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.
Tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author
I've been a writer all my life, I don't remember a time when I wasn't telling stories. If there was a story I didn't like as a child, I'd write my own ending. Then if I couldn't find a book I wanted to read I started writing my own. I was also badly bullied as a child so my imagination and writing became my safe haven and a place where the characters were friends you could trust.
Your books are written in the North of England– how have the people and its landscape shaped your stories?
I'm a bit of a people watcher, I think most writers are - maybe that should be world watches. I watch life and the people in it and sometimes they spark ideas and thoughts. My Grandfather who was Northeast born and bred is the inspiration behind my latest book, so a lot of the characteristics are based on him. Also some of the locations are based on specific spots in my home town.
As a writer based in the North, does this ever present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how do you overcome them?
I think I'm quite remote from the main publishers and areas where you could get out there and push your work physically. I can't get to a lot of writing conferences and events but I try. I think for me being able to self publish helped me get my work out there and I'm not adverse to taking untraditional routes. The internet is great and social media is a massive advantage to authors now for connecting with readers, fellow authors and I try to use it to it's best advantage - I am still learning but the internet is a great place for that too.
If you were pitching the North as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?
It maybe cold, we may have one day of summer a year, but there is no better place in England to find a warm welcome, the people are magnetic and you will meet all kinds within a small space. You can go from being in a rural center to the rugged coast line in twenty minutes and the mythology and history is everywhere - you couldn't help but be inspired.
Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?
I use social media mostly - I'm a member of several writing groups / book groups for authors and readers and find it's great to connect, network and ask questions. I've met a lot of great authors who I would probably not have met in any other way and you can learn a lot from just having those brief conversations.
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?
I have support from family and friends in the area, and my day job peers have been very supportive since I started publishing my work. Unfortunately in my area our local libraries have all been closed so I tend to donate copies of my books to charity shops in the area.
What can you tell us about your latest novel, The Poppy Garden?
I have always wanted to write a book about my Grandfather and his experience in WW2 - he was an amazing man and had an amazing story to tell. Unfortunately, he died when I was 16 and left me with a lot of blank pages in the book of his life. I tried numerous times to write his story but the blanks provide too hard to overcome, then one day I realised I was looking at the message of the story all wrong. From then on I was able to write The Poppy Garden, based on how he developed methods to cope with PTSD and how the women in my family had to develop strength and coping mechanisms to deal with hardship they never imagined.
|Claire's Nan and Grandfather's Wedding|
Photo by kind permission
This became the story
|CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform|
Sky Flynn thought she had it all, she was the happiest she’d ever been from the moment she met Nick Robinson until the moment a military officer showed up at her door, then things changed.
Fighting in Afghanistan Nick is injured in a roadside bombing. Brought home in critical condition, he faces a long fight to recover from his wounds, traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
Waking up from sedation he cannot remember the last 12 months of his life, blotting out meeting and marrying his wife, Sky. The more she tries to be there for him the more he pushes her away seeking solace in broken relationship with his ex as it's the only one he can remember.
Fighting to save her marriage and help her husband recover from both physical and mental scars of war Sky has to find away to cope and overcome. With the support of her in-laws, Nick's uncle, his doctor and family she comes up with an idea to see her through his recovery and to help others like him
Inspired by memories of her grandfather and how he channelled his undiagnosed PTSD into his garden she sets out to create somewhere for recovering service men to go, to assist in their recovery and create a place of beauty to share with their families.
Constantly challenged by Nick's demanding ex-girlfriend, Rebecca and Nick's ever-changing condition. She finds hope and encouragement in the garden and those who rally round to help.
As Nick presses on with his life and decides marrying Rebecca is his only way forward, Sky has to find a way to move on, be that with handsome police officer Joe or on her own.
Can the beauty of the garden she creates heal her husband’s wounds and bring him home to her forever?
Now the book is out and published, the story isn't finished - it's now become a charity which aims to build a Poppy Garden to support service personnel.
You can find more about Claire and her writing on her website by clicking on the following links:
My thanks to Claire for spending time with us today and for telling us about the background to her novel. Jaffa nd I wish you continued success with your Poppy Garden venture.
I hope that you have enjoyed this Close to Home Feature
Coming next week : Barbara Copperthwaite