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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Five Things I Learnt While

Writing Through Lockdown

By Louise Marley

When Juliet first asked me if I’d like to contribute to her series of posts from authors about how they were coping with lockdown, I’m afraid I laughed. I wasn’t coping with lockdown, how could I give advice to others?

As I usually work from home, in theory nothing had changed for me. In practise (like everyone else), I suddenly had a house full of people and double the workload. Food shopping took most of the morning (and a lot of creativity), making me appreciative for everything I’d previously taken for granted. Most of all, I missed being able to meet my friends.

Now lockdown is easing, I’ve had my first trip outside my village and the shops and cafes are slowly beginning to open. Apart from ensuring I always have a supply of flour, pasta and toilet rolls in the cupboard, what have I learnt over the past few months?

 

  1. Working from home is my ‘normal’ and I shouldn’t be tempted to procrastinate. (I did so want to clear out my garage and paint my fence.)
  2. When a limited amount of writing time is available, plan ruthlessly. Tasks become more manageable if prioritised and spread over several days (and shared with the family).
  3. Limit time spent on the Internet, checking the news and social media. The last one was particularly difficult while feeling isolated from my friends and extended family.
  4. Remember to take time off. When I no longer had time to read I became distinctly twitchy. Forcing myself to take a break with a book someone else had written (and not feel guilty about it) made a lot of difference. If I had a day where I couldn’t concentrate on my own writing, I’d do something work-related instead: update my website, write a blog post, design a book cover, etc.
  5. When life becomes really stressful, take time out. (This last one was especially important). Under lockdown rules we were allowed an hour’s exercise, so my family and I decided to explore our village. We found footpaths we hadn’t known existed, lots of wildlife, even the remains of an earth and timber motte and bailey castle. And we got fit too! (https://www.instagram.com/louisemarleywrites/)

Three months later, as our lives return to a very different version of normal, I’m determined to incorporate these changes into my routine. Keep up my evening walk, read more, tweet less and definitely be grateful for everything.

 

Louise Marley

Louise Marley writes romantic comedies and murder mysteries. She is lucky enough to live in a village where there is a famous library and two ruined castles. (Her husband still thinks they moved there by accident).

 

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

Blog: http://www.louisemarleywrites.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter: @LouiseMarley

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

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

 

Trust Me I Lie

When Milla Graham arrives in the picture-perfect village of Raven’s Edge, she tells everyone she’s investigating the murder of her mother who died eighteen years ago. But there’s already one Milla Graham buried in the churchyard and another about to be found dead in the derelict family mansion.

Obviously she’s lying.

Detective Inspector Ben Taylor has no life outside the police force. Even his own colleagues think he’s a boring stick-in-the-mud. Now he’s met Milla and his safe, comfortable life has been turned upside down. She’s crashed his car, emptied his wallet and is about to get him fired. 

He knows she’s a liar because she cheerfully told him so. 

Unless she’s lying about that too…

 

Buying Links: UK HERE       US HERE

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This is the kind of Amazon review that comes out of the blue and makes an author’s heart beat fast!

It’s particularly close to my heart as I was also stunned by the country house where Hester works, which is suddenly overwhelmed by casualties, being so unexpectedly reflected in real life as the pandemic hit.

I felt I was living in my own book for a while. But I took comfort from the fact that this part of The Ferryman’s Daughter had been inspired by the real-life descriptions of the heroism, and the kindness, of women and men battling against the odds to save lives during WW1.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the reviewer, who not only made this author’s day, but reminded me of how much we have pulled together and survived in the midst of our own crisis, and that so-called ‘ordinary’ human beings are, in the main, utterly amazing.

It also reminded me of preparing for the launch of Hester’s story in a world that had so abruptly changed, which felt overwhelmingly terrifying, as if thrust into the middle of a disaster movie, but with superhero and no way out. Now, looking back over the past months, I’m still aware of the tragedies, but also remembering hearing birdsong like I’ve never done before and the vivid scent of bluebells. Of relishing the one walk of the day in glorious sunshine and just how wonderful it was to meet my fellow dog walkers and talk to another human beings at a suitable distance, making connections like we’d never quite done before.

