Friday 15 February 2013

A Very British Blog!!!

Very British writer Clive Eaton has invited some writers to answer some Very British questions!  I have been tagged by Terry Tyler whose very interesting answers you can find here:

And here are mine:

Q. Where were you born and where do you live at the moment?
I was born in Bridgnorth, a market town in the Midlands on the river Severn.  I could see the tower clock on the bridge from my bedroom window and watch the traffic crossing over it at night time.  Fond memories of panting my way up Stoneway Steps in my over-sized navy-blue uniform and ridiculous beret to Bridgnorth Grammar School!  I now live in SW France in a rather pretty village, in a traditional Charentaise house that is in the process of being renovated (lots of pictures on the link on the right of this page, if you like that kind of thing).

Q. Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere at the moment?
How long have you got?  I started out as a teacher in Milton Keynes (the kids loved me so much that one of them let my tyres down on my last day – obviously to stop me leaving!).  Then, I worked as an EFL teacher on Crete for two years, in Rethymnon – wonderful.  Went to Seychelles after that and worked for the Government, living on the main island of Mahé and going to work on the smaller island of St. Anne on a WWII landing craft with a dodgy engine - made life interesting as we drifted out into the Indian Ocean.  Flew back to England via a few more places (two months pregnant and only able to eat chips and bread) and ended up in Cambridge, living in a camper van and teaching at Clare College.  Finally got a lecturing post at Anglia Ruskin University – wonderful job and wonderful people.  Have been in France for almost four years now, teaching a few lessons and writing a few books.  Where next??

Q. Which is your favourite part of Britain?
That’s easy. Shropshire. I'm a Shropshire lass, born and bred.  I come from a family of market gardeners and accountantsI love the sight of a ploughed field or a clean balance-sheet!

Q. Have you ‘highlighted’ or ‘showcased’ any particular part of Britain in your books? For example, a town or city; a county, a monument or some well-known place or event?
'Bunny on a Bike' is set in 80s London, seen through the eyes of a young graduate who makes a random career choice.  I got to know the Oxford Street area well and spent a lot of time in Hyde Park (loved Speakers' Corner).  One of my most magical memories is of feeding the sparrows in St. James' Park (one small heart beating against each of my outspread fingers).

'My Grandfather’s Eyes' features the Cambridge area, although a good deal of it is set in Northern Italy.

'A Good Day for Jumping' is set in London, Afghanistan, Crete (the majority of the time) and Bristol (the bridge plays a huge part in the story, although not in the way you may think).  I spent a lot of time with my friend who has a flat in the posh part of Bristol - now, she is the most 'British' person I know, (originally from Goa). 

'One Summer in France' starts off in the north of England, in and around Keele, where I went to university, but most of the action takes place in, you guessed it, France.  The character of Bev is more or less based on my view of myself at the time as a bimbo-graduate with a quirky love of English literature and an indefatigable spirit of adventure. 

Q. There is an illusion – or myth if you wish - about British people that I would like you to discuss. Many see the ‘Brits’ as having a ‘stiff upper lip’. Is that correct?
I don’t believe in stereotypes, obviously.  But the idea of bearing hardship and injustice with a stoical indifference has a very heroic feel to it and is probably rooted in British history and social culture, along with the various other 'virtues' that used to be an important part of a good education.  Whether present day society gives the same importance to such values is questionable.  Perhaps we could ask a couple of MPs.

Q. Do any of the characters in your books carry the ‘stiff upper lip’? Or are they all ‘British Bulldog’ and unique in their own way?
My characters are generally fairly flawed.  They are just as likely to run away as to stand and fight.  It depends on the situation.  I suppose Joyce Shackleton ('A Good Day for Jumping') is the nearest I get to  the ‘stiff upper lip’ idea.  She is an eccentric and complex character who tends to live by a code that may seem admirable, but which does her very little good in the end.

Q. Tell us about one of your recent books
One of my most recent books is 'A Good Day for Jumping'. I must say that it took a great deal of writing and I would probably consider it as some of my best work so far.
There are various character-based story lines, which come together and lead the reader to what I hope is an intriguing and satisfying conclusion. The action takes place mainly on the island of Crete, where our 'hero' Stephen Firth arrives, having ditched his fiancee at the altar. He meets the charismatic Kookis (proprietor of a Kafeneon in Rethymnon) and, through him, Roula, who is a wholesome, highly intelligent, yet vulnerable girl, unused to the undignified and petty behaviour Stephen Firth exhibits.  My favourite character, if not Kookis, is probably Joyce Shackleton, who has a compelling story to reveal and who holds a secret that leads to the climax of the novel.
People have said that my style of writing can be almost poetic and I am deeply flattered by such comments. What I am interested in, is portraying a character with language that is potent, succinct and, hopefully, original (nobody likes a cliché)

 Q. What are you currently working on?
I am almost finished with the third draft of ‘Martha’ (horrendous working title).  I sometimes think I make my life too difficult because this one is a mixed genre and, I would say, has a mixed register, too, ranging from almost literary to fairly contemporary.  There  are a number of characters, each with his or her own story.  The overall tone is one of a present day soap opera, set in France, with the addition of an element of the thriller, which lends a fairly violent and chilling edge to an otherwise idyllic story line.  Claude Cousteau was one of the very first characters I conceived, in my very first completed book 'A Taste of Lemons'.   I have a couple of very honest friends who prevented me from publishing this first novel (my baby - so true in retrospect!), but I have stolen Claude and am delighted with the evil contrast he provides in 'Martha'. 

I shall be publishing when it is ready!

Q. How do you spend your leisure time? 
Swimming, reading, watching Professor Brian Cox on TV and a lot of BBC Four (I can see you yawning).  Sometimes half a film.  I don’t like cooking.  I love to look at the stars and I read lots of books on quantum theory and astro-physics (weird, eh?). Oh, and I love my new Kindle.

Q. Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?
That’s a difficult one.  I would say that I write for anyone who can read English and who likes a character-driven novel with surprises in the plot to keep you guessing.
My lighter titles 'Bunny on a Bike' and 'One Summer in France' are definitely written for people who appreciate British humour, specifically irony.

Q. Can you provide links to your work?
If you are still with me, and I thank you if you are, you'll find links to all my books on Amazon at the top of this page on the right.  Many thanks for your time.
It just remains for me to thank Clive Eaton for thinking up this blog tour and also Terry Tyler for inviting me to take part.   

Why not have a look at Francis Potts' blog for his answers to the same questions?  A very drole raconteur and sometimes delightfully silly person.

1 comment:

  1. Nice reading that, BS! I love how our answers are all so different, and finding out a bit more about the lives of us all outside writing xx