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Portmeirion Wilderness

The Wilderness in Portmeirion

 

And so the end of the year has arrived.

 

Dolbadarn Castle with Snowdon behind

Dolbadarn Castle beneath Snowdon

The end of the ancient Celtic year, that is. Samhain was the end of the agricultural year, when the harvest was in and secured for the winter ahead. A time to relax after months of hard physical work. A time to celebrate, but also to pause and reflect. To take stock and prepare for the new year ahead. It was also a time when the barrier between the living and the dead thinned, allowing the loved, who are always with us, creep in around the fire to join their families once more.

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An autumn walk in Snowdonia

 I love this time of year, with its soft light and vibrant colours, with its fragility and sense of urgency. With its call to enjoy every moment of warmth and sunshine before the dark cold of winter really sets in. And it’s still a lovely time to reflect and plan before the serious partying of Christmas and New Year begins. So I’ve been tidying up my garden, preparing it for next year, enjoying the sun and walks amongst the changing scenery.


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Portmeirion at night

It’s been quite a year, with the publication of ‘We That are Left’ and ‘Eden’s Garden’ becoming a finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’, followed by the excitement of the Kindle version of both novels reaching the top 5 in the Amazon Kindle store. I’ve celebrated with finally getting my poor neglected garden under control, and a visit to Portmeirion to spend time with my lovely American author friend, Nadine Feldman and her husband.

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Portmeirion at night

Portmeirion is always a magical place to stay, with its eccentricity and sheer love of life. I’ve come back refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to get back down to the next book – and the unknown adventure that awaits next year.

For Samhain and Halloween I shall light my candle in memory of all those who are still with me, and take a last look back over the fading year, and huddle round the fire to prepare for the unknown year ahead – undoubtedly with a dram or so of sloe gin once the Christmas season arrives!

Happy Halloween!

 

 

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Juliet Greenwood:

Being interviewed on Rosie Amber’s blog

Originally posted on Rosie Amber:

Today we have Juliet Greenwood as our guest author, she wrote We That Are Left which I reviewed yesterday, see this link for the review http://wp.me/p2Eu3u-5MX

Let’s find out more about Juliet and her books.

Juliet With We That are Left

1) Where is your home town?

I live halfway up a mountain on the edges of a village in Snowdonia in North Wales. In one direction I look up to the mountains, and to the other I look over the romantic Island of Anglesey, and some pretty gorgeous sunsets. I lived next to the Hammersmith flyover in London for several years, so I certainly appreciate the peace and quiet!

2) How long have you been writing?

All my life! I wrote my first rip-roaring historical at the age of ten, and never looked back. It’s taken me a long time to be actually published and begin to be the writer I want to be. It’s…

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Juliet Greenwood:

Being interviewed by fellow historical author, Valerie Holmes

Originally posted on valerie holmes author:

I first met Juliet when we were at Writing Magazine’s awards ceremony back in 2002. We were both winners embarking on our writing careers. A fellow member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Juliet had several works of fiction published under the pseudonym Heather Pardoe and is now a novelist under her own name.

Welcome Juliet!

In what way did ME lead you into a writing career?

It was a really bad viral infection that left me with ME for years. Before then, I’d been energetic and healthy, holding down a career, cycling, rushing up mountains, and working for hours in my garden. Being so ill for so long, and not knowing if I would ever get better, forced me to completely reconsider my life. That’s when I decided I would work part time in a far less stressful job, and just go for my lifelong dream of being a writer…

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Visiting the past

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In the V&A

 

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Downton …..

I loved my time in London at the Historical Novelists Association Conference this summer. It was great meeting up with old friends and new, along with the inspiring talks and discussions to set the little grey cells racing. I arrived a day early, as I hadn’t been to London for a while and was looking forward doing a bit of research – not least in the V&A. Seeing costumes of a time is so different from a photograph, for one thing you see how tiny they were, and just how constricting some of the dresses. The transition from Victorian to Edwardian were my favourite exhibits, and especially this one. I had to suppress a giggle, though, when two Italian girls arrived behind me, took one glance and announced ‘Ah, Downton!”. And so it is.