And yes, hearing the exhaustion in the voice of the front-line nurse, and glimpsing the trauma she hasn’t yet got the time, or emotional energy, to deal with at the back of her eyes, and fearing for those I love who are shielding. But also of slowing down, rethinking what is important amongst the everyday rush of life, and gaining new pleasure in watching the finches the blue-tits on my bird feeder bringing up their babies – not to mention the endless family squabbles of an entire tribe of sparrows.

And of talking to so many in this suddenly hungry-for-human-connection world who are also rethinking priorities and determined to live – however modestly, and in whatever difficult circumstances – in a new, and hopefully more satisfying way.

The trauma of the First World War led, over time, towards huge changes, not least the eventual setting up of our wonderful NHS and the safety net of the Welfare State. My own parents could remember a time before either, when the cost of a doctor was beyond many hardworking families. It is sometimes hard to remember it’s that recent. I will never take the NHS for granted again.

When I began writing The Ferryman’s Daughter, just eighteen months ago, I never could have imagined how life would reflect fiction and the events of a century ago. I’m glad Hester’s story is one of survival and optimism. She has helped me to keep optimism for our own future too.

You can read the review HERE

The kindle version of The Ferryman’s Daughter is currently on offer at 99p/$1.02 HERE

 

 

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Today I’d like to welcome Francesca Capaldi, whose debut, ‘Heartbreak in the Valleys’, has just been released by Hera Books. I wanted to ask Francesca about her inspiration and her writing process – and about writing a saga set in Wales.

 

Can you tell us a little of your writing journey and how you came to write ‘Heartbreak in the Valleys’. Did you always want to set a book in Wales?

I’d wanted to be a writer since I was a child, but didn’t send anything for publication until I joined an adult education class. I started with short story sales. After a while I started writing various novels as well, young adult and contemporary romance, none of which were picked up, although three pocket novels were bought by DC Thomson. One of the contemporary novels was set in Ceredigion, but one agent told me that nobody wanted novels set in Wales! Being half Welsh, it made me more determined that there should be novels set in Wales!

Did you find writing for magazines helping in writing your novels?

On the whole, yes. Writing magazine stories helps you to write concisely and I do think it’s easier to start with them and move to novels rather than do it the other way round. It’s also less daunting to start with short stories. Getting a few accepted for publication gave me the courage to try something longer.

I’m interested to see the story of Idris and Anwen was inspired by your own family history. What drew you to explore your history, and do you feel there is anything we can learn from the time of WW1, particularly in the light of the current global pandemic?

I’ve long been interested in my family history, especially with my parents coming from very different backgrounds (my father was Italian). On the Ancestry site, I discovered my great grandfather’s World War 1 military record and the fact he was medically discharged eight months after he enlisted. The novel started life as a short story, but having had a passion for social history since my degree, I was soon researching the records for other information. And so was born Heartbreak in the Valleys.

I have seen quite a few parallels between the current pandemic and World War 1. Food shortages is an obvious one. People have taken more to growing their own now, as they did then with the allotment schemes. In the early stages of this pandemic, nobody knew how long food shortages would last and how severe the pandemic would get, which is much like the war. The Spanish ‘flu pandemic that started in 1918, has already been used as a parallel in the media, though there were many diseases causing widespread mortality before that. These included tuberculosis (‘consumption’), which three women in my family died of and the diphtheria epidemic of 1914. As awful as this pandemic is, it gives us an idea of what people of the past lived with constantly.

I loved the portrayal of the village community, and particularly all the characters. Did you base the village and its characters on specific places and people you know?

