Interviews


2016Sale

Poster by Ailsa Abraham

Yes, I’m interviewing myself. Why not?

Q: Hello, Miriam. I’m delighted you could join me today.

A: I’m delighted to be here. Thank you for inviting me, Miriam.

Q: Tell me about your novel, Neither Here Nor There.

A: It’s a light romance, set mostly in my home town of Jerusalem and partly in my former home town of London.

Q: Oh come on, it can’t be that light with such a background. It must involve terrorist attacks and killing and all those scary things that go on all over the Middle East.

A: No, there’s none of that in my novel.

Q: So it’s a utopian sort of novel – the way you’d like your country to be.

A: No, it depicts everyday life in present times, just as it is. The fact is, there’s so much more to life in Israel than those troubles you hear about on the news. We follow the news, of course, and we’re so very sad about the lives that are lost. But most people go about their lives without encountering any danger at all. And so the story of Esty and Mark and all the characters in my novel is perfectly realistic.

Q: So you’re saying this is just another romance.

A: No. While it can be read as a simple romance, it also brings up some complicated issues – issues most readers will recognise in some form or other.

Q: What sort of issues?

A: Arranged marriage, living in a closed community, escaping from a closed community, emigration, life-changing decisions.

Q: Yes, some serious issues there. Tell me about the closed community in your novel.

A: The haredi community. I call it that for simplicity, although within that group are several sects, some very much opposed to others. They live in various parts of the world. Many of your readers will have noticed their distinctive dress. The men wear black hats, black suits and white shirts, with tassels hanging over their trousers, and they have beards and sidelocks. There are some who wear stranger garb. The women always wear long sleeves and long skirts, and married women cover their hair with scarves or wigs. Some people even think that all Jews or all Israelis dress like that.

In Jerusalem, they used to live only in specific districts like Mea She’arim, but they’ve expanded to other areas due to lack of space. The men often don’t work, spending their time studying the holy books. That leaves the women to support their large families, as well as caring for children and doing the housework.

Q: The women must feel very bitter about that.

A: I don’t think so. Most of them believe that’s how they’re supposed to live and never question it. They’re proud to have husbands who are able to study for long hours.

Q: What about arranged marriage? How does that work?

A: I want to stress that their marriages are arranged and not forced. They’re allowed to choose their marriage partners, but their choice is limited. They’re expected to choose one out of the few they’re introduced to.

Q: Do you think that works?

A: It seems to work as much as our system of random meetings does. The divorce statistics show that. I think a couple can grow to love each other after marriage, although I don’t have first-hand experience of such a relationship.

Q: How do other Israelis regard the haredi community?

A: There’s a lot of resentment. They generally don’t have to serve in the army, and they get grants for studying, which many view as a complete waste of time. On the other hand, they do jobs that no one else wants to do. There are at least four major associations run by people from the haredi community and serving the population at large. There’s one that deals with everything surrounding burials. One that provides all sorts of medical equipment. One that provides food for hospital visitors. And one that picks up and identifies all body parts following an explosion.

I saw an accident once at a junction in Jerusalem. I looked down from the top of a hill and saw a man lying on the road, having been thrown off his motorcycle. Immediately, someone got out of a car and started redirecting the traffic. Someone probably phoned for an ambulance. Two minutes after the accident, a haredi man who happened to be passing stopped his car, took a first-aid kit out of the boot and rushed over to the victim.

Q: Well I think we’ll leave it there. Thank you for coming, Miriam.

A: Thank you, Miriam.

Neither Here Nor There, published by Crooked Cat Publishing, is available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes and elsewhere.

Miriam Drori can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Wattpad and on her website/blog.

Stop press: Neither Here Nor There is on sale for a few days on Amazon. In honour of that, several bloggers will be featuring the novel. I’ll update this post as those posts appear.

Today I’m lucky enough to be visited by Tim Taylor, who, like me, is published by Crooked Cat Publishing. He has a new book out in five days.

Tim TaylorHello Tim and welcome to Jerusalem. Have you ever visited Jerusalem in the flesh, as it were?

