Tag Archives: literature
Life is a whirlwind at present and I haven’t had many spare minutes but I wanted to give you a heads up. Anyone living near Winchester may want to visit the University on the evening of June 13th and speak with some of the authors who have books in the Published Book Fair. I’ll be there and would love to see you.
Find out more by following the link:
The following is a copy of the guest blog piece I wrote for the lovely UK author Jenny Kane. You can read about her books and hook in to lots of interesting interviews by visiting her site at http://jennykane.co.uk
Writing What I Know (or How Life Influences My Fiction Writing)
Thank you Jenny for inviting me to write a guest blog piece for your website today.
In the company of other writers and readers, we often discuss what inspires our storytelling. During November, I was with a group of four writers at a retreat in Shropshire and it was clear that each of us had in-depth knowledge and experiences that informed our writing. One focused his story on his life as an Asian child within a predominately-white British community and another was using the experiences of a relative within the mental health sector. The third writer was interested in the modern history narrative, drawing from her own memories and I enjoy writing about human strength, in particular what happen when a female character faces a threatening situation.
Silencio, my debut novel, is a suspense story set in Spain, narrated with Spanish characters, and based on real life events that took place during the mid to late 1900’s.
Writing tutors and experts instruct writers that it is best to write about something they know but most of us have not committed a crime, witnessed a murder or had a new-born baby stolen whilst in the Maternity Unit. I started writing this first full-length novel in 2011 after watching a BBC documentary on television about the Stolen Babies of Spain (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJJ7Pp_Zvvs). The investigative documentary introduced me to the background behind the baby trafficking of an estimated 300,000 babies in Spain during the Franco and immediate post-Franco periods.
I am an English woman, too old to worry about childbirth, and have not experienced the loss of an infant. How did I ensure that I wrote with authority and authenticity without the value of these experiences?
I am a Mum. My daughter may be in her 30’s but I remember holding her as a newly delivered baby – the colour of her skin, the warmth and smell of her body. The memory
of the sleepless nights and leaping out of bed to run to her assistance having recognised her cry in a room full of other babies, will not be forgotten. My maternal intuition kicked in from the moment of conception, well before the morning sickness and the tickling of tiny feet inside of my womb. Even now that she is an adult, I sense when my daughter is in danger and needs my support.
My previous employment was as a midwife and nurse. Every hospital has common features and my experiences of working in various hospitals allowed me to add detail to the hospital scenes in Silencio. It doesn’t matter that a Spanish hospital is different from one in the UK because this is a work of fiction and as long as the reader believes that the place could be real, he or she will not be distracted from the story. Having had experience of Spanish health care and hospitals, I can testify that there are more similarities than differences.
Spain is my second home and I have lived there for a number of years, speak conversational Spanish, have travelled throughout the country, and have experienced life in a Spanish community.
However, I am English and was not brought up as a Spanish girl within a Catholic family. Not a problem, because as the saying goes I know a man who can or in this case, a young Spanish woman who was delighted to read and correct my work and give me an insight to the lives of her mother, her sisters, her fellow villagers, etc.
Mercedes, the main character in Silencio, is a journalist. I am not a journalist but I studied the subject at university many years ago, I read newspaper articles and I am lucky to know a young magazine journalist who gave me the benefit of her experience.
Many readers have commented on the development of the love relationship and the passion between Mercedes and Orlando. Apparently, it is quite steamy and some of my daughter’s friends are shocked that Rachael’s mum ‘wrote this’. 25 years ago, I met my husband and I thought back to those early days and the excitement that a look or a brush of the fingers could stimulate. I remembered the heightened senses and the fear of commitment and tried to bring these to my writing.
During a three-year period, I researched background information for Silencio and most of it has not ended up in my novel. One of my pet hates as a reader is to read a research-led story instead of one that focuses on the characters and plot.
In addition to internet searches, books and library research, I tried to visit each of the places in my novel. I travelled on the public transport and ate in local cafes so that I absorbed the culture. This was important when writing about a country as large and diverse as Spain because the northern life is different to that of Madrid, and the society of the eastern coastal towns does not resemble that of the central plane. The clothing changes to suit the local climate and the locals socialise in different ways. Hearty foods of the north are too heavy for the warmer climates of the south. I changed a number of details after each research visit; for example, the men in a northern village play cards instead of dominos.
My novel-in-progress A Life on the Line takes place in 1961 between York and Scarborough.
Last summer I spent several weeks in the area as I surveyed the layout for detail and interviewed local people who remembered the period. In the York library, microfiche records of local press helped me to discover the products, trends and issues of that year and the library of the excellent National Railway Museum holds information and photos that add detail to the backstory.
There is a saying that goes something like this ‘be careful of what you tell a writer as you or it may end up in her next book’. None of my characters is based on a single person I know but each is a compilation of the characteristics of many people I have met. Mercedes, in Silencio, does not represent either of these two beautiful friends but she has the strength of one and the humour of the other. Without the people in my life, there would be no characters in my stories.
It is time to finish this piece but if anyone wants to have a discussion about what influences their own writing, I would be delighted to read your comments. You can find out more information about my writing and research (including links to articles about baby trafficking and the Spanish stolen babies) at my website www.laberrynovels.org
Follow me on twitter @LABerryNovels or @writelindy
Like me on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/silenciobylaberry
Silencio is available to purchase as a paperback through the following link or to order from any good book retailer – ISBN 9781785890994
The EBOOK version of Silencio by LA Berry is available on all major ebook retail sites including Amazon, Ibook, Google play, Kobo, Nook – EISBN 9781785894732
No vacant pews remain in the front half of the church and so, Rose chooses one near the back, content that at least she will be one of the first to see the arrival of the bride. A few stragglers come in afterwards and hurry to take their seats. Fred’s place at her side remains empty; a couple do consider joining her, then the woman shivers and, with a comment on the chill, they move forward.
