In conversation with…@WriterMJLee

conversation-1262311_960_720

Author Q&A with writer Martin Lee 

Last month, in honour of Remembrance Day, I wrote about my Great Great Uncle William who is commemorated on the Menin Gate. How apt then, when writing my column, I came across author Martin Lee’s recently published novella, The Silent Christmas, which finds Jayne Sinclair, a genealogical investigator, trying to unravel a mystery concerning her client’s great grandfather in the trenches on December 25, 1914. Read my review here to find out more but in the meantime, I’d thought we’d do an interview with the author himself.

Martin, can you please tell our readers a bit about yourself? How long have you been writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

I’ve been a writer for most of my adult life, but not a novel writer. I worked in advertising for over 25 years as a copywriter and creative director. Every day, I had to go into work and, in the blink of an eye, come up with creative solutions to business problems for clients. About four years ago, I was offered a new job and I had a chat with a headhunter who asked me what I really wanted to do with my future. Without a thought, I answered ‘write novels’. And now, here I am, with The Silent Christmas being my tenth book to be published, the fifth in the Jayne Sinclair series.

I really enjoyed The Silent Christmas, which falls into the historical fiction genre, however, I also understand that you’ve recently released a contemporary thriller called Where The Truth Lies? My question being, which do you prefer to write about, the past or the present?

I’m so glad you enjoyed The Silent Christmas, I really loved writing the book. The answer is both, because the challenges are very different for an author. When writing about the past, you have to put yourself in the mind of the character, his or her beliefs, attitudes and thoughts at the time. Writing in the present is much more about observation of people and events in one’s daily life. I think what links the two is the idea of character. What made people act they way they did, whether it is yesterday or 100 years ago. That’s what I love to write about.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I love research, it’s where you can escape the banal and ordinary and discover something new. As I write historical crime fiction, the mores, actions and beliefs of the time are present in all my work. Readers would soon point out (and have) anachronisms for me. Research allows me to stay true to the times whether its 1920s Shanghai, the Restoration period of Samuel Pepys, or the first year of the Great War.

I’m quite methodical, probably because I was at one time a researcher in history as well as my background in advertising. I start with some general books of the period, in this case the lead up and first year of World War One, so that I can understand what was happening on a macro level. Then I will read contemporary newspaper accounts of what happened. In most cases these are third hand, ie reporters writing about something told to them, but in the case of the Christmas Truce some newspapers published letters from men at the front describing what had happened. At the same time, I will look at newsreel footage, programmes or films on the subject. Some of the participants actually described what happened on film. Next I will read memoirs or first hand accounts of what happened. There are three or four published accounts of the Christmas Truce the best being by Henry Williamson, Bruce Bairnsfather and Bertie Felstead. Finally, I will look at contemporary documents such as War Diaries and individual diaries kept at the National Archives or, in this case, at Cheshire Military Museum.

I’m generally researching two books ahead of my writing. So at the moment I’m looking into the Emancipation of Slaves in 1834….

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Character. Why do people act like they do?

In The Silent Christmas, what made people, on both sides, stop killing each other for one day? What made people stop being enemies and become friends? And conversely, having met and chatted with their opposite numbers, how did they return to the trenches a day later and start killing again?

And finally, what one piece of advice would you offer any would be writers out there?

Read. Read. Read.

But read smartly.

How is the writer telling his story? What are they trying to say? How are they saying it? What would you do differently? How have they built up character and themes? What genre are they writing in? How would you describe this book in one sentence?

And once you’ve decided to be a writer, never, never give up. There will come a point when you want to stop. Don’t. Push on through to the end, because nobody will ever read an unfinished book.

Writer Martin Lee

M J Lee can be contacted at http://www.writermjlee.com, on Facebook at writermjlee and on twitter at @writermjlee. He’s nothing if not original with his handles (his words – not mine!).

Advertisements

The Crime and Punishment of Writing and Publishing with @BetsyReavley @Bloodhoundbook @bombshellpub

Betsy Bloodhound_Books_244

@BetsyReavley

On my blog I’ve been lucky enough to host some great interviews with some amazing local authors, and just recently that extended to a wonderful and informative Q&A session with prolific book blogger, Linda Hill, which you can read here. However, this month I’m really honoured to bring you an interview with someone who is both a successful author and one half of a successful husband and wife team behind the publishers Bloodhound Books and Bombshell Books, Betsy Freeman Reavley. 