I’m afraid not, though it’s a city I’d like to see some day. I love places that are steeped in history. Thank you for the opportunity to make a virtual visit, though I’m sure it would be even better to come in person!

Tell us about the new novel.

Revolution Day

Revolution Day will be published by Crooked Cat on 30 June. It follows a year in the life of Carlos Almanzor, the autocratic ruler of a Latin American country. Now in his seventies, Carlos is feeling his age and seeing enemies around every corner. And with good reason: his Vice-President, Manuel Jimenez, though outwardly loyal, is burning with frustration at his subordinate position. When his attempt to augment his role is met with humiliating rejection, Manuel resolves to take action. But how? Since Angel, the Head of the Army, is loyal to the President, he must be patient and cunning if he is to find a way to undermine Carlos’ position.  

 Interspersed with the main narrative are excerpts from a memoir being written by Carlos’ estranged and imprisoned wife Juanita, in which she recalls the revolution that brought him to power and how, once a liberal idealist, he changed over time into an autocrat and embraced repression as the means of sustaining his position. In time, as Manuel makes his own bid for power, Juanita will find herself an unwitting participant in his plans.

That sounds very interesting. Unfortunately, it’s a plot that rings very true. Does this novel have any connection with your first novel – Zeus of Ithome, published by Crooked Cat in 2013?

Zeus of IthomeThere is a connection in that both novels involve a revolution. But in most respects, they are very different novels. Revolution Day is set in the present day – albeit with some reflection on previous decades – and in a fictional country. Zeus is set in a real place (southern and central Greece) in the fourth century BC. It describes actual historical events – the struggle of the Messenian people to free themselves from three centuries of slavery under the Spartans, and the wider events that formed the backdrop to their final revolt – albeit through the lives of (mostly) fictional characters. Diocles, the central character, is a seventeen year old helot slave at the start of the book. Forced to flee his home, he falls in with ageing rebel Aristomenes, who still cherishes dreams of revolution and wants to seek advice from the oracle at Delphi. Later, Diocles’ travels take him to Thebes, where he meets Epaminondas, a historical Theban general who also has no love for the Spartans. As war brews between Thebes and Sparta, the conditions at last become right for Diocles and Aristomenes to return to Messenia and begin their revolt in earnest.  

Have you visited Greece? Can a visit help in any way with a novel set so long ago?

I had been to Greece in my teens – a good while ago! – and visited some of the places that feature in the novel, such as Delphi (and more recently to Crete, which doesn’t). I think those rather distant memories were of some help in giving me a feel for the landscape. For example, there is one scene where Diocles crosses the Gulf of Patras in a small boat and is impressed by a mountain looming above the shore behind him. I remember admiring that same view myself – albeit from a car ferry!

Where else did you get background information from?

I already had a good background knowledge about ancient Greece, having studied Classics at university. I read the ancient sources for the period and some books by modern historians, and did lots of internet research, for example about details of clothing and authentic Messenian names. I made extensive use of Google Earth in tracking the topology of the places the characters travel through. I was delighted (and relieved!) when readers who had been to places in the novel I have never visited – such as Mount Ithome, the ancient sanctuary of the Messenians – verified my description of them.  

How did you manage when you had questions that couldn’t be answered?

One of the fun things about writing historical fiction – particularly when it’s set in ancient times – is that where evidence is lacking you can make things up, provided that they are plausibly consistent with the known facts.  

I see we have at least two other interests in common: music and walking. Where has music taken you?

Hmm. Well, in my twenties it took me up and down the motorway to such exotic places as Dover, Northampton and, um, Stevenage! Nowadays I play mostly for fun, but I do still play in public once in a while.

You said somewhere that you like walking up hills. I’m not sure I do. I like the feeling of accomplishment when I reach the top and the knowledge that I can now walk downhill. What do you like about walking up?

When walking up I am buoyed by the expectation of reaching the top where I will experience that feeling of accomplishment, which I agree is often the best thing of all (sometimes the view may be even more rewarding). There is a certain satisfaction as you reach prominent points on the route and see lower hills drop below your line of sight, knowing that you are that little bit closer to your goal. On the way down, although there is the afterglow of that sense of achievement, you no longer have the same sense of purpose. Also, if the hill is steep, I find walking down very hard on the knees and toes – I do genuinely prefer walking up!

