My first guest author post today is by the lovely Patricia Dixon. Inspired by her second home, Patricia has published four novels that are all set in France. Born in Manchester, Patricia studied Fashion at Preston Polytechnic in the 80’s before starting her working life in London amidst the mad world of couture and designer tantrums.When the sparkle eventually wore off she returned to Manchester to a more sedate existence where she spent much of her time travelling the UK producing clothing for high street stores.
Twenty five years later, after swapping fashion for bricks and mortar and working alongside her husband in their building company, she found herself with an empty nest and her secret ambition to write novels could at last become a reality. Here, Patricia explains what inspires her to write and why she loves writing.
I ♥ Writing !
I ♥ Writing ! I also love everything it has brought to my life and I’m not talking about my earnings from book sales, it is so much more than that.
When I tell someone I’m an author, I can usually predict the next three things they are going to say, just after the look of surprise has worn off.
The first will be – Really! So what made you decide to do that?
The second – Where do you get your inspiration?
And the third – I’ve always wanted to write a book!
The answer to the first question is always easy – I decided to write because I knew I had to try and if I didn’t have a go, I would always regret it. I wanted to do something for me, that I was interested in and felt that I could do well. These were the simple building blocks on which to start my journey which up till now has been a huge learning curve, immense fun and a voyage of discovery which I never want to end.
And the inspiration? – That’s easy. Apart from my second home, France, which is a never ending source of ideas, tastes, sights and smells (I’m talking about the countryside and French cuisine here) what inspires me the most, is people.
I’m intrigued by the intricacies of their lives, not glamorous glitzy stuff or fame and celebrity, everyday things like marriage, divorce, birth, death, infidelity, jealousy, secrets….the list goes on. To me, the mundane aspects of our everyday existence which pass by largely unnoticed, those daily occurrences, familial interactions that make us tick, cry, laugh, rage, they all have substance, are tangible and real, utterly fascinating.
Our emotions too are complex, especially the more negative ones, and at whatever age, we can be thoughtless, indiscriminate, selfish and obsessed, blinkered and controlling. The good, bad and the ugly all make up the human psyche, have an impact on the lives of others with actions or words and combined, they have the ability to hurt or heal, make us sad or joyous, be labelled cruel or kind.
I’m a watcher of humans, wherever I may be. I’m the guest at the party who sometimes likes to sit in a quieter place and take in the scene before her, or maybe I’m the one being told a secret by the lady who has had far too much to drink and now, I’ll never look her in the eye again. Occasionally, you’ll find me in the middle of a debate, doing a bit of subtle stirring or listening to the views of others and naturally, putting my own ten pence worth in. I’m frequently reminded afterwards by my husband that it’s never wise to talk about football, politics, and religion in a social setting….but we’d never learn anything if everyone stuck to that rather limiting and boring rule!
What inspires me is a big old food mixer containing all of the above and even when it looks like all is lost, the fight is gone and the end really is nigh, all our foibles and strengths come into play, the human spirit rises up and triumphs, vanquishes foes, lays demons to rest and lives to fight another day. I admire people who try hard, have courage in their faith of whatever kind, help others, listen, have a desire to learn, show humility, kindness and understanding of those different to themselves. And in an odd way, I’ve found that these characteristics, the things which inspire me to write and form my stories, have a knock on effect, acting as a catalyst.
The incubation process takes place during the telling of the tale and by the end, I hope to have passed on some uplifting glimmer of happiness to the reader, a positive energy. I receive the most wonderful letters from all over the world, lovely people telling me how much they enjoyed my writing and that I have helped them, made them laugh, sometimes there’s even a bit of crying, too. Most say they can’t wait for another book which in turn, encourages me to continue, so in one way or another, the Angel of Inspiration is doing a fine job (yes, I am a believer in God and his celestial comrades).
As I said at the start, it’s not all about book sales, it’s the feeling I get when a name, familiar or new, pops up on my inbox, a letter from a happy reader. I have made so many new friends, some of whom I correspond and chat with regularly on Facebook or by email. It varies from weekly to maybe once a year, sending best wishes at Christmas, or just passing on snippets of news and catching up.
Some of them touch my heart, like the lady (I won’t mention names) who wrote to me from France during the winter months as she nursed her husband. Sadly, he was nearing the end of his life but she told me that the words in my Christmas story kept her going, and even now, she drops me a line and lets me know how she is getting on in her life without him. After reading À Bientôt, someone recently widowed got in touch to tell me that Anna’s tale gave her hope and encouragement, feeling now that all was not lost and she had the strength to carry on. I have so many other examples, some of them humourous, like the lady at the end of her tether with a step-daughter from hell, just like one of my characters, Lady Louise of Limousin, and I’d somehow persuaded her out of actual bodily harm. Many readers now want to visit France or make return journeys after catching the Francophile bug again, and on reflection, I reckon the French Tourist Board owes me a large chunk of commission! I might drop them a line next.
