Before closing the festival, I thought I’d like to add a mini-event of my own here by way of highlighting the positive motivation (as opposed to the frustrated ranting) behind doing the festival in the first place. And that was the importance of books and book festivals in giving voice to those who might not otherwise be heard.
I wrote in an earlier festival event post here about how the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF) had restored a bit of my faith in traditional mainstream book festivals when it announced its 2019 programme. Yes, it had its fair share of celebs, TV stars and way too many politicians but it also had actual authors of actual books. BUT as well as all that it gave a platform to some authors and issues that would normally struggle to get an airing.
Refugee and Migrant Voices
And one such author was Palestinian writer, Nayrouz Qarmout, who I wrote about seeing at last year’s EIBF here and who was invited back this year. So, having enjoyed listening to her last year, I went back to see her again.
Now, if you know me or my books at all, you’ll know that the situation in Israel-Palestine is one that’s close to my heart. It’s a part of the world I’ve visited several times, it’s where one of my dearest friends lives and I deliberately chose to highlight the situation there as part of Rachel’s story in my three part Skye-Israel series of three novels (two published and part three due out at the end of 2019. You might well be wondering what can possibly connect these two locations – but you’ll have to read the books to find that out J
But one of my aims in choosing that setting was to let my readers know in a non-preachy, non-confrontational, story-telling way the problems that are faced by the Palestinian people as they try to get on with their lives as refugees in their own land. And main character, Rachel, sympathises with their plight, not least because she is the daughter of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who arrived in Scotland as part of the Kindertransport.
This year’s EIBF event was called Home for Migrants and Refugees. It was hosted by Scottish crime writer Val McDermid and it featured Scottish novelist Ali Smith and Scottish folk musician Karine Polwart as well as Nayrouz Qarmout.
Karine Polwart opened proceedings by singing her song Maybe There’s a Road which she said had been inspired after a raid on a house near to where she lived which was being used by sex-traffickers. The lyrics of the song depict a victim of the trafficking longing for a way out of their situation.
Ali Smith spoke about a project she is patron of called Refugee Tales which amongst other things partners writers and refugees in order to record in writing the refugees stories. These stories have now been published in three volumes also called Refugee Tales. On hearing a sample of these stories, I know I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes. And having got the first of the books, I can recommend them as truly humbling reads.
Nayrouz Qarmout, as she did last year, spoke movingly about her life in Gaza, the Palestinian territory in Israel which she described as the world’s largest prison. But she also spoke about her writing, about the telling of her story, of her Palestinian identity and about what home means to her. And she told us about her beautiful book, The Sea Cloak, which I can also highly recommend.
You can buy the book here. And you can read about the book’s awesome publisher Comma Presshere.
The event finished with Karine Polwart singing Suitcase – a song inspired by an elderly gentleman she knew who had been a Kindertransport refugee and who even into old age kept a suitcase packed in case he ever had to flee again.
This was a wonderful, moving and thought-provoking event and a fine example of a book festival that truly values the power of the written word.
And so that’s it …
The last event has taken place and we come to the end of the two month – 25 event- virtual book festival here on Put It In Writing.
Creating the festival wasn’t something I’d planned on doing. It arose out of a bit of a rant I had here after despairing about the line-ups at various real world book festivals where books and authors were in short supply compared to politicians, celebs and soap stars – not all of whom had even written a book. Following my rant the wee voice in my head dared me to try to do better. So with no budget and a garden that’s too small for a marquee, I had the idea to run a virtual festival – no costs, no queues for the book tent, and no carbon footprint for visitors and contributors from far away.
In my (not so humble) opinion, it’s been a success and I’ve loved organising and hosting all the events.
The authors, book bloggers and other book professionals who agreed to appear at the festival have all been a joy to work with and I appreciate all the hard work and effort they put in perfecting their wonderful contributions and getting them to me on time.
And to all of you have visited, commented, and shared the events on social media – THANK YOU SO MUCH – the level of engagement from you all has been amazing and has made all the hard work worthwhile.
And I hope you agree that I met my aim of making it all about BOOKS.
The blog is now going on a bit of a break for a couple of months. I hope to see you back here in November.
Hello everyone! This is the 25th and penultimate event in the Put It In Writing Virtual Book Festival. And it’s my pleasure to welcome second-chance romance author Claire Baldry to the festival today. Claire is going to share her thoughts on the use of imagination in her writing.
