I derive from writing many forms of gratification. Being the possessor of an overactive imagination, writing serves as a refuge from the mundane, to the extent that after a session I always feel relaxed, therefore I view this activity as therapy. I extract great satisfaction from observing the progress of the narrative and how the plot is unfolding, whilst channelling identities who are multi dimensional, thus surprising. Then there is the joy of visiting new cities and landscapes that appeal to the gypsy within me. I love to paint images straight from my imagination, for there is the fiction. Make believe worlds that nourish theatrical instincts. As characters become familiar, I find myself looking forward to visiting their world. So much so, that often, they remain with me away from the writing desk. Being surrounded by this cast of sympathetic, albeit eccentric souls, means that I am never lonely. Ultimately, the greatest joy is the profound sense of achievement that this worthy past time affords me.
What are you working on next?
Working on novel “The other side”, set in late 1980's New York. A paranormal romance mystery based on vengeful ghosts. A wall street ‘Ponzi’ scheme trader meets and falls for a contemporary dancer one night in peculiar circumstances. Whilst unknown to him, his life is being manipulated by the vindictive ghost of his dead wife. The dancer has her own trials, perpetrated by the ghost of her embittered showgirl mother, who in pursuit, is also hell bent on causing problems. His past catches up with him (largely orchestrated by the wife), and drives a wedge between the love match. Realizing that her daughter’s happiness is being sabotaged by this meddlesome wife, the dancer’s mother regrets her own part, and to make amends, akin to a game of chess, pre empts and circumvents the vindictive wife’s manoeuvres.
WHAT ARE YOUR FIVE FAVORITE BOOKS, AND WHY?
It took me a while to consider this, for I have read thousands of books, many of which have been life changing! Although I arrived at the following five books, there are probably equally, another 50 I could add to this list and still not cover it!
WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte I have read this book twice, which is quite extraordinary, for I have only read a few books twice in my long reading history. As I entered into Bronte’s terrain, I was for the first time, introduced to the moors. There I discovered this craggy wild landscape that mirrored the temperaments of Cathy and Heathcliffe. It is a heart wrenching story, being the first paranormal romance I ever came across. (Not that I knew of that genre back then, for I was only 19 at the time). It broke my heart. I was so angry at Cathy for opting for the shallowness of luxury. But then again, this lofty notion of ideal love in Bronte’s time was only for those who had the financial means. This extraordinary book introduced me to a form of language I had not encountered before. Long beautiful words that had me visiting the dictionary on many occasions. I loved the rawness of love and desire that these gypsy spirited characters expressed. Most significantly, I was, and still am struck, by the effortless way that Emily Bronte drew on the metaphysical power of nature as a metaphor for the untamed passion they felt for one another.
MADAME BOVARY by Gustave Flaubert This novel, like Ana Karenina, highlighted the plight of unhappily married woman in historical times. Here a woman bored with her husband, finds herself in the arms of another. And to assuage the torpor of a mismatched, therefore passionless marriage, she amasses much debt. I felt a deep sympathy for Emma Bovary. It would be easy to view this flawed ‘fallen’ woman as self centred and thus malevolent. But Flaubert allowed us to peer into her soul, and by doing so, a sensitive and inchoate individual was revealed. I conjecture that had Emma Bovary been born in the modern era, she could have obtained a divorce, and continued on her journey in seeking ideal love, possibly even making more bad choices, without society blinking an eyelid. Flaubert made me aware of the distance we have travelled in addressing women’s rights (in the West at least).
LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo I believe that this book should be obligatory reading for all! It demonstrates, by the vehicle of excellent storytelling, that delinquency is often a direct result of social injustice, designed thus by the machinations of power. Having stolen a loaf of bread in order to fend off starvation, the protagonist suddenly finds his whole life is thrown asunder. He is caught, the sentence is too severe, and taking on a new identity, he escapes and reshapes his destiny by becoming a man of means. Despite a troubled past, he is a selfless and compassionate individual, and with newfound wealth, goes about restoring the lives of many. Enter into the scenario a rigid, god fearing and up righteous policeman, who upon discovering the true identity of Jean Valjean, decides to pursue him to the ends of the earth, in order to seek justice. From the outset, Jalvert conveys himself as a man who believes firmly and unwaveringly in the black and white tenets of the law. It reminded me of the witch hunts perpetrated by puritanical bible lords. Hugo crafted a fetching narrative, and as in the fine tradition of French literature, this timeless seminal work exposes the complexities, and vast spectrum of human behaviour. THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO by Ann Radcliffe I love a good gothic novel, and this is the mother of all. A stunning book, so gorgeously descriptive, I found it difficult to put down. Her detailed sketches of the changeable landscapes, particularly when traversing the Pyrenees, was life affirming. I felt myself traipsing through these exotic paths. For this adventure appealed to my gypsy instincts. The theatrical bearing of her characters simultaneously romanced and frightened me. It is no surprise that this was a very popular book in its time, and that it featured in Austen’s Northanger Abbey. The icing on the cake for me came when I finally arrived at the mysterious castle set up high in Northern Italy. This quintessential gothic haunt with a nefarious count as host, housed as many secrets as chambers. It is difficult not to feel envy for those who read this book for the first time.
OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maughan Here is a writer’s writer. Despite his economy of language there is a deep emotional reach. To the extent that when I read this book, the pathos was so palpable my eyes would often well up with tears. I found his psychological insights took me on a journey of (self) discovery. Often when books are written sparingly, the emotive essence has been expunged. This is never the case with Somerset Maugham, who, as the master of contemporary writing, had an instinct for discarding excess without losing sentiment. His lexicon, although vast, is perspicacious, and communicates via the heart to the intellect, in a perfect marriage of sensibility. I liken Somerset Maughan’s style to that of Emile Zola, who having also paraded many lost souls, endowed them with spirit and tenderness, thus leaving the reader more the wiser for having been there.
WHAT DO YOU READ FOR PLEASURE?
I am currently reading Armadale by Wilkie Collins which is a bit of a door stopper, for it is a lengthy read. Most of my books are from the past, written by dead authors who are mainly English or French, although I have also read many Russian and European writers throughout my long reading life. Moving into the more contemporary department of literature, I have a penchant for Somerset Maughan and Huxley. The only living writers I have enjoyed thoroughly so far are Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Umberto Eco.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS?
I love Ann Radcliffe, George Eliot, Emily & Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins and Somerset Maughan. Then there are the French writers; Balzac, Flaubert, Stendhal, Zola, to name but a few!
WHEN DID YOU START WRITING?
My first foray into writing was with the creation of poetry in my late teens. This kept me going for a decade. Whilst professionally engaged in dance, I would devise and write about the projects, for programme notes and grant applications. This process put me off writing. I always knew that one day I would write nevertheless. In 2010 I started writing The House, and I completed it two and a half years later.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK? WHAT IS IT ABOUT AND WHY DID YOU WRITE IT?
A timeworn house confronts a reluctant visitor, who has been placed mysteriously in an ancient wood. Sheltering in the house, she enters a room that transports her to a Georgian Estate in England, where a dramatic encounter with a belligerent lord, sets the tone for the narrative. Managing to escape through another magic portal, she suddenly finds herself in Regency era London. Here amongst a household of unusual characters she remains, before an extraordinary blood connection is established. As the eccentric cast act out their complex lives, her role switches to that of an observer. Having lived on a diet of historical fiction prior to this adventure, her romantic idealism is challenged by all she sees and experiences. One day a handsome poet arrives and is immediately drawn to the beautiful time traveller. A surprising end lays in wait, with hidden truths buried within the mysterious house.
Being my first book, I always wanted to tap into the fantastical. My love of books started with reading fairy tales, therefore it seemed fitting that I explore this enduring and fascinating genre. I have always been interested in metaphors and archetypes, so that when I was inventing this narrative and the characters within, I gravitated to these themes as a subtext. The idea that the unhappiness and restlessness one experiences in their own reality, may be due to, unfinished business from another period of time, when they wore a different identity, inspired me to write this story.
WHAT WILL READERS ENCOUNTER WHEN READING THE HOUSE?
Awaiting the reader is a fantastical, richly aesthetic world, intercepted by dramatic impulses. Within this dichotomy of beauty and the unknown, the mysterious hand of destiny transports the unsuspecting reader and time traveller into fascinating historical settings. As with fairy tales, a large eccentric cast interact with the heroine of this story. Once the 19th century constraints are lifted however, these characters reveal familiar emotional traits. Therefore the reader meets with personalities that are both complex and sympathetic in nature. This novel demonstrates how far we have come in the acceptance of individual freedoms (in the developed world at least). To the extent that, were The House to be published in the period that it describes, it would most certainly have been scandalous. I would like the reader to consider the distance we have travelled in the acceptance of feminism and individual sexuality, as well as, some of the modern advances that are discussed in a few of the scenes.
Although past life/eternal love is the fundamental theme, this book speaks of idealism - by casting an eye on the disenchantment that accompanies those who dwell in the past and view history with rose coloured glasses. When the time traveller visits historical settings, often venerated in her imagination, the reality shocks her. The dreamer wakes and finds herself in a nightmare.
Like all fairy tales, the conclusion, although surprising, is very positive.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FROM?
Nature - the sea in particular. Then there is painting, music, dance, poetry, film, and literature of course. Also travelling to Europe, the only place on earth where one can regale in art and beauty.
WHAT WRITING ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
There is a scene in The House, involving a fortune teller, who is called upon, in the hope that insight into the origins of the all too mysterious time traveller, may be gained. I then created some scenes that came to the clairvoyant through her crystal ball, thereby adding another dimension to the plot. Speaking in the language of a fortune teller was most enjoyable, for it gave me licence to speak in metaphors and symbols, whilst presenting the reader with genuine clues.
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