Saturday, 25 November 2017

Diana talks to historical author Louise Wyatt about her forthcoming book, Secret Hayes.

Hi Louise. Good to talk with you.

Before we start, you have some exciting news to share. Can you tell me about it?

I am very excited to be doing another book for Amberley’s Secret series, this time for Chepstow in Monmouthshire. A lot of historical fans will know this town because of its’ castle and links to the famous William Marshal but I want to go further than that, discover the not-so-well-known characters and explore buildings other than the castle. I expect to be spending many winter weekends in the museum and library, no hardship really!

I have also been commissioned by Amberley to write a book on The History of Nursing. As a lot of people know, I am a District Nursing Sister by day so this one is close to my heart. Only have a blurred outline of this one at the moment – the origins of nursing, how nursing went from herbal remedies and folklore to the degree-standard we have today and who made nursing what it is. I want to get past Florence Nightingale and explore the unknowns.

Both due for publication next year.

I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it! Erm

If your latest book, Secret Hayes,

was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role? Tom Hardy could play anything in my humble opinion!

What made you choose this genre? To state a cliché, it chose me. I’ve wrote short, humorous stories, attempted breath-taking historical novels (and failed), windswept romances and contemporary tales and enjoyed most of it, albeit with no success! I did have a couple of short stories published online many moons ago (now lost in the ether) with good feedback but I never, in a million years, attempted historical non-fiction. And bingo, that’s the genre that caught a publisher’s eye so I’m not complaining. What was a hobby innocently detailed on a blog has turned into a delightfully professional task.

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind? A time-slip mystery. I do indeed have an idea, based on good old family history; I have a very naughty ancestor who was shipped off to Australia back in the day. But reading what I have about his crime, the era he lived in, the trade he had to deal with has really upset and annoyed me – was so unfair back then - so I’m hoping to give him his five minutes of fame at some point.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously. I’ve been asked this before and it always stumps me a bit as I have always written stories/poems so it seems a natural progression to me. I guess compelling would describe it – I can remember words being very enjoyable at school; I’m going back to when I started school so about five years old? I learned to read and quite literally, absorbed the books so quickly the teacher ran out of books for that class. I just ‘got’ words! I could make them dance over the page, feeding my rather independent imagination so stories were just natural to me. I remember, when I was in primary school, we had to say what our hobbies were. I got some odd looks when I said reading and writing as I thought most people liked sitting at home concocting stories of all descriptions! Turns out they didn’t. So I wrote for school, for fun and occasionally, for competitions (and yes, I won a couple!). I can honestly say I’ve wrote seriously since I was very, very young. I recently found some of those stories in the loft; made me smile.

Numbers on the other hand …

Marmite? Love it or hate it? I don’t hate it but don’t love it so I’ll go with like-it-when-in-the-mood

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...?? Not really … I can write with the tele or radio on, I don’t like silence. I love pencils (no idea why) so will start with a good old fashioned pad and pencil – I categorically do not trust to have all my hard work purely stored on a p.c!

I’m most definitely an early-to-bed-early-to-rise kinda gal but weirdly, my brain seems to come alive creatively last thing at night so yes, I do have a pad by my bed; I seem to think of words I don’t normally use when I’m most tired!

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters? Characters, without a doubt …

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job? To run an Animal/wildlife rescue sanctuary

Coffee or tea? Red or white? Tea and I’m tee-total
How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way? I usually have a very loose draft floating around – that’s where my pencil and pad come in. Once I get typing and the creative juices kick in, I let it take its course. One thing I’m finding writing my non-fiction book, is the way it seems to flow naturally; I just have to hone it every now and then. Best feeling in the world when it takes on a life of its own.

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose? Comic Sans! May become a bit tiresome but I think it’s a fun font. Is that sad?

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be? Oh my, that’s a tough one … I guess anything historical and the older the better; I would much prefer to have a diary of a normal, everyday person from the Anglo-Saxon period than anything royal, for example. I’ve recently purchased my first ‘old’ book – a first edition tome written by a historian that lived in the area I’m writing about. It’s from 1874 and in my opinion is quite young in the grand scheme of things but holding (and sniffing!) a book that is 143 years old is something else … I was almost too scared to handle it to begin with.

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!? I’m a firm believer in fact being much more stranger than fiction!

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips? I’m doing loads. I’m finding my time a university has helped with academic writing which I found much harder to begin with – there is no letting your imagination run riot. I honestly don’t know what I would do without the internet! I look for links within links online, names to Google and have learned to be patient as that one piece of information you’re looking for is embedded on page four or five of Google Search amongst the really random stuff! I still enjoy reference books – I seem to have a habit of falling into bookshops quite often and buy books that ‘may’ come in handy …

I do go on trips when time – and day job – allow. That’s how my Blog started off; we would go for walks and I’d stumble on old ruins, or a place with a strange name. My interest would peak and I would then just google it and would come up with so much interesting info I felt compelled to write about it. Writing non-fiction has triggered off an interest in etymology.

Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot? Not really relevant for me at the moment I guess but I would never kill off a real character; I would write around them.
Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this? Nope, never. Absolutely not.

Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred? Yes, especially when I don’t use my reading glasses. ((I laughed out loud. D. ))
Sorry! In all seriousness, yes, I do. Research wise, the older the story, the more ‘chinese whispers’ you have to deal with – what actually happened to what people interpreted has happened over the years.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure? Historical fiction has always been my first love but over the past few years, I discovered crime/thrillers. It was quite refreshing reading something in the modern day. I also enjoy occasionally interspersing all this seriousness with some light-hearted tale – I think the cynical call it chick-lit!

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book? I always have water to hand but enjoy normal coke – yes, the proper coke everyone warns you about! I can’t drink diet drinks as the sweeteners affect my stomach and they taste rubbish anyway … ((A person after my own heart!! D))

Last but not least... favourite author? Oh, that’s a cruel question! I will go with what’s on my Keeper Shelf and ignore the historical faves sooooo … I’m afraid there are two. Christine Marion Fraser who wrote fiction about life and people on a Scottish Island; so absorbing and I can still remember smelling the flora and fauna she described on a windswept summer’s day. The other is Marian Keyes; a fabulous, heartwarming writer whose humorous take on everyday life tackles real problems and people struggling with personal disasters. Her play on words is fabulous.
About ''Secret Hayes'':

The town of Hayes, located in west London, has had a long and intriguing past. The area today is made up of what was originally five separate villages (Botwell, Hayes Town, Hayes End, Wood End, and Yeading). Historically in Middlesex, it became part of the London Borough of Hillingdon in 1965, but has a history that stretches back over a thousand years. Secret Hayes covers a wealth of topics about Hayes’ past, from its origins to being the home of both EMI and George Orwell. The book will be released on 15th December and is available to preorder from Amazon and Amberley .

About the author:

Louise realised her love of words and all things written when, at the tender age of five, she began devouring Ladybird books faster than her teacher could supply them. After winning various writing and poetry competitions throughout school, she ended up having her family then training to be a nurse, but always wrote for pleasure. Louise started a blog five years ago for her love of history and soon discovered she enjoyed unearthing little-known facts about certain areas. Over the past few years, Louise has become a book reviewer and proof reader, and is still enjoying the magic of words.

© Diana Milne January 2017 © Louise Wyatt 28/05/17

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