Tuesday, 8 October 2013
What do you find particularly interesting about the period of history in which your books are set?
The era is a little before my time but I grew up on the war time stories my mother used to tell and I loved them. She repeated them time and time again and now I realise she was unwittingly teaching me about the art of story-telling as well. Her stories had pathos, pace, anticipation, humour and a good punch line. Those austerity years were difficult times. War scarred and weary, people were trying to pick up the threads of a normal life again whilst still facing privation and hardship and yet they came through triumphantly. I so admire people like that.
Your novels are set in and around an area which you are very familiar with, are any of the characters based on people from your own family background?
Oh yes, yes and yes! Some have come completely from my imagination (I’ve never met anyone like Reg Cox from There’s Always Tomorrow thank goodness) but most of the characters are composites of people I grew up with. Their names? That’s a closely guarded secret.
Do you have a favourite amongst your characters?
I suppose I’m a little fickle because I love the characters in my books as I write them and then move on quite quickly, but I have a lasting relationship with Mary Prior, Dottie’s friend who comes to the rescue in There’s Always Tomorrow, and I think I fell slightly in love with Eugène Étienne in Pack Up Your Troubles (but please don’t tell my husband).
I have no input at all into the design or even the title of the books, so if you like them, it’s hats off to HarperCollins Avon.
Could you give readers a glimpse of what your writing day is like? Do you have a favourite place, or time of day, and do your books start their life with pen and paper or directly on a PC or laptop?
I use the small bedroom as my office. It’s a bit chaotic as I work but as soon as I’m knee deep in papers I promise you I have a clear out. I write at any time, even getting up in the middle of the night if I have a good idea. I am ‘working’ all the time in my head and I use long hand and the computer to get it down. I have to print it off the computer to read as paper copy in order to spot mistakes and I’m a great believer in reading aloud so that I get a good rhythm in my work.
On your website, you mention your strong Christian beliefs, what part, if any, do these play in your writing life?
I hate unnecessary swearing in a book and so although my characters might use the occasional swear word, comparing my work to some other writers, it’s all very mild. It’s become a challenge for me to find a way of expressing frustration, anger or jealousy without resorting to the f-word.
Would you would like to tell readers something about the writing courses you run; how important do you think it is for aspiring writers to learn from more experienced, successful authors?
My writing courses have been on hold for a while since my fall in March when I shattered my right ankle. (moral of the story, don’t put the bins out, leave them for your hubby!) Having said that, a writing friend and I are planning a writers’ day in Worthing in March 2014. I spent perhaps five years making very obvious mistakes when sending out manuscripts and so I try to give the wanna-be writer some basics which will help them attract the eye of the editor/publisher. I LOVE encouraging writers and so my writers’ days are a lot of fun as well. Best of all I love it when I get letters and phone calls from ex-attendees who can’t wait to tell me they’ve now been published!
What is the first book you remember reading and what are you currently reading, or planning to read?
The first books I read for myself were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. Later I devoured Jean Plaidy, Daphne Du Maurier and more recently, JoJo Moyes. At the moment I’m reading Lesley Pearse’s Till We Meet Again.
If you could have only one book with you on a desert island, which would it be?
The Little House by Philippa Gregory. The book which can teach you all you need to know about characterisation.
Which is the best book you have received as a gift?
That question has made me realise that people don’t generally give me books as a gift. I shall amend my Christmas list immediately!
Are you working on another novel at the moment?
I have just written The End on a book called For Better For Worse which will be published next year.
Thank you Pam, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. One last thought – if we’d been able to have this chat over a coffee, where would your perfect venue have been?
I would have asked you if we could have swapped coffee for afternoon tea somewhere posh. How about South Lodge Country House Hotel near Horsham. Shall I book us a table?
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