Hi Angela and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?
I’m a proud mother to three wonderful children who have all flown the nest. I’m married to my best friend, Paul, and I’m a happy slave to two spaniels. My favourite things to do are writing (of course), reading, making jewellery and creating artwork out of natural objects, such as pebbles, dried flowers etc. Two years ago Paul and I planted a lavender field in France and this year we moved there, to live. A new adventure!
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer and what were the first steps you took towards this?
Looking back I realise I was so naïve about the writing process when I began to write seriously ten years ago. It was only through failure and rejection over the following years that I began to learn the technique of writing. I read how to books, joined two writing clubs, started a blog and read other authors’ blogs, attended workshops and master classes on novel writing, visited The London Book Fair every year, made contact with authors, publishers and agents on Twitter and Facebook, listened to author talks, read a lot of novels, oh the list is endless! After ten years, I’m still learning. Only last month I learned the correct form of dashes to use – em dashes or en dashes! Who’d have thought?
What would your advice be to newbie writers?
I’d give three main pieces of advice to new writers. Write what you want to write, not what’s vogue at the moment. By the time you’ve written your novel the popular theme of the moment will have moved on. Never stop reading and get a professional critique before submitting your work.
Beach or City Girl – where are you happiest when on holiday?
I’m definitely a beach girl. I love the sun and being on holiday gives me the opportunity to read all day and every day without feeling guilty about unfinished jobs.
What inspired you to write your debut novel Arlette’s Story?
About five years ago I visited the martyred village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France. I was incredibly moved by what I saw there that I decided there and then to tell the story from a survivor’s point of view. It wasn’t so much of a thought – more of a compulsion to write an historical novel telling the story of when the Germans visited this small town on 10th June 1944. Charles de Gaulle once declared that the ruins must be left untouched, so now French officials are panicking that Oradour won’t survive for another seventy-four years of hot summers and freezing winters. I thought that, in some small way, I could help to keep the memory alive.
Part of your novel is centred on events which actually took place. How did you carry out research for this?
Research is a vital part of making a book appear believable to our readers. I’ve now visited Oradour-sur-Glane five times, taken photographs and listening to recorded conversations from the handful of villagers who survived. I’ve read factual books on the massacre and visited the cemetery where the townspeople are buried. There is now a museum in Oradour with footage from before the war and the discovery of what had happened. The Internet is a wonderful place to look for information and I also watched many WW2 films with notebook in hand to jot down interesting facts. War museums are also invaluable for discovering new information to add depth to a war story and I’ve read articles in The Guardian and Times newspapers that have run with stories about Oradour.
And finally, you are organising a dinner party and can invite four famous guests (past or present). Who would you choose and why?
Ernest Hemingway. Not only was he an accomplished journalist, novelist and short-story writer, he was also present at the Normandy landings and the liberation of Paris, so I’d have lots of questions about writing and history to ask him about.
Dame Margot Fonteyn. For me she was the inspiration to start ballet lessons as a child after my mother took me to see Swan Lake. Sadly I never continued with dancing but I’d love to meet her at my fantasy dinner party.
Louis Pasteur. He was a French chemist and microbiologist who developed antidotes and cures to many dangerous illnesses such as anthrax and rabies. He also successfully invented a way to pasteurise milk and make it safe from tuberculosis. He also proved that germs grew from contamination and disproved the theory of spontaneous contamination. Basically, he has saved millions of lives and I’d like to let him know how grateful mankind is to him.
Cillian Murphy. Well – because he’s gorgeous! I fell in love with him after watching Peaky Blinders.