Monday, 24 September 2012

I Wrote it My Way - Darlene Jones

Please give a warm welcome to my first guest author!
It is always fun to be a guest on another author’s blog and I am really grateful to all those people who have invited me in the past. Although I have had Miriam’s Ramblings running for some years now this is not something I have done before - had visitors!

I feel it is time to put this right! I am always fascinated to know what led writers to their chosen genre and what or who influenced their choice.
My first guest to talk about this is Darlene Jones.

I was a little unsure where she lives, although I know her books were influenced by her years living in Mali. I asked her to clarify: ‘A little Canadian humor for you,' she said. 'I'm a true Albertan - born in Saskatchewan and retired in British Columbia. I now live on Vancouver Island and spend the winters in Mexico.’ No wonder I was confused!!
But this is exciting, isn’t it? Here I am in ‘Appley Green’ land in Surrey, England and there Darlene is …!
Writer of three books, Empowered, Embattled and Embraced, Darlene explains:

Some time ago, I suffered terribly from insomnia. I started telling myself a story in an attempt to sleep. It didn’t work. Instead the story grew and came to a point where I had to write it down. I certainly didn’t intend to write a sci fi and despite the sci fi element with the other worldly beings, I don’t consider my books to be science fiction per se. I see them as contemporary fiction dealing with the world we live in now. I’m not sure why my story took this particular direction, but I love the magic I was able to bring to the plot line along with the romance. Every book needs a love story, right?

My own reading tastes are eclectic. I read anything that grabs my attention. I was once asked to list My Ten Favorite Books Limiting me to ten was cruel as I could give you one hundred or more books that rank right up there.
When I first published my books, I thought they were stories for women because of the love theme (and love triangle), but I’ve had great comments from the men who have read them. That’s probably because there are elements of action and adventure in the story too, and exotic locales. EMBRACED is the third and, in some respects, my favorite. I have one more in progress to end the series. I’ve been careful to write each so it can be read as a “stand alone” which I hope gives readers more flexibility, rather than feeling they have to read the books in a certain order.
You can find out more about Darlene-Jones and her books right here!



Thanks so much Darlene for being my first visitor!
Watch out for my next author guest in a couple of weeks' time.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Next Big Thing

Today something quite new has arrived!

Miriam’s Ramblings can take you to faraway places or cover edgy issues. It’s such an unpredictable mish-mash of snippets, who knows what will come up next? Sometimes I don’t even know myself!

I am a member of a couple of groups of lovely authors – ‘Love a Happy Ending’ and ‘Famous Five Plus’. Chris Longmuir, who lives in Scotland is an amazing writer of crime fiction and, like me, actually belongs to both groups. I met Chris at the fantastic ‘Summer Audience’ in June at my old school in Goucestershire.

Well, Chris has set me off on something called ‘The Next Big Thing’, where writers are posed questions, enticing them to throw out a few intriguing nuggets about their current work in progress. This gives readers and fans a privileged insight, not quite a sneak preview, as to what to expect next from an author.
On  Chris Longmuir's blog   she handed over the baton to me, so to speak, and four others. So here I am now ready to tease you with a few guarded hints of the Next Big Thing. Will it be Gypsies? Or something else? Will it be in Appley Green?

What is the working title of your next book?

The title for my next book is undecided  - no, not ‘Undecided’!  It needs to tie in with Shades of Appley Green, as it will be the second of a new series of modern village novels.
Where did the idea come from for the new series?
The idea came from readers of the first two books and from an agent at the Winchester Writers’ Conference a few years ago. Gypsies Stop tHere and No Gypsies Served are both set in the fictional village of Appley Green that ‘straddles the boundaries’ of Surrey and Hampshire. Aside from the theme of these two books, to do with the relations between Gypsies/Travellers and mainstream society, encouraging comments told me that readers enjoyed the style, the storytelling. There were spontaneous outbreaks of enthusiasm such as a local county councillor who emailed me, "They are amazingly readable, and I tore through each within about 48 hours of purchasing them. Couldn't put them down wanting to find out what happened."  Many others said things like, ‘A right riveting read!’ ‘… a compelling yarn …’ ‘a real page-turner’ and so on. Perhaps people found this a surprise, not what they expected from a ‘village novel’ (yet from those titles, anyone could tell that these stories were not going to ‘shy away from thorny issues’ to quote another reader).
Anyway, as a typical author always delighted by positive feedback, did I listen? Yes, I did!! This was my style and I should build on it.
Now, publishers were always very wary of my edgy themes. Ooh – a bit controversial! Agents were probably worried about them being non-pc and the agent at Winchester told me I would never get a publisher to look at a book with the word Gypsy in the title. If you search titles on Amazon with ‘Gypsy’ you will see there are thousands!! Many of them have been published since I self-published Gypsies Stop tHere – I am delighted that so many Gypsies have found a new confidence to pick up their pens or computers and write their own memoirs. (Since then Gypsies and Travellers have gained a high media profile – not all good, by any means. Both Channel 4’s Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and real-life news story of Dale Farm were detrimental and not typical, but I have written often and at length on my blog, and spoken on the radio about these issues …)
I digress. So this agent, she advised me to write a series of village novels – she liked the idea of the village notice-board that features in Gypsies Stop tHere. It would have wider appeal, she told me.
So there we are, Shades of Appley Green was the first in a brand new series. It links to the first two but has an entirely fresh theme – nothing to do with Gypsies! This third book is everything to do with community and family relationships we can all recognise in some way, but with a few surprises and twists.

