When Books get Turned into Films or TV Shows

I’ve recently watched both a film and a TV programme of two books I had loved reading so I had high expectations of what I would see on screen. Over the years, I have seen many such films or TV shows based on favourite books and the results have been quite hit and miss. It’s a fine line for production companies to please everyone but it’s one thing that’s guaranteed to get everyone talking.

The recent TV programme I’m talking about is of course, the BBC adaptation of Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty. There are no spoilers here by the way, if you want to carry on reading 🙂 So, here’s what happened. I read all the build-up telling us that this great book was going to be on TV and then I saw the author’s name, recognising her from when she had been on the celebrity version of University Challenge over Christmas. I remember liking her at the time but feeling a bit ashamed as I’d never heard of her and after the show, I went and looked her up on Amazon. And I was overjoyed to see that she has written a lot of books. I made a mental note to buy one of those books at the earliest opportunity. Then came the news that Apple Tree Yard was going to be on TV so I decided to buy that one – the premise looked so compelling – and I planned to read it before watching the show.

By the time the first episode aired, I was about a quarter of the way through so I decided to risk it and watch the show unable to wait while everyone else was watching. The book was fabulous and so was the first episode of the TV show, with Emily Watson in particular, doing a wonderful job of playing Yvonne as I knew her from the book. I did feel disappointed that all the nuances of Yvonne’s inner thoughts couldn’t be shown on screen and also I had to wonder why there was the need to change minor details, like the name of her husband but apart from those niggles, I felt it was very faithful, in fact shockingly so, to the story. I carried on reading, furiously trying to get far enough ahead before the next episode. When I watched the next instalment, I was so close to the story that I could pick out exact phrases from the book when they were used and I felt that Emily Watson did an amazing job of recreating Yvonne’s suffering.

By the time the final two shows were aired back to back, I had finished the book and I was looking forward to a thrilling ending in the programme to match it. Unfortunately, this did not happen for me. I watched it with my husband who hadn’t read the book and he thought the ending to the story was brilliant. And it was, but the TV version didn’t have quite the same brilliance for me as the book did. There were too many differences, some subtle and some huge and it was at this point that I wondered if I had perhaps done the book a disservice, and myself in the process. Maybe I needed to have read it some time before so that there was some distance between my reading of it and the TV interpretation of the same so that I could be objective. Having read some of the online reviews of the TV programme since then though, I don’t think I’m alone in the view that the TV programme just didn’t quite live up to the book.

Last night, we watched The Girl on the Train, which is the only audiobook we have listened to. We listened to it in the summer of 2015 when we were on holiday in France and were doing a fair bit of driving. I remember the book pretty well, maybe because we listened to it and it took us quite a long time to do so. The narration was brilliant, told by three different female narrators, and the story literally had us on the edge of our seats. After every chapter, we discussed what had happened and what we thought it all meant, and the shared experience was very enjoyable. Mind you, we haven’t listened to any other books together since then, but I don’t think we would be averse to doing it again if the circumstances were right.

When the film came out at the cinema, we decided not to go and see it because of the poor reviews we’d heard about the film. Set in America, you say? How would that translate? And Emily Blunt in the main role? Hmm, we’d just watched her in Sicario, which I really didn’t like although I do think she’s a good actress. We would watch it eventually we maintained, just not at the cinema. So I added it to our Amazon watchlist and last night we were in the mood for it. And do you know what? We loved it 🙂 Our daughter watched it with us as well and even she was drawn in enough by it to unglue herself from her phone! The change of setting worked well, we thought, and didn’t bother us at all and Emily Blunt’s acting was nuanced and empathetic. The tale unfolded carefully and as we approached the end, I realised that I couldn’t remember exactly what happened so the thrill of the ending was just as good for me as if I hadn’t read the book. So, perhaps a bit of distance does help, who knows?

Of course, there have been plenty of awful adaptations of books I have loved. The worst one of all time for me was the film of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I loved this book so much and spent half the time I was reading it sobbing in anticipation of the ending so the film had a lot to live up to. And it didn’t.

I have tried the film a couple of times but the depth of the love story just isn’t there for me, no matter how much I want it to be.

