Interview with Wilma Hayes

What and where are the Welsh Marches?
The Welsh Marches is an area between England and Wales. It is hilly with low mountains, green all year and covered with sheep. It has a history that goes back beyond the beginning of time and is the home of legends, tales of kings and princes, language and song. When the Normans conquered England in the 11th century they met their match in the Welsh tribes who lived here. To cope with situation they created a large administrative area between themselves and the Welsh under the jurisdiction of their nobles who called themselves the Marcher Lords. The Marcher Lords built castles, created their own laws and economics, but never completely defeated the Welsh. The Marches today is exceedingly beautiful, but still has an aura of its past.

Did you know that the Marches has a greater concentration of castles than anywhere else in the UK?
Is this why you write from this area?
The legends and stories from this area are never straight forward; they have conflict of course, but also heroism, laughter, sorrow and a retention of identity that is so useful for a writer. I feel that the area has a calmness and stoicism that lets people who live here be part of a larger country while retaining much that has made them what they are. This leads to many plots lines - the stuff that authors thrive on.
But where did 'Red Snow' come from? There is not much calm acceptance there.
I often tell people that this book began life simply. As a Canadian ex-pat, the one thing I can write with some authority about is snow! But I also have an interest in war history. These two facts pushed the story almost immediately into the Russian/German war of 1942. In spite of this, 'Red Snow' has its roots in Wales and it must not be forgotten that many Welshmen joined the military in 1939 and later. I wanted to tell the story of one who refused to do so. There would have been no story if the main character had not been dealt a very desperate hand in spite of his objections to active conflict. And poor Royston meets a great many difficulties.
There are now four books in the Welsh Marches Series, what is the latest one about?
This is perhaps less about the Welsh Marches, although it is set there, than about social history. It takes place in the 1970s at the point where men are finding that their pre-eminence in the family structure is being eroded by women's rights. When this happens in the marriage between Gordon - of the old fashioned school - and Maggie, who struggles, learns and changes, there is inevitable conflict. But because I always try to have a larger, more dominant plot in my books, this also looks into terrorism occuring in the country at the time. Gordon, finds that while trying to maintain control at home, he is being controlled by something larger and well beyond his control. All this does, I assure you, does fit together!
And the next book? Presumably there will be another.
There will, of course. The next book will follow the characters from 'Red Snow'. The fates of Roy and Yeva will be examined and all those un-answered questions about their future in 1946 will be addressed. As the story will take place in the Cold War period it will undoubtedly involve a certain amount of espionage, spying and treachery - all in the midst of relationship and cultural challenges.

I have asked some fellow writers and friends to give me their spy stories and knowing them well, some very fiendish twists and turns in the plot have arrived!
How do you choose a title?
This is the part about writing that I find the most difficult. Although we are not supposed to choose a book by its cover, we inevitably do and the most important part of that is the title.

In my opinion, it has to reflect something of the mystery, conflict and clashes of the story - and do so in only a few words. It helps, I think, to have words from opposing parts of the story. For example, Red Snow reflects the calmness of snow with the brutality of war. 'Red' also hints at the Russian part of the story. Secrets Lies Legacies is the title of the e-version of Things I Haven't Told You (the print version). Both provide a summary of the plot. I have no idea where 'Freeing My Sisters' came from, but it seemed to work!

When I am having difficulty, as I frequently do, I use a mind-mapping technique in which I let ideas and concepts from the story flow out, one after the other and in any order, onto a large sheet of paper. Words from opposite sides of the 'flow' often give a hint. But I confess that the title still remains a challenge for me.
Where do you write?
My desk is in a corner of my sitting room with large windows at the side so I can muse on the front garden when my brain needs a diversion - and there are many! From here I can see my wild flower garden and watch the fruit blossoms in the spring. A wide window sill is where my two ancient cats spend most of their day, sleeping in the sunshine - a life style I can't help but admire.

The desk itself seems to accumulate electronic printers and there are three of them at the moment. Naturally they all do different jobs and some are activated remotely, so with my husband working at a table elsewhere in the house, one or the other will suddenly burst into life and wake me from whatever avoiding activity I might be undertaking at the time!

I always have several projects on the desk at once and although I try to segegate them into individual baskets or piles, they inevitably entangle themselves. I spend a lot of time looking for things! At the moment, I am working on Book 5 and researching the history of a WW1 Canadian soldier and his travels and battles in Flanders, in preparation for a visit to the Battlefields. I also have what I call 'My Sevens' which is a series of ultimately seven groups of seven stories each on a central theme. So far I have four groups completed. They are prompted by the Seven Days of the Week, Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Ages of Man and Seven Wonders of the World. Seven is such a lovely number.
What part of writing do you like best?
It has to be the research. This opens doors to so much that will add to the authenticity and colour of a story.

While it is not necessary for a piece of fiction to be slavish to the truth - it is fiction after all - it is important for facts that are given to be accurate. A failing here can destroy a reader/writer relationship with a single word!

Research around Red Snow led me to discover MI9, Russian sniper rifles and the Communist Party of Great Britain. I never was able to find out if Russian parachutes were made of silk or not though.

In preparation for Book 5, I am researching Moscow, labour camps and what the Cold War was really like. A friend has given me some Russian recipies that will be very useful!

Secrets Lies Legacies made me understand the workings of Planning Departments and Conservation architects. For Freeing My Sisters, I learned a lot about old domestic buildings and the wonders of lime putty - it's strange where research will take you!
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Western Canada - Saskatchewan to be precise. This province is in the middle of the western part of the country and is beautiful and difficult at the same time. It is also the cereal growing part of the country and was called the Bread Basket of the World at one time. Now it is known, not only for agriculture, but also potash mining, oil reserves and, believe it or not, diamond mining. Our family were cereal farmers and we had 100 days per year to plant, grow, harvest and store enough crop to sell and provide for all our needs for an entire year. It was a challenging life.

Summer is the small period between mid-May and mid-September, the rest of the year is winter. And with temperatures of -40 degrees (-40 is the same in Celsius as it is in Fahrenheit!) or more and very low relative humidity, I think you can see why I prefer the variable and ever green Welsh Marches!

It is this life style depending so much on the climate, and the extremes of it which gave me an appreication of how humans cope and live with what the natural world sends.
Who are your favorite authors?
My favourite authors are those on my e-reader at the moment and those who live snug and secure lives on my book shelves. I have a very eclectic and changeable list of favourites. But at the moment I have a soft spot for historical fiction and Scandanavian crime writers.

And then there are my unending shelves of research titles: Gulag (Anne Applebaum), The Russians (Hedrick Smith), Russia (Martin Sixsmith), among many others. And, of course, anything by John Le Carre!
Published 2017-07-18.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Word Garden
Series: The Welsh Marches, Book 4. Price: $1.25 USD. Words: 67,970. Language: British English. Published: September 1, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General, Fiction » Coming of age
The Word Garden Book 4 The Welsh Marches Series Maggie's prefect husband Gordon has a mistress and a business in financial trouble. Two things to draw him into crime and murder; two things he cannot confess to his wife. Maggie however begins understand feminism, and the inevitable clash between her new views and Gordon’s rigid ones lead her to her flower garden and its very special plants.
Red Snow
Series: The Welsh Marches, Book 3. Price: $1.75 USD. Words: 140,070. Language: British English. Published: November 1, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Spies & espionage, Fiction » Romance » Historical
Roy has a good job, strong morals, and a beautiful girlfriend. Then WWII begins. He hates war and stands up to say so, but is soon in a world of spies, deceit and the partisans of the Great Patriotic Russian War. It is only his skill as a Morse code operator that keeps him alive. Then he meets Yeva. This is a story of cruel war, deep snow, unforgiving cold and love that preserves a human soul.
Secrets Lies Legacies
Series: The Welsh Marches, Book 2. Price: $1.50 USD. Words: 109,150. Language: English. Published: March 26, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
Everyone has secrets - haven't they? Mary and Tim appear to have a perfect relationship. This is when the world will conspire to prove otherwise. She hasn't told him everything and he hasn't been entirely honest either. Neither of them is quite willing to confess all their secrets. Controlling or unstable parents and a voice from the past needing help, all intervene. Then there are the children...
Freeing My Sisters
Series: The Welsh Marches, Book 1. Price: $1.50 USD. Words: 105,180. Language: British English. Published: March 26, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth, Fiction » Romance » Action/adventure
Mary Mitchell meets her new neighbour, Tim Spencer, when he slides out of his shower, dressed only in a pink towel, and lands at her feet. It is the dramatic beginning to a fast moving journey into a 16th century crime surrounding her new but very old house and a huge international modern day crime that threatens his career. It is also a voyage into a romance that neither of them is ready for.