So - all I can say is that the ‘next big thing’ will follow suit - more surprises and twists!
What genre do your books fall under?
Genre has always been tricky for me. I completely understand the commercial need for labels but I confess my books do not slot neatly into a given type. The first two have a ‘message’, more typical of ‘literary fiction’, but they are easy-to-read books. They explore social issues, but also have elements of humour and romance. Shades of Appley Green is a ‘modern village novel’ – perhaps ‘women’s contemporary fiction’ - that also offers thought-provoking issues.
The ‘next big thing’ will look at some of the characters already in all three novels, but in a way that no-one will expect. I can say no more at the moment.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Kay Brackenbridge would be Helen Mirren - of course! Dunstan? I wish I could think of a (living) mature male actor that would do him justice … He would need to have dark Romany looks, although he is half-Gypsy, and be oozing pheromones.  Laurence Olivier? Perhaps Brendan Coyle on a good day with more oomph – more as he is in Lark Rise to Candleford, not as Bates in Downton Abbey. Solid, reliable, a man’s man, slightly brooding, sometimes restless, repressing anger, wry smile and dark, twinkling eyes … mm.
I would love to work Bill Nighy in – maybe as Ted Devonish, the wealthy landowner or even Jackson Jeffrys, the once-famous, 90 year-old architect. (Make-up artist would be needed to ‘age’ lovely Bill.)

This is difficult – think I would be useless as a casting director!
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
This is impossible to answer – I am so sorry, but I have not started writing it yet; so whilst I could make one up, it is bound to evolve or change completely.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am not going to spend precious time submitting manuscripts to agents and publishers, that is for sure. Most probably I will produce it as an ebook to start with. If people like it, maybe it will then go to paperback. That’s how I did Shades of Appley Green; it was the other way around with the two Gypsy books, as they were pre-ebook era!
How long does it take you to write the first draft of a manuscript?
For my first two novels, the research took a few years – I practically immersed myself in the subject to soak it up! I was also working part-time. It took about a year to write the first draft. For Shades of Appley Green, there was less research; it was written more from stuff I already knew and real-life experience of working in the community. The writing was less than a year.
What other books would you compare your books to within your genre?
I flatter myself that they may lie somewhere between the very modern Amanda Craig’s Hearts and Minds, and the beloved, very traditional Miss Read’s village novels. Anyone who knows these books will know they are chalk and cheese, opposite ends of a spectrum. Perhaps someone else can help me out here. They are village novels, but not too rose-tinted. ‘Appley Green is a charming English village. Everyone says so. But people are still people.’  Shades of Appley Green has been variously described, from ‘lovely, heart-warming’ to ‘tantalising, the kind of gripping you only normally experience with crime novels’ … so ? I am probably too close to them to make comparisons but would really love to have readers’ thoughts!
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Well, it was a process – one followed on from the other, for a reason. The ‘next big thing’ will succeed what has gone before. Or will it?

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Perhaps the fact that I cannot do a big reveal until it is published! This will be some time from now as I am still in the research stage; as yet, no plot, shadowy themes, some characters but quite how they will interact to form a story is as yet a secret even I do not know! I do have the setting, however!  People seem to love Appley Green.
I am very, very excited by what lies ahead, if that means anything!

The next writer is to take up the baton is fairly new Love a Happy Ending member, Ali Bacon. Look out for her Next Big Thing early in October.