I’ve worked with the delightful Louise for about a year now. We were introduced by a mutual friend, Paula, and soon after, Louise and I began working on her first book Future Confronted. I found the book touching and heart breaking. The lady I had begun to know had gone through all of this that I was reading. I couldn’t imagine being such a beautiful person as she is if I had had to endure what she has. I wanted to interview Louise; it didn’t seem enough to just review her book so I worked out a few questions and allowed the fabulously talented, kind and observant lady to answer for herself.
What (or who) inspired you to start writing?
My greatest inspiration came from a lecturer I had when I was at university 1999/2002. He gave me the confidence to challenge myself, to write without censoring myself until I had finished writing. He always said that it interrupted the flow of the mind. I have always written though, from childhood to now. When a child all my little stories finished happily ever after, well that’s the ideal isn’t it? I also write poetry, and love the style of a haiku. The ability to convey so much in so few lines is quite an exacting exercise.
What’s your writing regime?
My writing has to fit in around the day, so I write mostly in the afternoons and evenings. I have all my research notes to hand in both notebooks/books and on the computer. Before I start writing, I like to reread a few previous pages to get back into the swing.
What do you want from your writing career?
I write because I thoroughly enjoy it. I like the feel of a story growing in front of my eyes. I like to see the characters grow, become three dimensional people before me. So, what do I want from my writing career? Mostly it is the enjoyment of writing, the camaraderie between writers, the understanding that another writer has of your own need to write. It’s rather like the mountain climber who says that he climbs because it is there. I write because it is a need.
If you could change anything about your life, what would you change?
I would love my husband to be able-bodied again; he’s been disabled since 1993, unable to earn a living since he was just fifty years old. I know the main thing that we would like to change is the loss of our dear son Rob who died seventeen years ago from a brain tumour. If we could change that, then we would, but only to have him back free of pain and healthy again.
Do you write for your living or do you have another job or means of financial support?
I don’t write for a living… yet. I would like to make a living from it, but I’m sure that will take quite some time considering how long it takes to write a novel. I don’t have another job, I am retired so rely on the state pension and savings.
You go to your computer one morning and the Amazon page is going mental. Your book tops the lists EVERYWHERE, you have a smash hit best-seller – what’s going through your mind?
First of all I think I would just sit at the computer with my mouth agape in disbelief! Then I would probably recheck the information, and recheck the information yet again to make absolutely sure that it was all true. Somehow I should think it’s like having the winning ticket for the Euro-lottery, just total disbelief, but I would also be extremely proud to think that so many people thought so much of my book to buy it. It’s a dream isn’t it? We would all love that scenario.
Do you want to be famous? If so, what would you do with that fame?
I don’t think I have ever seriously thought about being famous, well, maybe just a little bit, daydreaming perhaps. What would I do with that fame? That’s a hard one, but first and foremost I would hope that I could use my fame to achieve some good.
Hollywood calls – do you take the call?
Oh my! Hollywood! Well, let me see, take the call or not take the call that is the question. Yes, I would take the call and see what it is that they have on offer. After that, who knows? It’s an interesting thought though.
What’s your next work about?
My next book has a working title of The Touching of Stones, and is about a master stonemason’s family, and will be a part of a trilogy. When I first started writing it, I had it starting at the end of the fourteenth century, but during my continued research I found something really interesting which was important to my story, so I decided to start the story at the beginning of the fourteenth century instead.
The story commences in Scotland, and gives me so much to work with: the characters, the way of life, the political and religious problems of the time. The story will gradually, over time, travel through Scotland, down into England, and then across to the continent. It will always have the back story of stonemasonry, churches, cathedrals, and religion as a whole. Of course, there will also be the ‘normal’ trials of life included as well.
Do you have a blog?
Yes I have a blog. You can find me here. ( http://louiseeruleauthor.blogspot.co.uk/ )
How important is it to connect with your readers?
I think it is very important. I feel this, because I value it when authors that I am in contact with take the time to interact with me. It demonstrates to me an appreciation of one’s readership and gives a two-way insight into both the author and the reader. It demonstrates to the author what it is that the readers like or dislike about their book(s), and the readers gain a better understanding of how the author works. That is why I think that Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Blogs are such a great idea and a vital asset.
Would you be freaked out if someone recognised you in public for your book?
Freak out? No, I don’t think so. Maybe I would be embarrassed initially, after that I would be flattered. After all, the only way that they would recognise me is if they had either my book, with my picture on it, or followed me on the social network. Either way, it would mean that I had made a connection with them in some way, and that, after all, is why we write isn’t it?