I’ve had to disappoint people too, by admitting that Rosie’s gîtes don’t actually exist and one lovely chap told me he was actually beginning to believe the people in the trilogy were all real. Knowing that readers can connect and associate with my characters really is such an honour.
Writing has given me so much, the most precious being new friendships (I met one of my closest, dearest friends through this process) a large injection of self esteem, something interesting to talk about, a sense of pride in myself and knowing that my family feel the same way about me. It has also brought me a sprinkling of confidence, something which, as you get older, can gradually diminish without you noticing it has packed it’s bag and is heading out the door.
For example, nowadays, I actually quite like saying the words ‘I’m a writer’ but not at the beginning, I was far too shy. I can remember the first time I confessed, under duress I may add, which was in the tinned food aisle at Sainsbury’s, just by the spaghetti hoops. A lovely lady was conducting a survey and looked quite flustered after possibly being re-buffed by one in three of the shoppers. Being a soft touch, I hadn’t the heart to walk by or make up some weak excuse so ended up answering each and every one of her multiple choice questions. When she’d finished, I was asked my age and occupation which is when I caught the beady eyed stare from my son, who was already bored out of his brains and ready to kill, so I took the hint and told the truth. Unfortunately for him, she then proceeded to ask the three questions listed above, to which I gave her honest and detailed answer’s and by the end of our chat, she’d jotted down the titles of my books and promised to buy them as soon as she got home!
After that I was on a roll and now take great delight in filling in registration forms and questionnaires, a task which has resulted in making a few unexpected sales and conducting book related conversations in some rather odd places.
Whilst having a procedure carried out at the local hospital, the chatty nurse spotted my job title on the notes and as they wired me up to the machine, I ran through my titles and even gave a quick synopsis of each. Suffice to say, while my heart went through its paces and the machine whizzed and whirred, the technicians on the other side of the glass were having a quick Google and checking me out on Amazon! The dentist was slightly trickier and I don’t know how they expect you to talk while they have those metal thingy’s inside your mouth. Still, both the nurses and dental staff seemed rather chuffed to have had their very first author on the reclining chair of torture, or strapped beneath something resembling a prop from the Star Ship Enterprise.
There are many advantages to being an author, the best is being able to disappear into a world of your own making, escaping to wherever you so wish and returning only when you have to cook the dinner (which is frequently burnt or overlooked completely if I’m engrossed). You can write your own endings, become another person, alter someone’s fate, and dish out punishments and revenge with a few clicks of the keyboard. I’m not power mad, honest!
I can’t say I’m in the league of authors where my name is instantly recognised or I am afforded special treatment, but my son actually got his car insurance quote much cheaper when he altered my profession online, so I assume authors are considered extremely safe drivers, or perhaps it’s just that they never stray far from their desks and laptop, thus leaving the roads of Britain less hazardous.
Being an author also gives me an opportunity to help others, by writing reviews for other writers (you will find that we are actually a very supportive crowd which in itself is comforting and uplifting) donating some of my profits to charity and offering my books as prizes.
The notion of passing on what I have learned from this whole process (good and bad) leads me to the final comment mentioned at the start. When someone says ‘I’d love to write a book’ my response is, just do it! I have quite a few acquaintances who, during our cyber chats, have expressed their desire to write and I hope I have encouraged all of them to have a go. If you think you can make people happy with your words, have a story in your head and you are burning to tell it, or there’s something you need to get off your chest, then write it down.
Don’t ever assume that your life is ordinary, we are all unique, have probably loved and lost, experienced sadness and pain, joy and heartache, witnessed life with our own eyes and battled on through whatever this world throws at us. If this is you, I hope that the Angel of Inspiration has gone a bit mad and sprinkled hope all over these words.
Maybe some of what inspires me, has trickled down the page and ended up here, at the end of my ramblings and will be the spark that sets you off on your own journey. Alternatively, if you are just happy to read the writing of others, then I do hope that should you chance upon mine, you enjoy my books and they leave you above all content and smiling.
Right, I’m off to finish book five, I’m on the home straight now. I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes which I think you may like. I try to keep them in mind each day.
Wishing you all the very best,
*What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make* (Jane Goodall)
*Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try*