- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today, I'm fortunate to be interviewing a very interesting author with some amazing books.
Welcome, Carole ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I grew up surrounded by books. My parents both loved reading, my father was into murder, detective, adventure and espionage stories while my mother read historical fiction and romance so I grew up with a passion for reading most genres and this is reflected in my novels which, although set in the first half of the 20th Century, are a mixture of all these. I have always been a voracious reader. I’d spend hours in the library as a child and spent all my pocket money on books, progressing quickly from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie amongst others. I’d rush home with my latest books, disappear up into my bedroom and not come down again until they were finished. My Dad always used to say they were a waste of money because I could get through two or three books in a weekend but they weren’t. They were my escape from reality and the more I read the more it fuelled my imagination. As I grew older I read anything I could get my hands on, crime, thrillers, historical fiction, occasionally romance and science fiction and of course chic lit! The library was my second home and I would always come out with the maximum number of books I could borrow and they were always returned well before the due date.
I liked big books I could lose myself in, probably to escape my disastrous relationships. Prams, pushchairs and my arms groaned under the weight but it was worth it to stay sane.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I write both military history and historical fiction but the military history came first and the inspiration behind my writing was my father in law, Ted Taylor.
Ted was conscripted into the Rifle Brigade in September 1939 and fought in the Defence of Calais in May 1940 after which he spent five years as a POW in Poland. Although he’d never spoken about it we finally managed to persuade him to talk on tape and received a very sanitised version of the fighting and his subsequent years in a POW camp. In 2008 Ted suffered a crippling stroke and ended up in a nursing home. To cheer him up I suggested writing up his war experiences as a book.
This was quite daunting as I had no background in military history. So I began the long process of reading everything I could about the Defence of Calais, which wasn’t much. The battle was totally eclipsed by the evacuation from Dunkirk and was rarely mentioned, even on the most recent documentaries. I knew even less about the treatment of the ordinary POW at the hands of their captors or their lives, having grown up on a diet of sanitised POW camp films and even one comedy set in a Stalag, none of which bore any reality to the truth. Ted had been made to work in the salt mines and had even spent time in Majdanek concentration camp. Like most authors I struggled to find a publisher but eventually, Ted’s story, Surviving the Nazi Onslaught, was published by Pen & Sword Books Ltd. I was now hooked on writing military history and have written several other books, but I also wanted to write fiction because I couldn’t find anything I wanted to read.
Having finally extradited myself from the last bad relationship I spent two years on my own finding myself again and then I met David, my husband. I no longer needed to escape my reality so I stopped reading. I found books by authors I’d always loved no longer held my attention so I decided to write something I wanted to read and I had the perfect idea.
Whist writing Ted’s story I learnt that Brenda, my mother in law, had been a nurse throughout the London Blitz, and she and Ted were engaged when he went to war. Five long years later he came home and they were married. Their story fascinated me. They did not have the benefit of hindsight. Brenda waited even though she had no idea how long it would be or even if Ted would ever come home. Ted had somehow held onto the belief that he would come home even though he had no idea how long that might be. I decided to write up Ted and Brenda’s story including an element of fiction to cover something Ted actually did in France.
