Category Archives: Research

Islands of Inspiration (5) Alderney ~ for me the Ultimate Island

Looking out over Braye Beach

Alderney was the island which gave me the original inspiration to write my debut novel Riduna, first published by Pegasus in 2009, then Eventispress in 2012 when its sequel Ancasta was published. How time flies!

I have not been back for eight years due to moving to Fife and increased family commitments. It seemed an awful long way from here. How would we get there? How would a small island community have survived Covid? Would it be in decline or could it have ridden the storms?

What I did know was that I had a burning desire to return; a feeling you should never ignore.

Alderney is an island I have always held dear to my heart; the location of many happy memories of holidays as a teenager; the origins of the Jackson branch of my family and the place of my Great Grandmother Harriet’s birth.

How the island helped me in Mind, Body and Spirit

I am always excited to return. The two plane journeys, first from Edinburgh to Southampton and then on to Alderney seemed a bit daunting at first post Covid, but we took it in our stride and I was filled with an overwhelming joy; a sense of Deja vu of journeys gone by. I was smiling as we were called through at Southampton airport.

Each moment was precious; the first sight of Alderney from the plane; coming into land and into the little airport building, which hadn’t changed a bit, then the taxi drive to our hotel. Oh so very familiar and beautiful.

On our first day we ambled about, first visiting the town St Anne, which appeared to be thriving, relative to some English and Scottish small towns. Then it was down to the harbour and the breakwater and on to Braye Beach. The weather was warm and there was a tiny breeze, which was perfect. The following day we walked to the beautiful bays of Saye and Arch and then got a light lunch in The Old Barn at Longy.

Spiritually I felt so in tune with Alderney and know it is my spiritual home. I always feel a closeness with my Great grandmother there, but I was also aware this time of being extra-specially close to my Mum and Dad.

The sunshine, warmth, exercise and fresh air filled us with life, and my mind cleared of some of the fog of the past couple of years. I could feel a healing power and a setting free. Marvelous!

How I was inspired by the island of Alderney

Alderney, as I said at the beginning, was my initial inspiration to write, as was the story of my Great Grandmother. Walking where she walked and seeing houses and streets much as she would have seen them, with the cobbles and Georgian buildings as well as the tiny stone cottages down at Newtown, I became aware of her footsteps beside me and a whisper of encouragement in my ear.

Alderney Mid 19th Century

This was added to by a visit to Alderney Museum where Guilia, who is in charge of research, spent a couple of hours with me, talking through my projects. She was interested in what I knew of my family history and attempted to untangle fact from imagination, as my talk of my novels wove in and out of Harriet’s true story. (In a nutshell she lost here parents and was sent to Guernsey) Armed with several books to bring home I was tasked with sending her our family tree as we know it, with documental proof wherever possible.

I felt quite light headed as we headed back down to our hotel.

I was not so sad when we took off the next day because I knew I would return soon.

I’ve been inspired to delve into my parent’s family history files, untouched since they passed away.

I’m also inspired to work on Dad’s novella, a prequel to Riduna, in the knowledge that there are experts at hand who will take my work seriously and read the manuscript with a critical eye on its authenticity.

I had reached out and I feel that folks are reaching back over the sea to meet me half way.

It is a wonderful feeling!

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Filed under Alderney, Author Diana Jackson, Channel Islands, Family History, Inspiration, Reading a novel, Research, Riduna

Tony Riches ~ 3rd Summer Special of Successful Indie Authors

I’m so pleased to have this interview today with author Tony Riches. This is one of a series of posts aimed to appeal to writers, fans and potential readers alike. Tony is a successful Indie Author of Historical Fiction.

Hello Tony,

Do you mind me asking; was the success in your writing career a gradual process or very sudden?

Hi Diana thank you for inviting me to your blog. I’d been making a regular income writing magazine articles for years, then in January 2012 I decided to expand one of the articles (about Agile Project Management) into a short eBook and publish on Amazon. I had to code the book in HTML, so it wasn’t easy – but to my amazement that little eBook it became a best-seller in the US. That was the boost I’d been waiting for, and was encouraged to write full time.

What a wonderful encouragement for you Tony! …

Are you single minded in your writing? Do you treat It as your main work and plan your day accordingly, or write when the mood takes you?

I like the saying ‘a page a day is a book a year’, so what works for me is to have a target of 500 words a day. I usually spend the summer researching, write in autumn and winter, then edit in the spring. (During lockdown I’ve been writing 500 words a day on one book while editing another!)

Click for Amazon.co.uk

We would call your main genre Historical Fiction? How would you describe your writing style to potential readers?

My style of Historical Fiction is biographical, as the starting point is always a real person, (preferably one who isn’t too well known). I take care to ensure historical accuracy in my books, so many months are spent researching primary sources, such as original letters, and visiting actual locations. This means I’m writing with a knowledge of the subject’s voice, and the landscape they lived in. For my last book, Katherine – Tudor Duchess, I was able to spend time in the actual rooms at Grimsthorpe Castle where Katherine Willoughby lived, and visit her private chapel.

Can you give fellow writers any marketing tips?

A good tip is to have a blog with a mix of posts about your books, reviews of other books you’ve read, new book launches and guest posts from other authors. I’ve  built up the traffic on my blog, The Writing Desk to around 15,000 visitors a month, and have direct links to samples of my books in the sidebar. Posts are shared with 33,200 followers on Twitter, as well as Goodreads, so it’s become a useful (and free) way to raise awareness.