The village, which I call Dorcalon (literally, ‘Heartbreak’), is based almost entirely on Abertysswg in the Rhymney Valley. It’s where my mother and her mother were born, and where my great grandparents lived for thirty-odd years. I’ve taken a few liberties with it, which is why I didn’t want to give it its real name. Although the seed for the story was my great grandfather Hugh’s medical discharge, Idris is not based on him at all. The only real person who appears in the story (apart from mentions of historical people like Lloyd George) is a minor character called Mary Jones. She was my great gran, on the other side of the family from Hugh. Everyone else is a product of my overactive imagination!

How did you go about getting the historical details right, and creating the atmosphere of the world of WW1?

Lots of research and reading. I have several social history books, including accounts written by people living at the time. I trawled the 1911 census for an idea of the makeup of households and family size, job descriptions and places of origin. I read through contemporary local papers for types of social activities, shops, court proceedings and so on. I found several websites about the local pals’ battalion. I also looked at the historical OS maps.

It was interesting seeing the mixing of the different classes as the community pulled together to survive the shortages. Was there any particular story, or part of your research that inspired this part of the novel?

I think it was reading something of the Suffragettes that helped form the character of Elizabeth, the manager’s daughter, who I saw immediately as an enlightened woman of her times. The Suffragettes put their activities to one side during this time to help the war effort and I realised that Elizabeth would be the kind of woman who’d want to make a difference, hence her idea for the allotments.

Can you say what are you writing now?

I haven’t long finished another Valleys book, which is due out in the Autumn. I’m taking the opportunity to create a couple of short stories for magazines – I’ve missed writing them!

Thank you for joining me on the blog, Francesca – and I’m looking forward to the next ‘Valleys’ story already! 

 

Heartbreak in the Valleys

You can purchase a copy of the book HERE

November 1915. For young housemaid, Anwen Rhys, life is hard in the Welsh mining village of Dorcalon, deep in the Rhymney Valley. She cares for her ill mother and beloved younger sister Sara, all while shielding them from her father’s drunken, violent temper. Anwen comforts herself with her love for childhood sweetheart, Idris Hughes, away fighting in the Great War.

Yet when Idris returns, he is a changed man; no longer the innocent boy she loved, he is harder, more distant, quickly breaking off their engagement. And when tragedy once again strikes her family, Anwen’s heart is completely broken.

But when an explosion at the pit brings unimaginable heartache to Dorcalon, Anwen and Idris put their feelings aside to unite their mining community.

In the midst of despair, can Anwen find hope again? And will she ever find the happiness she deserves?

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Today, I’m delighted to welcome Mollie Walton, and her alter ego Becca Mascull, to the blog to talk about her work and how she is surviving lockdown. Mollie’s second book in her gripping Ironbridge series is published on April 30th. Congratulations Mollie, and take it away, Becca!

 

 

I’m Becca and I’m surviving lockdown.

Of course I am. I’m not an NHS frontline worker or any other kind of key worker who are essential to the running of the world. So, I can do my bit and stay at home. But it is weird being mostly stuck inside the home for weeks on end, isn’t it? There are good days and bad days, right? Some days I get loads of work done, I exercise, I cook great meals and have some fun leisure time with my daughter and yes, I feel like I’m smashing this lockdown thing. Other days I feel like I barely want to get out of bed or engage with anyone or anything.

I’ve never been a person to say I’m bored, because there are always books and TV and movies and music and people to talk to. But some days, I feel so low, I can’t get joy from a thing. I know I’m not alone though. If I’m truly honest, the main thing that’s kept me going through this is Facebook. I share a lot of edgy memes with a twisted humour every day; they make me laugh and I know others enjoy them, as they tell me so often! I’ve also been playing the piano a lot and sharing these pieces in daily mini concerts on Facebook too. I’ve had people tell me that the soothing piano music has helped with their anxiety, but even one lady said it calmed down her nervous dog! That’s a win-win for me.

