Author Interview: Christine Webber @1chriswebber #amreading #MondayBlogs

I’m delighted to welcome author Christine Webber to the blog today to talk about her new contemporary novel It’s Who We Are, and about her writing in general. I read and very much enjoyed her previous novel Who’d Have Thought It? and I reviewed it here. And I will be posting a review of the new book here very soon.

Welcome Christine!

 

I was intrigued to see that there was a thirty year gap between your first novel In Honour Bound and your second one Who’d Have Thought it? What were you doing in between?

Christine: As those of us of a certain age know all too well, thirty years can disappear in a flash! I wrote my first novel when I was working as a news presenter for Anglia TV. I always meant to carry on writing fiction, but shortly afterwards, I left the company to pursue a new career in medical and social journalism – and somehow fell into becoming an agony aunt. I wrote columns for Best magazine, TV Times, The Scotsman, BBC Parenting, Woman, Dare, Full House and several others – not all at the same time though! Then I started getting work as a ‘relationships expert’ on TV programmes such as Trisha and The Good Sex Guide… Late. While this was happening, I decided to train as a psychotherapist – and I started my own practice. Meanwhile, Hodder commissioned my husband and me to write a book about orgasms (The Big O). This did quite well and led to my staying with Hodder and writing a whole range of self-help books.  Later, I penned titles for Piatkus and Bloomsbury. I knew I longed to write more novels. It just took a while to get on with it!

 

Why was fiction writing something you wanted to come back to – especially after such a long gap?

Christine: I kept having ideas for fiction, but life was so busy, and I felt I had to focus on work that actually paid me. In some ways I regret that now. On the other hand, my years of writing about relationships, and being a therapist, gave me great insight into how our minds function – which is useful when it comes to portraying characters realistically. And the decades of juggling broadcasting, health writing, newspaper columns, and therapy did provide me with a financial cushion which has enabled me to do what I do now. I know many other indie authors, who have had long-term careers before writing, feel the same.

 

 You write what could broadly be described as contemporary romantic fiction, but it’s definitely not chick-lit. Why do you go for older protagonists who are in their fifties and sixties?

Christine: I suppose it’s all about wanting to read material that mirrors our own experiences. And – like many other writers and readers of my vintage – I feel there is a lack of good stuff about the people we really are. I first tried to change publishers’ attitudes to the over 50s in 2009, when I was planning a guide for female baby boomers. I wanted to write about finance, locations, housing, beauty, friendship, romance and health – basically everything that needs to be considered if we are to age more vibrantly than people of past generations.

I had to change agents and publishers to get this book accepted. I was told constantly, ‘no one wants to read about older people!’ Anyway, I did get Too Young to Get Old published and now I have transferred my zeal for writing about the individuals we are – as opposed to out-dated stereotypes – into fiction. But I had to venture into indie publishing in order to do it.

 

Do you detect a growing popularity for this kind of multi-generational novel where middle-aged and older characters are at the centre of the action?

Christine: I really do. And I would urge interested writers and readers in mid-life to investigate the excellent new organisation – launched recently by Claire Baldry – called Books for Older Readers. We are a growing band. One might even say that we are creating a ‘genre’!  Check out the website:  www.booksforolderreaders.co.uk. The group is also active on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Describe for us your typical writing day.

Christine: I’d love to describe something scheduled and organised. But I’d be lying if I did. Like lots of people, I have constraints on my time, for family reasons. I also think it’s absolutely vital to get exercise, so that has to be worked into every day too. And, as every indie writer knows, the marketing and social media aspect of one’s ‘operation’ also has to be managed. In practice then, I tend to do correspondence and marketing in the morning. And try to leave two or three hours to write mid-afternoon. I also have a new resolution, which is to find half an hour after lunch for reading other authors’ novels. I need an expandable day, really! The other component that forms an essential part of my writing day is that I always play music while I work. And I invariably start each day with Mozart, who feeds my soul and sanity. There’s nothing like tapping into creative genius for getting your own grey cells into shape!

 

And finally, please do tell us a bit about your new book, It’s Who We Are.

Christine: It’s Who We Are is a contemporary novel. It’s very different from Who’d Have Thought It? which is essentially a romantic comedy. People do fall in love in the new book, and there are plenty of comedic moments too, but it’s a far more serious work than the last one. But then life is more serious than it was just a few years ago. Think back to the London Olympics – we don’t feel like the same country now, do we? And writing contemporary fiction seems to me to have to reflect that.

I have five main characters in this book, and they are all facing tremendous upheaval in mid-life. One of the women has decided to divorce her perpetually unfaithful husband. Another is coming to terms with widowhood and contemplating a change of career. Then there are three men – a rich business man who hates running the family firm and is trapped in a loveless marriage, a priest who is so intensely lonely that he feels people must be able to ‘smell it’ on him, and a larger than life freelance singer who’s in a panic about his ageing voice and the fact that he has no savings whatsoever.

