Good morning lovelies. What a beautiful Saturday it is again! I hope you’re all enjoying the bank holiday Easter weekend as much as you can at home – I’ve been mainly in my garden with my books! Today we’ve got the lovely Mary Grand on Meet the Author. She’s talking to us about backless hospital gowns, therapy, castles, her most recent book Behind the Smile; and she shares some fantastic advice for new and experienced authors…..
Women’s Fiction / Domestic Noir.
Tell us a bit about yourself
Hi, thank you so much for inviting me. I live on the Isle of Wight with my family and my bossy cocker spaniel, Pepper. Before coming to the Island, I worked as a teacher of Deaf children in Hastings and Croydon. I grew up in Wales and speak a smattering of Welsh, my first few novels are set in Wales. After several very happy years of self-publishing I shall soon be working with a publisher.
What inspired you to start writing and where do you get your ideas?
I was first inspired by my creative writing teacher at an adult education class. I was in therapy at the time resolving some of the hurt from my upbringing in a strict religious cult. Although it is not an autobiography, my first novel Free to Be Tegan is inspired by some of these experiences.
Ideas normally start with the central character. I build up a picture of her and the crisis she is facing. Plot and setting tend to develop together. I started setting novels in Wales but now create fictional villages here on the Isle of Wight. I like to write the kind of books I love to read, those that hook me in and keep me turning the pages from the first page. I am drawn to mystery, secrets in close knits families and villages.
How many books have you written and published?
I have self-published three novels and two anthologies of short stories. My next novel will be published in August and the title I believe will be The House Party.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
At eighteen I left home and went to train to be a nurse. My very sheltered upbringing in a sect had not prepared me for the real world and although I loved a lot about the job it was not the right time for me, I went into the civil service and then onto teacher training. I taught in London and then trained to teach deaf children.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
My aunt and uncle lived in Cardiff Castle; he was the gate keeper. When I was a child a lot of the castle wasn’t open to the public and we would go and play hide and seek in these amazing rooms with gold ceilings. One of the strangest sights was my auntie standing in her apron on the drawbridge, surrounded by peacocks waving us off.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
‘Remember why you started’. Never forget among all the pressure to market your book, work out your genre and watch your ranking on Amazon, that you started because you love to write and tell stories. Don’t be scared to take risks.
Name one book you think everyone should read and tell us why?
For writers I would recommend ‘Bird by Bird ‘by Anne Lamott. It is the most inspiring and informative book on writing and her philosophy of taking like ‘bird by bird’ and not getting overwhelmed by the size of a problem has been a huge help to me both in my writing and personal life.
My favourite novel must be Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. It has everything; complex characters, plot, and the use of language is mind blowing.
What’s your favourite film of all time and why?
It has to be Local hero. A loving, funny, gentle portrait of a small Scottish town and it’s clash with a giant oil company. The town is set in a stunning bay and is so small that everybody is aware of everybody else’s business. The music, scenery, characters, plot are stunning. As soon as I hear the title music, I can feel my heart beat slow down and I sink into my seat. Beautiful.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you (that you’re willing to share?!)
I was in a hospital gown and told to go and do a wee sample in the toilet down the corridor. I did this but when I came out was completely disorientated. I ended up walking miles down corridors in a backless gown, clutching a cardboard tray with my wee in it trying to smile at all these normal (dressed) people. (I was only young. I still don’t know why I didn’t ask for help sooner!)
What is your favourite word and why?
‘Cwtch’ is a welsh word for cuddle. ‘come and have a cwtch’ is what my mum said when I was upset as a child and it brings back a feeling of feeling safe, warm and loved.
Advice to younger self
Don’t worry so much, take time to enjoy life. you don’t always have to take the hardest route, it’s ok to go around the mountain you don’t always have to climb it.
What books do you re read when life gets hard?
Miss Read – Fairacre novel. Gentle, amusing, light but never sentimental stories of a school mistress in the fictional village of Fairacre.
The Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett. I love these amateur female detectives who spend a great deal of time drinking white wine and occasionally solve a crime.
‘Off the Leash: The Secret Life of Dogs’ by Rupert Fawcett -A really funny collection of cartoons about dogs, always makes me laugh.
‘A Walk in The Woods’ by Bill Bryson, a book that makes me laugh out loud.
Any Agatha Christie.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
Behind the Smile is my latest novel, a gripping family drama set on the Isle of Wight.
Lowri is pregnant, looking forward to a new life with her lover, Simon. But her plans are shattered. She finds herself alone, her face scarred, her future uncertain.
Her estranged husband, Jack, proposes they “settle” for each other, and raise Lowri’s unborn child on the Isle of Wight, in the idyllic village of Elmstone.
Lowri is befriended by Carina, the beautiful Italian woman living in Elmstone Manor, and Heather, the popular local café proprietor. However, she soon discovers that no-one is the person they appear.
What dark secrets is Heather hiding from her family and from the village?
Why is Carina desperate for Lowri to fail in her new life and prepared to go to increasingly desperate lengths to destroy her?
As she confronts her own insecurities, and faces another devastating loss, will Lowri find the courage to be proud of the person she is hiding behind the smile? Will she find true love amid the confusion and intrigue?
Final words from chelle….
Thank you Mary for this lovely interview! It sounds like you had a challenging upbringing but you’ve come out the other side and writing seems to have helped which is wonderful. I love the advice that you give in this interview – there is definitely something for others to take away from this – so thank you. I love (and am so jealous!) that you got to run around the closed off bits of Cardiff Castle – must have been such fun! And lastly Behind the Smile sounds amazing – plenty of mystery and intrigue! I’ll add to my ever growing wish list!
Have a wonderful day my lovelies. To finish and to make you smile, here is a picture of Mary’s dog Pepper at the longstone on the Isle of Wight that features in Behind the Smile!