But in lockdown, the most difficult thing I’ve found is that my brain isn’t always working as I want it to. I’ve spoken to many other writers about this phenomenon and almost all have agreed: our creative brains are not braining. I’m not sure the precise reason for this, but it’s something to do with the general anxiety and malaise that surrounds us in this worldwide.

So, instead of fighting it, I’ve decided to go with it. Instead of forcing myself to try to write my current book (deadline July!), I’ve spent my time instead doing further, deeper historical research and I’ve found some wonderful stuff, about pit bank girls, strawberry picking, coal mining accidents, Londonhotels in 1875, how to wear a bustle etc etc.

My brain can cope with research. I’ve now finished that and I’m hoping my brain will play ball next week when I continue with drafting chapters. Wish me luck…

 

Becca at her piano – prepare to be calmed!

The Secrets of Ironbridge

 

A dramatic and heartwarming Victorian saga, perfect for fans of Maggie Hope and Anne Bennett.

1850s Shropshire.

Returning to her mother’s birthplace at the age of eighteen, Beatrice Ashford encounters a complex family she barely knows. Her great-grandmother Queenie adores her, but the privileged social position of Beatrice’s family as masters of the local brickworks begins to make her uncomfortable.

And then she meets Owen Malone: handsome, different, refreshing – and from a class beneath her own. They fall for each other fast, but an old family feud and growing industrial unrest threatens to drive them apart.

Can they overcome their different backgrounds? And can Beatrice make amends for her family’s past?

 

You can buy the paperback:

UK edition HERE

US edition HERE

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Interview with Judith Barrow

Author of

The Memory,

Published by Honno Press

19/3/2020  

 

Today I’d like to welcome to the blog Judith Barrow, whose new novel ‘The Memory’ is published by Honno Press on Thursday March 19th 2020. I’ve loved Judith’s Howarth trilogy of historical family sagas, so I wanted to ask her about this new departure in her writing.


Many people have asked what was the inspiration for The Memory and my answer is always memories: memories of being a carer for two of my aunts who lived with us, memories of losing a friend in my childhood; a friend who, although at the time I didn’t realise, was a Downs’ Syndrome child. But why I actually started to write the story; a story so different from my other four books, I can’t remember. Because it was something I’d begun years ago and was based around the journal I’d kept during that decade of looking after my relatives.

But what did begin to evolve when I settled down to writing The Memory was the realisation of why I’d been so reluctant to delve too far into the manuscript. The isolation, the loneliness, that Irene Hargreaves, the protagonist, endures; despite being married to Sam, her loving husband, dragged up my own feelings of being alone so much as a child. That awareness of always being on the outside; looking in on other families, relationships and friendships had followed me; had hidden deep inside my subconscious. And, as a contented wife and mother, with steady enduring friendships, it unsettled me.

Many people (and, as a creative writing tutor I’m one) say that writing is cathartic. Working through Irene’s memories; especially that one memory that has ruled her life, made me acknowledge my own. And that’s fine. I always say to my students, if you don’t feel the emotions as you write, then neither will your reader. In The Memory I’m hoping the reader will sense the poignant, sad times with Irene, but will also rejoice with her in the happier memories.

 

Thank you Judith for your insights into The Memory. This is a wonderfully personal story – just the kind to curl up with!

The Memory is available from the following: 

Kindle UK HERE  

Kindle USA HERE

The paperback can still be ordered from Honno Press HERE

 

 

 

Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines, has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for forty years.

She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen.

As well as a BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University and she has had short stories, plays, reviews and articles, published throughout the British Isles and has won several poetry competitions.
Judith is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.

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Copy edits are funny things.

 

After months of working on The Ferryman’s Daughter, writing and re-writing, editing, rewriting again and then tweaking, this is the final time I’ll see the book in manuscript form. It’s also the last chance to make any changes. Not major transformations, it’s already too late for that. Copy edits are about consistency, making sure the whole thing hangs together as a whole, with events taking place in the right year with everyone with their right ages all the way through. It’s more about the technical aspects of a story than any previous edits. It’s also where the joins from the different versions (when things like an age change can slip through the net) are smoothed out to make the final whole.