It was also a visit to another past. The Conference and the accommodation were a few minutes from Regent’s Park, with Baker Street nearest tube station. Once, long ago, I used to trudge from Hammersmith to an office in Baker Street, escaping each lunchtime into Regent’s Park and my dream of becoming an author. It was very strange walking once again by the lake and between the flowerbeds, and retracing my steps from Baker Street tube up to the offices in Baker Street. After all this time, it looked very much the same. The tube station even smelt the same.

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The flowerbeds in Regent’s Park

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Walking among the swans and the moorhens (who also looked very much the same) I couldn’t help but wonder what I might have said to my 23 year-old self, if I had met her coming the other way.

So, with my hindsight of thirty-odd years, what would I have told her? Like most writers, I beat myself up quite enough, so I think I would be kind. I’d tell her not to worry that the manuscripts bashed out on a dusty old typewriter in every spare minute always came winging back. It takes years, and rewrite after rewrite, rejection after rejection, to make a writer. This was only the start. I’d tell her not to worry that she couldn’t quite find a career her heart could follow. She already had one. I’d tell her not to be frustrated by the slightly ramshackled variety of jobs. Each was a learning curve, each a learning experience being stashed away to be brought out later. And I’d tell her that twenty-five was not old. Nor thirty-five, forty-five, even fifty-five. Most of all, I’d tell her to live her life, work her socks off, and make her dream come true. Just dreaming never got anyone anywhere.

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Practice!

My 23 year-old self (being horribly lacking in confidence and filled with youthful angst, and taking herself so impossibly seriously, I’d probably have wanted to shake her) would not have believed me. Wouldn’t dared to have believed me, just in case. But hey, that’s youth.

Meanwhile, I wandered through old haunts, stumbling across cavalry practice (where else can you say that?), before heading back to meet up with my fellow authors.

My own revisiting of the past made me appreciate the present, big time. It’s been a long, hard journey, and it’s only just begun. I’m sure my 23 year-old self would never have believed me –  but now’s the time I’m having the time of my life!

 

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Buskers in Covent Garden

 

 

In A Foreign Country

Ghana in 1976 with a baby and a suitcase

An interview with Hilary Shepherd

Today I would like to welcome to the blog fellow Honno author, Hilary Shepherd, whose second novel ‘In a Foreign Country’, set in Ghana, was published in March, and is currently in the Amazon Kindle summer sale. 

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I was 23 when I went to Ghana with a baby and one suitcase in 1976. All these years later the experience remains vivid, for the simple reason that I’ve never been back, nor have I ever been anywhere else quite like it.

Hilary 3There is an upside for a writer, writing about distant places, as authors like Peter Ackroyd have observed. However exacting it is to re-immerse yourself in faraway sounds, smells and colours, you don’t have so many decisions to make about what to include and what to leave out because the setting has been pre-edited by the limits of your memory. All you have to do is bring remembered detail to life. And because you are revisiting a place in your head, the detail that does come back is exciting, heart-rending, revitalising. That’s a pretty useful starting place for telling any story!

 

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As for the plot, I had written already about the trials and tribulations of living in the Sudan with a young family in my first novel and I wanted to write about somebody who thoroughly enjoys Ghana, however challenging she finds it. My character, Anne, is just out of university, keen to put her anthropological studies to good use at the same time as getting to know the father she has hardly seen since she was small. He has been working in Tamale for many years. Like him, she loves the place at once and decides to stay. And like him, she then falls in love awkwardly, perhaps unforgivably, with someone she finds there.

