Category Archives: An Interview with…

An interview with … Anita Loughrey

In the July 2019 issue of Writing Magazine, I was interviewed by Simon Whaley about my school holiday survival tips on how to push on with writing projects when the children are home all day. As mentioned in a tweet it is really very rare for me to be interviewed. I am usually the person doing the interviews. So I get very excited when I see myself in a magazine. The feature even gets a mention on the front cover:

Writing Magazine - Schools Out

Schools Out! How to juggle your freelance business with kids holidays.

When I reread my words compared to what John Adams, founder of Dad Blog UK, I realised how much things have changed over the years as my children have got older. When my children between the ages of 5-11, I too used to rely on holiday clubs which my children loved. There was so much for them to do to keep them active and interested. Once they started secondary school they would rather do their own thing and hang out with their own friends.

One thing is for certain though I have never, ever, ever got up to write voluntarily at 5am in the morning. I am definitely not a morning person. Although, I have been known to be still at my keyboard at 3am in the morning, having not gone to bed yet.

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In the feature, I advocate timetabling as a way to find time to write. This is beneficial not only to the children who get advanced warning of when you are working and when they need to amuse themselves, but it is also a way of motivating yourself to actually sit yourself in the chair and get on with the work. Timetabling works both ways and sets the expectations of the children that I am actually going to produce something at the end of the day. If you say you are going to work there has to be words on the page as evidence of this.

I have also been guilty of turning family excursions into writing projects and like Simon mentioned himself in the feature taken family for days out on assignments and when researching areas. This in a way makes it even more fun and helps me to hone in what I actually want to find out so I use my time productively.

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I think another thing though to ensure you get a well deserved break from your writing is to actually give yourself permission to stop writing and have a holiday. to do this I recommend telling your editor, project manager, publisher, agent and who ever else is involved waiting on you to send in copy what your holiday dates are. Let them know you will be away from your desk and will not be working at the set holiday dates. Everybody needs a holiday – even writers!

An interview with…Ana Johns

In my Research Secrets column in the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum this month #213 Jul 2019, I interview Ana Johns about the research she did for her novel, The Woman in the White Kimono. This novel can be described as Romeo and Juliet meets Madam Butterfly.

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The main protagonist is a twenty-first century investigative reporter who embarks on the most personal story of her life. She is trying to discover the truth about a woman with whom her father had a forbidden relationship with more than a half century ago. As her father’s secret past unfolds, the truth will reveal as much about him as about the woman and baby he left behind. 

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Ana told me that she worked backward, borrowing heavily from her father’s life, his ship, his military records, his cancer, and forward using her imagination by asking, “what if?” What if they preceded with the wedding without her parent’s blessing?  What if she were pregnant? To answer those questions, she studied 1950s international marriage and birth registry laws for the United States, Japan, and the military. Ana told me all the information was attainable online.

She explained:

This is where search engines are a writer’s best friend, even if you don’t know where to look for specific records, a single query will provide several links that point you in the needed direction. These sources, along with countless articles on the bureaucratic red tape those laws created, provided the working story structure for my dual narratives—the bones if you will. Ana Johns

Ana told me that she found internet articles and blogs invaluable but it was the real-life connections she made through various Japanese Facebook groups and military forums that gave the novel real authenticity.

Through the forum, the adoptees invited me to join their private Facebook community (again, I can’t stress the importance of these groups) where I was then invited to attend the first US Elizabeth Saunders Home reunion in San Diego on Shelter Island where the US statue of The Girl with Red Shoes stands for informal face-to-face interviews. Ana Johns

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The adoptees also inspired several of the character’s backstories that Naoko meets in a maternity home.

“Jin is somewhat lucky. At least she only battled one demon.”

My heart drops. Tears follow. Their moisture floods my fingertips and seeps through. That is why she took Jin under her wing. Stood up for her. Mothered her. I didn’t know. I didn’t guess. I didn’t ask.

“So, you see?” Her lips pull high and her shaky words fight to work through them. “When my child asks his or her new parents, ‘Why was I given away? Where did I come from?’ They won’t have a wedding story of magical lights and forbidden love to share. They will have nothing to offer, because with a story as horrible as mine, I have nothing to leave.”

“You leave life, Hatsu.” I slide close, wrapping her in my arms and whisper through tears. “You leave life.”

Extract from The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns

Ana revealed that even the fictional outcast village where Naoko and Hajime rent a home was based on a discovered headline “Google crosses line with controversial old Tokyo maps”

It’s not the run-down little house that causes my alarm, but the community. It’s in a region that houses Eta, outcasts. The Burakumin are at the bottom of the social order. They are poor, some of mixed blood, and work necessary trades of death: butchers, leather tanners, undertakers. Therefore, they’re deemed tainted, unclean and unlucky.