So over to Claire:
I have always believed that imagination is the finest of all human qualities. It allows us to empathise with people in situations we have never experienced. If we let it, imagination has the power to improve our world and build new inventions. It has the potential to stop us hurting others, because we can envisage their potential pain. As writers, imagination allows us to combine pieces of our experiences together and create a whole new world.
So when people ask me ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ the only reply I can offer is:
“You never know what’s in your head, until you start pulling it out.”
Again and again, I hear authors explain that, however hard they plan their novels, the characters seem to take over and lead the storyline in all sorts of unexpected directions. And that is the same for me. Imagination is a powerful and mysterious tool.
The deeper I get into writing a book, the more likely it is that I will find myself talking to my imagined characters. So when I’m asked “Are your characters based on real people?” I always reply “Not one person, but bits of loads of people I’ve known, and some I’ve seen on TV or read about, and some who just seem to emerge.”
How does the power of imagination translate into writing? I’ve tried to unpack this a bit and take a look at some of the characters and the setting in my latest novel ‘My Daughter’s Wedding’. The bride, Charlotte, is very self-centred, inconsiderate towards her mother and partly formed by the indulgence of her father. But she is also a hard worker, a good mother, and still only twenty-four. Is she based on my own daughter? Certainly not, but there are occasional echoes of my own daughter in the most self-centred phase of her teenage years. And when Charlotte loses control of herself in an emotional and hurtful outburst, she can’t stop. That bit of Charlotte is me, admittedly not often, but it does happen.
The mother of the bride’s new man is also a mixture. His perceptions as a teacher are definitely mine, but his humour comes from my husband whose wit is always sharpest in the company of women.
The looked after child, Carly, is partly based on pupils and families I encountered as a teacher, but I also drew on a variety of second-hand experiences told to me or watched on TV to enable me to enter the head of the abuser with whom Carly has a relationship.
I hope I have been successful in creating these characters. Blogger, Linda Hill was kind enough to observe……
”Claire Baldry has created a cast of people who felt real, flawed and authentic.” (Linda’s Book Bag)
And yet I have chosen to take these fictional characters and place at least some of them in my own hometown of Bexhill in East Sussex. The setting is real. It was a pleasure to weave my imagined characters into such familiar places. I hoped that asking my readers to use their imagination was a good way to promote my coastal hometown, which relies on visitors as part of its economy.
Blogger Anne Williams described the benefit of the setting.
“And I must mention another element of the story I loved, its vivid sense of place. Bexhill, Hastings and their surroundings are unknown territory for me, but I felt like I’d had a rather lovely holiday – the descriptions are just wonderful, the restaurants and the markets, the geography and the attractions, the detail drawn with care but never intruding, just enhancing the backdrop for the story.” (Being Anne)
I would like to write a sequel to ‘My Daughter’s Wedding’, to develop the lives and personalities of some of the characters into a whole new story. As yet, I have no inspiration, but if I keep delving into my head, hopefully my imagination will eventually pull something out.
With grateful thanks to Anne Stormont for allowing me to share my thoughts as part of her Virtual Book Festival.
Anne: And thank you to you too, Claire for this fascinating insight into how you use a mix of imagination and reality – to excellent effect – in your writing.
And now we have an extract from Claire’s above-mentioned book :
My Daughter’s Wedding
From the Back Cover:
When ‘bride to be’ and single parent, Charlotte, discovers that her 61-year-old widowed mother is in a new relationship, she struggles to come to terms with it. “Why do you need to have a man, at your age?” Charlotte asks, “Can’t you just be a grandma?”
The growing tension between mother and daughter combined with preparations for the wedding impact on both family and friends. In this compelling and unashamedly romantic tale of finding love in later life, the experience of a young care-leaver who is tasked with making the wedding bouquet, is skilfully intertwined with the family’s – sometimes turbulent– preparations for a modern wedding.
Angie was fastening her jacket when the phone rang. “Mum, it’s me. I need a favour.”
“Ask quickly then. I’ve got my jacket on. I was on my way out.”
“Why on earth are you wearing a jacket? It’s boiling out there.” Angie was irritated by her daughter’s increasing habit of treating her like a child.
“It’s breezy on Bexhill seafront. What do you want, Charlotte? I’m in a hurry.”
“Can you pick Joe up from school on Wednesday? His dad’s let me down again.”