In April, I am lucky enough to be attending a local literary festival where Louise Doughty is going to be talking and giving a creative workshop. I imagine that there will be quite a few questions about Apple Tree Yard, especially as I hear that a sequel might be in the offing.

Do you have a favourite TV/film adaptation of a book you’ve loved? Or worse, one you hated? Do let me know in the comments and keep the conversation going. See you next time, when I hope to have news about my second book – actual, definite news with dates and everything!

 

Moving on after a tumultuous year

dscn2089Well, I knew I hadn’t been blogging as much as usual but I was still surprised to see how long it actually was since my last post on this site. Last year knocked me for six in many ways, as I’m sure it did a lot of other people. I’m not just talking about the obvious stuff but personally and professionally as well. This had a knock-on effect on my writing and I feel I’m only just coming out of that funk…

So what’s happening? Well, my second book has been finished for a little while now and I sent it off to some more publishers to see if there was any interest. I first sent it out in December 2015 and had some responses but no-one wanted to go the whole hog. I then spent a fair bit of time trying to find an editor I could afford, to help me with the necessary rewriting. That took me till June of last year and I worked on it all the way through the summer with her, finalising it at the end of September. I then dithered about a bit, wondering whether a traditional contract was really what I was looking for. In the end, I did submit it again but I still wasn’t really sure that it was what I wanted. I have heard back from some of those publishers but I’m still waiting on one other and I feel that if I haven’t heard by now (nearly two months later), it’s most likely not going to be good news. If the answer is ‘no’ once more, I really am going to get on and self-publish. I recently finished my accounts for last year and I realised that sales of my first book would qualify me as an independent author of the RNA if I had only published two novels! I was almost there for the Society of Authors as well. So, it’s time to crack on, I think.

In the meantime, I have started work on editing my follow-up novella to From Here to Nashville, as well as beginning the first draft of my third book to submit to the RNA later this year. I still have lots of writing plans but the hesitation over whether to self-publish or whether to seek a traditional contract made last year disappear all too quickly for me. Part of the problem with self-publishing, as so many of you reading this will know, is that it costs a fair bit of money to do it properly and as I left my permanent teaching job at the end of 2015, I didn’t have much money to throw around for most of last year. However, I did have regular work all year as a supply teacher, tutor and web designer and this recently led me to a new part-time job for a local charity as a Communications Officer. This will obviously make this year a lot more stable for me. I will still do a bit of supply teaching but my freelance website work has really picked up as well and I’d like to explore that further in the coming months. Proofreading never really took off for me but every cloud has a silver lining, or at least some of them do 😉

So having said all that, I should be looking at publication of book two very soon, I hope, and possibly publication of the novella as well. I guess I’ll just have to see how things go and not beat myself up too much if it doesn’t quite go according to plan the whole time. As long as I keep writing, that’s the main thing. With that in mind, I have signed up to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme again, which will force me to write my third book and will also make sure that I stay involved with other writing groups and friends. Last year, I wrote about ‘The Brave New World of 2016’ and I have felt very brave at times over the year as I dealt with some very unexpected things. I can honestly say that I won’t really miss last year though. We can only hope that 2017 is better for everyone. I leave you with a quote from Alfred, Lord Tennyson: ‘Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.” Wishing you all the best that a New Year can bring.

 

If you would like my help with your website, whether to sort out a minor niggle that you just don’t have time for, or for a full-blown new website design, please do get in touch. My freelance site is here or you can just leave me a comment 🙂

Author Spotlight – Ros Rendle

This month’s author in the spotlight is another of my very good writing friends, Ros Rendle, who’s here to tell us about her latest book, Flowers of Flanders. Welcome Ros!

flowersFlowers of Flanders – Ros Rendle

Rose rivals her beautiful, mercurial sister for Michael’s love but calculated lies and misunderstandings alter the young peoples’ course. War breaks out and Michael is as eager as the others to go.

Maybe Rose will settle for second best with Thom even though she cannot get Michael out of her soul.

Does a man need the grace of serenity to rediscover his own or is it frivolity and seduction he craves when he has been through the darkest places of war? Michael’s experiences in the trenches gradually alter his perceptions.

