As a book reviewer I have made contact with authors from all across the globe and feel immensely privileged to be able to share some amazing work. However, there is always something rather special when a book comes to my attention which has been written by an author in my part of the North of England. So with this in mind I have great pleasure in featuring some of those authors who are literally close to my home. Over the next few Saturdays, and hopefully beyond, I will be sharing the work of a very talented bunch of Northern authors and discovering just what being a Northerner means to them both in terms of inspiration and also in their writing.
Today I welcome Northern Writer
Hi Rebecca, welcome back to Jaffareadstoo...
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author?
I'm a mum, a teacher & I write novels (when I can find the time!) I started by working hard on it for years before any hope of a publishing contract! But I got there in the end & my first novel was published in 2014, with two more to follow. My latest just came out last month.
Your books are written in North East England, but not always set in this area. Have the people and the landscape around your home shaped your stories in any way?
I'm not native to this part of the world. I was born in Oxfordshire and then spent my teenage years in Kent. Since then I've lived all over the country. My latest novel - about an Edwardian aviatrix - is set in Cleethorpes, near where I now live. It wasn't a conscious choice at first; I just needed somewhere with a large, flat beach for my characters to fly their kites on and for my heroine to land her plane on. So I thought, why not set it down the road? The research will be dead easy and cheap too!
As a writer based in the North East, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how do you overcome them?
I don't know really. If I lived in or near London I'd be able to reach more events, I suppose, but then I'm a working mum, with so little spare time, so I can't imagine I'd be able to do loads of events anyway. I use social media to connect with far more readers than I would at events anyway. So, no, I don't think it makes any difference to me where I'm living.
In your research for your books, did you visit any of the places you write about and which have made a lasting impression?
I always try to visit significant settings every time I research a book. The Visitors was set in Kent and I made the trip down to a working hop farm, which was incredibly useful. It gave me the sounds, smells, sights and textures of that world, that I just wouldn't have gained from reading or YouTube videos alone. The same was true of visiting C18th houses and a real cabinet of curiosities for Song of the Sea Maid. As for my latest, The Wild Air, the true setting of that novel was the skies, so in the end, I faced my fears and went flying in a light aircraft. It was awesome and that book couldn't have been written without it.
If you were pitching the North East as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?
It's the huge Lincolnshire skies that are so special. I mention them in The Wild Air. There's an incredible sense of space about living here that I haven't felt anywhere else I've lived and I have lived in quite a few places around England. Where I am, I'd say we're more East Midlands than North East as such - we have that link to the flat lands of the fens and East Anglia more than the cliffs of the North Yorkshire coast. I think it's a lovely part of the world and one of the best things it has is lovely people. I've made so many wonderful friends here. Just a simple friendliness and kindness I value hugely. It's also cheaper to live here than most places, so you get more for your money. Long may that continue!
What are the ups and downs to being an author?
The ups are creating something and sharing it with readers. It's a wonderful feeling. Moving people with your words, with any luck. I love that. The downs are many - the uncertainty of it as a career, the lack of remuneration, the negative feedback, the difficulty of making your way in the publishing world...But I can't help myself. I'm addicted to writing and I'll never stop.
Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?
Social media! It's changed my life! My publisher suggested I join Twitter in 2013 just before my first book came out and I was very unwilling. But I soon discovered that I loved it! It was such a laugh and also I've made some true friends from social media that I now know in the real world, who have become incredibly important to me. Now I'm on Facebook more than anything and absolutely love it. It makes me laugh every day. I can stay in touch with all my friends and family all over the world and I get to meet new people all the time. The writing group I'm in - The Prime Writers - which is an incredibly supportive bunch of writers all commercially published for the first time when we were 40+ - that group was created through Twitter. So, I'm very grateful to social media. It keeps me happy!
How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?
If you want to access it, there are always local festivals and writing groups etc. that can be very supportive. There aren't many book shops around here, sadly, which is a real lack in this area. But if you travel a bit you can find them and there is no shortage of readers anywhere. So it's all good. 😊 I'm hoping that we keep our lovely space around here and not too many people discover how lovely Lincolnshire is and fill it up with too many people! Having said that, I know how important visitors are to the local economy, so I don't really mean that; I'm just being selfish! I love it here and feel very grateful for the wonderful friendships I've made here. It's a smashing part of the world.
Warmest thanks to Rebecca for being our very welcome guest today
and for talking about her writing and for sharing her love of the North of England with us
I hope that you have enjoyed this week's Close to Home feature
Coming next week : Sharon Booth