I didn’t want to write about northern Ghana outside the rainy season I experienced because the dry season is so different, so something had to happen to Anne within the same short time-scale of seven months. Hospitals I knew a bit about, having spent an unscheduled day in one in Tamale. I threw in some of my maternal experience in scenes with a secondary character, and drew on a brief trip we made to Burkino Faso, and horse-riding in Kumasi. But schools and teaching, which is where Anne gets to know her priest – that bit I had to shamelessly invent. After all, we’ve all been there, at some stage. It just needs a bit of imagination to go back as a teacher and in a West African setting.

As for the priest himself, a friend once told me the merest outline of something experienced by someone she knew, which has fascinated me ever since. What happens to a charismatic man if his life outgrows the framework he imposed upon himself long ago? And if you find yourself emotionally implicated, should you keep away or should you stay?

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 I’m not living in Ghana inside my head anymore. The book I’m currently working on is set in Spain in the aftermath of the Civil War. Writing historical novels is another foreign country in itself.

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Currently just 99p in the Kindle Summer Sale, you can get your copy HERE

Even in your father’s house you can feel like an outsider…

Recently graduated, Anne is in Ghana for the first time. Her father, Dick, has been working up country for an NGO since his daughter was a small child. They no longer really know each other.

A few days into her six-month stay, the houseboy Moses returns
from a trip. As the weeks pass, Anne has a growing feeling that she’s surplus to requirements. Dick is grumpy and distant; Moses distinctly put out at her continued presence. She finds respite teaching eager young pupils at a local Catholic school. Then, out of the blue, a terrible accident changes everything.

In its aftermath, Anne’s closeness to a priest in trouble with his superiors at the Mission, reaches a tipping point that endangers them both.

Praise for In a Foreign Country

“intelligent, subtle and sensitive… I was conscious throughout of the author’s deft control and understatement. Less was definitely more, and what she chose to omit, as well as what she included, made it a much greater book… a thought-provoking, absorbing and rewarding read, which I highly recommended.”
Debbie Young (Debbie Young’s Writing Life)

“Will leave you thinking about the characters after you put it down, and wanting more as you read the last words…[Shepherd's future as an author looks bright]“
Gwales

HILARY SHEPHERD

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 After a lifetime of organic farming, and more recently making windows and stairs in oak for a living – and kitchens in all sorts of woods – Hilary Shepherd published her first novel with Honno in 2012. ‘Animated Baggage’ is set in the Sudan, where she lived with her young family for two years during the 80s. It is a wasp-on-the-wall view of the world of international aid but sadly is no longer in print. Earlier this year Honno published her second book. ‘In A Foreign Country’ follows a young English woman as she arrives in Ghana, where nothing is quite as she expects it to be, including the hidden faces of love.

Hilary is married to Nick and they live on a wild Welsh hillside where they spend a lot of time pushing rocks about. They also spend time in Spain, in a remote mountain village in the Maestrazgo, where the book she is working on now is set.

You can follow Hilary on Facebook: 

Originally posted on Tales From the Landing Book Shelves:

As I promised here is Juliet Greenwood’s guest post. Picking up on my interest in the theme of growing and preparing nutritious food during the war, I asked Juliet to talk about this aspect of  We That Are Left (Honno Press) and her background research. At the end of the post I’ve added the recipes that Juliet sent me. If you buy a copy of the book you will find a few more authentic recipes to try for yourselves.

The Role of Food in World War I

When I was first thinking of writing about the First World War, I knew I wanted to write about the lives of civilians, and especially the women, who moved out from being simply wives and mothers to take over the roles of the missing men at home, as well as working on the front line as ambulance drivers and nurses.

Among the many roles…

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August 4th 2014


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On the centenary of the outbreak of The Great War, I find myself remembering all those ordinary families and individuals drawn into the conflict, as soldiers and civilians.

Whatever language they spoke, whatever country they lived in, all that those men and women and children wished for was what we wish for: to live our lives – our one and only life – to the best of our ability and with those we love.

May they – and their dreams – never be forgotten.

‘Your battle-wounds are scars upon my heart…’

Vera Brittain

 

‘I am the enemy you killed, my friend….’

Wilfred Owen

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