This is a story about deceit and loyalties, complex relationships and loves developing from youth to adulthood during a cataclysmic time in history.

Readers who are entranced by sweeping historical sagas will devour Flowers of Flanders, Ros Rendle’s drama set before and during the First World War.

Amazon

*****

Excerpt

Early summer 1912 – A town near Manchester, England

Rose’s heart was singing with the joy of the sun and the birds and the glossy, bright leaves above her head. She and her two younger sisters strolled home along the lane when the peace was shattered by a lot of clattering and shouting.

“What on earth is that noise?” She stopped to listen.

Izzy, only twelve years old, grabbed Rose’s arm and whispered, “I don’t like it, Rose. What should we do? It may not be safe to venture further.”

“Oh don’t be such a wet, Iris,” Delphi said, using her given name as she often did. She tossed her head.

Rose, who always maintained the peace, answered her youngest sister, “Don’t worry Izzy, it’s probably the boys playing rowdy games.”

“I don’t think…” Delphi’s words were interrupted.

There was an ear-splitting bellow and then, “Bloody hell, Crispin.” It was a deep male sound.

Rose, certain she recognised the voice, felt her stomach churn and her heart beat faster. She had known Michael nearly all her life and loved him for almost as long.

The older girls looked at each other with widening eyes and ran. Izzy followed. Their steps were short and quick; long, narrow skirts hindered their progress. They didn’t have far to go round the corner of the lane when through the trees their fourteen-year old brother, Hector, came bounding.

Seeing his sisters he called out, “That stupid fellow Crispin has walloped Michael good and proper. We were play-acting but he’s done it now.”

“What do you mean?” wailed Izzy.

Delphi ran ahead. She held onto her hat with one hand.

“These wretched skirts,” Rose heard her say to no-one in particular as she hitched them up. “It’s alright for you Hector,” she called as he disappeared through the trees ahead of her. Rose knew that as the most active sister, it was frustrating for Delphi to endure her skirts. Many times she had said it was so much easier for men.

There were shouts at the hapless Crispin as she arrived.

Rose came with Izzy through the trees that bordered the lane. Her gaze, generally gentle and myopic, took in the situation and she looked on in horror. The sun through the branches slapped the group with searing tiger stripes. Michael stood with head bowed. The deep gash on his forehead was a slash of vermillion vividness which dripped unheeded; a violent splash on his shirt, so white. A long log of wood lay at his feet and three other lads stood and looked aghast but clueless.

Delphi’s voice rose as she berated them all for their stupidity but Crispin, as the main culprit, received her full wrath.

“You’re fighting with sticks! What on earth for?” Delphi demanded. “Hector you should know better,” she continued, looking at her brother who had got back to the scene of the crime ahead of her. With the full force of her words again upon Crispin she added, “That’s a dirty great log. It’s not even a stick, you dolt.”

Rose saw Crispin regard Delphi. She recognised the look he gave, admiring her beautiful face with its prominent high cheekbones. Rose felt a pang of envy. Everyone looked at Delphi that way including Michael. At that moment, though, Delphi was frowning yet it still didn’t detract from her exotic looks. Her lovely dark eyes, so often dancing with fire lights glared at the culprit.

*****

And now for Ros’s guest post:

My latest book is the first of a historical fiction trilogy that has a strong romantic element. The main front cover image is that of my grandmother and while it’s definitely not her story she was the inspiration for it. She always looked for the good in people and if someone did something awful she tried to see beyond the action to the reasons. In this way she could be forgiving. Sometimes people can take that for granted.

In my book Flowers of Flanders, Delphi is the sister of the main protagonist, Rose. She tells a malicious lie which affects Rose’s relationship with Michael as well as changes the destiny of other characters including Delphi herself. Rose must learn that to be forgiving all the time is not always the best strategy for anyone’s benefit. This is set against the backdrop of a world in turmoil just before and during WW1. Michael must learn which sister he needs to survive.