  1. Hi Betsy, can you tell everyone a bit about yourself? 

I began my career as a writer and started my first novel when I was twenty-two years old. After having my first daughter and then getting married, I finally got round to finishing it and I was thrilled when an indie publisher offered me a contract and went on to publish the book.

The birth of eBooks and Amazon changed how people could publish and gave me, and my husband, an opportunity to start our own business, which we did in 2014. Bloodhound Books was born and we’ve never looked back. 

  1. What is the most difficult/frustrating part of being a publisher? 

The publishing world has changed since the birth of eBooks. Many authors still think of publishing in traditional terms and some authors struggle with the idea that our focus is on eBook sales, despite the fact we also produce paperbacks.

  1. As we all know, life can be difficult at times. Do you have a quote (either your own or someone else’s) or a motto that you try and live by, not just during the tough times but the good ones too? 

I listen to music to encourage me to focus my mind. Anything from BB King to Eminem will help me concentrate on what I want to achieve and keep going. The lyrics are all important to me and I take strength from them. I also love poetry, which inspires me to never give up.

  1. Truthfully, which do you prefer, writing or publishing?

They are both fulfilling but require very different skill sets. I couldn’t say. The pressure from publishing can be stressful but keeps life interesting. Writing is a lonely pursuit but one that I love.

  1. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones? 

I used to read every review, taking each to heart, whether those words were good or bad. I am grateful to anyone who takes the time to leave a review, be it good or bad, but I’ve grown a thicker skin and now worry much less. What I do care about are sales figures. I am not a literary writer who does it for the art of writing. I am a career woman and I want to make a good living.

  1. And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a writer or a publisher?

I don’t think you can advise someone how to become a writer. It’s either in you to do it or it isn’t. Writer’s write, it’s that simple. As for publishing, I never thought I’d end up being a publisher but I have discovered that I enjoy business and the opportunity to give talented writers a platform. The one thing I would always encourage people to remember is that publishing is based on opinions. Do I like this book? Can I sell it? What one publisher may think another may disagree with. Neither is wrong. It’s all just opinion. As long as you remember that, then you’ll keep your head screwed on properly.

 

 

Book Bloggers – The Unsung Heroes Of The Book World

10011593_1786471088245862_5398185122946055833_o

Once a month I write a column for a local lifestyle magazine called The Fens. As well as offering writing advice I’ve also had the pleasure of doing some great interviews with some amazing authors. However, this month I thought I’d chat with one of the many brilliant unsung heroes of the book world, namely Linda Hill – book blogger extraordinaire. Among other things, Linda – a prolific reader – writes book reviews, takes part in blog tours and regularly hosts author guest posts on her award winning Book Blog, Linda’s Book Bag. And like many book bloggers, this is all done in her spare time for nothing more than the sheer love of books.

  1. Hi Linda, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Hi Eva. I’m a passionate and eclectic reader (and a bit of a closet writer) who used to be an English teacher, inspector and educational consultant. I’m self-retired and love books and travel.

  1. Have you always enjoyed reading books and when did you first become a book blogger?

I was a late reader as my sight is so poor that I didn’t realise those squiggles on a page had meaning! Once I got glasses at 7 there was no stopping me and I still have my childhood Paddington books.

I began blogging three years ago when I decided life was too short to keep working and I wanted to share my love of books. Since then my blog has grown and I might even say has got out of hand!

  1. And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a book blogger?

Learn to say ‘No’. There are only 24 hours in a day. It’s so tempting to accept every book you are offered for review and once you get known, the books keep arriving even if you’re not expecting them – I currently have over 900 physical books that have just turned up and I can’t get into my study.

Bloggers need to be very active on social media like Twitter and Facebook so that lots of readers see their blog posts.

I’d also say that authors never set out to write a bad book so be constructive and kind in reviews. A book that may not appeal to one person might be perfect for another reader.

I’d urge ALL readers to review on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, as well as a blog, as this is the only way many authors can get their books noticed.

And blog often!

It’s Just My Point Of View – POV!

 

It'sJust My Point Of View2

A couple of months ago I wrote about the different types of writer there are (see here), namely Plotters, Pansters or, as in my case, Plansters! This month I thought we’d take a look at one of the more important literary devices of a novel, often referred to as Point of View – or POV.

