Monday, 21 April 2014

Pass the Baton

I’d like to thank twitter friend, Faye Rapoport DesPres, for passing the writing baton on to me. I happily agreed to take the baton from Faye because this ‘blog hop’ is designed to help writers get to know a little more about each other, introduce more readers to a variety of writers’ work and maybe pick up a few helpful tips. Please let me introduce you to Faye.

Currently living in the Boston area with her husband, Jean-Paul, and their four rescued cats, Faye has previously lived in England, Colorado, New York and Israel. Her debut book, Message From A Blue Jay, is to be published this spring by Buddhapuss Ink. Message From A Blue Jay is a beautifully-crafted memoir-in-essays and between the pages can be found a lone humpback whale, an amazing blue jay and tales from the streets of Jerusalem to the Tower of London. It tells of Faye’s passion for the natural world, of second chances at love, unexpected loss and the search for a place she can finally call home. Faye has spent most of her writing career as a journalist and business/non-profit writer. In 2010 she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College’s Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program, where she focused on creative nonfiction.

Early in her career, Faye worked as a writer for environmental organizations that focused on protecting wildlife and natural resources. In 1999, after switching to journalism, she won a Colorado Press Association award as a staff writer for a Denver weekly newspaper, where she wrote news stories, features, and interviews. Her website can be found at here.

Pass the baton questions for Angela Barton.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve nearly completed my third novel entitled, The Midday Moon. My book is a contemporary and historical dual narrative, the protagonists’ stories being told in both war-torn France and modern day France.

Arlette Blaise is nineteen when the Second World War reaches France. She lives with her father and brother in a farmhouse on top of Montverre Hill; her mother having died in childbirth with her third baby. She falls in love with her father’s Jewish farmhand, a doctor who is forbidden from practicing by the Nazis. As the war progresses and the Germans cross the demarcation line into the unoccupied zone, Arlette and Saul’s lives change irrevocably as Jews in the south are hunted down. The Gestapo become neighbours by moving into a local manoir - forcing Saul into hiding. Tragically Arlette is also present when the Germans massacre all but a handful of people in the small town of Oradour-sur-Glane. Shocking events occur at the farmhouse and remain a secret for seventy years. When Arlette leaves her run-down farmhouse to her great-niece, Rachel Blaise, in her will, Rachel makes horrific discoveries during the building’s renovations. Somehow Rachel must unravel her great-aunt Arlette’s secrets whilst coping with her own problems.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

The Midday Moon includes two genres; contemporary and historical fiction. Although my story and characters are entirely fictional, the theme of my story is factual; the war, the martyred village of Oradour and the persecution of Jews. I feel the weight of responsibility for accurate and non-glamorized storytelling in memory of the people who lost their lives during such a dreadful era of our history.
This is the first time I’ve written a historical story and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning and researching a subject I knew little about. We all know of the horrors of wars through books and films, but I’ve made a couple of harrowing visits to Oradour-sur-Glane for research purposes. I’ve written a post about my visit which can be found following on from this post.
I also alternate chapters between Arlette in the 1940s and Rachel in 2013/14. I found it interesting how my ‘voice’ naturally changed between the two eras, a fact I think helps to easily separate my protagonists’ different stories.

Why do you write what you do?

I’ve always told stories. Before technology (now that makes me sound old!) I was a great letter writer; in fact I still write long-hand letters to friends. These weren’t just newsy letters about work and family with information given factually. If I was describing going to town with my mum I’d be writing that my hands were dug deep in my coat pockets to keep the cold out, while my fingers played with the bobbly bits of material found inside pockets. Or I’d go into detail describing the cinnamon-spiced and syrupy smells coming from the Christmas market. Everything had to be described visually. I suppose I just love to paint a picture with words and as my three children grew older and I had more time on my hands, narratives started to build in my mind. My characters urged me to tell their stories and disturbed my sleep with their incessant interruptions.

In 2007 I started writing and haven’t stopped since! No matter how easily imagination comes to someone, it’s essential to follow the learning curve which is necessary when writing fiction. To accomplish this I joined writing groups, attended workshops, visited Harper Collins in London, listened to published authors speak at literary festivals, spoke with Jonathon Lloyd of Curtis Brown Literary Agency about women’s fiction, joined master classes at The London Book Fair, bought ‘how-to’ books and joined a fiction critique group at Nottingham Writers’ Studio. I also started my own blog and joined twitter where I made friend with other writers. Gradually my confidence grew the more I learned and I began to win competitions for prose, poetry and novel writing - proudly accepting trophies and a beautiful silver rose bowl.

How does your writing process work?

Describing it as a writing process makes it sound as if I organise my writing time, which is impossible! I’m a company director and also have a part-time job at the City Hospital in Nottingham. If that doesn’t keep me busy enough, I’m owned by two spaniels that need walking twice a day and sadly there’s no escaping the housework! Having said that, my wonderfully supportive husband, Paul, has built me a writing room in the garden and I escape to my sanctuary as often as possible. I try to write something every day, even if it’s a few hundred words - but I’m happier if I reach 1,000 or more.

I also keep in contact with hundreds of writers, publishers and agents on twitter under the twitter tag @angebarton. I would recommend any writer, new or established, joins twitter. I’ve made so many friends (and met up with several for coffee and cake) and I’ve learned so much from them. If I have a problem with the computer or can’t think of the right word, one sentence on twitter is all it takes to get my answer! As The Midday Moon is set in France, there are some colloquial phrases I needed to know which can’t be found in a French/English dictionary. French writers on twitter have helped me out with those too.
Another great tip is to read as many novels as you can about the genre you’re writing in. I’ve picked up invaluable pieces of information from other writers about World War Two.

I’m passing the baton on to Kay, a writer friend on twitter who tweets under the tag of @1_Lovelife. Here she tells us a little about herself.

I am a writer. It’s what I do from time to time. Recently I became distracted by a new project but the heavy work is finished so I’ve time to spare. The project that distracted me was a full refurbishment of a flat. A new kitchen, bathroom, heating system and a full re-decorate. It was an opportunity to explore my other creative talents. It’s almost done. Over the coming weeks I shall make cushion covers and attempt to recover a chair!

But when I’m not doing this I will write… I’m currently working on a short story. I’ve realized how much I’ve missed writing: developing an idea and building a character. Also, I’ve decided that I need to set myself some writing challenges to get my flabby writing muscle fired up!
Firstly: I’m going to join a new writing group!
Secondly: I’m going to write a blog article- twice a week.
Thirdly: I shall allow this process to evolve naturally.
From here on this re-boot challenge is about enjoying my writing. I’ve a best friend in America who I write to frequently and she loves my letters. Apparently they are hilarious, full of humour and candour. Let’s see if I can do this for my blog too… and I shall be kind to myself, if I get distracted.

Kay's blog can be found here.

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