 

I always find it a strangely satisfying process. Frustrating at times. Even irritating, as you hunt down some little detail that then requires changing throughout the book and can drive you mad, as well as zapping all those repeated words you never spotted (may I never use ‘just’ again!). It’s where you have to stand back from the story as a writer and become a proofreader, complete with electronic tracking, with comments on the side to be addressed and corrections in the text. As someone who earns her living as a proofreader (although not for fiction), it’s quite surreal to see my own work this way – and crawl away into a corner at the recognition that I make the same mistakes! Why is it that the brain always adds that missing word, even though you’ve been over that paragraph a hundred times?

The copy edits are a final distancing from any emotional attachment to the story, which is vital to root out any tiny errors that might otherwise slip through, and also a goodbye to the characters and locations that have lived inside your head, 24/7, for the past year or so.

Up to this point, the book is fluid. Nothing is set in stone. It can change, and frequently does. But once you press ‘send’ on this particular email, with the corrected manuscript attached, that’s it. This is where the baby grows up, ready to go out into the world and take on its own life – starting with its appearance in ‘The Bookseller’ (super-proud moment).

The Ferryman's Daughter in The Bookseller

The Ferryman’s Daughter in The Bookseller

 

You could go on with copy edits forever. As with anything, there’s always some tiny mistake, some minor tweak that can be made. But at some point you have to call it a day. Personally, I always know when I can’t do any more. It’s when I loathe the book with a passion you would not believe. When I never want to see another word of it, or have to have anything to do with its dratted characters, ever again, and I seriously question why I thought this was a good idea in the first place.

This may sound disastrous, when there’s promotion just around the corner. But that’s the thing. It’s like childbirth. The moment the book comes back in proof form (okay, even before that), the agony is forgotten. It’s time to fall in love with the story, all over again.

 

Roll on the proofs!

 

Porthgwidden Beach, St Ives, where part of the story takes place

Porthgwidden Beach, St Ives, where part of the story takes place

 

 

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I have just come back from beautiful Pembrokeshire and the Narberth Book Fair, organised by fellow Honno Press Authors Judith Barrow and Thorne Moore.

Last year, the book fair was in Tenby, so it was exciting to meet in a new venue and a new location. Sadly, there was no sea, but Narberth turned out to be a vibrant place – and there’s even a ruined castle!

The fair itself was bustling, with such a varied selection of authors, including plenty of us representing Honno Press. I had great fun talking to readers and other writers, as well as helping Carol Lovekin celebrate the publication of Snow Sisters – and grabbing a signed copy into the bargain.

It was definitely inspirational to have a day buzzing with books, and to meet up with fellow authors afterwards for even more book talk! Writing is such a solitary business, it’s always great to have a get together and exchange ideas.

It’s a long drive from Snowdonia to Pembrokeshire, so my adventures did not end with the book fair. The following day I took refuge from the rain in the dome at the Botanical Gardens of Wales, with its fascinating collection of plants. Not a bad place to have a Greek Salad in Mediterranean surroundings, while the Welsh rain does its thing outside!

I couldn’t quite leave Pembrokeshire without going to Tenby. By the time I got to the B&B, the sun was shining, so I spent the evening wandering through the walled town and along the beach, watching the surfers as the tide came in and the harbour lights come up as the light faded.

The final morning was also clear and sunny, so I headed off to Colby Woodland Gardens, a little inland from Tenby, with its atmospheric walled garden and miles of woodland walks.

A book fair with good company, sea and gardens – I’m already looking forward to next year!