I soon realised it was impossible to fictionalise my in-laws because they were real people. I couldn’t have them doing things that weren’t in character nor did I want to alienate the family and have my husband not talking to me because I had made his mum do something she wouldn’t have! So I changed their names and although the story is inspired by them and based on something that did happen, all the characters are now 100% fiction. Lives Apart: A WW2 Chronicle is in 5 books and if you have Kindle you can buy all 5 for under £5 – remarkable value! This was followed by Betrayed, a stand-alone novel about a serial killer in Berlin in the 1930s and 40s. My latest 5 book series is Obsession which was inspired by the rumoured fate of tens of thousands of missing Allied POWs at the end of WW2. The last part will be published on 29th September. All the novels are published by GWL Publishing.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I do plan the military history books, by working out chapter headings and then I write them chronologically. The novels are different. I normally know where the novels are going to end but I never really plan how I am going to get there. I just sit down and write which makes the twists and turns less predictable because even I don’t know they are going to happen until I write them! The novels have interwoven stories about different characters which run concurrently which makes them quite hard to write but easy to read. I don’t have a set pattern for writing these, sometimes I write them as they appear in the finished book, other times I run with one story and backfill in with the others.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I love creating different characters and seeing the finished result. But knowing that other people enjoy reading them is probably the greatest thrill.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Marketing! I’m not a natural ‘seller’ so having to find different ways of advertising the books is probably harder work than actually writing them.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
Up until November 2015 I worked at the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester. This is the UK’s only military detention centre. I was a Housing Officer there for nine years, helping those leaving the military (detainees and staff) find accommodation. I also worked with Early Service Leavers (those who had served less than four years) in Colchester Garrison. I loved the job and really enjoyed working with the military personnel. Whilst there I wrote a book about the centre called Military Detention Colchester from 1947 which tells the story of its history in the words of detainees, visitors, staff etc from its origins as a POW camp for Germans and Italians in WW2 to 2010.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
I spent ages thinking about this and then realised the reason I couldn’t find an answer was because I don’t think I’ve achieved that yet. This is good because I am always seeking to improve on what I’ve already written.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I have just finished another military history book for Pen & Sword called The History of Coalhouse Fort which will be published in May 2018 and I am about to start writing a social history of Women’s Lives in Scunthorpe from 1850s through to the 1970s for the same publisher.
I have just started a new series of novels called Secret Lives for GWL Publishing. I’m not actually sure how many books there will be in the series yet, but possibly nine or ten.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I have always been interested in The Second World War and I like including lesser known actions and stories in my novels as it is another way of commemorating and remembering the people who gave their lives for freedom. When writing military history, I like writing biographies of ordinary people doing extra ordinary things especially if I can use personal accounts to illustrate the story.
10. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Persevere. Write something every day, even if it’s only a few lines and doesn’t make much sense. Just write what’s in your head and edit it afterwards.
I self-published Ted’s story and the original version of Lives Apart because I couldn’t get a publisher. When I started writing Herbert Columbine VC I saw a tweet from Pen & Sword asking for manuscripts. I tweeted them back and they were interested. Once they’d published that I gave them another biography I’d written, A Battle Too Far, which they also published. I then rewrote Ted’s story (The Weekend Trippers) under the title Surviving the Nazi Onslaught, which they also took. Publishers are looking at the bottom line. They want to make money so you have to show them how your book will do that.
Having self-published the original version of Lives Apart I decided to start looking for a fiction publisher again. My writing style had changed considerably by them so I wanted to the chance to rewrite it and by then I could show that I had sold several hundred copies and had good reviews. If you believe in the story keep going and don’t take no for an answer.
11. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Yes and no. If I can’t think of anything to write I read over what I’ve written and edit it and then I usually find it begins to flow again. Because I am writing several stories at the same time I can normally find something to write. The secret is not to stress over it. Some days I only write 1500 words, others I will write more than 5,000.
12. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
Now I write full time instead of going to work and writing as well, I try and treat it as a full time job which means sitting at the computer by about 9am and working through to about 4pm. I don’t write all the time. I have breaks to do marketing and research. My characters are in different wartime situations across the globe so I have to research battles, home front life in various countries and other events that are happening at the same time because these all affect my characters’ behaviour and attitudes. It’s also really important that the historical information is accurate and things are written as they were then, not as they would be seen with hindsight and modern interpretations.
13. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
I like writing in my conservatory, surrounded by plants, with music playing.
14. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
It keeps me sane! My mind is very active and like most people who think a lot I am prone to anxiety so by filling my head up with plots and stories I have less time and space to worry about other things.
15. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I like Barbara Erskine because of the mix of history and spirituality. I also like Ken Follet and I am looking forward to reading his new book which comes out later this month. I normally only read fiction when I’m writing military history because I don’t want to be influenced when I’m writing my own novels.
16. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
My favourite compliment is from a lady who messaged me on Facebook to say she had sat up reading book four in the Obsession series until 4 in the morning because she couldn’t put it down.
17. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I had one woman complain the books were badly edited because I’d used the word ‘alright’ and that it should be ‘all right’ and that this had ruined the books completely. She stuck the same review on every book in the series so presumably it hadn’t ruined them that much or she wouldn’t have bothered to buy them all😊 Then Amazon removed her reviews, presumably because she’d put the same one on all the books.
18. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Although I’ve been fortunate enough not to live through a war, I’ve certainly spent several years living in domestic warzones and experienced domestic violence in the past. Not something I’d ever want to repeat but it has given me a personal insight which I can use in my novels.
19. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
My husband is a Medium and Spiritualist Minister and I am a spiritual healer. Together we have written two books, The Re-Enlightenment and The Holiday From Hell. We used to run development circles and Spiritual evenings in Essex and we started the Spiritual Workers Association in 2008. We moved to North Lincolnshire last year which is wonderful and are just starting to become active in the spiritual arena again. I also practice yoga every day and have recently qualified as a yoga teacher. I also love walking, gardening, visiting museums and historical events.
20. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
My fiction publisher, Wendy, is an excellent editor which is very important for the novels. I once had one of my characters having an eighteen-month pregnancy which made us both laugh. Auto correct is also a pain as it sometimes changes words without me noticing which can have unforeseen effects on the text. It’s very hard to proof read your own work because you see what you think you’ve written, not what is actually there. Wendy picks up on things I’ve missed and between us we hopefully find all the typos! We do four edits each before the book is ready for publication.
21. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Sitting in the sun at an event and speaking to interesting people who buy loads of my books.
22. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
My husband David. He’s my best friend and after two disastrous relationships its nice to be with someone who doesn’t want to control me and gives my so much support. It’s not easy being married to an author. I spend a lot of time in my own head. He also takes care of the practical things like housework so I can write. And he loves shopping!
23. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Try reading some history so you don’t keep making the same mistakes. You’re meant to be there to work for the good of the world not your own ego. You have two ears and one mouth. There’s a reason for that.
24. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
To carry on writing both novels and military history and for my books to become best sellers, perhaps even films 😊
25. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
I’m sure there is bits of me in the characters, not the serial killer though, well not yet anyway…..
26. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
In some ways. People think authors are all rich, its not true. I earn 11p on every 99p Kindle eBook. Although I have sold thousands of books I need to sell tens of thousands to make a living.
Self-publishing is great because it has given a voice to many authors who would never have found a traditional publisher and it provides a way into traditional publishing. The downside is that there are so many books out there now it’s a buyer’s market hence the low prices. It takes me about three months to write a novel and that’s before all the editing. I dread to think what I earn an hour. There is also the perception that self-published books are no good and that’s not true. There are some really excellent ones out there.
27. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Not really. I love writing. It’s who I am and what I do and as I said earlier it keeps me sane.
28. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
Difficult one. Lives Apart because it was inspired by my in-laws so it was a labour of love. I also worked on it for so long that I found it very hard to let go of the characters. But then I wrote Obsession and I think that’s actually better than Lives Apart. I am now writing a new series, Secret Lives, and I’d like to think that will be even more compelling.
29. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
Seeing my books for sale in high street bookstores and supermarkets and having the books made into successful films or TV series. I’ve been told several times that the books would make excellent TV series and/or films so I live in hope. Writing a screenplay is a different skill from writing a book and I may be tempted to have a go, but I would love to find an expert who is as enthusiastic as I am about the books and would like to write a screenplay from them. My ultimate dream is to see my characters on the screen, but I would have to have some editorial control to make sure the historical aspects are portrayed correctly and the dialogue is how I envisage it.
30. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
I’d like to think readers can’t get the characters out of their head, that they’ve been entertained and for a few hours their own problems have faded away while they lose themselves in another world.
31. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
This had me stumped but eventually I came up with five words and then asked my husband for five.
Mine were Creative, opinionated, stubborn, caring, loyal.
His were Steadfast, Consistent, Energetic, Thorough & Sexy (wasn’t sure if I should leave that in 😊)
32. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Wow, how long have you got…… I’m getting old so lots of things have this effect😊 If I had to narrow it down…. The way the Government treats our Armed Forces. I’m a Trustee for Help4 Homeless Veterans and continue to see first hand the number of Veterans sleeping on the streets. I also cannot understand a government that sends its Armed Forces to do a job and then prosecutes them for doing it whilst the people they were fighting are given amnesties.
33. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett.
34. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
The end or is it?
35. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
To have some summer. We’ve gone from spring to autumn with about three warm days in between. I love sunshine and warm weather so I’m feeling very deprived☹
Clancy's comment: Many thanks, Carole. You have some outstanding book covers.