“No, I’m sorry Charlotte, I can’t. It’s Uncle Jack’s funeral on Wednesday.”
Angie could hear daughter’s annoyance. “I still don’t see why you have to go. You didn’t like him.”
“I’m the only one left now on Grandpa’s side. I’m going to represent the family.”
“Uncle Jack won’t know you’re there.”
“I’m just doing what I believe is right. Sorry about Joe, but you’ll have to find someone else. Charlotte, I have to go.” Angie put down the phone. She grabbed her bag and stepped out of her flat and onto the wide landing. She deliberately walked past the lift and descended the four flights of stairs.
“I am not yet old,” she told herself, “I have a right to my own life.” The July sun was strong. Angie began to feel hot as she hurried along the promenade. She was pleased Charlotte wasn’t watching as she removed her jacket. By the time she reached the little Thai restaurant, her friend Alison was already seated at a table. Alison waved an empty glass at Angie.
“Wine? You look flustered.”
“I am flustered, and yes please. Well done for remembering to bring the bottle.” The restaurant wasn’t licensed, so the two friends took it in turns to bring wine to their weekly lunch.
“Let me guess, it’s Charlotte.”
Angie let out an exaggerated sigh. “She talks down to me as if I’m senile. And she forgets I have a right to a life of my own. I’m her mother, not her servant.”
Want to read more? You can buy a copy of the book here
Former headteacher and English Advisor, Claire Baldry, lives on the East Sussex coast with her husband Chris. She has published five booklets of amusing poetry, an autobiographical novella and two novels. Claire has a very regular schedule of engagements as a speaker and light-hearted performance poet. She regularly fundraises for charity, and Claire and her husband were awarded the SE Diabetes UK fundraising Inspire Award in 2017. Claire is passionate about promoting books and poetry with protagonists and issues which appeal to readers in mid-life and beyond. She is the creator of the ‘Books for Older Readers’ website and has won two awards for her poetry from the Silver Surfers website.
You can connect online with Claire at the links below:
Hello everyone and welcome to event number 24 in the Virtual book festival programme. Today we have an interview with author of contemporary romantic fiction, Kate Field.
And hello and welcome to you too, Kate. Let’s begin with why and how you became a writer?
The earliest memory I have of writing is from primary school, when I wrote a story about an octopus and his underwater friends. The teacher pinned it on the wall, even though it stretched for pages and pages. I was a shy girl, neither sporty nor musical, and for the first time it felt like there was something I might be good at.
I wrote terrible poetry in my teens and eventually started my first novel in my early twenties. I wrote on and off for almost twenty years as a hobby, and then had a ‘now or never’ moment when I turned forty. I plucked up the courage to start sending my writing out and entering competitions. I was a runner up in a competition organised by Woman magazine and Accent Press, and Accent published my first three books.
I didn’t ever dare call myself a writer during those early years. It wasn’t until I was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance and met other writers for the first time that I realised I was one of them. I had found my tribe!
Anne: Well done for going for it. Your courage in taking the leap certainly paid off.
What genre do you write in and why does that hold a particular appeal for you?
I write romantic fiction. It’s been my favourite genre ever since I read Pride and Prejudice as my GCSE set text and was swept up in the story in a way I’d never been before. It’s the genre where I can relate to the characters and situations and see parts of my own life reflected on the pages, and that adds extra appeal to the books. I also have more emotional connection to romantic fiction novels than any other, because I love a happy ending and I find it comforting to be able to pick up a book knowing that’s exactly what I’ll get.
I never actively thought about what sort of books to write. It was always going to be romance.
Anne: Yes, I like ‘the deal’ between romantic fiction authors and readers – as a reader you know you won’t be left hanging and that you’ll get a story you can relate to along the way.
How many books have you written? Tell us a bit about them.
Four books have been published so far, with the fifth due out in February 2020.
The Magic of Ramblings was the first to be published. It’s about a desperate woman who runs away from her life and takes a job as a companion to an old lady who lives at Ramblings, a country house in Lancashire. It’s a story of friendship, of community spirit, and of starting again when all seems lost.
I went back to Ramblings in another book, The Winter That Made Us, as I couldn’t resist revisiting some favourite characters! It’s a standalone story about an unlikely couple who connect through music and the restoration of the Ramblings walled garden.