How much of the book (Future Confronted) is realistic?
My book is a memoir of my son, so all of it is realistic, tracking as it does his illness through to his death. It documents his bravery and his acceptance of his own mortality. It documents how we, as a family, firstly floundered with the knowledge, and secondly learned to cope during the process of the illness, and thirdly, how we tried to build a new life without our son.
What books have most influenced your life most?
First and foremost the one book that has influenced me more than any other book is To Kill a Mockingbird. The dynamism of this book is astounding, written in a time when racialism was rife in the deep south of the USA. It is written in the common parlance of Mobile, (pronounced as Mo-beel), Alabama, and Harper Lee, the author, strips away the outer shell of life as we would wish it to be, and shows it in its purest and most raw state.
The second book to have a great influence on me is, John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, mainly because the first part was written while he was in prison.
For that same reason the book An Evil Cradling written by the hostage Brian Keenan, a devastating account of being held hostage in the Middle East. Both books demonstrate how to remain focused on a certain thing, remaining, for the most part, in the ‘moment’ so that you can survive the next. It is an incredible read, one that puts your own dilemmas into perspective. The awful conditions: the brutality, the lack of proper food, the lack of the touch of humanity… is all so palpable. Having read it several times, it is still impossible to imagine the filth, the depravation, and above all the optimism, without which none of us would survive.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading, or rather, rereading Anna Belfrage’s Graham Saga. This is a most fascinating series that has totally captivated my imagination. The more I read them the more I find in them. The nuances of language, the time-travel aspect is intriguing, and the historical aspect is superb. Several of the books in this series have won The BRAG Medallion, which is a testament to her work.
Do you ever experience writer's block?
Yes, Michelle, I do. It’s a frustrating thing. So I usually go back to my research and wait for the spark to reignite. It’s usually while I’m reading into the historical background that my mind starts ticking, and I get a germ of an idea to start me off again. When that happens I feel so excited and just can’t wait to get started again. It’s almost like a car idling in a traffic jam, and then the lights change and you’re off again. It’s an invigorating feeling, I love it.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
No I don’t, I just write and see how far I get. Usually the story takes me over. I don’t even write every day, as I have so much else to do. Even though I’m retired, and my time is my own, so to speak, my life is full with family, grandchildren, social media and the like. So the writing gets done when I can no longer resist it. It calls, and I follow.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
First of all I make notes by hand. I have several notebooks, one for each main character with their foibles, their looks and speech patterns, etc. and others for the historical points, storyline, and future ideas. I also keep a notebook by the bed so that when I think of something I can just jot it down. I don’t sleep well, so am often awake between maybe 02:00 and 04:30 each night. I usually read, but often I think of something to do with my book, so jot it down.
I tried dictating, but that became arduous to be honest. The sound of my own voice talking back at me wasn’t my idea of writing. So, I fire up the laptop, sit in front of it, and start writing. I have begun to use two related programs called Scrivener and Scapple, which help with planning. I found it cumbersome in the first instance, but now I am getting used to it, and finding it a useful tool.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I feel as though I have grown quite a bit actually. The more I write the more my imagination grows, and the more I believe in what I am writing.
What is your favourite positive saying?
“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” – I had this on my office wall when I was studying at university, and it kept me on track. I don’t like the word ‘fail’ as it has negative connotations, but it certainly eggs you on, well it did the trick for me. I kept imagining myself receiving my degree on the stage at the Chichester Festival Theatre, and on 11th October 2002 that’s exactly what happened. So for me it worked, and still does work.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Oh yes there is! I don’t think that anyone writes in a vacuum, we all write from the world around us, from what we see and hear and do. Our imagination is our greatest tool, and I am just learning how to truly utilise mine.
Social media plays a great part too. Back in the day the writer had to rely on his/her nous to get their work into the public gaze, but with social media it’s much easier. Your post can go viral in no time at all, and that, as far as being an author goes, can only be a good thing; plus we all learn from each other, and support each other, and I like that.
Then there is indie publishing, which in itself is an innovation that didn’t exist back in the day, and the stigma that went with self-publishing, for the most part, no longer exists. The proof is in the quality of work that is out there, some exceeding main-line published authors. It’s an exciting time to be an author, of that there is no doubt.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Readers can discover more about me and my works at these links: blog, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Author Page, Smashwords and Goodreads.
Michelle Gent is editor/publisher at Gingernut Books Ltd and can be found at http://www.gingernutbooks.co.uk/d-michelle-gent.html.
Future Confronted was published and edited by Gingernut Books.