For now I’ll keep it simple and look at the three most popular POV’s. 

First Person Narrator – is from a single perspective, a personal one – where the narrator uses words like “I” and “me” and “my” – and where the world the writer creates is seen through the eyes of a single character. 

Pros – first person allows you and the reader direct access to what your character is thinking and feeling. This means your readers are instantly connected with your narrator, creating more empathy and emotional investment in your overall piece.

Cons – there are limits as to what your narrator can and cannot relay to your reader. Everything is from a particular person’s line of sight so there will be details that they and therefore your reader, won’t know.

Second Person Narrator – uses the pronoun “you” and puts the reader into the story, and if done right can plunge the reader into the narrative completely. 

Pros – you can tell the reader what to feel and how to react, and, as they are part of the story, by default there is already a strong sense of empathy.

Cons – writing in second person has to be done carefully to avoid poor writing. Also, by telling the reader what they are thinking and feeling, you run the risk of alienating them.

Third Person Narrator – a popular POV, is a narrator who tells the story from outside the narrative itself and uses phrases such as “he said” and “she said” and gives the author the option of an omniscient narrator (an all-knowing narrator) – who knows every character, every event and every detail.

Pros – generally, writers have more freedom and fewer limitations when it comes to third person narration.

Cons – what a writer gains in narrative freedom they lose in intimacy. This POV doesn’t give characters a direct voice to the reader. The narrator is not speaking subjectively to the reader so it can make it harder for them to empathise and connect with characters.

 

Author Q&A with Ross Greenwood @greenwoodross

 

Each month I write a column for local (to me) lifestyle magazine The Fens and after reading and reviewing the brilliant Fifty Years of Fear (book 1 of his Dark Lives Series) by Ross Greenwood , I thought it a good idea to chat to the author himself.

Pictured from right to left: Ross Greenwood, author Jane E James, and myself

From right to left: authors Ross Greenwood, Jane E James and me!

  1. Hi Ross, can you please tell us all a little bit about yourself? How long have you been writing and did you always want to be a writer?

I’m 44 and was born in Peterborough. I travelled all round the world, living in Australia and Gibraltar of all places. Then I met my soon to be wife walking a dog about 50 metres from my back door next to the River Nene! I had an urge to write a book about 10 years ago, but life (kids actually) got in the way. The drive to finish it became irresistible, and I wrote Lazy Blood between 4 and 6 am after being woken up by son’s request for milk.

  1. I really enjoyed reading Fifty Years Of Fear (read my review here) and from what I can gather your first three novels are set in or around Peterborough, can you tell us why? Is it important to you to ‘write what you know’?

Fifty Years, Lazy Blood and The Boy Inside are all set in Peterborough. I wanted to write about my home town as there are few books set here. The ones that are often portray a stark place that I don’t think exists. Characters from each book may pop up in the others, but they can all be read standalone. I worked in the prison for four years, and used my experiences there to portray modern lives told with humour. I find writing flows when you pull the information from your own memory.

  1. And finally, for any would be writers out there, what one piece of advice would you offer them?

You’ll find lots of people have advice about writing, but everyone’s journey is unique. The only advice that is guaranteed to be correct is to pick up your pen and begin. Then you are a writer, whatever anyone says. It’s unlikely you’ll make much money from it, but it’s a wonderful thing to do. Holding your own first book is an experience that’s within your reach, if only you pick up that pen and write.

Thank you for being a great guest, Ross. If you want to connect with Ross on social media you can find him on:

 Facebook 

Twitter @greenwoodross 

Website  www.rossgreenwoodauthor.com

 

ross

Ross has also recently released his fourth novel, Abel’s Revenge, which is getting some rave reviews. Check it out here and here.

516IbC+QdJL

 

 

 

 

 

 

#PressforProgress – Still A Long Way To Go

 

“I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”

–Mary Wollstonecraft

woman-2128020_960_720

Image: Pixabay

 

Today, Thursday 8th March 2018, is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, political, cultural, and economic achievements of women. It is also a day that marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The call to action this year is #PressforProgress and with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp momentum is particularly strong this year. 2018 also marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the UK. So, a century on, how are we doing?

