This post is a departure from my usual posts about romance and adventure in Italy. I was delighted to be invited to take part in the Writers’ Blog Tour by the poet, short-story writer and blogger Steward Bartlam (http://stewartstanzas.wordpress.com/), who I met via Twitter. The Writers’ Blog Tour is a growing international community of writers working to introduce each others’ blogs to a wider audience. Each writer involved answers four questions about their work, and provides links to other writers who will follow on from them, in a continuous “chain”. Stewart had been invited onto the tour by the poet and blogger Marc Mordey (http://themarcistagenda.wordpress.com/). And Stewart, in turn, invited me, which is why it’s my turn to answer the four questions.
1. What am I working on?
I’m in the final stages of work on my debut novel, The Orchid Tree. It’s a coming of age story about two women. 15 year-old Kate lives a rarefied life of wealth and privilege in the Hong Kong expatriate community. When the Japanese take over the colony in December 1941, she’s interned in a squalid camp with her parents. Enduring cramped conditions, humiliation, disease, and starvation, she befriends 17 year-old Charles – who’s half Chinese – and they give their hearts to each other under the orchid tree. Forty miles away, in Macau, Sofia Rodrigues’ suspicions are aroused when her father invites a Japanese family to dinner, an event which leads to a breach between her and her controlling half-brother, Leo. At the end of the war, Kate and Charles are separated. She believes him to be dead when the ship he’s on is sunk. Sofia dreams of leaving Macau and starting a new life in Hong Kong, and she won’t let anyone, not even Leo, stop her. A young Englishman, James, arrives in the territory and becomes the link between Kate and Sofia. The communist-nationalist struggle in China spills over into the colony, catapulting the protagonists into the turmoil with disastrous consequences. A tale of loss and redemption, set against the background of conflict and changing values in colonial society, but also about never giving up on love.
While finalising The Orchid Tree, I’m developing a time-slip historical romance, Lady of Asolo, which unfolds in the renaissance Veneto town of Asolo, near where I live. Its’ about a young Englishwoman, Fern. On holiday in Italy, she’s haunted by visions of Cecilia – a woman who lived nearly five hundred years ago, while at the same time trying to recover from a terrible trauma. Will Luca, the man she meets, be able to help Fern escape the past?
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My editor said of The Orchid Tree, ‘I found the narrative voice had a unique sparseness to it, a knack for succinct imagery and storytelling, and indeed the read brought a fragrant feel, almost as if one was sitting with the book beneath an orchid tree.’ His words are hugely encouraging. I belong to the second generation of my family to have been born in Hong Kong, where I spent my childhood and early married life, and I hope my knowledge of the ex-colony lends an authenticity to my writing that readers will enjoy. My grandparents were interned by the Japanese from 1942-1945, and went through some of the experiences of my characters. My father’s life in the Chinese Maritime Customs inspired the start of part 2. In my Italian novel, I’m aiming to create an ambiguity of imagery through scent and colour, like the artists who are the protagonists of the story.
3. Why do I write what I do?
The tale at the heart of The Orchid Tree has been in my mind for years, demanding to be told. One of the reasons I wrote it was because many of the novels I’ve read set in post-war Hong Kong didn’t ring true to me. I wanted to capture a time and place that no longer exist, but one which I knew so well, and it’s my hope that I’ve managed to take my readers there. Likewise, with respect to Lady of Asolo, I’m privileged to live in another interesting part of the world and to have an insight into its culture.
4. How does my writing process work?
Difficult question. It was only after I’d joined the peer review site YouWriteOn and exchanged reviews with other writers that I learnt to write “properly” although, as Hemingway said, ‘We are all apprentices in a craft where no one becomes a master.’ One thing is certain, I’m happiest when I’m writing; it’s become as essential to me as breathing. When I was writing the first draft of my debut novel, I was definitely a “pantser writer”, writing by the seat of my pants, then polishing, cutting scenes, adding scenes, and fleshing out my characters. The writing buddies I made through YouWriteOn were a huge help. Finally, again through YWO, I found the right editor for me, John Hudspith, when a fellow member was singing his praises on the message board. Johnny not only edited The Orchid Tree in a highly professional way, but also gave feedback as a reader, which I think is vital. You can read my testimonial to him here. My writing process involves creating a rough outline before I start my first draft. I know how the story will end, as well as the major plot points, and I try to focus on my point of view character’s motivations and impediments to his/her goals. My aim is to keep the reader hooked by not revealing too much too soon and by engaging his/her emotions. You can read the early chapters of both my novels by clicking the links on the right of this page.
And now I’d like to introduce two wonderful writers.
“To read is to live a multitude of lives.”
That’s what I say. Ever since I was first shown a book as a baby (in 1982), or small child at least, I’ve gobbled them up one after a wordy-other. Reading: love it! Writing: love it!
So, who am I? I’m an author of novels, short stories and poetry, as well as the odd blog article here and there, and on top of that an English teacher in the la Rioja, Spain. I live with my partner, dog and two guinea pigs, the latter three who help with my writing to varying degrees of success and the former who gives endless support. BLOG: http://daveynorthcottauthorwriter.wordpress.com/
I am from Nottinghamshire, UK and lived most of my life in a village in the heart of Sherwood Forest. My dad was in the RAF and a lot of my childhood was spent overseas. I studied English & Psychology at university, and returned a few years ago to study business.
I have always written for pleasure, but life has got in the way of persuing it as a career. My working life has been varried, from packing ‘lucky bags’ with sweets and novelties, to managing a charitable trust. BLOG: http://jemovon.moonfruit.com/#/blog/4573634448
Please visit their blogs to find out more. These talented writers will be answering the same 4 questions on Monday 9th June. Anything you can do to help us all share our words and ideas through your own networks would be much appreciated. Thank you.