What’s the next novel going to be?

It will probably be a follow-up to Zeus of Ithome, taking in the early career of Philip II of Macedon. As a teenager he was in Thebes, where he came under the influence of Epaminondas, shortly after the time when the first novel ends. I am doing some research on this right now.

So you’re doing what I’m planning: to write a novel that’s very different to the first and then write a sequel to the first.

Thank you so much for coming, Tim, albeit abstractly. And lots of luck with your new book.

You’re welcome, Miriam. And thank you very much for hosting me!

Links

Revolution Day on Amazon UK

Revolution Day on Amazon US

Zeus of Ithome on Amazon UK

Zeus of Ithome on Amazon US

Facebook

Twitter

Website

***

I’m taking a break until the beginning of August. Have a great summer (or winter if you’re in the other hemisphere).

I think all human beings are interesting, but sometimes it’s hard to discover the interesting parts. That’s not true of my guest today – ex-biker, shaman, Bipolar coper, expat, caravanner, author, knitter and much more. Her magic carpet brought her to a walled city, though possibly not the walled city she expected to find.

Ailsa on Yamaha

Hello Ailsa. I’m awarding you the dubious privilege of being allowed inside the walls of my world. I’m afraid it’s just me in here, so not much to see.

Rubbish, came to see you and it’s great to be here.

Part of me is now smiling. The other part is thinking: it’s nice of you to say that, but….

You’ve had your own experiences of mental health problems. Is there anything you want to tell us about them? What message do you want to give readers that might change their attitude towards mental health issues?

Yes, I have. The worst was being misdiagnosed for thirty years, which is not uncommon for Bipolars. We don’t present to the doctor when we are up so generally get wrongly-classified as depressives. This results in us not getting the correct medication which makes the situation worse. Since I had the correct diagnosis of Cyclothemic Bipolar things have been much better. It means my mood changes are very rapid over a day or two. Other Bipolars can stay in one phase for months or even a year. I’ll be on stabilising medication for the rest of my life but that is fine.

Message? Yes. Please give people a bit of slack. You don’t know what kind of hell they might be going through and make allowances, especially if they then apologise. I am still hurting very much because people I snapped at when having an extremely difficult time with my Bipolar, won’t accept my most sincere apologies and refuse to speak to me. That is their decision but I still cry about it.

Generally people with mental health problems aren’t dangerous. No, it isn’t easy to cope with someone whose moods change unexpectedly but if you make the effort to manage that, they are very grateful and make loyal friends. We’re just happy that anyone will bother with us. Mental health problems interfere very much with self-esteem so no matter how bad YOU think I am, I’m thinking worse, believe me!

“Generally people with mental health problems aren’t dangerous.” I wish others would remember that, although I understand why it’s hard. When you read that a particular murderer is a loner, it’s easy to imagine that all loners are potential murderers.

You’ve lived in France for a long time. What do you miss most about the UK?

Interesting question. I’ve been here so long that it’s home. The UK is a foreign country and I love visiting but don’t miss it. The Old Feller goes back to visit family and buy teabags which are the only thing we can’t get over here, well, not good, proper ones. I visit my family in Scotland and other friends in England but in general it’s people I miss, not places.

What are you pleased to have got away from?

Overcrowding, pokey rooms and tiny gardens!

Four Go Mad in Catalonia

What’s your connection to Judaism?

Easy. My father and grandfather were Jewish but, like the Old Feller, goy mother so not considered Jewish myself (except by the reformed Synagogue). When my father was dying, a Jewish neighbour looked after me to free mother to go to the hospital. Auntie Wyantie (Mrs. Wynant) talked to me in Yiddish and made me apricot dumplings etc. A lot of that is stuck in my mind.

Tell us a little about magic.