It is of paramount importance for me to research thoroughly. Just because it’s difficult to find a fact doesn’t mean I can ‘wing’ it. Someone reading the book will surely discover the truth. The main historical facts are easy enough to find. Everyone knows that the killing of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was one catalyst for the start of the Great War and many have heard that it was Gravilo Princip who pulled the trigger. Fewer would know that the gun used was originally issued by the Serbian army which cast a different light, for some, on the motive. But it’s not just these huge historical facts that are so important. What people ate for breakfast, wore in the afternoon, slept in or how they travelled is equally important. When certain words entered the vocabulary or what particular foods were in short supply also give a flavour of the times and can really disrupt the reader’s enjoyment if these things are wrong.

I once read a book by a highly respected and well-known author who talked about ‘the dreaming spires of Cambridge’. Aargh! Of course the Matthew Arnold poem refers to those spires of Oxford.

For the WW1 scenes in my book I visited the records offices at Kew and accessed the war diaries of the relevant regiment. The anecdotes about which I write are true incidents, bizarre as one of them in particular might appear from today’s view. The horrors of the mud and the blood could have been much more graphic from what I learned but I wanted to maintain the genre of the book while being true to people’s feelings.

It took significantly longer to write this book than my first which was contemporary women’s fiction. This time there was little first-hand experience upon which to draw. However I am enjoying the research aspect of writing historical fiction. My current WIP is a sequel and features Delphi’s daughter, Flora. It’s set in Vichy France, so between 1940 and 1944. There is much less written about this and some that I have discovered is clouded by politics (with a small p) of the time. However, the deeper I dig the more interesting it becomes and it’s easy to divert from my original enquiry. I have learned, though, not to ‘info dump’ and so much of the research will never find its way into a book.

We lived in the region of the Somme for ten years. It was easy to soak up the atmosphere of this region, especially when visiting some of the main sites early in the morning. At some ceremonies a lone piper would emerge from the mist that cloaked the land. At other times the silence was intense and then a lark would rise, singing as it soared and it was easier to imagine those men awaiting their fate in a silence almost as profound despite the odd cough or clink of weapons.

I have my husband to thank for showing me some of his collection of books about WW1 and for driving us out to the actual spot upon which we know, since he is mentioned in the war diaries, my grandfather stood on 1st July 1916 at 7.29am.

About Ros

rosHaving worked as a Headteacher, Ros has been used to writing policy documents, essays and stories to which young children enjoyed listening. Now she has taken up the much greater challenge of writing fiction for adults. She writes both historical sagas and contemporary romance; perfect for lying by a warm summer pool or curling up with on a cosy sofa. Her books are thoroughly and accurately researched. This is her third book.

Ros is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novelists’ Society.

She has lived in France for ten years but has recently moved back to the UK with her husband and dogs. Ros has two daughters and four grand-daughters, with whom she shares many heartwarming activities.

Find out more about Ros here:

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Me and Bridget Jones

bridget-jonesThis weekend, we went as a family to see the latest Bridget Jones film in the series, Bridget Jones’s Baby. I say ‘latest’ in the hope that this isn’t the final film but I know in reality it probably will be. It’s been 12 years since the last one so we’ll all be in our dotage if another 12 years go by 😉 All the actors have remained the same over the years since the first film came out in 2001 and some of them are getting on a bit now, making it difficult to keep that same cast together for much longer.

The first film came out in the same year my youngest daughter was born. This weekend, as we went to see number three, she was watching it as a teenager! How time has flown 🙂 As we watched the film, and loved it too, there were some lovely reminders of other films we’ve shared as a family. Patrick Dempsey (swoon!) plays the other love interest in this film and there’s a moment when he helps Bridget put her shoe back on, saying ‘It fits!’ We all laughed at the joke and I knew everyone was thinking of Enchanted, a film we all loved and still enjoy watching to this day.

On the way home, we decided that Colin Firth has provided us with some of the best TV and film entertainment of our lives. Of course, I mentioned Pride and Prejudice. Where would I be without it? But no-one else in the family is that bothered about that one, strangely. Still, we have watched him together dozens of times in Love Actually and we all cry at his declaration of love for Aurelia, in Portuguese, no less. He has cornered the market in stiff, upper lip romantic leads we decided and our lives are all the richer for it.

