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 am thrilled to feature Lancashire based author
Hello Marie and a warm welcome back to Jaffareadstoo...
Hello Jo, and thank you very much for welcoming me on 'Close to Home'. I only hope that people won't think I am an impostor because although I have been living in England and had a long-term love affair with the North of England (and a Northern man!), I am actually French and only moved to Manchester after graduating from University.
Tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author..
My first contact with the North of England was a three-month training in Wigan back in 1984. I had finished a secretarial course and had the opportunity to work in the Arts and Libraries Section there. I loved every minute of it. I met great people, and had a wonderful time...so wonderful that I couldn't wait to come back. It took me a little over five years to do so, and when I finally returned I lived in Bolton and worked at the University of Manchester. It was the early nineties, great bands were around such as the Charlatans and the Stone Roses, and we had great nights out in Manchester.
You asked what got me started as an author. There was a strong connection between my writing and the North West. Although I had been writing short stories for some time, I lacked confidence, especially because I was writing in English and wasn't sure my writing was good enough. One day I saw a flyer for a short story competition in Manchester Central Library. The competition was organised by Manchester publisher Commonword, and I thought 'why not?' A few months later, I received the fantastic news that my short story would be included in Commonword's anthology NO LIMITS. One of my proudest moments was to be interviewed by the Manchester Evening News (I was eight months pregnant with my first son and absolutely enormous), and to attend the launch at the Cornerhouse in Manchester.
After attending a romance writing course organised by Calderdale Libraries, I started writing A SPELL IN PROVENCE, published by Áccent Press, and never looked back.
As a writer based in the North-West, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books, and if so, how do you overcome them?
I probably don't do as much promotion as I should, and most of it is online so my location doesn't really matter. I would love to attend more RNA meetings and parties, but they are usually mid-week and in London and there is no way I could ask time off work to go.
Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?
I have made wonderful friends on Facebook, and they provide a lot of support, reassurance and advice. I am lucky to be able to meet some of them several times a year in Hebden Bridge for a meal and a good chat, and I always come back home from our meetings invigorated and upbeat.
If you were pitching the North West as an ideal place to live, work and write, how would you sell it and what makes it special?
As you can see I love the North West. There are so many different landscapes - there is the beautiful Rossendale Valley where I live, the lush Ribble Valley and the moors near Bolton. A short drive away and you are on the coast - Southport and Lytham and great places to shop and visit. The only thing I could criticise is the weather, since the Rossendale Valley where I now live seems to be a lot wetter than anywhere else!
What makes the North West so special for me are the people. I'll never forget how welcome I always felt here. One of my first memories of Wigan when I was eighteen was how friendly everybody was. I remember thinking how wonderful it was that everybody I met called me 'love', 'pet' or 'flower'!
How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for local reading groups or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?
I think I should do more and approach local reading groups, but I am quite shy and self-conscious about it. So far, I've only done one author talk. It was in my lovely village library, and only three people turned up - one of them by mistake, the other one coerced by the librarian, and the third one because he wanted a coffee and a chocolate biscuit! I would have loved to do another talk there some time in the future but it closed down at the end of September because of budget cuts, and it is a great shame.
Otherwise, two of my author friends - Helena Fairfax and Melinda Hammond (aka Sarah Mallory) - held a romance writing workshop at Todmorden library last year and it was a very positive experience. That's all so far...
And finally, if someone is new to your work, which book do you think they should start with?
How could you ask me to choose between my 'babies', Jo?
No seriously, it depends if readers prefer contemporary or historical romance. If they like contemporary romance, they could try A SPELL IN PROVENCE. If they like historical romance, then they could read ANGEL HEART, which is the first of my novels featuring a member of the Saintclair family.
Thank you very much for welcoming me to your blog.
You can find out more about Marie on her website
Find on Facebook
Follow on Twitter @MarieLaval1
Huge thanks to Marie for taking the time to share her thoughts about the North West and for answering my questions so thoughtfully
I hope that you have enjoyed reading today's Close to Home feature.
Coming next Saturday : Author, Margaret Moore writing as A.D Garrett and Forensic Advisor, Helen Pepper