Navy and more.

So, coming the long way round to answering the question, what they should know is I’m a bit of a magpie with ideas, and when I’m writing I try to make use of them.

What a great combination of notions! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

For me, the easiest part of writing is dialogue – I’d write dialogue only novels if I could get away with it. For that reason, the scenes I’m most proud of are the ones that are largely or completely dialogue free. They’re my biggest challenge to write. My favourite is a scene in Charlie and Gladys in which one of my protagonists, Charlie Decharles, escapes from a boat and swims for safety across a freezing river so for obvious reasons he can’t say anything. It’s probably the least complicated action sequence in the book, but I think it’s pretty pacey and it captures Charlie’s struggle against the river. And it ends with Charlie having a nice little chat with his rescuers, so it makes me happy on that level.

So maybe you’ll be writing plays and film scripts in the future! Or episodes of Dr Who. That would be cool. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

My protagonists probably wouldn’t care – Gladys is too practical to let something like that worry her and Charlie would probably pretend to understand but not really follow. The character who would react in the most interesting way is Charlie’s mother, Lady Decharles. I think she’d try to take advantage of the situation by outsmarting me, the author. She’d probably succeed, too. She’s much smarter than I am.

I like the sound of her! Can’t wait for her to appear. 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?

When you’re in a writing class and they ask you that question, you’re supposed to say Hemingway or Carver or someone like that, I don’t know. I love reading great works of serious literature when I’m in the mood for it — but they don’t make me think ‘I should try that; I should do that’. The people who make me want to write are more like Harry Harrison, Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett, Frederic Brown, Robert Holmes, Cherie Priest. Not writers of deathless prose, perhaps, but entertaining writers with something real to say. That’s the sort of writer I want to be. 

Entertaining and real – perfect goals, IMHO. Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

Ten years ago, I was alone and struggling to balance my studies with a job that I hated. I guess I should say to myself ‘hang in there’ – but I actually did, so it wouldn’t be particularly useful advice. More practically, I think I should have told myself to spend more time hanging out with other writers when I had all that time to socialise. Now I’m a dad, and I just have too much cleaning to do.

No, wait, that’s what I’d do. I’d tell myself – ‘learn to be a more efficient cleaner, and also get used to finishing half-eaten bananas’.

That’s hilarious! Great answer. What’s next for you in the world of writing?

Short term? Marketing. Lots and lots of marketing.

Longer term, I’m working on a sequel to Charlie and Gladys. Also, I have a horror-inspired speculative fiction manuscript I’m trying to get into publishable shape. It’s about a young woman whose life is turned upside down when she learns that she’s Frankenstein’s granddaughter. To escape from her family’s enemies, she must seek shelter with the creatures that her ancestors have made and cast out. I think it’s a basically a good manuscript, but the setting was very misjudged, so it needs a serious rewrite.

Great heavens, that sounds interesting! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

I hate to say it, but probably I’m most like Mr Toad from ‘The Wind in the Willows’ in that I get very enthusiastic about things and then lose interest in them. It’s not a bad thing for a writer, having dozens of past obsessions that I can call on when I need. Saves a lot of time researching, sometimes.

My wife says I’m like Professor Moriarty. That could mean that I have big plans that don’t go anywhere or just that I rock a top hat. Or maybe she’s just saying I’m good at maths. I’m not sure I want to know, so I didn’t ask.

Brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Ben. Can’t wait to meet Charlie and Gladys.

LINKS:

Website: bghilton.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bghilton.author/

Twitter: @bghilton

Cindy Davies, with Middle Eastern mystery

Cindy Davies is the author of The Afghan Wife, published by Odyssey Books in 2017 and its sequel The Revolutionary’s Cousin, released on September 12CindyDaviesth 2019.

 

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.

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. Whats 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. 

TheAfghanWife

 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.

 

Cindy’s links:

Website: cindydavies.com.au

Facebook: Cindy Davies Author at https://www.facebook.com/cindydavies.author.18

Nicola Pryce sails to Cornwall in 1773

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!

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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 DaughterIt 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.

boat photo 2

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 :-).

Nicola’s Links

Website     http://nicolapryce.co.uk/

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/nicolaprycebooks/

Twitter      https://twitter.com/npryce_author

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/nicola_pryce_author/

Amazon      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cornish-Lady-Saga/dp/1786493853

Kobo             https://www.kobo.com/at/en/ebook/pengelly-s-daughter

Barnes and Noble    https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-cornish- dressmaker-nicola-pryce/1126737521

Marianne Holmes and family secrets

Marianne Holmes’ debut novel A Little Bird Told Me is a great read that pulls you in and keeps you guessing – see my review from earlier in the year. I’m rapt to have Marianne answer some ticklish questions on this edition of Last Word of the Week.

Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Marianne!

 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.

marianneholmesrmay18-12-0409s 3843x2745px

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.

A Little BirdYes, 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?

This is such a difficult one and changes every day. I love The Secret History by Donna Tartt, All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and anything by Iain Banks, Umberto Eco, Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood… I could go on for pages!

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.

Marianne’s links:

Twitter @MarianneHAuthor

Instagram @MarianneHAuthor

Website www.marianne.holmes@talk21.com

A Little Bird Told Me: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Bird-Told-Me-ourselves-ebook/dp/B07FB4D86F

 

Sue Paritt, writer with feeling!

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

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!

 

Sue’s Links:

Sue’s website is at www.sueparritt.com

You can find her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/SueParrittAuthor/

Gill Thompson and her joined-up writing

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.

The Oceans Between Us cover image
The Oceans Between Us by Gill Thompson

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.

Gill’s important links:

Website: http://www.wordkindling.co.uk

Twitter: @wordkindling

Sandra Danby writes

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

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

the Yorkshire Wolds – photo @SandraDanby

How beautiful it is. Thank you so much for sharing with me today, Sandra.

SANDRA’S LINKS

Website http://www.sandradanby.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/sandradanby/

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/sandradanbyauthor/

Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/sandradan1/

Amazon UK https://amzn.to/2vEvGS8

Amazon USA https://amzn.to/2KPriEC