By the end of the film, we were all in tears. It was a great film, with a perfect romantic plot, and it rounded things off nicely for Bridget, a character we have all grown up with and have wished the very best to for a good few years. It was also the end of an era, much like when we watched Toy Story 3 and High School Musical 3. Toy Story 3 was on the TV over the weekend and we happened to catch a bit of it as we were switching over to something else. My older daughter was desperate to carry on watching it (even though we have it on DVD and can watch it any time) but it was only a couple of minutes before tears were in our eyes and we moved swiftly on. It was too much to watch it when we know that she will be leaving home soon to go to university: the end of another era.

I’m glad that we have so many happy memories tied up in the hundreds of films we have seen over the years, even when some of them make us cry. It was especially sad this week to see that Charmian Carr, who played Liesl in The Sound of Music, passed away, aged 73. This film came out in the year my husband and I were born but I have loved it my whole life and introduced my children to it as soon as they were able to understand it. We know all the words to all the songs, still, and in happy times or sad, it is a great comfort to us all. I remember forcing my husband to watch it when we were first dating, many moons ago, and after kicking up such a fuss, he was soon engrossed in the story. Now, he will usually well up at the Edelweiss scene without the slightest hesitation (sorry, Simon!) It is a film that bears watching again and again. The music is wonderful and never fails to have me joining in.

It has been one of those weeks, as you can tell. September is a bit like that, even when you’re as old as I am. It still heralds the start of the new year as children go back to school, teenagers go off to university or to start college, or maybe even a new job. As a parent, of course, all you want is for them to be happy because that makes you happy too. I wish you luck with your new year, whatever it may bring and I leave you with one of my favourite songs from The Sound of Music.

Author Spotlight – Kate Field

After a long break for the summer holidays, it is with the greatest pleasure that I return with my guest Author in the Spotlight this month. My very good writing friend, Kate Field’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings was published last Thursday and today she’s here to tell us all about it. Welcome, Kate!

The Magic ofimage1 Ramblings – Kate Field

Running away can be the answer if you run to the right place…

When Cassie accepts a job as companion to an old lady in a remote Lancashire village, she hopes for a quiet life where she can forget herself, her past and most especially men. The last thing she wants is to be drawn into saving a community that seems determined to take her to its heart – and to resuscitate hers…

Frances has lived a reclusive life at Ramblings, a Victorian Gothic mansion, for over thirty years and now Barney is hiding away there, forging a new life after his medical career ended in scandal. He doesn’t trust the mysterious woman who comes to live with his rich aunt, especially when she starts to steal Frances’ affection – and maybe his own too…

Amazon

*****

Excerpt

As soon as she saw the advert, in one of the magazines she was paid to dust, not read, Cassie knew it had been written for her.

‘WANTED: Female live-in companion for independent lady in isolated Lancashire village. Own room provided. Must not chatter. References required.’

Isolation and silence – underlined silence. It was perfect. Carrying the magazine to the study, careful not to crease any pages, Cassie found a scrap of paper and copied out the advert.

Her pen hovered over the final two words. References? How was she going to manage that? Then her gaze landed on the computer, and the letter-headed notepaper lying beside it. No one would notice one missing sheet. The password for the computer was taped on the inside of the desk drawer: she hadn’t cleaned here three times a week for the last three months without finding that out. It would take barely five minutes to conjure something suitable. And surely her boss at the cleaning company, who had employed her without references and without questioning why she had no ID in the name she’d given him, wouldn’t scruple to give her a reference in any name she wanted?

Her conscience protested, but conscience was one of the many luxuries that Cassie could no longer afford. Her fingers trembling, she switched on the laptop and typed out a letter, recommending herself as an employee in terms she hoped were too good to refuse. She had to get this job. It was time to move on.

*****

And now for my interview with Kate.

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

This could be a short answer! It wasn’t a deliberate choice. The Magic of Ramblings is set in Lancashire, and that’s where I live.

I love Lancashire, especially the beauty and the wildness of the moors, the extremes of weather, and the way the landscape and the climate shape the character of the people who live here. I’ve grown up listening to the rhythm and pattern of Lancashire dialect. I’m still at an early point in my writing career, and with so much else to learn, it felt natural to use a setting I was familiar with.

I’m sure I’ll be brave enough to explore beyond Lancashire one day, but for now I think the stories I’m writing belong here.

Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

I can’t sit down in front of a clean sheet of paper and conjure up an idea from nowhere. I’ve attended workshops where that was expected, and my mind goes blank – even more so when I see that everyone else is scribbling away with enthusiasm! I have a notebook of ideas, often no more than a sentence, and usually the idea has been sparked by something I’ve read, overheard, or seen on television.

The book I completed last year came from a piece of gossip we were discussing at work. I immediately thought, ‘how would his wife feel?’ And then I had to abandon the story I’d been mulling over, and write that one instead.

How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

I’m a slow writer, and easily distracted, usually by reading other people’s books! The first draft ofThe Magic of Ramblings took around eight months to write, which is fairly typical for me, as I have to fit writing around work and family. It was written to submit to the RNA New Writers’ Scheme, and it helped that I had that deadline to work towards.

I write the first draft in longhand, and type it up when it’s finished, which is laborious but I carry out the first set of edits as I type, tweaking words and abandoning sentences that are too horrific to survive. I try to have a break, then carry out the major edit. I’m ruthless at this point: I don’t have a problem with ‘killing my darlings’ and cutting out sentences or scenes that don’t work. I cut about 20,000 words from Ramblings, including a whole chapter that I loved, but that on reflection added nothing to the story.

After the major edit, I go through it again, fine-tuning and polishing each paragraph. Those are the main steps, but after that, every time I open the document I can’t resist tinkering, even if it’s only changing one word.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

This answer could fill pages of your blog! There are times when I think a chimp with a pencil crayon could do a better job. I find it hard to silence my inner critic, and can spend far too long even at the first draft stage mulling over one sentence, wondering what I can do to make it sound better. On the bright side, I suppose that’s why I can cut huge chunks without hesitation!

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I love reaching the stage – usually about a third to half way through for me – where it all falls into place, and the characters truly come alive; when they saunter into your head at all times of day or night, holding a conversation, or explaining how they expect their story to develop.

Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

Although Ramblings is my first published book, I’ve written several others. I didn’t deliberately set out to have a recurring theme, but families and secrets do crop up quite often!

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I’ve started and finished the next novel, but only to first draft stage – the gossip inspired one I mentioned earlier! At the moment I’m about half way through another book set around Ramblings. It’s been on hold for a while as this summer has been fairly hectic, so I’m looking forward to some quiet time to pick it up again.

AbouKateFieldauthorphotot Kate

Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire, where she lives with her husband, daughter and hyperactive kitten.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.The Magic of Ramblings is her first published novel.

Find out more about Kate here:

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Author Spotlight – Mary Grand

This month’s author in the spotlight is women’s/literary fiction writer, Mary Grand. Her debut novel is out now and is called Free to Be Tegan.

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Free to Be Tegan – Mary Grand

Tegan, aged twenty-seven, is cast out of the cult, rejected by her family and from the only life she has known. She is vulnerable and naïve but she also has courage and the will to survive. She travels to Wales, to previously unknown relations in the wild Cambrian Mountains.

This is the uplifting story of her journey from life in a cult to find herself and flourish in a world she has been taught to fear and abhor.

Guilt and shadows from her past haunt her in flashbacks, panic attacks and a fear of the dark. However she also finds a world full of colour, love and happiness she has never known before. The wild beauty of the hills, the people she meets and the secrets slowly revealed by the cottage all provide an intriguing backdrop to Tegan’s drama.

The novel is set in spring, a story of hope, new growth, of the discovery of self and the joy of living.

Amazon

*****

Excerpt

She walked down the stairs and glanced at the clock that hung over the front door. 07:50. Next to this was a huge white board. Every day Daniel wrote the date and a verse for them to meditate on, and the date. Today it read March 1st 2006 and underneath that the verse for the day:

“Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Beast and all those in his domain.” She guessed Daniel had chosen that for her. She could hear familiar quiet droning prayers of vigil being said in the meeting room. ‘Come Quickly Oh High One’. The whole Community including the children would repeat it over and over again for an hour. Every day had started like that for her for twenty-two years, but not today. For the first time in her life she was an outsider.

