Saturday 13 May 2017

Close to Home ~ Caroline Wallace

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.   

Please welcome North West Writer

Caroline Wallace

Hi and welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Caroline and thank you for spending time with us today...

Tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author?

Back in 2005 I was writing in secret. No one had read any of my writing, and the thought of anyone reading my words terrified me. I was in my second year of a PhD, studying linguistics, but really all I wanted to do was write. One day I watched a repeat of Richard and Judy. They talked about a ‘nearly woman’, an individual who never quite finished anything. I identified with the label. I wanted to write a novel, but I was doing nothing about it; I was studying, yet no longer enthused. Within the following two weeks, I gave up my PhD and enrolled on an MA in Creative Writing. The novel that I wrote over the next year was published in 2007. So, although I think it’s always difficult to describe yourself, I’d possibly say that I’m easily influenced by all things Richard and Judy, that I’m a novelist with two names (Caroline Wallace and Caroline Smailes), an editor, an occasional lecturer, a mum and that I’m ridiculously good at Battleship.

Your books are written in North West England – how have the people and its landscape shaped your stories?

I arrived in Liverpool as a student in 1993, searching for somewhere to belong and longing for a sense of home. I was welcomed, embraced, accepted and never judged. Liverpool saved me. I don’t think there’s another place in this world where I could be this me. This area is full of stories, humour and heart. The people and the landscape have shaped me, we’ve altered and grown together over the years. The Liverpool I met in 1993 has transformed, but the essence remains untouched. Liverpool is defiant and determined, proud and bold; it has many stories to tell.

In your book, The Finding of Martha Lost, you feature Lime Street Station in Liverpool. What was it about this venue that helped you to create Martha’s story so visibly?

Black Swan
18 May 2017

I’ve always been obsessed with arrivals, departures and the raw emotion that can be found in airports and railway stations. Originally, I was going to set the novel in Paris, but a chance encounter with a grumpy lost property office worker in Lime Street Station made me pause. With my love of Liverpool, of all things The Beatles, and fascination with how lost people can be found, there was a wealth of detail and inspiration to pull on in the railway station.

Lime Street Station once functioned at the heart of the city and that was key to my narrative. I remember arriving there back in 1993. So, when creating Martha’s world and needing a place where she could be both lost and found, she arrived by train into Lime Street Station and danced into being. Perhaps there’s some of myself in the character Martha Lost, but she exists as a blending of all the strong scouse women I’ve met over the years.

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 so special?

City, countryside, coastline, I could work and write with a different view each day. It is somehow determined, resilient and always vibrant; the buildings, the views, the food, the drink, the culture, the music, but mainly, for me, it’s all about people. The people make this area special.

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?

Marketing and promoting books is something I struggle with. I think this could be more to do with my commitments, daily juggle and the sheer quantity of books seeking attention, rather than where I live. However, there are many supportive and wonderful bookshops, newspapers and publications in the area who are keen to embrace and support local writers. I’ve been lucky to have their encouragement and backing. There will always be problems in terms of not being able to network and make connections with others in the industry because of where I live and I don’t know if I have overcome those problems, but thankfully social media allows for online connections to be established and for conversation with a wider audience.

Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?

There are a group of amazing (and super talented) local writers who I connect with and admire. They make me laugh, they’re honest about the flaws and pressures of the industry, and we support each other. This happens in real life and online too. I’m also truly fortunate that my career has grown with the online world and I’m able to fangirl over books and authors I love on Twitter and Instagram.

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?

Over the last ten years I’ve had such support from local bookshops and libraries. Other support seems to alter with the subject matter of the book, and I’d love to engage with more reading groups. Engaging with readers, booksellers and libraries is the best part of the job. Talking books makes me happy. Bookshops have been my constant in my writing journey – particularly Waterstones in Liverpool One and Linghams Bookshop in Heswall.

And finally, if readers are new to your work, which book, do you think, is a good place to start?

I’d say The Finding of Martha Lost is my love letter to Liverpool, so that would be an ideal starting point. For a grittier northern read, with a sprinkle of a modern retelling of Greek myths and before the film release this year, I’d also suggest The Drowning of Arthur Braxton (published as Caroline Smailes).

Fourth Estate

You can discover more about Caroline and her writing  on her website 
Follow on Twitter @Caroline_S

Warmest thanks to Caroline for spending time with us today and for sharing her love of the North West with us.

I hope that you have enjoyed this week's Close to Home feature.

Coming next week : Beth Underdown



Thanks for taking the time to comment - Jaffareadstoo appreciates your interest.