Wow! I could write a short book but it would meet with disapproval from so many other magic-users. OK – in a nutshell it is an ability to control energies. Often it is applied human psychology which means that when people have asked me to “work on” something for them they are more confident that it will go right – the placebo effect. Similarly if I were to tell someone I was exacting justice on them for a wrong done to someone, that might play on their psyche too. I always liken it to any other ability like being musical or able to paint. One can take lessons but it helps to have an innate gift. Also, practice, practice, practice. I hate to think how many hours I’ve spent in meditation trying to control my mind and link into energies.

No we do not need to cover ourselves in odd garments, dance naked or use esoteric paraphernalia. If you really want to know how real witches work, read Terry Pratchett. Weatherwax, Ogg and Magrat are more like my types – a bread knife and a chipped teacup rather than ornate daggers and chalices. Intention is all. I could go on. Remember, however, that where you have three magic-users in the same place you’ll get six different opinions on the same question.

Ha-ha! That sounds like what they say about Jews. How does all that use of magic relate to your novels?

The ones written under my own name, very much. My experiences working with covens and knowing other pagans was essential. I couldn’t have written the books without it and one has to have “lived” it to understand it. There is a high price to pay for manoeuvring energies which is not understood by outsiders. I was involved in pagan religions and so know the rituals inside out therefore the books ring true. The philosophies quoted within are real.

Crooked Cat Books

I enjoyed your two Crooked Cat-published novels very much. What do you have in store for us?

There has been a demand from readers for more adventures of Iamo and Riga from the first two books and I would like to see more of Adrian and Helen who are non-magical but some of my favourite characters. Dagda is kicking me to write a fourth with him as the main character which would be very tempting as a Native American Black Shaman is too good to leave hanging around without a story. I’m also in the middle of writing my comical memoirs of twenty-five years in France. That is going to be self-published for translation reasons but Crooked Cat are being very helpful with it. The title will be “Knitting With Eels” and I hope to have it out by Spring next year.

Thank you so much for coming, Ailsa. You may leave now… if you can find the way out!

BIO – Ailsa Abraham retired early from a string of jobs, ending up with teaching English to adults. She has lived in France since 1990 and is married with no children but six grandchildren. She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and increasing deafness with her usual wry humour – “well if I didn’t have all those, I’d have to work for a living, instead of writing, which is much more fun.” Her ambition in life is to keep breathing and maybe move back to the UK. She has no intention of stopping writing. Her other passions are running an orphanage for homeless teddy bears plus knitting or crochet now that she has had to curtail her activities on her beloved black Yamaha motorbike.

As Ailsa Abraham:

Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum published by Crooked Cat available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Four Go Mad in Catalonia (comical memoir of a holiday) – self-published, available from Smashwords

Twitter – @ailsaabraham

Facebook Group

Website and blog

I’m delighted to welcome back fellow Crooked Cat author, Sarah Louise Smith. I interviewed her here and now she’s back to tell us about her new novel, out in two days but available now for pre-order.

Over to you, Sarah.

Firstly, a huge thank you to Miriam for letting me hijack her blog today and a big friendly smiley hello to anyone reading this who hasn’t heard of me before; thanks for taking the time to come and find out more.

So, I am Sarah. And I write chick-lit. That’s not slushy, fluffy romantic nonsense. It’s fun, roller-coaster stories with a little comedy and realistic characters.

The Truth About EllenThe Truth About Ellen is my fourth novel and it’s about a girl who had a huge crush on a band when she was a teenager. We’ve all been there, right? You watch them on TV, you listen to their music, you put their posters on your wall. In Ellen’s case, she even followed the lead singer and her number one celeb crush Jasper to a hotel once and spent an evening with him.

Now she’s older, wiser, more mature – of course. Well over the crush on the band she used to love, who broke up long ago. Times have changed.

That is, until she meets Tom, the band’s bass guitarist, and they hit it off. She doesn’t tell him she was huge fan of his band because it was long ago. Or that she once spent a night with his ex-bandmate/ex-best-friend, Jasper.

Everything goes well until Jasper comes back into Tom’s life. And the truth about Ellen could spoil everything she’s ever wanted…

Seem like a book that you might enjoy this summer?

Visit my website (link below) or search for The Truth About Ellen on Amazon to get your copy.