Tegan opened the front door out into the cold drizzly rain and descended the flight of concrete steps. She was hit by a wall of noise: the early morning rush hour. Alone she walked across the concrete forecourt and opened the iron gates. She saw a taxi driver swearing at another driver, a parent shouting to their children to hurry up. The rain added to the sense of urgency as the world rushed about its business. She glanced down at the bins on the pavement and, blinking hard, realised she had been put out with the rubbish.

*****

And now for my interview with Mary:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

Free to Be Tegan is set in the stunning Cambrian Mountains in Ceredigion, Wales. It is a vast wilderness found between the much better known areas of Brecon and Snowdonia. It is an incredible place rich in wild life, of red kites and endless hills and where Tegan finds herself after her expulsion from the cult where she was raised. She is initially overwhelmed by the untamed beauty of the place but it is central to her healing and recovery.

Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

I tend to write about subjects close to my heart. The story of “Free to Be Tegan” is partly inspired by my own experience of being brought up in a strict religious sect. I used this in combination with a lot of research into cults and cult leaders to create the character of Tegan and the fictitious cult, ‘The Last Week Community’.

How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

The first draft of Free to Be Tegan took me about three years to write. I wrote a number of re-drafts after that. I redraft a lot! The novel I am working on at present has taken about a year to get to first draft and I am now redrafting… again!

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

I think planning has been the thing I have had to work on the hardest. There are people who say they are planners and others who say that the story forms as they are writing. I have found I use both methods. My stories tend to be plot driven so there is a lot of planning but I also find that characters suddenly seem to take on a life of their own and all my planning then has to be re-shaped as I am writing. I say this is hard but it is also what makes writing fun and creative.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I enjoy creating interesting characters and developing their stories. I also love to have inspiring settings. As a writer you spend a lot of time in the place you are writing about and so it is wonderful to spend my days somewhere like the beautiful Cambrian Mountains or the incredible Gower Peninsula

Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

To date there is a very definite thread both in the short stories in Catching the Light , and in the novel Free to Be Tegan. The central characters tend to be women at a turning point in their lives; it is a time of self discovery and of making important life-changing choices.

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I have completed the first draft of my next novel. It is set on the Gower peninsula and is about two women who have to own their past to move forward in their lives. The setting is actually Rhossili Bay, which is the most wonderful place, full of stories and history, so a perfect setting for my theme.

 

Mary GrandAbout Mary

I was born in Cardiff and have retained a deep love for my Welsh roots. I worked as a nursery teacher in London and later taught deaf children in Croydon and Hastings.

I now live on the beautiful Isle of Wight with my husband, where I walk my cocker spaniel Pepper and write. I have two grown up children.

‘Free to Be Tegan’ is my debut novel. It is to be the first of a series of novels set in Wales. The second will be set on the spectacular Gower Peninsula. I have also published a short book of short stories ‘Catching the Light’, which contains the first three chapters of “Free to Be Tegan.” This is free to download on Kindle, Smashwords and Nook here.

Find out more about Mary here:

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Author Spotlight – Zeba Clarke

My author in the spotlight this month is fantasy and romance author, Zeba Clarke. Her latest fantasy release is Dream Guy,  the first book in the Battalions of Oblivion series.

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Dream Guy – Zeba Clarke

Every teen has dreams, but only Joe Knightley can make his dreams reality. Even the nightmares…

Joe has been falling asleep everywhere, and he has enough on his plate with wrangling his wayward best mate, suppressing the urge to murder his little sister and facing off with Charlie Meek, the knife-wielding bully who makes school a misery for so many.

Joe does not need the discovery that he can make his dreams come true. At first, turning a classroom into an aquarium and conjuring up a Lamborghini are amusing ways to use this new power. But Joe soon realizes he’s roused an enemy far deadlier than Charlie Meek.

Drawn into a duel with a being who has had centuries of experience, Joe must fight for everything he cares for. But deciding exactly what he holds dear is perhaps the biggest battle of all.