Like many of us in our fifties, these individuals are amazed at how unsettled they feel just at a time when they had expected to be living a calm and stable existence. Thrown into the mix there are family secrets, which become uncovered as elderly parents die or become ill – and these cause all five characters to question who they really are.

Thank you, Christine. An interesting and thought-provoking interview. And I agree that, as in your books, life goes on in all its richness and complexity for all of us –  regardless of age.

 

It’s Who We Are is published on January 16th and will be available in bookshops throughout the country and on Amazon 

You can follow Christine on Twitter at @1chriswebber

Her website is www.christinewebber.com

 

And, as always, it’s over to you, the readers of this blog: Do you like reading multi-generation fiction and/or fiction where the main characters are middle-aged or older?

In The Chair 42

Source: In The Chair 42

I’m interviewed over at Jan Ruth’s blog today. It was fun to do and I hope you enjoy reading it. You can, amongst other things, find out which character I fell in love with whilst writing him and can you guess my favourite word?

Thanks Jan for having me.

The writer behind the unique voice – an interview with Andy Harrod

In this post I’m interviewing writer, Andy Harrod. Andy can be found at http://decodingstatic.blogspot.com   Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, Andy. I’m sure people who read my review of your book, ‘Living Room Stories’ will be keen to know more about you.

Anne: When did you become a writer? And what drives you to keep writing?

Andy: I started writing after I fell in love with music. I was 17, Britpop reigned, and there in the songs, I heard myself. I saw many mirrors reflecting my experiences, feelings and thoughts. My first attempts at writing were lyrics about love. Lyrics and poetry remained my mode of writing for about five years, until I started journaling when I was intensely sad and fearful (depression). Journaling felt a need, an act of self medication which I am now reaping the benefits from. My journaling provided a base for writing fiction. A lot of my writing now has an element of the therapeutic to it.

It is only in the last few years that I have felt comfortable attaching the label of writer to my sense of self. Expression of feelings and thoughts is important to my sense of self and this is what drives my writing. I write because if I don’t, my head resounds with noise; I disconnect from the world. To write frees me.

Anne: Tell us about your blog. What sort of things do you post?

Andy: I refer to my blog, Decoding Static, in my email signature as home and it is that, it is a place for my expression. I began my blog when I started writing Deception, perhaps if I hadn’t it would be finished! But if it wasn’t for the blog I wouldn’t have met so many other writers and my blog and life would be a lot emptier. My blog has grown in many directions and encompasses my own work and others. I write music and book reviews and interview authors and bands; I enjoy sharing the music and books that speak to me. The writing I post is mainly snapshots of my fiction and posts about mental wellbeing. I also post art and photography, sometimes as a set of landscapes, but more often than not it accompanies my writing.   

Anne: So, as you say, your writing is often accompanied by photography or other artwork.  But why is that? Do the pictures come first?

Andy: The writing always precedes the art or photography, they are an extension of my writing. As I’ve said I got into writing via music and in an ideal world I would be in a band singing my lyrics and playing guitar. As it is my guitar collects dust, a mixture of time and low self belief. When I realised a band wouldn’t happen anytime soon, I started placing art or photography (my music) with my writing to enhance and extend the words. Much like how music and lyrics work together to speak to us and pull at our emotions.

Anne: How did ‘Living Room Stories’ come about?

Andy: The preceding summer had been a limbo for me, I had great plans for my writing especially tearing at thoughts and Deception, but found no flow, I just staggered and stalled.  So on feeling this impulse to write, I ran with it and took a chance on myself. Living Room Stories is the essence of that limbo.

At the heart of Living Room Stories is music. Ólafur Arnalds’ released Living Room Songs, a song a day for seven days. For me Ólafur’s music is very emotive; there is a beautiful simplicity to it. His songs connect to my heart and on this occasion I decided to dive in, listening to each song for a few hours. As Fyrsta repeated, I pictured a couple. On watching the video Ólafur released alongside the song, I found my beginning, it was dark out, a yellow lamp reflected in the window, a window which dripped with rain and there she was, standing alone. I plugged into the sparse piano and sketched a moment of waiting. I re-read beginnings and felt my common themes of loneliness, troubled pasts and hurtful behaviour, but I also saw hope, for I saw her as part of that couple. Love is key to these stories. As such I wanted my next story (light) to be happy, however it depended on Ólafur’s music and luckily for me it worked out that way.  On his next song (Near Light) his sister and mother played some synths, which I heard as applause; I proceeded to pour my hopes onto the paper and from then on I danced with the music and a life in seven moments was formed.

Anne:  Music is clearly important to you – in your real life and in your writing life – are there any musicians who particularly inspire you to write – not necessarily in as direct a way as ‘Living Room Songs’?

Andy: Before Living Room Stories I had previously thought about writing to instrumental music, but Ólafur’s music was the first time I created the space to listen to an individual song on repeat for hours at a time, it also coincided with the need to release myself from my limbo of a summer. 

