Sunday, 14 March 2021

๐ŸดSunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Mary Rensten



 On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo







๐ŸดI am so pleased to welcome Mary Rensten to Sunday Brunch๐Ÿด






๐ŸดGood morning Mary. What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

Goat’s cheese, soft and creamy, with some of my friend Elizabeth’s home-made marmalade, on granary toast; and freshly-squeezed orange juice. Also, because this is a Special Brunch, I have brought along a few slices of smoked salmon; maybe we can rustle up some scrambled egg to go with it!


๐ŸดWould you like a pot of English breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?

Tea for me, please. A whole pot sounds good.


๐ŸดWhere shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio?

At this time of year, probably the kitchen table - I like eating in the kitchen; less formal - but if there’s a sudden burst of warm spring sunshine perhaps we can transfer to the patio.


๐ŸดShall we have music playing in the background? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you happy?

I’m not sure about music. If it fades into the background that doesn’t say much for the music, but if it’s something I love, such as Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet suite, then I shall want to pause our conversation while we listen to it.

Ah, I’ve just thought of the perfect solution: a Bob Marley song, Three Little Birds. I won’t be able to sit still but it will be so relaxing!


๐ŸดWhich of your literary heroes (dead or alive) are joining us for Sunday Brunch today?

Maya Angelou and Diana Athill - I think they will get on famously; they may even have met - and, just popping in for a few minutes towards the end of our Brunch, Christopher Marlowe. I’m hoping he will tell us exactly what happened the night he died in Deptford in 1593.

If it’s to be a character from a book, I’m going back to my childhood, to Anne of Green Gables. I was sure she was a real person, and I longed to visit Prince Edward Island and meet her!


๐ŸดWhich favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

This is difficult; there are so many. It needs to be a book we can just dip into, so it has to be poetry. I’ll go for T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. But if there’s time for a real discussion, it will be E. M. Forster’s A Passage To India. Maybe one of my literary Brunch companions will be able to throw some new light on what did happen in those Marabar Caves that feature in the book. (Another mystery!)





๐ŸดWhen you are writing do you still find time to read for pleasure? And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for …yet!

Oh yes, I do read for pleasure; mainly at bedtime. I have three by my bedside at the moment, waiting to be read: Graham Greene’s first novel, Stamboul Train (My daytime reading is a new biography of the author), The Confession by Jessie Burton, recommended by a friend, and Suzannah Dunn’s latest book, The Testimony of Alys Twist. (I love this author’s off-beat look at the Tudor period.) I am just coming to the end of A Suitable Boy. 1500 pages: that’s like three books in one!

As for the book I have never found the time to read ... Where do I start? I think it’s more lack of inclination than time, books that I feel I should have read, such as War and Peace. Actually, having seen and enjoyed the TV series, I must make time for this one!


๐ŸดWhat’s the oldest book on your book shelf?

Probably a leather-bound copy of A Christmas Carol given to me when I was far too young to read it. There is also a much-read, mould-spotted and battered copy of Little Women that has crossed the Atlantic with me twice, and which I read yet again during the first lockdown last year.


๐ŸดWhere do you find the inspiration for your novels?

All over the place! And I do mean place. Malta, obviously, inspired Letters from Malta, and the starting point for A Handful of Straw was the Hertfordshire village of Walkern and a famous case of witchcraft there in 1712. The place, the setting, then becomes inhabited by my characters, and their stories.


๐ŸดHave you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?

I do the actual writing/typing in my small study - It is really small, without anything to distract me - but I can scribble notes and ideas anywhere. The time of year doesn’t matter.


๐ŸดWhen writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?

If there’s a deadline, as when I was a journalist, there isn’t the luxury of distraction. For me now, with a novel or a play, once the first, very rough, draft is written (usually in longhand), it’s mostly when the work itself ‘tells’ me to get on with it! Sometimes, though, you just have to open up the laptop and start. That’s hard, but once I’m back in my fictional world I’m okay, and I can stay there for hours. (See note in next answer re comfy chair.)


๐ŸดGive us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?

Aside from the obvious ones - paper, computer, etc. - you need a very comfortable chair, one that allows you to sit without getting an aching back or neck, and a thesaurus, for when that spot-on word just won’t come! You also need patience and perseverance, which I don’t always have.

More importantly, I think you have to want, even need, to write whatever it is you are working on, because during the process, which can take a long time, you are living with the characters in your novel or play, and goodness knows, you don’t want to have to spend a lot of time with people who don’t interest you!


๐ŸดWhat can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?

Her Almost Perfect Husband is difficult to categorise precisely. The back cover blurb describes it as ‘a story of love and deception, and the importance of human relationships set against material success.’ It is about a woman thinking she’s knows everything about her husband, and then finding she doesn’t. The story is told by the three main characters (whom I am sorry to part with now the book is finished), and there is a crime in it. And lots of places, some real e.g. The Kings Head, Islington; some fictional, loosely based on places in Hertfordshire that I know well.




Work in progress: turning a full-length play - crime and relationships again, this time in the Scottish Highlands - into a novel.


Mary, where can we follow you on social media?


Twitter @MaryRensten

Facebook page: not directly, but via SWWJ Facebook.

Website via swwj.co.uk


More about Mary

I spent most of my childhood in Jamaica, returning to England in 1946 to audition for a place at RADA. After drama school I trained as a teacher and wrote plays for my pupils. Then in the 1970s, having settled in Hertfordshire with my husband Ivor and brought up our three children, I combined teaching with free-lance journalism. I started writing drama again in the 1980s, and had plays - for grown-ups this time - on the London fringe, at the Edinburgh Festival and on radio. I still write plays, but they can involve deadlines, so I’m happier writing a novel; I can pace myself and allow time for my allotment - beans, beetroot, courgettes, etc. - and my great-grandson!



Mary, thank you for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo.

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you, Jo.( Jaffa and Timmy, we’ve left a few bits of salmon for you!)


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Thanks for taking the time to comment - Jaffa, Timmy and I appreciate your interest.