15 Feb 2014

Jenny Lloyd: Leap the Wild Water

6 Comments Book Reviews, News

river leap

 

“Leap the Wild Water by Jenny Lloyd is a gripping story set in Wales in the 19th century. It mainly depicts the relationship between Morgan and his sister Megan. Told in alternating narratives we see her and his side of their life and past together. The return of Megan’s great love threatens Morgan’s status quo and causes friction between the siblings.

As the events unfold slowly we get to know more about the family background and the exact motication for each character.
Written with great psychological insight and an authentic historical feel Lloyd takes us into the mind of brother and sister, their hopes and ambitions while showing us what the modalities of life were like at the time.
It has been a long time since I read a book that understood to hold my attention with comparatively little action and yet make everything that is said and written feel so profound and important. I did not want to miss a word.
It would be wrong however to assume that there is no plot or movement. There is a lot of tension throughout the book and it all moves towards a great and dramatic ending.
Lloyd has written two excellent characters that were fascinating from the first page. A very powerful read
. 

Interview with Jenny:

Tell us a little about yourself as a writer and a person. Jenny

I was born on a farm in mid-Wales, the ninth of ten children.  Though I prefer to write fiction these days, poetry was my thing as a child. There is a long tradition of poetry in Wales, and a couple of my ancestors were poets, so I suppose it runs in the blood.  I showed a lot of promise as a child but went quite spectacularly off the rails in my teens. As a result, I left the education system at the age of fifteen and any hopes of a university education went down the drain with any ambitions I had to earn my living as a writer. I guess you could say that my life is a cautionary tale for teenagers; it was more than forty years later that Leap the Wild Water was published.

What made you become a writer? Have you always written?

I can honestly say I have never yearned to do anything but write. I have done other things, to pay the bills, while making the time to write whenever I could. As I’ve got older the urge to write has grown stronger until I literally felt I would explode if I did not devote the majority of my time to writing. I think you have to be selfish to be a writer; you have to begin saying no to the demands of others or you will never get the job done. Writers need time and space in spades, not just to write but to be able to think and imagine; that can sometimes be difficult for others to accept. Having time to write is so important to me; if I go for any length of time without writing I begin to feel slightly unhinged.

When did you decide to write your chosen genres? Do you have a favourite genre?

I read two pieces of advice for writers somewhere, and they were; write what you know and write the book you’ve always wanted to read but which hasn’t been written yet. I had been researching my family history and unearthing some tragedies in the lives of my female ancestors. I’d also read a great deal around the subject of social psychology, out of personal interest. Leap the Wild Water was born out of a combination of interests which inspire and fascinate me – family history, social history, social psychology and a love for the rural landscape of Wales.

Tell us a little about the history of your book. How long did it take you to write and publish?

For a number of reasons, four years elapsed between beginning to write the first draft of Leap the Wild Water and finally publishing it. I suffered two major bereavements in the four years it took to finish the book; my life-partner died, suddenly and unexpectedly, just a month after I’d finished the first draft, and my sister died six months later of terminal cancer. Both losses were a shock to me and a following series of domestic disasters left me incapable of writing a single word for the following year. It was a terrible year. Looking back, I really wasn’t coping well at all, though I told myself I was, and I completely lost touch with what was important to me. Then, one day, I was sitting up on a hill with my dogs, feeling utterly lost to myself and the world, unable to remember how it felt to be happy. Then I remembered how I had felt when writing that first draft; the joy and exhilaration of it. I went home and pulled up the manuscript on my laptop, and found my way back to my self.

What was the easiest about writing the book and what was the hardest?

The first draft was the easiest. It poured from my fingertips. The voices of that brother and sister, Morgan and Megan, were as loud and clear to me as if they were sat there beside me. I can only liken it to a film unreeling in my head and all I had to do was write what I heard and saw.  I truly enjoyed the restructuring of that first draft but found editing tedious in the extreme. For me, the hardest part has to be the marketing. Until I published Leap the Wild Water, social media like Twitter was something I’d heard of but never participated in. I know many writers are just brilliant at marketing their books but nine months on I’m still feeling overwhelmed, bewildered and pretty clueless about it all.

Would you say there is a message in the book beyond the story? Do you feel it is well received and picked up by the reviewers?

Following the holocaust, many social psychologists felt compelled to discover why so many people could do such horrific things to their fellow human beings, in the hope that the knowledge gained would prevent such atrocities from happening again. Many of their experiments would never be allowed now because of the psychological effects on many participants who discovered they were capable of great cruelty when commanded to do so by people they believed to have authority over them. In Leap the Wild Water, I attempted to show, through the character of Morgan, that basically good people can be persuaded and manipulated into acting against their conscience and the devastating consequences for both themselves and others. I strongly believe we ignore the lessons of history at our peril. The central message of the story, told through both Megan and Morgan’s experiences, is that we should always remain true to ourselves and not let fear, emotional blackmail, or our own negative feelings lead us into wrongdoing.