Music is nearly always on in our home, it is a constant background to my writing and as such I don’t have particular musicians who inspire, but instead I use music to draw me into certain moods. With Deception I have found Wilco’s Spiders (kidsmoke) and Joy Division, especially She’s Lost Control, 24hours and Transmission to be especially good at plucking at my emotions and getting into particular characters’ frame of reference.

Anne: I said in the review of ‘Living Room Stories’ that you write with incredible brevity but also with amazing depth. How on earth do you do that?

Andy: First of all thank you. I have never stopped to think that is something I do – which is down to my saboteur, an internal critic, which keeps my self belief down, though it is losing a lot more battles of late.  Thinking about it, it probably stems from writing lyrics and poetry and then developing a taste for fiction. When I wrote lyrics my words would tumble out in an abstract fashion; they created images that required interpretation. As such I spent time editing them as often the first words weren’t what I was looking forward but a way into the next layer which was what I was aiming for.  My fiction now works in much the same way, though the more I write, the less intense the editing, as I am finding I am reaching the layers I aim for first time.

Anne: The concept of the handmade book, and the way you present the Living Room collection, is unusual. Why was it important to you to publish in this format?

Andy: I decided to publish Living Room Stories because I had a need to finish a project. It felt very important to do that. I looked into publishing it as a book via lulu, but it didn’t feel right. Then I found myself looking at my record collection and saw my 7inch singles and it fell into place. 7inch squares housed in a record sleeve. An ep in words.

I also like the idea that the cover art of a book or a record can be an extension of the words and music and then the book or record becomes more than it is.  With Living Room Stories, each story is a memory, the individual sleeves encourage interaction with these memories, there is no set order, there was the blog order, and the handmade edition order, and there is the choice for the reader to develop their own order.

Anne: You’re working on a novel, ‘Deception’ – tell us a bit about it. Do you intend to publish it? If so when?

Andy: My start, stop novel! Deception is a novel about the struggle for the survival of the self. It centres around two main characters, 7892 and C6401, both of who represent aspects of me. Their respective endings reveal much of what I value and believe in and the importance of love to me. Deception is set in an unknown future, where the people live in Biomes, which hints at a certain level of damage to the earth, but also provides control for the Educators. The Educators are a group of people with set ideas and ways of living. They have created a two tier system comprising of their selves and the Workers, who have numbers for names; this is linked to ideas of the individual and a sense of self.  Opposing the Educators is the Collective, a mix of Educators and Workers who vehemently dislike the Educators programmes and policy and wants change.

Deception begins in Biome 4, where 7892 slugs back another beer, while C6401 watches his reflection retreat. Alone in a society anaesthetised by work, possessions and a diet of chemicals they fizz with anger at the Educators and their programmes. Recruited by the Collective they release their desires for revenge and change. Tunnelling into the human psyche we learn that freedom comes at a cost, responsibility, and the frightening prospects if we shrug that individual responsibility.

I am planning to start Deception up again in early 2012, due to wanting to put together and release a collection of 9 years of writing, photography and art. I am hoping this will clear my head and free my mind to concentrate on Deception.

Anne: ‘Living Room Stories’ is available from your website for £5 as a limited handmade edition. Any plans to make it available in a more easily /widely distributed form?

Andy: Yes if there is interest and if any publishers are interested please get in touch! Seriously, if there is the interest I will consider a second run, though with a different cover, so to keep the first 25 copies as a limited edition, of which there are copies available!

Regarding a more widely distributed form, say via a publisher, I would still want Living Room Stories, to be released as it currently is. I think I could be a publisher’s nightmare in terms of how I would want my work presented. This is due to the presentation being very much part of the work and an idealistic streak in me where art is worth more than money. This reminds me of Spiritualized and the tale that when they released Ladies and Gentleman we are Floating in Space, for the limited edition version, all 12 songs came on individual 3inch cds in a blister pack. The cost of this meant they had to forfeit their advance.

Anne: Finally, what are your future writing plans?

Andy: tearing at thoughts, my collection of writing, art and photography from the last 9 years is my next planned released. It will contain work not previously shown on my blog or elsewhere and also essays on the writing. The writing will be grouped into themes, e.g., lost thoughts, black blues ep, a numb nothingness surrounds. It will be A5 in size, possibly landscape and bounded together with metal. Though I may have 2 editions, a limited hand made edition and then a paperback version. The version(s) will depend on the outcome of a battle between ideals and time!

Anne: I wish you well with it. It sounds like another innovative and original work of art is on its way. Good luck with it and all the best for the novel and Living Room Stories. Thanks again, Andy, for agreeing to do this interview.

And thank you Anne for the questions and the space to speak about my writing. It has been enjoyable and beneficial.

 

To find out more and to purchase Living Room Stories, handmade edition, go to http://decodingstatic.blogspot.com/2011/11/living-room-stories-hand-made-edition.html

 

And there is also a competition to win a copy of the cover art for Living Room Stories at  http://www.decodingstatic.blogspot.com/2011/11/living-room-stories-competition.html