Monday, 2 December 2013

Reflections from a hermit in West Wales

This is where I live. Miles from the shops, miles from the bus. Of course, it isn't always snowy but since I don't drive and the bus service is non-existent, it might as well be. Sometimes the only person I see all day, other than my old fella when he comes home at night, is the postman. This time of the year, when I order more parcels I sometimes see several different delivery men in a day. Oh what a dizzy life I lead. My lifestyle does have its drawbacks. I can get a bit cranky, a little too introverted, especially if the phone rings and disturbs my peace. You see, I have come to rather like my solitude. I can be totally selfish all day, do exactly as I please, as long as that doesn't involve going out. It also enables me to give 100% attention to my work. I write four days a week, from nine(ish) to five(ish), researching, writing, marketing and networking and I am so grateful to be able to do that. So many of my writer friends have to fit their writing around work commitments, I know I am blessed. 

My life hasn't always been like this. For years I was a full time mum, running a smallholding, trying to keep the house in order. I spent years chasing children, chickens and (most of all) my own tail.
Then one day, I turned around and they were all grown up and I hadn't a clue what to do next. So, after months of indecision, I went to uni, took a degree in English literature and Creative Writing. Fortunately our local uni is just eight miles away in Lampeter. I loved University, the buildings, the lectures, the students, the staff ...the library. It was by the far the scariest step I have ever taken but also the very best decision of my life. I loved it so much that after graduation I signed up for a Masters, this time in Medieval Studies. But, of course, time doesn't stand still and I soon found myself in that 'now what?' situation again. This time though I was better armed.

I have always written stories and poems but never let anyone read them, only  my children who loved to be the protagonists in the adventures I wrote. Even today I slot their names into my novels if I can. Anyway, I digress. I wrote two novels (dreadful things) before I produced Peaceweaver and decided it was good enough to run with. I did the usual battle with agents and publishers before I decided to go it alone. Another challenge, another set of skills to learn but the result was well received but not widely read. A little discouraged initially but undaunted, the reviews it had received were encouraging enough for me to write a follow up,The Forest Dwellers. Again it met a luke-warm readership, those that read it liked it but there was not the buzz I'd hoped for. I sorted out some formatting problems, re-issued it, stuck my head down and wrote another, The Song of Heledd. 

I love this book. It is very Welsh, very romantic and ends in horrible tragedy but once more, it wasn't met with overwhelming acclaim. During this time, on the back of a small very short pamphlet I'd published about Henry VIII's wives, I had lots of people asking if I'd written any full length 'Tudor' novels and since I was between projects I decided to do so.  

The Winchester Goose stands out from anything I'd written previously. For a start, once you've written five books you are more in control, know what  you are doing and so I think it benefited from author confidence. This book breaks rules but I am like that. I like to be different. 

It is written first person, present tense and tells the story of Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard
from the perspective of a prostitute from Southwark. But it doesn't stop there; Joanie Toogood's story contrasts the life of a woman of the night with the life of a queen, and concludes that there is very little difference.
This book, along with my blogging both on this page and the English Historical Authors Blog won me lots of fans, lots of facebook friends and twitter followers and I began to get the exposure I needed.

Of course, I am by no means famous or even well-known but I am too introverted to crave real fame. I am much happier here chatting to my virtual friends and plotting, well-researched stories for my readers. The idea of  public speaking, radio or television interviews fills me with horror. I love the internet because it allows me to make my living without having to confront my deepest phobias. My fifth published novel, The Kiss of the Concubine; a story of Anne Boleyn has been out for three weeks (I think) and much to my surprise has shot into the Amazon Kindle Historical chart. The reviews so far are immensely encouraging, my back catalogue is also selling and for the first time in years, I can afford to have the heating on all day if I need to.

So, really this blog is to say 'thank you' to all those people who kept the faith in me, have bought and read my books; it is to say thank you for all the good reviews, the sharing of links, the recommendations to friends, for supporting me in my battles. Thank you to all those readers who asked me to write 'Tudor'. I am eternally grateful.

Have good Christmas, Holiday, Yule etc. and a fantastic New Year.

Watch this space for Intractable Heart: a story of Katherine Parr, coming to a book shop near you in 2014.

Photographs: wikimedia commons, author's own.
All my books are available in paperback and on Kindle.
For more information about me and my work please visit my webpage
Some of my non fiction is included in the superb collection from the English Historical Fiction authors, Customs, Castles, and Kings, click here for a preview.