The Truth About Ellen

It’s every girl’s dream to date a pop star… When Ellen starts dating Tom, a member of the band she adored as a teenager, she can’t believe how lucky she is. She neglects to mention that she’s a huge fan because that just wouldn’t be cool, would it? Ellen also keeps quiet about how she once spent an evening with Tom’s ex-bandmate/ex-best friend Jasper, her long-term celebrity crush. Tom doesn’t need to know about that, it’s all in the past. That is until Tom and Jasper get back in touch… and the truth threatens to ruin everything Ellen has ever dreamed of…

The Truth About Ellen is available to buy from:

About Sarah Louise Smith

Sarah Louise SmithSarah Louise Smith lives in Milton Keynes, England with her husband, step-daughter, loopy golden retriever and cheeky tortie cat.

Sarah has been writing stories since she can remember and has so far completed four chick-lit novels, all published by Crooked Cat:

  • Amy & Zach
  • Izzy’s Cold Feet
  • Independent Jenny
  • The Truth About Ellen

Connect with Sarah:

I’m delighted to welcome Nancy Jardine, Scottish author of historical romantic adventures, contemporary mystery thrillers and YA time travel historical adventures. As you’ll see, I’m rather in awe of Nancy and I’m hoping she’s about to provide some useful advice.

Nancy Jardine
Nancy Jardine: author

Nancy, I am amazed and very impressed by all that you manage to do. You have published a number of books in various genres and are working on several more. You post regularly on your blog, thrilling readers with interviews, wonderful scenery and updates about you and your writing. You appear on other blogs in guest posts and interviews. You are active on social media. You do author events. And on top of all that you have babysitting duties. Do you have a secret stash of daily hours that mere mortals like me can’t access? How do you fit everything in?

I don’t feel I do fit everything in. I have ‘things’ I want to achieve in a day but often the domestic side overtakes everything else and the priorities shift. Your readers can read more of my domestic situation in my bio below, so I won’t repeat here. An exciting update would be that…the foundations for the new house were started only yesterday [now a few days ago] and I’m sure you can imagine that there was a lot of celebration in our house after all the red tape issues were finally over. I’m about to begin a BLOG DIARY about ‘My lost back garden’. Anyone interested can follow the progress on my blog – Nancy’s Novels.

Apart from lack of writing time just now, I know that I have too many manuscripts on the go. I want to work on them all – but that is way too fanciful. My writing targeting plans, made in January on my blog, need a lot more effort to be fruitful! The procrastinator’s way (mine) is to do more blogging which makes me feel that I’m still writing – just different writing. I’m weaning myself from Facebook, which is just too enticing sometimes.

Don’t I know it! Can you tell us about the settings of your novels? How important are the locations to the stories? Do you think it’s possible to write about a place you’ve never been to?

Nancy Jardine Award Finalist at The People's Book Prize, 2014

Nancy Jardine: Award Finalist at The People’s Book Prize, 2014

All my settings are carefully chosen for particular reasons that fit with my plots. In Topaz Eyes – my contemporary Award Finalist for The People’s Book Prize 2014 – I used a number of different destinations in the mystery thriller that’s also a treasure hunt with deadly consequences. I’ve been to every place mentioned and I selected them very carefully for use in the novel. When I wrote Topaz Eyes in 2011, it had been some time since I’d visited Vienna and Heidelberg. I used the internet to check that some mentions were still reasonably current. Checking was paramount because the colour of the tram system in Vienna changed in early 2011 from red to yellow. Checking was even more important for Amsterdam, because a place I’d remembered fondly from when I lived there in the early 1980s had been demolished. The Poffertje Stall which sold tiny Dutch pancakes near the centre of Kalverstraat – a main Amsterdam pedestrian street – had gone when I visited in April of 2011. I had a minor panic because I’d included the stall in Topaz Eyes. The manuscript was at first edit stages with Stephanie Patterson of Crooked Cat Publishing but when I got home from my holiday, I emailed and asked to make some changes to the story. Although it wasn’t likely that many readers would have picked up on this, I knew about it and it would have bugged me to leave it. There’s still a scene involving Poffertjes, for a significant reason, but it now fits with contemporary Amsterdam.