I am the unlucky one.

My family will forbid it. To live here would damage Father’s reputation and Taro’s prospects to earn one.

Extract from The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns

The novel may have begun with Ana’s father’s story, but through her diligent research it evolved into a story that belongs to many.

You can read the full interview in the July 2019 #213 issue of Writers Forum.

You can find more information about Ana Johns and her writing at: www.anajohns.com

An interview with… Alec Price

In my Writing 4 Children column this month, I interviewed Alec Price about the pros and cons of mainstream publishing v self-publishing. He had some very interesting things to say about the two processes of becoming a published author.

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His children’s books are about the Trogglybogs, strange children who are only two feet tall and covered all over in brown fur. they live deep in the caverns on Brinscall moors. These cheeky mischief-makers enjoy nothing more than sneaking up on people who are picnicking on the hills and stealing their food.

Trogglybogs book cover

Alec told me that in the end of experiencing both methods he prefers the self-publishing route. he said:

I think it is much more satisfying, and more profitable, to do the whole publishing process yourself. It’s not that hard.

Alec Price

For both ways of getting published Alec explained he has to do most of his own self-promotion. The publisher did put his book on Amazon and other online book sites. He contacted local papers and radio stations, he organised his school visits and he also set up his own mobile book stall to take to fair and summer fetes. Alec said:

With self-publishing you have complete control of your book; it is your baby. you can make it a success and reap the rewards.

Alec Price

For more about Alec Price and his books you can check out his website: www.alecpricewrites.co.uk

You can read the complete feature in Writers’ Forum Magazine #213 July 2019

An interview with… Chitra Soundar

In September 2016, I interviewed Chitra Soundar about her favourite stationery for the Papers Pens Poets blog.

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She told me she is not keen on pencils for her writing she prefers pens because she fears with pencils her writing may become blurred over time. This would be a disaster.

“…especially if I become so famous that there might be a museum and these notebooks will have to go on display. What if a young researcher who wants to read my writing finds it hard to read?”

Her favourite pens are Pilot V-sign – especially the black and red hues. They are bright and will keep her words safe forever.

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As for notebooks Chitra prefers, plain paper rather than dots or lines, as she can scribble across and diagonally without the lines staring at me with disapproval.

In fact she is very fussy about notebooks and would rather have branded notebooks, such as Leuchtturm and Moleskine because of the thickness of the paper, the gorgeous vibrant colours of the covers and the options available – like hardbound vs leather covers vs cardboard covers. It’s the quality of paper that clinches it for her. The Moleskine Cahiers are journals with a flexible heavy-duty cardboard cover with visible stitching on the spine. For every new project she buys a new Cahier, which come in a pack of three. She likes the pastel coloured covers best. Chitra claims they look graceful.

“It’s not really about the brand – it’s more about the quality of paper. I recently found a A5 notebook in Paperchase which had same quality of paper and beautiful hardbound cover which I use as the “in-my-purse” notebook.”

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“I think buying a notebook is the same (but more important) as buying shoes or bags. Good functional quality and then design and looks. Then the price makes it either a “reward” buy or a mandatory buy. I absolutely cannot write my award-winning novel celebrating diversity without a French Cahier by British Moleskin written using Asian Pilot V-Sign.”

Chitra told me that when she was writing full-time on an empty stomach, she was not sure if she would choose wisely between a Cahier and a full meal. Just in case, she ended up choosing food, she was hoarding all her favourite notebooks so when the day came she had to suffer for her art, at least her art wouldn’t suffer.

You can read the full interview here.

You can find out more about Chitra and her books on her website: www.chitrasoundar.com Or follow her on Twitter  @csoundar. Or Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChitraSoundarAuthor

An interview with… Jennifer Rees

To commemorate the centenary of women police force in the Metropolitan Police Jennifer Rees and her co-author Robert J Strange have written a fascinating and enlightening non-fiction book, Voices from the Blue: The Real Lives of Policewomen (100 Years of Women in the Met) .

Voices from the Blue cover

I interviewed Jenny Rees for my Research Secrets column in the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum. Jenny explained how archives were a great source of inspiration for their research. The National Archives hold many of the historical files for the Metropolitan Police. There was also the Metropolitan Police Archives in Camden, which hold the judicial histories of London and the London law courts.

