And last but not least, I’m absolutely thrilled to have the very lovely Sharon Maas on Meet the Author today. We’re chatting about why she started writing, who she met on the surrealist day of her life, what she’d do with a million pounds, her most recent book, Her Darkest Hour, and more…..
What inspired you to start writing and where do you get your ideas?
I’ve always been a reader, but growing up in Guyana I noticed quite early on that all the books I read were set in England or America, and all the characters were white. That frustrated me, as I lived in a society in which the vast majority of the population was black or brown. It didn’t seem real to me, because it simply did not match my own reality.
Toni Morrison once said that if you can’t find the book you want to read, write it yourself. That’s what I did. I started to write books set in Guyana, with Guyanese characters. The rest is history!
How many books have you written and published?
Ten to date, with the eleventh coming in January.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It takes about six months to write a first draft, but I could technically do it quicker. However, I like to get all my writing done by 8 am, so that the rest of the day is free for other stuff.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I had no idea. I thought I’d never grow up. I liked having adventures, and messing about with horses and dogs, and writing stories a la Enid Blyton, my favourite writer. Id’ have great fun picking the children’s names, and they’d have adventures on horseback and have a dog and catch thieves and bring the wicked to justice. So you could say I wanted to be a writer, because I wrote.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
My first job was as a staff journalist, back in Guyana. When I went travelling, I continued to write articles on a free-lance basis. Later on, I had a few odd jobs, such as cleaner in a Swiss restaurant staff hostel. That was interesting, as the Swiss are so clean there was hardly any work to do. They all cleaned themselves.
When I moved to Germany I trained as a social worker and then got a job as a probabtion officer, helping convicted people to find their feet in society to avoid prison, or to re-integrate after release. I took a long break to raise my children, and then went back to work when I was 63, this time as a social worker in a hospital. I arranged rehabilitation for people who had had hip or knee replacement surgery.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go and why? (Backwards or forwards!)
Backwards, for sure. I’m not particularly fond of these modern times, despite labour-saving gadgets, internet, email and so on. My very best decade was the 70’s, especially the first half. Those years were incredible, absolutely magical. We were finally beginning to break free of a few ugly -isms such as racism and sexism, and my generation truly believed we were at the cusp of a new age. We were footloose and fancy tree, travelled the world on a shoestring, and hope was high for a breakthrough into an age of peace and love. In my case, I met the most extraordinary people.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
… to continue with the above, the strangest thing was me running into Muhammad Ali on a street in Lima, and being invited to spend a day with him. It was surreal. I literally walked into a crowd of Peruvians, and he was in the middle, towering above them. He spied me and called, “Hi, sister!” and began chatting with me. He invited me up to his suite on the top floor (this was just outside his hotel) which was full of people: his manager, and a few other people he had pulled off the street, who he introduced as “my secretary” and “my translator”.
I told him I was a journalist and asked for an interview. He started to talk and talked for about two hours non-stop. I never laughed so much in my life! He cracked me up completely. He was articulate, eloquent, and hilarious at the same time and never lost for words; and yet also serious when he talked of the situation of blacks in America.
Later we all had lunch, and then we were invited to the Gold Museum; we had to do one of those celebrity escapes through the hotel basement to a getaway car! Once there he took me aside and had a rant about all the stuffed animals in the private living room of the museum’s owner (yes, apparently it belonged to one man.)
That evening he invited me and my friends to a boxing match with his Peruvian counterpart; the latter lost. All the Peruvians in the crowd were yelling “Bocon! Bocon!” (Big mouth!) at him.
As I said, it was the most surreal day of my life.
What’s your favourite film of all time and why?
Casablanca. It combines everything I love in a story: WW2 intrigue, fantastic and unforgettable dialogue, a heart-breaking love story. Oh, and Humphrey Bogart.
You win a million pounds – you give half to charity. Which charity do you pick and why? What would you do with the rest of the money?
I would probably create my own charity, as I’m not sure this one exists: a charity to rescue girls in India (or anywhere else in the world, but I’m most familiar with the Indian scenario) who have been abducted by child traffickers. Help them to rehabilitate and reunite them with their families if possible or help them to find a home and stability and healing. For me there is no crime more horrendous than this, and I wish I could save them all. But it would take more than half a million pounds, I fear.
With the rest of the money I would buy houses. One in Ireland, where I now live, one in Guyana, where I grew up, one in India, a country I love, and possibly a holiday home in Austria, where one of my granddaughters lives. But again, I’d probably need more than half a million! Yes, I’m greedy and don’t like hotels. (And who knows, with Covid maybe all travel is banished forever, perish the thought!)
So I’ll just stick with: a house in Ireland, a forever home for me and my loved ones.
What is your favourite time to write, and why?
I write first thing in the morning, starting sometime between 5 and 6 am.
This started many years ago, when I found that during the day I’d be constantly disturbed: the postman, a telephone call, one of my kids needing something, etc. I need absolute stillness when I write and the early morning is that time. It’s also the time when my mind is open and free and I can best access that part of me where stories are created.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
My most recent book is Her Darkest Hour, a WW2 novel set in France. It is available as an ebook on Amazon and other online retailers, and also as a print book.
‘You and me – we’re sisters, not enemies. We’ve got a real enemy at our door and we need to focus on that – together, united. I don’t want to be fighting you as well.’
In the small French town of Colmar, swastikas hang from lampposts, tanks are lined up outside the town hall, and twenty-one-year-old Marie-Claire is in love. She will do anything for her childhood friend Jacques, including spying on her German boss, Dietrich Kurtz. Anything to make Jacques see her in a new light, as something more than just a silly little girl.
But when Jacques rejects her, everything changes. Mortified and stung, Marie-Claire feels the need for revenge. She turns her back on those she loves and is catapulted into a new life.
Her little sister Victoire is aghast at her sister’s traitorous behaviour, not least because Marie-Claire is endangering Victoire’s own life-threatening mission, hiding Jewish refugees in their mother’s wine cellar. And when Marie-Claire marries Kurtz, Victoire knows her relationship with her sister has been poisoned for ever.
But when Victoire learns someone she loves is in terrible danger, her only choice is to trust the sister who betrayed her. Kurtz, Marie-Claire’s cruel and heartless husband, has key information and Victoire must persuade Marie-Claire to obtain it, even if it means risking Marie-Claire’s life. As secrets come to light and close bonds are broken, will the sisters be able to heal old wounds?
thank you so much sharon for you this fantastic interview – i loved getting to know more about you!
You can check out my 5* review of Her Darkest Hour here.
Have a wonderful day and weekend my lovelies!