Crooked Cat is re-launching two of my other contemporary mysteries – Monogamy Twist and Take Me Now. There are a few locations which feature in these novels that I haven’t been to. I used the internet for information but I also got other handy tips from my daughter, who had visited them during her ‘year-out world trip’ after university. Therefore, I personally believe it’s possible to write about places you’ve not actually been to.

How do you set about writing a historical novel? Do you have the whole story in mind before doing any research, or does the story form itself as you discover details? Do you have any tips for an author planning to explore this genre for the first time?

I think that historical work always needs thorough research. Readers of historical fiction can be very disappointed if they find anachronisms or something that’s just wrong for the era – and I count myself among that readers group. I try very hard to give an accurate portrayal of my chosen era of first century AD Roman Britain in my Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic adventures, even though historical details for the era are scant and much is gleaned from interpretation of archaeological data. If the epoch is completely new to an author, I’d suggest a good consolidation time of research would be necessary to get a real feel for the times. In my case, my teaching of Celtic/Roman Scotland gave me a great background to feed from. Book 1 of the series evolved from a basic plot and grew and grew. Books 2 and 3 of the Celtic Fervour Series took a lot more research since I knew very little of the Roman military infiltration of Britannia. Once I’d learned about the campaigns of Agricola, Governor of Britannia in AD 78-86, I was able to plot out the movements of my characters. However, I found that using the writings of Tacitus (a Roman historian) was misleading. He is one of the few prime source writings of the era but it’s long been known that his writing is somewhat biased towards a Roman slant, his summation of events not particularly reliable. Tacitus’ dating of events is now seriously flawed by a number of years, according to the latest twenty-first century archaeological findings – recent dendrochronology (wood deposits) findings now dating the construction of Roman forts and fortresses much more accurately. Agricola was credited with making early campaigns into northern Britannia (Scotland) but dendrochronology dating is now putting those first Roman footsteps, in Scotland, back to the times of previous Roman governors, like Cerialis and Frontinus. My tip to an aspiring historical author would be try to keep abreast of recent developments in your chosen era because things can surprise you part way through the writing of a novel and, if you’re like me, you’ll want to make changes for better credibility.

I enjoyed hearing (and seeing) you read from After Whorl: Bran Reborn in this video, although I didn’t understand every word due to the quality of the recording and being unaccustomed to your gorgeous accent. Do you think being a teacher provided good experience for readings and other author events? Was there anything else that prepared you for life as an author?

That’s an interesting question, Miriam. The answer might be perhaps. The funny thing is that during my 25 years of teaching mostly 11-12 year olds, I could stand up in front of them and just get on with whatever I’d planned. The same was not the case when I was in front of adults and my teacher colleagues. For some reason adults made me nervous and doubt myself. I was extremely tense just before my first author talk in 2013, but as it happened the audience was small – I think only about seven people – and I wasn’t nervous once I got started. I’ve not been in front of any more than 15 people so far with author engagements but I’m hoping that a bigger audience won’t make me nervous in the future. At present, I’ve no planned author talks but I’m hoping to arrange some soon for my YA time travel historical novel, The Taexali Game, which I intend to self-publish soon. I’m presently waiting on my cover design and when that’s decided on, I think I’ll be good to start promoting it. However, I’m quite anxious about the self-publishing process – even though I know that thousands of other authors have done it themselves.

What other author events do you take part in? Which events have you found most useful for selling books?

Apart from my author talks at local public libraries, and women’s groups like the Women’s Rural Institute, the only other events I’ve attended have been when selling my books at local craft fairs. My first foray with this ‘public selling’ technique was when a friend agreed that my books are my ‘produce’ and that I could take a stall and sell at our Farmers’ Market in the local county town. These markets happen one Saturday morning every month, under canvas awnings, and are held in almost all weathers. (We are talking north-east Scotland!) At first, I was uneasy about being ‘out there’ and on show as an author. As it happened, I thoroughly enjoyed coming across new people to talk to about my books; potential readers; and people from my teaching past – fellow colleagues and some parents of kids I’d taught. The downside is that wind and rain are NOT good for paperback books or for printed publicity material. After a few of these outside markets, I was very fortunate to be invited to join FOCUS, a local crafters group who have bookings for their Craft Fairs in public Halls across Aberdeenshire, Scotland. (FOCUS means Festival Of Crafts Unique to Scotland.) FOCUS events are all held indoors, so weather isn’t a problem and my table display doesn’t blow away!