Finch Books

Amazon

*****

And now for my interview with Zeba:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

Dream Guy starts off in a new town in south-east England, somewhere between Brighton and London…it was based on my years teaching in Sussex, and what really inspired me was the combination of a very ordinary every day student in a really down to earth environment discovering that he has the power to change the world around him quite radically. A whole mix of things led to my writing it – I needed a break from romance after writing four Regency-set books very fast over the space of two years, and my eldest son was also rolling his eyes because he wanted me to write something he was interested in reading…not some cheesy girly stuff with loads of kissing. So fantasy it was, probably strongly influenced by Doctor Who, which has been a family favourite since the rebrand by Russell T. Davies first began.

Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

Stories come to me really easily – it’s finding the time to sit down and write that really stretches me, as I have a pretty demanding full time job as well. Currently on the go in my brain are a series of stories about a female artist in the early 17th century, an idea for a radio/tv series about the experience of women in internment camps on the Isle of Man during World War 2, another Regency story and the second and third books about Joe, the hero of Dream Guy…it’s story soup in there. I pick up ideas everywhere, from paintings, books, music. I keep folders on the computer and iPad and a notebook and just jot stuff down and try to keep it all ready for when I can actually focus on a particular book.

How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

First drafts take me between two and three months. I have big cards with all sorts of random thought-maps, quotations, names, plus I collage using Pinterest and Scapple, so I collect images of characters, places, animals, art, anything that might just spark off an idea. My Pinterest page has boards for two of my series – the Oblivion series starting with Dream Guy, and Savage Mirror which is the series I’ve been writing about a young female artist who dresses up as a boy and then becomes a spy.

After I’ve collected all the images together and have a rough (very rough) idea of where the plot is going, I’ll start writing. I usually know what my final scene is going to be, but how I’m going to get there is often a surprise.

Redrafting depends. Once I’ve finished draft 1, I show it to my husband who is a mean and ruthless editor, and then I go back and rewrite. I’m still not convinced about the first part of the Savage Mirror series, and I’ve been through about four drafts of that, but Dream Guy only took three drafts before I felt confident it was ready to go to publishers. The whole process from the moment of starting the first draft to final submission is usually six to seven months. But that’s probably because the ideas have been stewing gently in my mind for some time before that.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Sometimes the discipline. I know that to get my best writing done, I have to focus on writing every evening for two hours. I’m most productive between 9 and 11. That’s become my writing time, and there are evenings when it just doesn’t happen, when I noodle on the internet instead of getting the words under my belt, often because I am not fully committed to how the story is working out. Then there is revising and redrafting. Getting rid of chunks I’ve written which I really liked but which I know are superfluous to the story I’m telling. But it has to be done.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

Losing myself in the world of my character, hanging out with the characters. That seems to get more and more intriguing and absorbing with every book I write. Although I’ve only had six books published, I’ve actually written ten, and with every book, I find that although there are moments when I get stuck, mostly, the chance to spend time with the characters in their world is the best part of the process. When I’m in the middle of draft 1 and revisions, I can be found staring into space or walking almost without knowing where I’m going because I’m running a scene or a series of actions in my head and trying to work out how it will get onto the page.

Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

Probably the most interesting theme for me is how we grow into ourselves. I’m a teacher, so I watch teenagers day in, day out, developing, growing, becoming themselves. Some of my favourite books are those stories about growing up, working out an identity and a place in the world, from Daddy Long Legs to Great Expectations and Mill on the Floss. I’m also fascinated by how people can seem to be one thing but actually be another, and I suppose in Dream Guy and its subsequent books, I’m really playing with the idea of exploring strengths and weaknesses through dreams, shape-shifting and messing with reality. I also really love a good romance. I love reading happy ever afters, but I’ve noticed that in my own writing, I tend to make things a little more bittersweet and messy.

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I am currently redrafting Heirs of Hypnos, the next part of Joe’s adventures. I wrote a first draft, but the publishers think it may be a little too dark so I’m revisiting and trying to take a look at how it might be reworked. I know where I want the trilogy to end, but I have to review and revisit how I get there! It’s really fun messing with characters. We’ll see!

Zeba ClarkeAbout Zeba

Zeba Clarke is a teacher and writer who has lived in China, Belgium and the UK. She currently lives on the Isle of Man and enjoys watching Game of Thrones with her teenage sons, walking by the sea and spotting seals.

Find out more about Zeba here:

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