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Today I’m delighted to welcome fellow Honno Press author, Pembrokeshire-based Judith Barrow, to the blog. I’ve long been a fan of Judith’s brilliant historical family sagas, the ‘Patterns’ trilogy, which follows the story of the Howarth family. So it’s great to be part of the blog tour for Judith’s latest saga, ‘One Hundred Tiny threads’.

Hello Judith, and welcome to the blog.  ‘One Hundred Tiny Threads’ is a gripping prequel to your ‘Patterns’ trilogy that sets the scene for the stories that go down the generations. What drew you to write a prequel? Was it to delve further into the background of your characters, or was it the time in which ‘100 Tiny Threads’ is set?

I’ve said many times that these two characters wouldn’t leave me alone when I’d finished the trilogy; they wanted to explain themselves; to tell their stories. And I have to admit I didn’t resist too much; the era of the first decades in the twentieth century have fascinated me all my life.

It was the time of the most horrific devastating war; of loss of men and women; something that haunted me for a long time after the first time I saw images and read of it and since I studied the first World War poets.

And, socially, these were the years of dreadful hardships even through the weakening of class divisions that had been so rigid in the past.Then there was the political unrest between the UK and Ireland. My grandparents came from Ireland. My grandfather was a particularly angry man and I never knew why until I was older and I was told of his reluctance – and resistance – to moving to the UK until eventually being persuaded by my grandmother and the fact that he couldn’t get work to feed his ever growing family in the village where they lived. He hated it and, I think, always resented my grandmother. He loved the outdoors and spent much of his working life underground in the coalmines. And he was a strongly political man and a Union leader.

The story of the book is set against dramatic political upheavals. Was there a particular reason that you set part of the book against the background of conflict in Ireland?

I think I partially answered this in your previous question, Juliet but I would like to explain more. When I knew I was going to let Winifred and Bill tell me about their lives I knew I would have to do a lot of research about Ireland at the time that my grandad was a young man because I had the feeling that Bill had been there at the same time. Mind you, it’s no hardship to research; I love and spend hours (more than I should, by the way) researching for my books. Although, for some reason I didn’t have to do as much research for Living in the Shadows set in nineteen sixty-nine – ha-ha!! Sorry, I digress.

The research gave me a greater understanding of the reasons for the fight for Independence. I never knew that the Easter Rebellion had such little support from the rest of Ireland; that it was the execution of fifteen rebel leaders, ordered by General Sir John Maxwell, the Commander of the British troops in Ireland, that turned those leaders into heroes and established Sinn Fein so firmly in the hearts and minds of so many Irish people. Nor did I know an awful lot about the Black and Tans initially. There was violence on both sides but the Black and Tans became notorious for the killing and torturing of men and the burning and looting of property. For a man such as Bill with his unstable childhood, his mostly solitary life and experiences in the first World War, it felt inevitable that, coming out of the uniform of a soldier to unemployment and homelessness, he would succumb to the bribery of ten shillings a week and a familiar home of army barracks; he would join the Black and Tans

I know what you mean about research! That is fascinating. Can I also ask how  you went about your research into the actions of the Suffragettes? Was there a particular reason you were drawn to that side of the story?

I wanted to show that Winifred was a feistier woman when young, even if for such a short while. Growing up under her mother’s thumb she rebelled only in her thoughts. And it took the backing of her new friend, Honora to encourage her to break through the natural reticence and timidity that is shown in Pattern of Shadows. I think, with the loss of the people in her life that believed in the inner person (giving nothing away here!) it became easier for her to acquiesce and accept what she was given as she grew older.

You tell much of the story through the eyes of a complex male character. Did you find it more difficult to get inside his head that inside the head of your female characters? And did you find it difficult to balance the two sides of the story?

It’s never been difficult for me as a writer to get inside the heads of my male characters. I do ‘get on’ with men in real life… (Hmm, perhaps I should rephrase that?). In my working life I mixed mostly with men; I learned to stay quiet and listen to their conversations and how they felt about various subjects. That environment stood me in good stead in many circumstances and I’ve used those emotions to round out even the most difficult of my male characters. And, as I said, I also had a most vocal grandfather. And, by the way, a most difficult father so I had lots of memories to fall back on. As for the mellower, ‘nicer’ side of Bill I have my husband to study (but don’t tell him that). Oh dear it does sound as if I’ve studied men from an empirical slant doesn’t it.