Nancy Jardine Celtic Fervour poster

Nancy Jardine: Celtic Fervour poster

Between September and December 2014, I sold a total of 140 of my paperback novels at Craft Fairs and Author Talks. That’s not huge sales compared to some authors, but it was a thrilling start for me. I intend to sell at fairs this coming 2015 season which begins in April. The most exciting thing about selling at Craft Fairs, so far, is that I’ve had a few return customers who liked the first book they’d bought and they then bought more of my work. The only minor drawback to selling at these fairs is that I spend around 7 hours on a Saturday that could potentially be new writing time. Nevertheless, as published authors, we all now know that promotional time must be spent and is a huge time suck!

 Oh yes!

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Miriam.

Thank you for coming, Nancy, and for your interesting and helpful responses.

***

Nancy Jardine lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland – currently with her husband, daughter, son-in-law, 3 year old granddaughter and almost 1 year old grandson. It’ll continue to be a busy household till late summer when the new build home should appear on the back garden for the young ‘uns. The great thing about that is Nancy now has less of her original garden to tend, and any garden jobs that side of the property will soon be someone else’s! Child minding is intermittent over the day, so writing time is precious – the tendency is for it to be between 9 p.m. and 1a.m.

Her published work to date has been two non-fiction history related projects and six novels. Three of the novels are contemporary mysteries, the others historical romantic adventures set in northern Roman Britain, late first century AD – published by Crooked Cat Publishing. By spring 2015, she’ll have published The Taexali Game, the first of her Rubidium Time Travel series for a Middle Grade/ YA market.

All matters historical are a passion; Ancestry research a lovely time-suck. She regularly blogs; loves to have guests visit her blog; and Facebooking is a habit she’s trying to keep within reasonable bounds! Any time left in a day is for reading, though her TBR list of books on her kindle is now huge.

Find Nancy at: https://www.pinterest.com/nanjar/

http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk   http://nancyjardineauthor.weebly.com/

Twitter: @nansjar Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG

Also at other sites as Nancy Jardine; Goodreads; About Me; Google +…

Amazon Author page for books and to view book trailer videos:

US http://amzn.to/RJZzZz   UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nancy-Jardine/e/B005IDBIYG/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Novels also available from Barnes and Noble; W.H. Smith; Waterstones.com; Smashwords; TESCO Blinkboxbooks; and various other places

Vanessa CouchmanMy guest today is the Crooked Cat author, Vanessa Couchman, whose debut novel is set in Corsica. In The House at Zaronza, a young woman uncovers the story of a secret romance from the beginning of the twentieth century.

Hello Vanessa and welcome to my blog. Could you start by telling us about the place you live in?

Hi Miriam, and thanks for inviting me. We have lived full time in South West France since 1997. We fell in love with an ancient farmhouse set in glorious countryside. Having a continental climate it can be freezing in winter (no one tells you that before you move!) and roasting in summer. But we love it here. I’m not a city person by temperament and the country life suits me perfectly. Although it’s good to catch up on exhibitions, theatre etc and especially English bookshops whenever I go to London.

People think Israel is always hot, and are surprised when I mention snow in Jerusalem.

How well did you know French before you moved and how good is your French now?

I learned French at school for years but it doesn’t equip you for living here! My grammar was good but I could barely string two words together. (My husband had lived in France before, so his French was reasonable). I went to French classes for 4 years and now I would say my French is fluent but not perfect. Being a perfectionist, I will probably always say that!

Ah, a perfectionist. That fits with my impression – that you’re organised and modest. Organised because of the way you handled your interview of me, down to the exact time when it would be published, and even converted that to my time zone. And modest because when I praised you for being organised you downplayed it.

Does that trait also apply to the way you write? Do you plan everything before you start?