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Jenny told me:

“Researching through the eras from those at the start of women in the Metropolitan Police to the complete assimilation of women into full integration with their male counterparts in 1973/4. The roles of women changed, they were expected to work alongside the men and deal with an increasing diversity of roles and crimes.” Jennifer Rees

Voices from the Blue tells the story of the hundred years of service of female police officers within the Metropolitan Police through the voices of the women who fought their way towards equality and won the respect of both their colleagues and the public. The authors have interviewed hundreds of former and serving policewomen and with the co-operation of the Metropolitan Police and the Women’s Police Association now have access to the files and stories of thousands of former officers who served over the past hundred years. Those police archives, together with material held by the National Archives and private libraries, provide a detailed and fascinating oral history of the challenges women police officers faced down the years.

Jenny explained:

“Context was the key factor for us. If the historical research brought context to the stories in a particular chapter we used them, but we were critical of each piece of research we used. Some were essential and made it into the finished version of the book, others unfortunately went by the wayside as we had a publisher word count constraint.” Jennifer Rees

You can read the full interview in the May 2019 #212 issue of Writers Forum.

You can follow Jennifer Rees and Voices from the Blue on Twitter @Namkha211

An interview with… Undiscovered Voices

In my Writing 4 Children column in the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum this month #212 Jun 2019, I discover more about the unique biennial competition for children’s book writers to get their manuscripts in front of agents and publishers.

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Undiscovered Voices is run by volunteers from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and sponsored by fiction book packager Working Partners. The competition is open for submissions on the 1st June 2019. The winners will be included in the 7th anthology out in 2020. The anthology will  be sent to every agent and publishers in the world of children’s books in the UK and US. It is also available as a free download from www.undiscoveredvoices.com.

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The feature contains excellent advice and tips for children’s authors who are considering entering the competition from each of the UK volunteer organisers: Catherine Coe, Jenny Glencross, Benjamin Scott, Simon James Green, Rosie Best and Sara Grant.

“Undiscovered Voices is not just a competition, but a supportive and friendly community. The UV team are aware it feels like an intimidating process, but want people to be reassured that the publishing industry is essentially just full of people who love books and who want nothing more than to discover new writers. Everyone is rooting for you to be successful.” UV team

The judges for the 2020 anthology are:

This is such an excellent opportunity for unagented and unpublished children’s authors. Don’t miss it.

An interview with… Flying Eye Books

In 2013, I interviewed Sam Arthur about the then new children’s book imprint, Flying Eye Books, which creates beautiful children’s books to stand out in a digital age.

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Flying Eye Books is the children’s imprint of award-winning visual publishing house Nobrow. Established in early 2013, Flying Eye Books sought to retain the same attention to detail in design and excellence in illustrated content as its parent publisher, but with a focus on the craft of children’s storytelling and non-fiction.

Since then, an array of stunning and innovative titles have populated the list, including the award-winning Hildafolk series by Luke Pearson, the highly acclaimed Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space from Ben Newman and Dr. Dominic Walliman and exquisite picture books and enchanting illustrated biographies from breakaway young talents like Wild by Emily Hughes and Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill, New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2014 and winner of the 2015 Kate Greenaway Medal.

“When we started Nobrow Press one of our main sources of inspiration was children’s books. Our aim was to provide an independent platform for graphic art, Illustration and art comics in the UK and abroad. After publishing a few books aimed at younger readers under our Nobrow imprint we soon realised that we weren’t necessarily reaching our key demographic, that is to say, kids! So, after lots of hard work, the idea of a dedicated children’s imprint became a reality.” Sam Arthur

Sam told me, he can tell within a couple of pages if a submission is something they’d be interested in. Badly drawn and badly written are always a turn off. Also when someone hasn’t considered what types of books they publish, or don’t really know what Flying Eye Books do and who they are: this is just a waste of everyone’s time.

Sam revealed he never really has much time to read cover letters. He says that something along the lines of, Here’s a copy of my book, I’d love you to publish it. If you’re interested here are my contact details. Thanks for your time.’ is pretty much perfect! They are always looking for more original graphic novels for Nobrow Press and Sam is always looking for children’s picture books that fit their list.

“We firmly believe paper books are an important part of people’s lives. We feel that there is still great pleasure to be taken in the tactile nature of reading a physical book. We still like to collect tangible objects too and although the digital world is replacing some things, often it is simply providing a way to celebrate our love of the real world and the objects within it.” Sam Arthur

Sam’s advice to anyone wanting to submit their work is before you send them anything, make sure you have a good blog or website, which is up to date with your work. If they like a submission the first thing they do is check you out online to see other work you have done. An online presence could just be a bunch of drawings uploaded to a Flickr page – it doesn’t have to be a fancy website. 

“Our perception of you is based on a combination of your submission and your presence online. So my best advice is to consider this before you send anything in. If you have nothing it makes it difficult for us to get a picture of what you do and the decision to work with you will be affected by that.” Sam Arthur

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You can read the full interview in the #144 issue of Writers Forum. You can find out more about Flying Eye Books from their website: www.flyingeyebooks.com.