For female characters I’ve used my imagination … well, I’m not going to say I’ve used my friends and their reactions to anything , am I? And, being a woman, it does help me to know how I generally feel about situations – and that can be turned on its head.

Keeping the balance in the story was quite difficult. I hope I succeeded… mostly.

I won’t mention a thing! (I’ve met Judith’s husband, and he’s lovely). I’m glad you’ve got such good research subjects. I liked the way your male characters were rounded human beings rather than heroes or villains, which can be the temptation! Can I also ask ifyou plot your novels in detail, or do you find they evolve as you write them?

Oh, I do try so hard to plot! But usually they evolve as the story continues; either because I realise a character wouldn’t do as I want them to or because a certain thread of the book isn’t working.

Do you have one thing you enjoy (and/or) hate about the editing process?

I enjoy, oh so much, the last draft of the book, when I know it’s the best I can do. Then I hate the editing when I realise it’s not the best I can do and I have to rework and alter until it really is finished.

That made me laugh – I totally agree. That’s the feelings I have too, and we have such really good editors at Honno, who don’t let us get away with a thing! So, I have to ask, what are you planning to write next? Will there be another story connected to the Howarth family?

Well, that’s a question! I have written eight short stories of the minor characters in the trilogy. Two of them are shouting out for me to write about them. But the book I have almost ready to go to the editor is different. It’s still about a family but it’s more contemporary and examines a different aspect of life. Still, I’m not sure I’ve completely left behind the Howarth family.

Thank you, Judith, and happy writing (and editing) – I’m already looking forward to the next book!

If you would like to meet Judith in person, she will be at the Narberth Book Fair on September 23rd.

A Hundred Tiny Threads

You can buy a copy of the novel from Honno Press HERE

And the Kindle edition from Amazon HERE 

You can learn more about Judith and follow her blog HERE

It takes more than just love to make a marriage… It’s 1911 and Winifred Duffy is a determined young woman eager for a life beyond the grocer’s shop counter. The Great War intervenes leaving her facing difficult choices in love and life.

Praise for previous novels in the Howarth family series:
“Not… an ordinary romance but a book that deals with important issues which are still relevant today” Historical Novels Review

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As I now live in beautiful Snowdonia, in North Wales, I always feel a bit sad that conventional wisdom states that no one wants to read stories set in Wales. So I’m delighted that my alter ego, Heather Pardoe, currently has a historical serial set in Llandudno, just up the coast from me, and famous for its connection with Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland.

‘Together We Stand’, currently being serialised in ‘The People’s Friend’, the longest running weekly women’s magazine, is a serial that I (or rather Heather) had great fun writing, with a suffrage ladies’ tearoom, an intriguing inheritance and a touch of low-down skullduggery reaching back to the Crimean War.

The view from the pier

It’s funny where your ideas come from as a writer. I’d been toying with the idea of the picture wagon (an early mobile photographic studio that has been used by one of the first war journalist in the Crimean war) on and off for years. When I trained as a photographer in London, it was (I have to confess) before the days of digital, when we used studio cameras that had changed very little from 1904, when the serial is set, and it was darkrooms and chemicals and never being quite sure what you had taken until the print began to develop in front of your eyes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my digital SLR, and I never go anywhere without my little compact camera in my bag, and I wouldn’t go back to using those eczema-inducing chemicals if you paid me. But it has left me with a fascination of just how such unwieldy cameras were used. So it’s no coincidence that Tanni, the heroine of ‘Together We Stand’ is left an inheritance that encourages her set to up as a studio photographer, just as Bea, the heroine of my novel ‘The White Camellia’ becomes one of the first female photojournalists, covering the campaigns of the suffrage movement in London.