The Truth About You, Me and Us is also set in Lancashire. It’s about a community of craft people and tells the story of Helen, who made a controversial decision a few years ago and who faces a challenge when her past catches up with her.
My most recent book is The Man I Fell in Love With, and there’s more about that one below.
Anne: And all of them are such good stories.
Tell us about a typical writing day?
I don’t have a typical writing day. I have a day job, so writing has to fit around that and family life. This means that I pick up my writing whenever I have chance, and write for as long as I can, without having a set plan for how many words I need to write. Some days even one paragraph is a good outcome!
Anne: Yes, I can see why you need to be flexible as regards your writing word count expectations. But every paragraph counts.
Do you plot your novels in some detail before you actually start writing?
I don’t plot in detail. My sensible side tells me that I should and that it would save a lot of time, especially on those days when I reach the end of a scene and have no idea what is going to happen next. But when I try to plot ahead, it doesn’t seem to work for me. I need to write into the story and to get to know the characters and what they might do as I go along.
Having said that, I do fill out character questionnaires before I start, and spend some time thinking about the opening scene and a few other scenes or wisps of conversation that could happen along the way.
Anne: So a bit of planning but an open mind too.
What comes first for you characters or plot?
You can probably guess from my answer to the last question that characters come first! I think that’s partly because I write romantic stories, and it’s essential that readers can relate to the characters and want to follow their journey over several hundred pages, even when they know that the book will finish with a happy ending. I also enjoy reading character-driven stories so it’s inevitable that I’m drawn to writing them too.
Anne: That makes perfect sense for the sort of stories you write. The characters are indeed memorable and it’s a pleasure to go with them through their story.
Where do you get your ideas?
The simple answer to this is that they come at any time and from anywhere! The Magic of Ramblings was inspired by my love of Georgette Heyer books, and in particular those stories where an unassuming companion wins the heart of a dashing hero! The Winter That Made Us was inspired by an advert I saw on television featuring floating Chinese lanterns. I thought of a scene where I could use floating lanterns and the whole book was built around it. It’s still one of my favourite parts of the book. Other stories have been inspired by magazine articles, items in the news or – in the case of The Man I Fell in Love With – a piece of gossip at work!
Anne: That’s the magic of writing ( and Ramblings), isn’t it? Ideas come from all sorts of places and situations.
Have you got a favourite character out of the all the ones you’ve created? Tell us about them if you have – or is it too hard to pick just one?
It’s very hard to pick one, as I have favourites for different reasons. The book that’s coming out in February, A Dozen Second Chances, features a character called Phyllis, who is the heroine’s grandmother, and I loved writing her scenes. She’s funny and wise and thinks she can get away with saying and doing anything she likes because of her grand old age!
It’s tough to choose between my male leads, as I love them all, but I have a soft spot for Noah Thornton from The Winter That Made Us. He starts off as a prickly bear of a man, who rarely smiles or speaks after facing a tragic event in his past, and I loved watching him thaw as the story develops.
Anne: Ah, Noah. I’m still in love with him …
Can you share some of the feedback/reviews you’ve had from your readers and/or any awards your books have received?
The Magic of Ramblings won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award for new writers, which was a complete surprise and a huge honour!
I’m grateful to anyone who takes a time to leave a review. Here are a few:
‘This was the first time that I’ve been so engrossed in a book, that I’ve forgotten where I was. It is totally consuming and the writing is enchanting and natural. Exceptional depth to the characters and a beautiful story. Loved loved loved it. Not my usual type of book but it was my favourite read of the year by a mile.’ Amazon review, The Magic of Ramblings
‘I thought this story was utterly delightful and a perfect example of truly romantic women’s fiction.’ Linda’s Book Bag, The Truth About You, Me and Us
‘The whole book is beautifully written, with real warmth, a strong sense of place and of the people who live there. I found it quite captivating, heart-warming and so uplifting – one of those rare and lovely reads that you put down at the end with a smile, and just want to say out loud “I really enjoyed that”.’ Being Anne, The Winter That Made Us
‘Kate Field has made me believe in love again, not the teenage meet-cute kind of love, but the real, enduring, self-sacrificing love. The love that really, as adults, we all hope is truly real.’ The Glass House Girls Online Magazine, The Man I Fell in Love With
There is an extract from your novel The Man I Fell in Love With below. Tell us a bit more about this particular book and why you chose it for the extract.