womens-march-2004278_960_720

Image: Pixabay

Sadly, the findings of the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report (International Women’s Day website) suggest gender parity is still over 200 years away. Disheartening to say the least. Further research suggests that globally, one in three women suffer from gender-based violence, sixty two million girls, annually, are denied access to education, and women in the workplace still suffer in terms of pay and representation. Much has also been written about the inequality female writers still face in the writing and publishing world. As a female writer myself, I wanted to explore this a bit further.

emancipate-1779119_960_720

Image: Pixabay

In terms of reviews, literary prizes, and senior positions within publishing houses, many are still being awarded to men above women. Even World Book Night (The Guardian) shows that the picks of the last 5 years have been made up of 64 male versus 36 female authors. And author Nicola Griffith shows gender bias in her study, published in May 2015, of prizewinning books both here and across the pond, broken down by the gender of their protagonists. Her findings suggest that in the last 15 years, 12 of the Booker-winning novels have had male protagonists, two have had female protagonists, and one has had both male and female protagonists. The Booker fared better than the Pulitzer, which has had no female protagonist among its 15 winning books. I was also disappointed to find in a study carried out by The Guardian in August 2016, articles written by women, irrespective of their content or subject matter, attract more abuse and dismissive trolling than those written by men.

men-1979261__340

Image: Pixabay

Aleesah Darlison (Writers Edit) attributes continued gender discrimination to “tradition and possibly even culture… It’s incredibly difficult to change centuries-old thinking, but women are continually striving to move forward.” 

Whereas some writers like Christine Piper (Writers Edit), author and winner of The Australian/Vogel Literary Award for After Darkness suggests that the confines of professional limitations based on gender are sometimes self-imposed and said “Like many women, I’ve been guilty of self-sabotage: doubting my ability, playing down my talents, taking rejections personally, and being shy about pursuing opportunities. Men are socialised to be confident and champion their abilities (but of course not all male writers are like this), while women are not – if a woman does do those things she’s often seen as arrogant or a ‘tall poppy’.”

However, it’s not all bad news, women are making advances. I only have to look at my daughter to see the opportunities available to her compared to my mother who, born in 1950, was paid half the wage of a man when she first started working. Nonetheless, let’s not get complacent, continue to unite, support one another and #PressforProgress for women.

emancipation-156066__340

Image: Pixabay

 

Plotter or Panster – What Type Of Writer Are You?

paper-3033204__340

Image Pixabay

Last month you may remember I interviewed writer, Heidi Swain, who sets most of her novels in fictional fenland towns. One of the questions I asked Heidi was, what one piece of advice would you offer any would be writers out there? Heidi’s response was simple but honest: “If you want to be a writer, write. If you put it off until you ‘have more time’ you’ll never put pen to paper. Stop procrastinating and make a start.” Wise words indeed. So, if your New Year’s resolution was to do just that, and assuming you’ve got that far, you probably know by now whether you are a plotter or a panster. However, if you haven’t heard these terms before and have no idea what plotting or pansting is, read on.

A plotter is someone who plans their novel before they write it. Famous writers generally regarded as plotters include, J.K. Rowling, R.L. Stein (of the famous Gossebumps books), Sylvia Plath and John Grisham.

Grisham states, “I don’t start a novel until I have lived with the story for a while to the point of actually writing an outline and after a number of books I’ve learned that the more time I spend on the outline the easier the book is to write. And if I cheat on the outline I get in trouble with the book.” (Source: Goodreads)

Pros: Having planned their novel beforehand, plotters know what’s going to happen before they write it. This makes it easier to bust writer’s block.

Cons: Plotters can become confined to their plans, and if they do get stuck or want to change something, it often means having to redo their whole outline.

A panster, like its name suggests, is usually someone who flies by the seat of his or her pants. They have some vague idea about a story, or a main character, or even just an opening line, but nothing comes to life for a panster until they actually sit down to write. Famous writers who regard themselves as pansters include Stephen King, Pierce Brown, Elizabeth Haynes and Margaret Atwood, to name but a few.

Atwood starts with “an image, scene, or voice…I couldn’t write the other way round with structure first. It would be too much like paint-by-numbers.” (Source: Goodreads)

 Pros: Pantsers have the freedom to take their novel in any direction they want. They have flexibility.

Cons: Having very little, or no plan, makes it easier to get stuck.

I generally regard myself as a “planster”, as I suspect most writers do, which basically means I’m a little of both. However, some writers tend to lean heavily towards one or the other, I definitely lean more towards panster than plotter.

Which one are you?