Monday, 6 November 2017

Interview with Alex Martin: Introducing the authors of the Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair Dec 9th

I'm delighted to welcome Alex Martin to Llandeilo Book Fair for the first time.
Here is an Interview with Alex so you can get to know her a little before meeting her on Dec 9th


Welcome Alex. Please tell us, how did you come to writing in the first place?

Through reading. As a child I was never seen without 'my nose in a book' unless I was actually up a tree.

What was your connection to the genre? 

History fascinates me, always has. In chronicling the lives of those before us, we can learn so much about ourselves in the present day, if we listen. I wish politicians would. I can't prove it, but sometimes I can see into the past. Every time it happens, and that is all too rarely, I have a physical sensation of cold - enough to make me shiver. And I see things. Images so crystal clear they create an indelible memory in my brain and can be remembered with clarity years later. Sharper than real life, as good as a film, these pictures are fleeting but all-encompassing and very vivid. They always take me back in time, sometimes hundreds of years and often trigger a story.

When did you first have the idea for this book?

 I wanted to explore this interweaving between past and present time in my most recent book. I used a spooky experience in Wiltshire, where I lived for many years, to provide the inspiration for The Rose Trail, when I was working as a secretary in a legal firm and had to deliver a will to a house on the Wiltshire downs. With the errand achieved, I looked around the tiny village and felt drawn to one particular dwelling. It was a beautiful old house, larger than a cottage, but nothing grand. It stood, square and sturdy, basking in the sunshine and smiling across to the other houses skirting the village green. As I approached  its whitewashed walls, I noticed it was empty. I peered in through the warped glass windows, tucked deep under the thatched roof. Inside, a large room with a massive fireplace at one end had an uneven floor made of wide limestone flagstones, glossy from the hundreds of feet that had worn them smooth over time. I could see straight through into the walled garden through the window opposite.
Although the house was much humbler than the Meadowsweet Manor featured in The Rose Trail, it spoke to me of the era in which half the book is set, the English Civil War in the seventeenth century and features a real battle that took place on Roundway Hill in Devizes (pictured here).


 I sensed a family at war with each other; conflicted and arguing, heard the clash of swords and the clang of armour. I remember vividly the chilling sensation that crept up my arms, making them spring goosepumps all the way up to my thumping heart. It took many years for the seed to germinate into The Rose Trail. The story took root as I delved into the past from where three ghosts emerged, one particularly vicious one bent on revenge. Fay Armstrong, the troubled narrator, is loosely based on my experiences.

 How long did it take you to write? 

The actual writing bit takes about six intensive months if life doesn't intervene. It's done a lot of that lately. Incubation takes years.

How do you research? 

Every which way I can - that means the Internet, museums, visiting sites where action is placed, books, always books!, exhibitions, maps - I love maps. Sometimes it's from my memory - old conversations, direct and indirect.

How comfortable do you feel writing in the genre? 

The research is always daunting and I worry, a lot, about getting it right. It's amazing the detail you need - shape of a button, how is that button attached? What were the newspapers at the time? What was the weather like? What was the time of the battle? These details can keep me awake at night but the actual writing is a deep pleasure. Once that time and place is fixed in my mind, I simply go there and let the images flow through my fingers and transform into words.

How do you write? What is your writing environment like? 

I scribble in my journal every night in bed before I go to sleep and often before a writing session. I research inside my house if I need the internet but research books live in my shed where I write. www.intheplottingshed.com is named after the wooden building my husband and I built from a kit in a howling storm. It took eleven days and much swearing. The weather was so turbulent we had to rope it down every night until the roof went on.


How many rewrites did it take you? 

Several - always several! I edit meticulously as I write but I'm never satisfied. There does come a point when I realise I'm fiddling too much and declare it done. Then I send it out to my beta reader team and change it again if they all see the same flaw or something ingenious I could add.

Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books? 

My son, Tomas Martin, is my editor. He's a Dr of Physics and a science fiction writer. He's a brilliant brainstormer for plots but a brutal editor. His greatest skill is being able to see the book as a whole and come up with strategies. My husband checks for punctuation and grammar but most importantly tells me to keep going when I feel like chucking the computer in the pond you see in the picture.

Who are your favourite authors / influences? 

So many to quote them all but I love Jane Austen and Winston Graham (Poldark), Philip Pullman, EM Forster, Joanna Trollope, Julian Barnes, Daphne du Maurier and many others.

Who would play your characters in a movie? 

I thought Renee Zellwegar might be prepared to gain the weight for Fay Armstrong and you'd need someone goofy but beautiful for Persephone - perhaps Cameron Diaz - you can always see her strength and intelligence behind the blonde, which would be perfect.

What are your next projects and where would we be able to hear about them?

I'm currently working on the fourth, and possibly, final book in The Katharine Wheel Series, which began with Daffodils and its sequel is Peace Lily. The third book, Speedwell, ended on a rather ambiguous note and it's time I tied up the loose ends. The research for Woodbine and Ivy is even more daunting than the vast amount I did for the others because it's set in World War Two when the children of the protagonists in the first three books have to face their own challenges. I wanted to show the destiny of their parents and bring the story full circle to the ending I planned from the beginning in Daffodils! I'm hoping it'll be out next year, in 2018.


Alex Martin writes about her craft at http://www.intheplottingshed.com/


Books published to date include:

Daffodils, Peace Lily and Speedwell, which compile The Katherine Wheel Series (she is currently working on a fourth book, Woodbine and Ivy).






A small compilation of three short stories, called Trio, can be yours for free on her website.

You can see all of her work on her Amazon authorpage and read about it on her Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/TheKatherineWheel/

or follow her on Twitter at
https://twitter.com/Alexxx8586/

3 comments:

  1. Great talking to you, Christoph and I'm really looking forward to the book fair.

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    1. So do I. So good to have you onboard this year :-)

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