Have you one annoying habit you can share with us?

I often start my research with a specific aim, then find I’ve been diverted into something quite different. This often happens when I visit a castle of museum. (On a recent visit to the Tower of London, I found Sir Walter Raleigh’s herb garden, which might well feature in a future book.)

One of the joys and trials of research ~ being distracted. 

What pastimes keep your feet on the ground, or maybe not, when you aren’t writing?

I love sailing and sea kayaking, and live in Pembrokeshire which has many beautiful bays and islands to explore by boat. Before the lockdown, I also loved visiting the Greek islands – and will return there when I can.

Was there a single moment in your writing life when you thought ‘YES, THIS IS IT’? Can you describe that moment for us?

I’d been researching the life of Henry Tudor (who like me was born in Pembroke) and realised I had enough material for at least three books. In a moment of inspiration, I realised Henry could be born in the first book, come of age in the second, and become king in the third – and the idea of the Tudor trilogy was born. I’ve since continued to follow the story of the Tudors, all the way from Owen’s first meeting with Queen Catherine of Valois through to the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Click for Owen ~ Book One Available on Amazon

We’d love to hear your latest news:

The final edition of the first book in my new Elizabethan series is due back from my editor, and will be published in the autumn. I’m enjoying showing Elizabeth through the eyes of her courtiers – and learning about the strange world of the Elizabethans.

And finally Tony, do you see yourself writing in five years time and have you ever been tempted to write in a different genre to surprise your readers?

I enjoy writing, so plan to keep on working on a book a year over the next five years – and have several exciting ideas ‘pencilled in’. I’ve written one modern day thriller, The Shell, inspired by an incident in Mombasa, where my wife and I were accosted by a group of armed locals on the deserted beach. (While I was writing the book, another couple were kidnapped from the beach, so it was a close call.) I also wrote an eBook about the last space shuttle, Atlantis, (and became accredited by NASA) so I might return to outer space one day.

Literally?

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Tudors. For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches

Thank you Tony for a very interesting interview. I look forward to keeping in touch on Twitter. 

Links:

Website: https://www.tonyriches.com

Writing blog: https://tonyriches.blogspot.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tonyriches

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tonyriches.author

Podcasts: https://tonyriches.podbean.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5604088.Tony_Riches

 

 

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Themes in Novel Writing ~4 ~ Gender Inequality

This is part of a series on Themes in Writing Novels, some we chose deliberately, some we develop as the novel unfolds and others we slip into quite by chance, but Themes are certainly worth thinking about for writing the back blurb or book description and for marketing purposes, to find your target audience.

From plenglish.com

What facets of Gender equality could a writer focus on?

  • Prestige and occupation (eg A high flyer in business where it is a woman rather than a man who is corrupt)
  • Finance (There are the old cliches, a man finding a rich woman to marry, or a rich man or woman searching for love where money isn’t the main issue ~ so what more unusual theme could there be ~  maybe a man attracted to a woman who lives an alternative lifestyle where the environment is the main factor, avoiding impending disaster ~ a sort of updated ‘The Good Life’)
  • A sports event eg boxing, where a woman excels
  • A woman priest at the centre of a murder inquiry
  • Women spies have been written about but they are quite rare.

Of course these facets are mainly focused on the woman in the novel. Inequalities perceived against men are another issue. A husband beater for example or a male manicurist. Why not?

This post and the next are two opposing facets of Dorothy, my main protagonist in MISSING, Past and Present:

  • Theme 4 Gender Inequality

  • Theme 5 Fortitude and Resilience

You see Dot is a women of her time. (not necessarily of now) She defers to her husband Gerald in all things and uses female guile to get her own way, sometimes making Gerald believe it was his idea in the first place. She knows little about the household finances and is a bit old fashioned. Dot works in a library for most of her married life; a safe occupation, until she decides it is time for a life change and hits on the idea of becoming a foster parent. She knows that Gerald will not think very positively about the idea and so she begins a campaign, leaving leaflets around and adverts in magazines or in local papers on coffee tables.

As a person who has supported myself and been the bread winner on occasions through my life, she is definitely not a reflection of my own life and personality (and it is certainly not my memoir, as one reader guessed quite incorrectly.) I’m sure, however, that I share some of Dot’s traits; I think all of my main women characters have a bit of me in them if you scrutinize them carefully. One example of this is that Dot, like me, is a WASPI. (women against state pension inequality) She is 60 and will not get her pension until over 65. This would not have been too drastic if Dot had been able to continue fostering children, but when her husband disappeared, leaving her destitute, she had the sell the marital home.

In today’s world, readers and writers find it hard to conceive of an era where ladies like Dot were the norm, rather than an exception. Yet, to compensate with what could be considered as a ‘walk over’ Dot has other quailities ~ Resilience and Fortitude, discussed in my next post.

Here are two very different recent posts which might inspire you in this theme, although, in fact, they raise the bar to inspire Gender Equality rather than Inequality!

  1. They Dared to Fly ~ Laura Ingalls in the 1930’s

  2. Elizabeth Evans, Businesswoman and Philanthropist in 18th Century on English Historical Fiction Authors’ Blog

Can you think of any other unusual ways to tackle or highlight Gender Inequality in a novel either for a man protagonist or a woman? It would be great if you could share them with us.

 

 

 

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Filed under Marketing your novel, MISSING Past and Present, Planning a novel, Research, Writing, Writing a novel