Unlike Bea, Tanni doesn’t have to dodge the police when using her camera, as 1904 was before the more militant campaigns began. But she does have her own brush with danger, and an unknown foe who is determined to prevent her from succeeding, all against the backdrop of Llandudno and the Great Orme, which I had great fun in researching.

The other inspiration for ‘Together We Stand’ was a night I spent in one of the old hotels on the edges of Llandudno, where I’ve placed the guesthouse in the story. The hotel was old and atmospheric, and from my tiny room at the top I had a view of the bay. I’m usually dashing round Llandudno, or taking my dog for a walk round the Orme, so it was a real treat to simply be able to wander around in the evening, and parade along the pier, searching out the locations (including the pier) that play a vital role in ‘Together We Stand’. That night, there was a stunning full moon over the bay – a truly magical memory!

The view from my room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So now I’ve set historical serials in Coed y Brenin, famous for its cycling trails and its goldmine, in Conwy, famous for its medieval town wall and castle, and in Llandudno. Time, I think, to start looking for another great Welsh location.

Mind you, I had a wonderful time last year in picturesque Tenby

 

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It has been a cold spring this year, here in Snowdonia. I’ve been keeping my head down, getting on with the next book. Okay, wrestling with the dratted tome. It’s got to that point, just before it all falls into place, when it feels like nothing will ever make sense, and why did I start the thing in the first place, why did I ever think it was a good idea, but it’s too late to back out now. ARG!  Having been through this before, I should know this always happens, and you just keep plodding on until it works, but somehow, this point in the process  never seems to get easier!

Then, over the last few days, spring has burst into flower. It’s been so sudden and unexpected (I think we’d all given up), it’s been a magical experience. A real reminder of just what a miracle it is. The green of leaves has grown brighter and fresher, changing day by day, and my garden is growing more colourful every time I look. Finally, my baby beetroot and the broccoli, the peas, beans and salad leaves have been set out on their journey in my veg patch and the polytunnel, and the vine is showing signs of life.

Just before I did my back in with too much enthusiastic digging and weeding (okay, mega-procrastination), I snuck away from the computer and the dratted tome and went up to the coast with friends to visit one of my favourite places, Bondant Garden.

The last time I was there, it was autumn, when there were red and crimson maples and the final glory of the year. This time, it was all about the vibrant, wonderfully clashing colours of azaleas and camellias  – including some beautiful white camellias, to celebrate my rebellious Edwardian ladies’ tearooms of ‘The White Camellia’ , with Millicent Fawcett’s suffrage movement battling for equal pay for equal work, women’s right to education and financial independence, along the dignity of all men and women having the vote.

We were lucky, it was a clear day, with bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. In the end, we walked for miles, between the azaleas, and down to the dell, following the river and around the pond to the wilder part of the gardens, with banks of wild garlic, and then back past bluebells.

Finally, there was the trip to the garden centre, where I did my best to be restrained. (ahem)

My plan to spend the evening deep in wrestling my characters into submission didn’t quite work, I was far too relaxed to get the brain back into gear. But the next morning, I was fired up and raring to go. I hadn’t thought I’d been thinking about the tome while I was in Bodnant, I’d been too busy enjoying the sights and the scents and time relaxing with friends. But strangely, the bits that had been bothering me began to fall into place. The possible became possible. And that ginormous hole in the plot that had snuck up on me without me noticing (as they do) had a perfectly sensible solution, the facepalm, why didn’t I think of that before, kind of solution.

The trouble with wrestling, as I should know by now, is that the characters always win (it’s their story, after all), and you just end up going around in circles getting crosser and crosser until you can’t see a way out.

There’s nothing like a bit of perspective to make the impossible work, and beautiful gardens in springtime are the best way.

Well, that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. And those rebellious characters of mine had better agree, or else …

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