I was brought up not to push myself forward, so the idea of blowing my own trumpet always makes me squirm. Not the best of attributes, perhaps, when it comes to marketing books! I suppose I would describe myself as efficient and can achieve quite a lot if I set my mind to it. I also have a tendency to indolence, so there are bursts of activity with fallow periods in between. When it comes to writing, I do like to plan things – but not too much, since that can stifle creativity. Sometimes, I just like to start writing with an idea in mind and see how a particular scene will work out.

I have the same problem when it comes to marketing books. It doesn’t come naturally, but we twenty-first century authors have no choice.

I recently wrote a blog post about the word ‘passion’ after someone wrote that it has no place outside the bedroom. Having concluded that it does, I wonder what you’re passionate about.

Gosh, hard to know how to answer that one. I’m passionate about women’s rights and passionately against oppression in any form. That all sounds a bit high falutin’, so coming closer to home, I’m passionate about history, which was the subject of my first degree, and that’s why I normally choose to write historical fiction. My interest in history grows as I get older and I’m particularly interested in Corsican history and the history of the area of France where I live.

I’ve never tried or wanted to write historical fiction before, but an event I happened to come across triggered an interest. How should I go about it? Do you have any tips for writing historical fiction?

Gosh! I’m no expert. One of the dilemmas is how much history and how much story to include. Getting the balance right is very hard. Great chunks of historical background will just turn off the reader. Equally, you have to get your facts right and ensure that you have captured the spirit of the age.

Since we’re talking about fiction, my advice is to focus on getting the story right and worry about some of the detail later on. You still have to research the period in question, but the research shouldn’t develop a life of its own. Sometimes you have to adjust the storyline in the light of the history. But navigating a course through these problems is just what fascinates me about historical fiction.

You have written historical fiction. Therefore you’re much more expert than I am, and this looks like excellent advice.

The House at Zaronza - Vanessa CouchmanI enjoyed reading The House at Zaronza very much. I particularly liked the superb writing, the settings and being able to lose myself in the story. What have others said about it?

Thank you. I’m pleased you enjoyed it. Well, you know what I said above about squirming! However, I’ve been delighted with readers’ responses to Zaronza. A number of people have mentioned the Corsican setting, which is pleasing, since that was very important for me. People have also mentioned that they felt involved with the characters and kept reading to find out what happened when they should have been doing other things! And lots of people have asked about a sequel, which was not something I considered when I first wrote it, but I am working on one now.

Lastly, I’m interested to hear more about the choirs you sing with. I have belonged to choirs in the past, but only one at a time! How do you have time for several? What sort of music do you sing? Do you give performances?

I love singing, but took it up again only a few years ago, not having been in a choir since university. Until last Christmas I belonged to a big local choir, which gave concerts several times a year, but sadly had to give that up since they changed rehearsal times. I also belong to a small ensemble of 12 people run by a friend and a women’s choir of about 30. And we sing in big a scratch choir twice a year, which comes together to give concerts in aid of a church restoration fund. Fortunately, not all these choirs meet every week. It’s mostly classical music and choral works with the big choirs, but we also sing more modern works and French songs with the smaller ones. But I would never, ever sing a solo in public!

I wouldn’t do that, either. I don’t think I could stop my voice from quivering.

Vanessa, thank you so much for this interview. I’ve enjoyed finding out more about you.

Thank you, Miriam, I’ve enjoyed it too.

Clearly Vanessa is not going to blow her own trumpet, so I shall sing her praises! She is one of those people who manages to fit so much more into their lives than I can. She is an excellent writer, a kind and friendly person and… I’m sure there’s more but that’s all I know.

***

Vanessa Couchman is passionate about French and Corsican history, from which she derives the inspiration for much of her fiction. She has lived in France since 1997, where she runs a copywriting business and also writes magazine articles. Her short stories have won and been placed in creative writing competitions. The House at Zaronza is her debut novel.

The House at Zaronza is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Vanessa Couchman can be found at her Website and blog, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter: @Vanessainfrance

I’ve gone and done another interview. Fellow Crooked Cat author, Vanessa Couchman, kindly hosted it here.

And the other day, I wrote about the mezuzah on the Crooked Cat blog.

Happy reading and have a great weekend!

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