What do you like most about your characters? Which is your favourite?

I felt deep compassion for Morgan, even though he had betrayed Megan so badly. Deep down, he was a good man but allowed himself to be manipulated by their overbearing mother. My heart went out to Megan, struggling as she was with retaining her personal integrity while overcome with fear of telling Eli what she had done. Both of these central characters had their weaknesses and flaws and I loved them all the more for that. If I have to choose between these two, then it has to be Megan; for her strength of character in seeking freedom against all the constraints family and society imposed on her, and for here capacity to seek to forgive what many would deem unforgiveable.

Who would play the characters in a film?

I have to confess to being out of touch with the world of film – probably because I tend to prefer the written word. Rummaging about in my head for actors in historical films – a young Colin Firth would play Morgan; perhaps Keera Knightley would play Megan, if she could cultivate the lilting beauty of the Welsh voice of Cerys Matthews.

What are your next projects? Tell us about your other books.

I’m working on the sequel to Leap the Wild Water. I’m hoping to have it ready for publication in the spring. When that is published, I am planning to write a novel based on the life of my grandmother, Annie. I feel that all I have written thus far in my life has been in preparation for writing Annie’s story. She was my inspiration for researching my family history. She has been my strength in hard times because whatever I have gone through in my life, it is as nothing to what happened to her. She is my reminder in this life to be grateful for what I have.

What is your life like? What do you do for pleasure and work when not writing?

Right now, my life is unrecognisable from what it was a month ago. Just before Christmas, I sold my old barn of a house because I’d decided it was time to downsize and live somewhere less remote. Since moving out of my old home, I’ve had some illuminating experiences of what it feels like to be isolated and marginalized in a world which has become so reliant and dominated by the internet. I’ve written a little about this on my blog at jennylloydwriter.wordpress.com.

When the weather improves, I’m taking off in a camper van to go wherever the road takes me for a few months, writing as I go. I’ve dreamed of doing this for years and decided if I don’t do it now I probably never will. I know many will think it’s madness but, as the saying goes, our deepest regrets are for those things we didn’t do.

Who are your literary influences? What are your favourite books/films/albums?

Literary influence, first and foremost, has to be Thomas Hardy. He wrote with such compassion and love for the humble, rural people of his time, especially women. Likewise, George Elliot. Doris Lessing, Zora Neale Hurston, Conrad Richter, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood… there are so many writers I admire, too many to mention.

 

What are your views on independent publishing?

It’s a tough road to take. I will be honest with you, I didn’t attempt the traditional route to mainstream publishing because I was 55 years old when I felt Leap the Wild Water was ready to publish and I wanted it out there, not travelling from one agent’s desk to another for an indeterminable time, as I’d heard happen to so many others. But it is really hard to get noticed, let alone read, if you are an indie. I know there are a lot of readers who are wary of buying indie books, based on the assumption they will not be up to the standard of traditionally published books. This does happen but there are some great indie writers out there, and I find a lot of mainstream published books now are written in a formulaic style which publishers think will sell. The most original writing is being written by indies. I support and encourage other indies as much as I can; I know how hard it is, from personal experience, and every indie who raises the overall standard with exceptional writing should be applauded by all of us.

Can you recommend any indie books/authors?

Oh, yes! Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I’ve read and reviewed some great indie books this past year but there are two who have personally stood out for me;

Carla Dawn Dunlap is nothing short of genius. When I read her I am transported and spellbound. She has that quintessential something which makes good writing great. I’ve read her Voice of the Grandmothers several times and I am filled with yearning to write that well.

M. J. Holman! Her story, The Guineau Ghost; apart from it being an atmospheric and spellbinding story, it is obvious from the authenticity of her writing that she is a meticulous researcher, and this makes for a read which is reminiscent of those classics I love which were written by people who actually lived in those times. She also writes stirring poetry which you can find over on Koobug.

These two indie writers, in different ways, epitomise for me the best in indie writing.

Malla Duncan’s Deep as Bone was one of the most enjoyable reads of the whole of last year – a deliciously good psychological thriller. Loved it!

Beem Weeks, author of the coming-of-age novel, Jazz Baby, is a genius at authentic, Southern, first-person dialogue. He is a truly talented writer.

The creative imagination of Clive S Johnson is wonderful. He has created an extraordinary world in his series of books; combined with his flair for illustration, his work is reminiscent of that great author and illustrator, Mervyn Peake.