This is my most recently published book, and for a long time this was my secret writing project. I loved the characters so much, especially Mary Black, that I was too scared to submit it as I knew that rejection would hurt! Mary has proved a more controversial figure than I expected. She supports her husband when he reveals that he is gay, and her reaction has divided opinion, with some readers seeing her as weak and others acknowledging her strength. I think she’s wonderful!
This is the blurb from Amazon:
Sometimes we find happiness where we least expect it…
After twenty years of contented marriage, no one is more surprised than Mary Black when her husband announces he’s leaving her… for another man.
For the sake of the children, Mary has no choice but to pick herself up and start again. She hosts family meals that include Leo and his new partner. She copes with the kids wanting to spend less time with her and more time with their ‘fun’ dads. But one thing she can’t quite ignore is Leo’s gorgeous brother, who has just come back to town…
After living a life of sliding doors and missed opportunities, can Mary finally put herself first and take a chance that could change everything?
A wonderfully uplifting novel full of wisdom, spirit and charm. This is a love story with a difference, perfect for fans of Jill Mansell and Heidi Swain
In this extract, Mary has invited Leo and his new partner to the family home for Christmas, and Leo’s brother Ethan challenges her over her behaviour:
After dinner, Ava pulled out the box of Trivial Pursuit for the traditional game of everyone trying to beat Leo. I ducked out this year, letting Clark take my place, and went to tidy the kitchen, finding simple pleasure in restoring order in the one area I could. Noise and laughter floated down the hall.
‘What are you doing?’
Ethan followed me into the kitchen and pushed the door shut.
‘I don’t mean in here.’I knew exactly what he meant, knew what he was going to say, and it was one of the reasons why I had spent the whole of Christmas Eve out shopping, so that there was no danger of this conversation taking place. I grabbed a pile of cutlery, and fed it into the dishwasher with as much rattling as I could manage.
Ethan touched my arm.
‘Mary.’ I ignored him. He grabbed the cutlery from me, threw it in the basket and slammed the dishwasher door closed. ‘What’s the matter with you?’
‘With me?’ That riled me. How was any of this my fault? ‘Nothing.’
‘That’s my point. Leo’s about to leave you, and you look about as bothered as if you’d run out of milk.’
‘Of course I’m bothered! I don’t want him to go. Would you prefer it if I stayed in bed and cried into my pillow? Or if I shouted abuse at him and cut up all his suits? Do you think that would help Jonas and Ava?’
‘It might help you. It might show Leo that you do actually care, and that he has something to stay for.’
‘Me being me isn’t enough to make him stay, is that what you’re saying? That I’ve driven him away? Thanks for that vote of confidence.’
‘That’s not what I meant . . .’
‘And what makes you qualified to give me advice on relationships, with your two failed marriages and string of ex-girlfriends?’
Perhaps I had gone a bit far with that one – his second wife had been unfaithful, according to Audrey – but what right did he have to stand in my kitchen, berating my indifference? I knew some people would find my reaction odd, but I thought Ethan knew me better.
‘I know exactly what you’re doing. You block out things that are difficult, pretend they’re not happening. It’s what you’ve always done.’
‘That’s not true!’
‘What is it then? Some grand sacrifice for Leo? You love him, but you’re letting him go? Listen to me, Mary. It’s not heroic or noble to do that. It’s the wrong choice. If you want something enough you should carry on fighting for it, even if you get knocked down a thousand times, and no matter the collateral damage. Don’t condemn yourself to a life of loneliness and regret.’
He gazed at me then, and it was as if he’d ripped open that confident jacket, and shown me someone entirely different underneath. I didn’t know what to say, and was spared having to say anything when Leo walked in. He looked from Ethan to me, and back to Ethan.
‘What are you saying to her?’ I had never heard Leo’s tone so sharp.
‘The truth.’ Leo’s head jerked back as if Ethan had struck him on the chin. ‘I told Mary that she needs to fight to keep you.’
‘Do you have a problem with Leo being gay?’ I asked. There had always been tension between these two, but this level of animosity was new.
‘Not in the slightest. I only have a problem with him deciding he’s gay now, years after marrying you.’
‘I haven’t made the decision. I met Clark, and I can’t ignore what I feel for him.’ Leo stared at Ethan. ‘You can’t help who you fall in love with. You should understand that.’
And Ethan, whom I had never before seen lost for words, simply shook his head at Leo and walked out.
If you want to read more you can buy the book at the link below: