Interview with Ann Marie Thomas

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in south London, England and always loved to write. Even as a child I wrote poetry and short stories.
What's the story behind your book Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth?
The ruins of Swansea Castle are right in the middle of the city, and I was looking up at them one day when I wondered what the castle was like when it was intact and in use. I went home and Googled it, as you do, and got fascinated by Gower medieval history. Swansea is famous for its industry in the 18th and 19th centuries, but before then I always thought it was a quiet backwater. It turns out that the medieval Lords of Gower were involved in every major event of British history for over 300 years after William the Conqueror. History in school was boring, but this was real people's lives and it caught my imagination.

When I first wrote the history, I didn't know what to do with it. Then I had a stroke which left me disabled. Preparing the book for publication and learning how to promote it, gave me a vital interest in the days that followed, and saved me from falling into depression at all the things I could no longer do.

A local publisher sat me down and explained why no publisher would touch it – because it is too small a market to justify the publishing costs. I wanted to tell the story, so I self-published. Because the market is principally locals and tourists, I needed a print book for people to buy on impulse, although there is an ebook as well. My judgement was right, as I have sold only a few ebooks.

When I was medically retired by my employer I used money from my pension to pay for the printing, and expected not to recover my costs. To my surprise and delight I sold over 250 copies in the first summer season and not only covered my costs, but made enough profit to finance another print run and put money towards the second book!
What's the story behind your book Broken Reed: The Lords of Gower and King John?
Delving further into my research I found another story, set a century before Alina. This too turned out to have national significance. William de Breos was one of King John's closest confidants, and he gave him the Lordship of Gower, and many other lands and titles. At the height of his favour he was one of the richest men in the kingdom. But when William's wife blurted out John's greatest secret, John turned on them brutally and hounded them to death. When the barons, already unhappy with John as king, saw how he treated William and his family, it was the final straw that led to Magna Carta. William's sons and grandson turned to the famous Welsh leader Llewelyn the Great for help to regain their lands. So this story involves important events in Wales as well as Britain.
Can you tell us about the illustrations in your local history books?
I felt the Alina book needed illustrations but couldn't afford to pay for them. My husband emailed the art department of the local university, and they ran a competition, with the winner providing the illustrations as part of her course work. She also sold prints at the book launch which raised money towards her studies. Carrie Francis is very talented, and has now graduated and set up as a freelance portrait artist and illustrator. She has provided the illustrations for the second book Broken Reed, and if anything I think they are even better.
What are you working on next?
I still have my science fiction novels that need a lot of work, but I have plans for the local history too. I don't know how many stories I will find in my research, and I may produce a compilation of 'Stories from Medieval Gower' one day.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Writing non fiction is a different discipline to writing fiction, but I enjoy them both. Right now, my science fiction novels are not ready for publication, but they allow me the freedom to be creative in any way I want. With my non fiction - local history - I still get to tell a great story in an entertaining way, but the facts have to be correct as well. I enjoy the research, and make sure the stories are fully annotated for academics who may want to refer to my sources.
What is your writing process?
For my local history books, the interest came first, then initial research. Once I found a story that interested me, I mapped it out and then came the detailed research. Only then can the story be written.

For my fiction, the plot comes first - like the initial research, then I add layers. The characters, the descriptions, the subplots, and weave it all together. Once the book has a shape, I plan it out so I have a structure to write to, but I make changes as I go along!
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Every writer has to spend a lot of time promoting their books, and for independent authors this is especially vital. When I'm not doing writing-related things, I spend time with my family, go to church, and spend time out on the Gower peninsular - Britain's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I love to read and watch movies too.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Twitter and my blog, but both took time to develop, and one or two false starts.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
In 2010 I had a stroke, which affected the whole of my right side. Before that, I was just going from home to work, to church, but it was a bit of a treadmill. My fight to recover from my stroke gave me the determination to make the most of every day. I was able to take medical retirement from work, giving me the time to pursue my writing. I recovered some use in my right leg, but my arm still doesn't work. I live my life looking at what I CAN do, and writing is the most rewarding.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
By enabling me to create an ebook I am able to reach a wider market, both in terms of the number of ebook versions I can offer my books in, and the wide reach of the internet.
Published 2013-08-28.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Medieval Gower Stories
Series: Stories of Medieval Gower. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 9,290. Language: British English. Published: January 27, 2018. Categories: Nonfiction » History » Medieval, Nonfiction » History » European
Fascinating stories from medieval Gower: battles, brutality, adultery, daring escapes, fairies and an ogre! If you like scandal, intrigue and true stories from history, then you’ll love Ann Marie Thomas’ book.
Stowaway: Flight of the Kestrel Short Story 1
Series: Flight of the Kestrel. Price: Free! Words: 2,740. Language: British English. Published: May 10, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Lieutenant Joe Darrow breaks the rules to help out a mate, but there are unforseen consequences. This is a background story for the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. In book 1, Intruders, we see the long term impact of this event.
My Stroke of Inspiration
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 4,320. Language: British English. Published: May 9, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Physical impairments
Ann Marie Thomas had a stroke in work in May 2010. In the long hours in hospital, she began to write poetry on her mobile phone, laboriously one letter at a time. About her stroke, her treatment, her faith, and totally random things like the rain outside her window. The poems talk about suffering and patience, therapy and faith. These poems will comfort, encourage and inspire you.
The Magna Carta Story: The Layman's Guide to the Great Charter
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 15,710. Language: British English. Published: May 9, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » History » Medieval, Nonfiction » History » European
The layman's guide to Magna Carta and a good story too. The relationships, arguments, bad behaviour, and civil war around the imposition of the Great Charter on King John, and what happened afterwards. Why is it considered so important after 800 years, and what did it actually say?
Intruders (Flight of the Kestrel book 1)
Series: Flight of the Kestrel. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 89,560. Language: English. Published: April 27, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Adventure » Action
Tabitha Enns is given work experience on board the Kestrel, on the adventure of her life, that will push her to the limit. When a hostile alien species are discovered, the Kestrel is sent to make contact, leading the crew – and Tabitha – into danger, and the crew have problems with their friends as well as their enemies.
Broken Reed: The Lords of Gower and King John
Series: Stories of Medieval Gower. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 9,980. Language: British English. Published: September 1, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » History » Medieval, Nonfiction » History » European
King John's brutal treatment of William de Breos led to rebellion by many of the great barons and was the final spark that lit the fire of Magna Carta.
Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth
Series: Stories of Medieval Gower. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 8,900. Language: English. Published: March 28, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » History » Medieval
Alina de Breos' husband seizes the Lordship of Gower in an attempt to protect her inheritance. This rebellion which starts in 1320, gathers other barons in a country-wide uprising against a weak and distrusted king.