Jasmine Bath with Noone’s Daughter, and Kimberly Biller with I Couldn’t Lay in the Bed They Made, both wrote exceptional and moving memoirs which filled me with admiration for their courage, fortitude and wisdom. You can find extracts of Kimberly’s writing talent over at Bodicia’s blog; awomanswisdom.wordpress.com

Terry Tyler’s writing is a great example of how indie writing can exceed the standards of mainstream books. She writes professionally well and with wisdom and humour.

 

What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?

Like champagne; I’m fun when bubbly, boring when flat, and I can become one or the other at the drop of a hat, depending on what is going on around me! I have a generous heart but am prone to a stubborn independency and am something of a loner, preferring to be writing or roaming some hill with my dogs than anything else. Oh, and something which only people who know me well will tell you – I’m actually a shy person, not confident at all in myself or my abilities, and I am far more able to express myself with the written word than the verbal, unless I am plied with a few glasses of wine; then they can’t shut me up!

What are your favourite animal/colour/outdoor activity?

Favourite animal has to be my dogs – they have been with me through good and bad and have never let me down. Favourite colour is sky blue because a blue sky lifts my spirits like nothing else. Favourite outdoor activity; rambling over the windswept, Welsh hilltops.

What would you take to a remote island?

My dogs, please, so I don’t get lonely, pens and notebooks, and a kindle. Was I allowed three things?

Who would you like to invite to dinner and why?

Six weeks ago, I would have said Nelson Mandela. He was the greatest man to live in my lifetime. As he is now gone, I would choose my baby grandson, as a man aged forty, because I am very unlikely to live long enough to know him then. He isn’t a year old yet but already has a strong personality and character.

What else would you like us to know about you and your books?

One of the subjects I address in Leap the Wild Water is that of suicide. The social pressures on young women of that time were such that many who found themselves in Megan’s circumstances were driven to take their own lives. Though Leap the Wild Water is a historical novel, the many issues it deals with are timeless and universal, and as relevant to people today as they were then.  I would hope that anyone who is in despair and reading Leap the Wild Water will be persuaded away from suicide as an option, and to feel there is always hope, no matter how bleak the future may seem. Any state of mind, good or bad, is a fleeting thing. Likewise, circumstances can change from one day to the next. It is always worth living another day, in hope of a better tomorrow.

 

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Goodreads; https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7035188.Jenny_Lloyd

My blog; https://jennylloydwriter.wordpress.com

My About.me profile; http://about.me/jennylloydauthor

My Amazon author page; http://ow.ly/t49Lr

 

 

 

26 Jan 2014

Chris Westlake: Just a Bit of Banter, Like

Comments Off on Chris Westlake: Just a Bit of Banter, Like Book Reviews

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 Today I am happy to present another chance find of mine: Chris Westlake and his lovely book: “Just a Bit of Banter, Like…”

 

“Just a Bit of Banter, Like…” by Chris Westlake is a warm hearted, funny and charming book with some serious and depper tones.
It describes the downward spiral and recovery of a young Welsh man in London when he discovered his girlfriend and his best friend in bed together. Katie was the perfect girlfriend and it takes him some time to get over his problems.
He moves back to Wales, where he is confronted with some ghosts from his past and where he finds out that you cannot run away from your problems. Gradually through a string of small events and baby steps his life starts to turn round again.
Told in a warm and very dry humorous way the book is funny, upbeat and philosophical in one. The friendships Nick has in London and in Wales and the harmless “banter” (from the title) between them is very entertaining and has some great one-liners and it also has a very authentic feel. It helps that I not only live near the Bristol Channel but also have a Welsh partner; but beyond the setting and the specifics, the book has a wonderful message that is beautifully delivered.
This is not a action packed fast read but a very accomplished slow burner with more than meets the eye. A great read.

 Interview with Chris:

Hi Chris, thanks for joining me today, please tell us a little about yourself as a person and your life:

As a person, I like to think that I am a down-to-earth, easy-going kind of guy. That’s what I strive for, anyway. It is not always the case! I like to draw a line between my creative side and my practical side. I work full-time as a team leader in a public-facing role. I like playing football and I have recently joined a tai boxing class, although most of the members of the group are much more committed than I am! I have wonderful wife, Elizabeth, who I’ve been married to for seven years.

Tell us a little about your writing LI130804_01-29

My writing is mainly restricted to the weekends, where I hole myself away in the library with just my laptop, earphones and big flask of coffee. I loved writing as a child, from the age of seven. I wrote long, rambling stories about monsters and football teams and roller-coasters. I loved creating new worlds with infinite possibilities! My mum and grandparents read the stories and excitedly told me how good they were. I knew then that I would be a writer. And then I stopped writing. School and university and work got in the way. I know. Excuses, excuses. Practical life seemed so much more prominent and urgent. I always knew that I would start writing again, I just did not know when.

Four years ago I decided that the time was right. I enrolled on an online writing course. I thrived on the feedback from the tutor, just as I had from my family as a child. I had a few letters published in magazines and earned a little money.

