The strap line is a great introduction to Shirley Wright’s debut novel, an emotionally powerful story with the touch of poetry that graces all of Shirley’s writing. I’m delighted that Shirley is joining me here today to celebrate its publication as en e-book with Thornberry.
And to mark the occasion, those who leave a comment will be entered into a prize draw for a free copy!
STOP PRESS: winner of the prize draw is Sheryl Browne – well done that girl!
First of all I should say that Shirley and I have known each other for several years, having joined Bristol Women Writers at around the same time. Like me, Shirley was in the process of completing a first novel, like me she was soon beavering on a second, and by a true coincidence, we have both ended up being published this year by Thornberry. However Shirley has another life. While I have been blogging, reviewing and doing some commercial writing, Shirley has been carving out a name for herself as a poet (see below) and mingling with such mega names as Andrew Motion (respect!) However I’m pleased to say this has not turned her head and I have decided to forgive her for pipping me to the post publication-wise and so I’m just imagining up some fresh scones with Cornish (of course!) clotted cream as a suitable refreshment. (Well it’s early and I guess she has had a few celebratory drinks this week!)
Hi Shirley – first of all CONGRATULATIONS and, at the risk of sounding like a tabloid reporter, how does it actually feel to have a book ‘out there’?
Hi Alison. Thanks for inviting me along to your blog. You’ll not be surprised to hear that it feels absolutely amazing to become a published author, to actually have a novel ‘out there’ that real people (i.e. not family and friends!) are going to read. Slightly scary, too. But after a long and happy career as a teacher, it’s as though I’ve been given the chance to reinvent myself and start a new life as a writer.
Would you like to tell us a bit about its journey to publication?
Well, the manuscript did the usual rounds of agents and publishers, big and small. There was the odd sniff, but no one prepared to take a chance on a story which couldn’t be easily pigeon-holed. I’ve been asked to do major rewrites, change the focus, highlight this, downplay that, till in the end it would have morphed into another book entirely. Not my book at all. Then I decided to go off piste, as it were, and try something different: the up-coming world of e-books. I sent it to ThornBerry Publishing in the spring of this year, and you know the rest!
Time Out of Mind is so clearly inspired by the Cornish coast – was there any one place, time or event that sparked it off?
As a family we’ve been going on holiday to Cornwall for the last thirty years, usually to the extreme south-west, to the Lizard Peninsula. That’s our absolutely favourite spot. I fell in love with its wildness on day one, and it still moves me beyond words. Then during a pub lunch once, after traipsing round some of the megalithic sites down that way, I got the first glimmerings of a story. But it was ages ago. I came home and wrote something entirely different. Time out of Mind had a long gestation!
You (and I) have written about the whole genre question, but how do you see Time Out of Mind – ‘relationship’ novel, or something more mystery/thriller?
Recently when people have asked me what the novel is all about, I’ve tended to say it’s about overcoming grief and guilt, about letting the past go and finding a way forward. Yes, it falls under the umbrella of ‘contemporary fiction’, or even ‘contemporary women’s fiction’, and there are also strong elements of ghost story and murder mystery. But these catch-all categories are terms other people seem to feel a need to employ. I just wrote and rewrote and wrote again and tried to knock an idea into shape.
I agree, it’s Rose’s journey through grief and guilt that’s the dominant thing, the rest are really subplots – and highly effective ones. I love all of the characters too, but particularly Mac, the charismatic artist. He is just so-oo believable without being any kind of cliché, sexy in an older man way but perhaps not entirely trustworthy. Am I allowed to ask where he ‘came from’?
Yes, of course you are. And no, I’m not telling!
Well I suppose I asked for that!
I know you made some changes to the final draft including the ending (which I much prefer, by the way). Without giving too much away, what were you trying to achieve with the new version?
Oh good! I’m glad you prefer it. Originally I used third-person narrative throughout, which was daft when I was basically telling the story from Rose’s point of view. She’s damaged, confused and vulnerable, so her perception of reality is flawed, which makes things interesting for the reader if we see events uniquely through her eyes. And that required first person, which allowed me to introduce uncertainty. By the end of the story I expect readers will have some unanswered questions and, hopefully, be left wondering what was and wasn’t true. I like novels that don’t tie up every last thread.
Hah – interesting – I’d forgotten about the change of POV!
I notice on your blog that you’ve reviewed some interesting books lately. What are your preferences in fiction – any big influences on your own writing?
Crickey! Anything and everything, to be honest. I have very catholic tastes. I’ll read the back of the cornflakes packet, so long as it’s well written. I do particularly enjoy historical fiction – it’s the painless textbook by means of which I’ve learnt pretty much all my history. But, basically, fabulous writing is what gets me hooked. Then interesting characters, then an original plot. Definitely in that order.
Thanks Shirley (Note to self: consider changing brand of breakfast cereal) Of course you’re a poet as well as a novelist – what news on the poetry horizon?
I’m glad you asked! Exciting news, in fact. My first full collection of poems The Last Green Field is coming out next summer, published by Indigo Dreams. Like I said earlier, I feel incredibly lucky at the moment to have a whole new writing future opening in front of me. I just hope people will enjoy what I write.
Getting your poetry into print is a fantastic achievement – and I love the title. Do you think you’ll ever give up either of these two writing strands or keep them both going?
I’m not a fortune teller, but I think, probably, that I’ll keep them both going. Writing a novel is a bit like climbing Everest, and when the slopes get tough it’s a relief to turn to something small and contained, like a sonnet. But after a while the imagination longs for the wider horizons of a novel. So you can see how they complement each other rather well.
Thanks so much for coming. Do help yourself to some coffee, and maybe we’ll have some other company before too long!
Time Out of Mind is available for Kindle from Amazon.
DON’T FORGET, EVERYONE, THERE’S A FREE COPY OF ‘TIME OUT OF MIND’ FOR SOMEONE WHO LEAVES A COMMENT HERE TODAY (FRIDAY) UP TO MIDNIGHT UK TIME.
The draw will be made on Saturday and I’ll contact the winner then.
Thanks for visiting!