The prospect of watching her cherished granddaughter walk down the aisle with the man of her choice had kept Rose going during the recent dark days. The expression ‘drowning in grief’ has meaning now and she wishes that she could apologise to her late mother for her impatient words.
Is Mother’s spirit is here today?
Known for her gift of ‘the sight’ and what Fred called, ‘her uncanny ability to look into the future’, Rose scans alcoves and window ledges; there is not a wisp of ghostly presence.
The vicar shakes the young groom’s hand and glides towards the back of the church. His smile widens when he notices the regulars; otherwise, he maintains a regal, and somewhat aloof, expression. Rose has met his kind before, sniffy about non-believers. She could tell him a thing or two about the afterlife.
‘Hello old girl.’
‘Fred. You made it. Just in time as well. Listen.’ Rose reaches for his hand and they smile at each other as the organist plays the same music that had accompanied her procession down the aisle all of those years ago. ‘There she is. Oh Fred, look at what Jenny’s wearing. It’s my veil.’ Her hand covers her heart, expanding in her chest, and she gasps at the memory of the pain.
‘Don’t cry my sweet. You’ll spoil your pretty face.’ He tries to gather her to him but lacks the strength so they make do with an air-kiss. An order of service flutters to the ground as she pretends to smack his hand. It rests beneath their feet and they watch the lace-clad young woman march with her father past the end of their row. Rose’s hand extends to stroke the lace but the fabric floats like a cloud of mist through her fingers.
‘Sam looks smart in his penguin suit.’
A woman in the next row turns to stare. When her neighbour asks what’s wrong, she pauses for a second, a quizzical expression in her eyes, then shrugs and mumbles something about whispering.
‘Shush Fred. If you get caught, they’ll make us leave and we’ll miss the ceremony.’
From that moment, they are as quiet as church mice as her mother used to say, listening carefully to their son as he gives away the hand of his daughter and later, to the young couple as they exchange their vows. Rose holds back her sobs, all the while trying to ignore the pressure in her chest. The sermon is about family love and a number of handkerchiefs come out when the vicar mentions the names of those who can not be with them.
‘At least I got a mention.’
‘How could she forget you my love? Every year, those special weeks at the seaside, and not every girl gets a car for her 18th.’
‘Aye, we did what we could for them.’
The organist pounds his keys and the radiant couple float down the aisle. Rose and Jack stay behind until the last guest has passed them and then, they smile sadly at each other and rise.
‘It’s time. I will love you through eternity,’ she said but he had already faded into the cool atmosphere and her words went unanswered. Drifting outside of the church, Rose has time to see a glimpse of white at the side of a newly dug grave and she leaves with the words of her granddaughter comforting her as she ventures into the unknown.
‘You and Gramps showed me how to love. I know he’ll look after you wherever you are.’
As the person responsible for the marketing of my novel Silencio, last week, I had to make a difficult decision about price promotion. I decided to reduce the price of the ebook version of my book to £.99 for a period of 14 days.
It wasn’t an easy decision because my novel represents 4 years of work and I do not want to undersell the effort that it took. However, I am aware that the global marketplace for ebooks is vast and could represent the path of success for the debut author. Breaking in to the crowded market requires notable sales and without a huge publicity machine, this can not be achieved without promotional activity.
I have been fortunate with my book sales but now things are slowing down and a boost is needed.
It will be interesting to witness the effects of my price promotion on the number of book sales.
I am thrilled to be featured with my novel Silencio in The Quay magazine this month.
Here is the beautiful Westbourne Bookshop. The owners have just celebrated their first birthday and are working hard to create the perfect environment to shelter the work of the authors.
And look at what is on their shelves. My own novel Silencio.
Water caressed my body, I flipped over and flattened my feet against the tiles. Before I pushed, a voice breached my solitude.
For a second, I thought it was a figment of my imagination, a phantom sound created by rushing fluid in my ears, lacking their original ability after the trauma of years attending concerts and discotheques. I propelled my body against the pressure of the water.
A white-haired man wearing a shirt, too short to hide his belly, grasped the gate and leered through the metal bars. My eyesight is not quite what it used to be, worn down by years of reading small print in poor conditions, and the goggles distorted my view but I saw that he was admiring my costume.
‘Are you enjoying it?’
My heart shattered. Years ago, that man had captured it with his flame locks and fine physique. I lowered my gaze and saw the true image of my self and yearned, just for a minute, for those days long gone.
I recently received a lovely review on http://www.amazon.com from a reader who learned about my novel while she was flying home to the States from the UK. Apparently the passenger in the adjacent seat was reading Silencio and she recommended it so this reader downloaded it on to her Kindle.
I love this story as it does not rely on marketing or publicity or arm twisting and therefore, gives me a great feeling of pride as an author of a book that someone wants to read.
One of my favourite things about writing about the past is doing the research. Both of my novels have been set in the recent past and so there have been plenty of personal accounts to give an insight to the environment and era. People love to be asked about the 1960’s and many of my friends and colleagues have rich recollections of that period. Whereas my first novel took place in Spain, this second one is located in York and its surroundings, making it easier to research. I spent several days in the fabulous Railway Museum in York where there are old photos, magazines and articles. While there, York Theatre was closed and the company relocated to the National Railway Museum to perform. We were fortunate enough to obtain tickets for the incredible production which told the history of the York Railways against the backdrop of the wonderful old engines and carriages. Over 200 performers were involved.
My research in Spain led me to villages affected by the Spanish inquisition and along the paths less travelled by the normal tourist. Locals filled me in on their customs which change from one area in the country to another.
The best thing about the research is that my understanding of my subject develops and hopefully makes my writing entertaining and realistic.