Yes, I have blogged!
And we can thank lovely Irish writer, Johanna Leahy for this auspicious occurrence as she’s nominated me for ‘The Next Big Thing,’ a blogosphere initiative where bloggers reach out to new readers, introduce you to some of their favourite writers and reveal a bit about their own writing before passing on the baton again… You get the gist?
In her own words, Johanna describes herself as a "Serial-expat, ambitious writer, living in Kuala Lumpur with 3 kids, 4 guinea pigs, and a Danish husband. Obviously not in order of importance." She's currently working on her second novel, “The Stolen Child”, a story set in two time periods – the 1960s and contemporary Ireland. It's about a young woman forced into a Mother & Baby Home to have her baby, the child ultimately taken against her will to be adopted in the US. Forty years later, her son, whom she has kept a secret, turns up on her doorstep. His appearance has far-reaching consequences for the two sisters who didn't know he existed and for their mother who has never recovered from losing him. It sounds just my cup of tea!
Johanna also invited our mutual friend, Sharon Naylor (talented writer and very funny blog alert) whom we met on an Arvon course a few years ago so we're blogging alongside each other today. Sharon is working on her debut novel, Legal Ade, the story of Adrian Pritchard, a hapless man who has long suspected that life as he knows it might well be over. He is overweight and hypertensive, the family business is teetering towards bankruptcy and his wife has run off with a biker. After a disastrous break at a French spa he forms an uneasy alliance with two women. Carol and Angie are temporary exiles from a tough London estate. They have many secrets, not least those large men with violent tendencies on their tail. After being mistaken for their accomplice Adrian is forced into events he doesn’t understand, and it all seems to hinge on exactly who and where is the mysterious “Frank”. As the differences and similarities between he and his companions emerge, Adrian realises with dread that it might be up to him to save the day. But he`s not sure he`s up to it…
And so now on to my questions:
What is the working title of your book?
Ahh, straight away I’m smiling. This novel started off as ‘Living in the Past’ but following a couple of adverse comments about the title I changed it to ‘Mothers Love.’ However, this year I sent it on the Romantic Novelist's Association New Writers Scheme and my wonderful reader said it wasn’t strong enough. It needed to convey the long-held family secrets and maybe have the word, ‘past’ in it. So guess what? Yep. ‘Living in the Past’ is back. It just shows you should trust your gut instincts, although don’t be too surprised if an agent or publisher changes the title anyway ;-)
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Can you believe, Nicky Campbell! I’ve always been fascinated by people and their lives; where they’ve come from, what shaped them, and the paths they have taken. Having a very complicated family set up and past myself.(For more see THIS blog.)I’ve enjoyed watching the series ‘Long Lost Families,’ hearing the tales of how families are torn apart and how sometimes people keep secrets from even those close to them to protect them, and themselves. And I’ve always wanted to write a ‘gritty’ novel. I adore the writing of the ‘Angry Young Men’ – the likes of Stan Barstow, Allan Sillitoe, Nell Dunn etc and anything that resembles kitchen sink dramas, and so the two aspects gelled together well.
What genre does your book fall under?
Commercial Women’s Fiction. A section of the book is a war-time romance but it definitely isn’t romantic fiction. It has the theme of love running throughout but it’s about many kinds of love; the love between mother, daughter, father, lover and the nature of truth and the fierce drive to love. I’d like to position it as a Book Club read.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’m afraid I don’t see Hollywood actors in any of the roles. My main character would be easy to cast if the wonderful Dame Thora Hurd were still alive. I can hear her voice narrating the story of the old lady as she lies in a hospital bed looking back over her life but Maureen Lipman would be my second choice. The ‘young' Maggie just wouldn’t work with Anne Hathaway’s version of a Yorkshire accent (sorry – I loved her in ‘One Day’ but the Yorkshire accent was none existent) so I’d want authentic, spirited, feisty Yorkshire characters like Helen Baxendale for the lead and seeing as her husband, 'Bertie,’ is from Sheffield I reckon Sean Bean would be perfect. Well, any excuse for a photo.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Living in the Past is a love story but it’s also a human story about how families can sometimes hide the biggest secrets from each other; the lies they tell to protect others and themselves and how secrets, however well intentioned, bring only pain but how forgiveness transcends all hurts.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Three months. Trouble is that was three years ago and since then it’s had three further re-writes and I’ve ground to a halt over the last eighteen months since I’ve been crippled by writer’s block.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Hmm. I’m not sure. I would like to think if you like Louise Voss or Elizabeth Bucan, you’d like this but in all honesty, I think the reason this novel is different is because I’ve found my writer’s ‘voice’ and simply written the kind of book I enjoy to read. So I’d probably best let the reader decide.
Easy. My Nan - the most formidable, difficult, but kindest, biggest-hearted lady you could imagine. Oh yes, and a very complicated past. Also I spent my formative years in Pudsey, Leeds, so everything about the novel lends itself to a Yorkshire setting – wartime, life in a small town, textile mills, back to back terracing, and Yorkshire people and how they call a spade a spade.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Nostalgia. Life in the Second World War. Growing up in the sixties and seventies. Yorkshire folk. And making you think about people and what makes them do some of the things they do.
When and how will it be published?
One day. I hope. I’m fortunate to be over the first big hurdle and already have an agent waiting to see the finished MS. How lucky am I? I met Jane Judd when I came second at the Festival of Romance Convention New Talent Award in 2011 but as I mentioned earlier, since around that time, writer’s block has hindered progress due to personal circumstances.
Well, I think that completes my questions. Sincere thanks again to Johanna for enabling me to talk about Living in the Past. It’s a rather special novel and I still get a huge buzz writing about it so the hunger isn’t lost to see it through to fruition once my head has cleared. And to Sharon for keeping me company today (and sometimes in the wee small hours on Facebook!)
In the meantime I’ll keep working on my other novels and non-fiction ideas but for now, pass the baton to my chosen writers who all have the potential to be 'The Next Big Thing. We are all sisters in words. And so it goes...
Check out their blogs and watch out for their ‘Next Big Thing posts:’
Where to start with fellow Romaniac, Laura E James? Rock. Kindred Spirit. Dear friend(even when she gives me a kick up the butt!) Laura is knocking on the door of publication and I don't think she'll be long until it opens.
Next is the gorgeous Nikki Goodman, a fellow member of the Romantic Novelist's Association New Writer's Scheme who I've become friends with and is an extremely talented writer. Oh yes, and we share a mutual love of wine too!
And last but by no means least is a cyber friend who I haven't yet had the pleasure to meet - Sue Jackson. Sue's a writer and journalist and has written several novels which she is seeking representation of. However her latest novel, FOUR LEFT FEET was awarded Highly Commended in the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance in November 2012 and is currently being read by a literary agent so she really could be The Next Big Thing!
Until another day
Bye for now
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