Then I won my first competition. That was an amazing thrill. My short Story, Welsh Lessons, won the Global Short Stories Award 2010. I came first out of about 600 other contestants. And then The Heatwave of 76 won the Stringbybark Erotic Stories Award. I had about seven stories published in e-book anthologies. I thought it was the right time to start a novel. I am still exploring genre. It is in no way my intention to be restrictive. My writing is intended to be enjoyable, to make you think and to be original. If I achieve this then I do not see why I cannot write across many genres.

One thing I have been consistent with is location. My competition winning stories were based in coastal South Wales, where I was born and brought up. I now live in Birmingham, and with every passing day I’m away that I am a day further away from my original roots. Setting my stories in Wales feels good and it feels right.

Tell us about writing and publishing JUST A BIT OF BANTER, LIKE

I started writing Just a Bit of Banter, Like at the beginning of 2012 and it took me near enough twelve months to complete. Most writers make a clear separating between research, planning, drafting and editing of a novel, but it is inevitable that the stages overlap. The story had a rough plan and further research was needed to iron out the final details. Drafting is the most frustrating stage. The temptation is always there (and I think most writers will agree that the temptation is very strong) to tweak every word as you go along, because it is difficult to leave words alone that you are not entirely happy with) but this way you end up writing hardly anything!
I had to keep telling myself, over and over like a mantra, that it will be better after the editing stage! Editing is the most satisfying stage because it is where you reap the rewards for all your previous effort. I designated at least three months to the editing stage and it was worth it for the end result.
I didn’t enjoy trying to get my book published through mainstream. The Agent and Publisher websites remind you in no uncertain terms that they have thousands of applicants and take on just a few. It felt like Mission impossible IV, or whatever number we are up to now. I knew that my cover letters and synopsis were good. I took time tailoring them to the individual Agent. But most submissions seemed to disappear into a black hole. I did receive some responses, and they were all appreciated. A few were personal with some really positive feedback but stating that unfortunately my genre did not fit.
After about five months I secured Mirador Publishing, which is an independent publisher. I did pay a small fee for the publicity and marketing of the book, but it was worth it to finally have my book in print. Once I secured a publisher the process was enjoyable and exciting.

How has the book fared so far?

Just a Bit of Banter, Like has very well received. Everybody who has read the book has enjoyed it. The biggest compliment is when readers enjoy my writing style, because that is the platform for everything. The biggest obstacle is getting read in the first place. I have been amazed by the number of authors competing for attention. Unless you are a recognised author or celebrity it is very difficult to generate interest. I have worked very hard at this, from having articles published about the book in the local newspaper and magazine to keeping in contact with other authors and readers on social media sites.
I think it is important to have a balance though, and again this can be difficult. Sometimes you need to know when to stop publicising your previous book and spend more time writing your next book!

Tell us about JUST A BIT OF BANTER, LIKE and its characters

The characters in Just a Bit of Banter, Like are crucial to everything. The twisting storyline and the surprise ending all goes to waste if the reader doesn’t care about the characters. I try to ensure my characters are rounded with personality traits readers recognise from everyday life. Den is the guy gifted with looks, intelligence and personality, and yet scratch the surface and none of this is really important to him. Nick lives this perfect life in London with a fancy job and fancy girlfriend and yet there is so much more to him than the superficial shell he hides under. Deep down, though, the central characters are all decent people and I hope the readers will them to do well.

Who are your influences?

My writing is inspired by writers such as Irvine Welsh, John King and JK Salinger. I read a wide variety of books not only for enjoyment but because I think you can pick up so many different things. Nowadays I definitely read as a writer. I observe how writers build up scenes, create tensions and develop tensions. I am also rather critical when they don’t do these things!

What are your current projects and ambitions?

At the moment I am working on the drafting stage of my next novel. Yes, the frustrating stage! I am keeping with the Welsh setting. This novel is based primarily in the depleted coal and steel community of Merthyr Tydfil and the seaside resort of Porthcawl. It covers different eras, from the 60’s to present day. I love modern history, and so the research side both fascinating and challenging. Although I am working hard on the story, I want it to be right, and I am not setting any timescale other than it will definitely be completed by the end of 2014!
I aim to be working on a novel at all times and, realistically for me that equates to about one novel per year. This year I plan to write some short stories, too, as I appreciate a year is a long time and I want to maintain interest in my writing. I will be spending some time creating and updating a website with details of the stories. I have short-term and long term aims. Long-term, I want to improve an aspect of my writing with every book and to keep building my readership. I would love to be on the bestsellers list but think it would be much better to write books I am proud of that is appreciated by a loyal readership.

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Chris-Westlake/e/B007WKK8QW/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1378231623&sr=8-1

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