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INTERVIEW: Felicity Pulman author of A Ring Through Time

Friday, May 09, 2014

I've read and enjoyed Felicity Pulman's books for years, and was thrilled to hear she had a new book out. A Ring Through Time is a timeslip novel, one of my favourite genres of  fiction. It moves from the POV of Ally, a contemporary teenager living on Norfolk Island, and Alice, whose diary of her life in the early days of the settlement is found by Ally.

Please welcome Felicity to the blog: 




Are you a daydreamer too?
A:  Always - and always getting into trouble for it!


Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A:  Not as such. Writing stories was always something I did, something I took for granted. Only in my 40s did I start to consider it as a serious career - something I now deeply regret.


Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do? 
A:  I was born in Fort Victoria in Rhodesia, now called Masvingo in Zimbabwe (and perhaps that's why so many of my novels are about displacement, with the characters having to find out where they belong!)  I now live in Sydney with my husband, and have two (grown up) children and five grandchildren who keep me busy and also techno-savvy.  I love to read, write and listen to music, but I also enjoy bush-walking, surfing, snorkeling and holidays!  And did I mention chocolate??


How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
A:  I heard a voice!  We were on holiday at Norfolk Island, and went snorkeling at beautiful  Emily Beach.  I put on my mask and, as I put my face into the water I heard a voice say: 'if only I could see my own life as clearly as I can see now.'  Who was this girl, and what was so wrong with her life that she wanted to see it more clearly?  That was about 10 years before I wrote A Ring Through Time - but I eventually found out the answers to those questions!


How extensively do you plan your novels? 
A:  I've been caught out in the past not knowing the real ending of my story when I wrote it and being led astray because of it. Now, I start when I know who the characters are and (sort of) what's going to happen to them and I also have a good idea how I want the book to end. Mostly  I don't really know how the characters are going to get there and for me, that's the fun of writing - to see what's going to happen next.  I don't plan in too much detail, because that would kill the spontaneity of the story for me.   And of course things change along the way, including the ending sometimes.  But I'm okay with that because the new ideas are usually an improvement. 


Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?
A: In one of my first novels, Ghost Boy, Froggy has nightmares about drowning (and for a good reason.)  I used to dream about drowning as a child, and still remember the heart-thumping fear of those nightmares.  Dreams have often offered encouragement (when I feel I've lost my way.) And I've found mind-mapping an image from a dream a very useful exercise to kickstart the imagination when I'm feeling stuck. 


Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?
A:  I was lucky enough to be awarded a May Gibbs Fellowship residency in Adelaide to write A Ring Through Time (although this title only came later.)  I'd put in a story idea but was really not sure that the story had 'legs' as I'd envisioned it.  My husband and I went to Adelaide a week early, to go on the Murray River princess - a little holiday before I started work.  It was a wonderful cruise, made memorable by a visit to the museum at Swan Hill, one of our stops.  I found a case of mourning jewellery, brooches etc. woven out of human hair.  To this day  I don't know if there were any hair rings there, but that's what I 'saw' - and that's when the whole story clicked into place along with its title. A serendipitous find indeed!


Where do you write, and when?
A:  I have a very messy study cum library where I do most of my writing.  But I also write anywhere and everywhere - even when stopped at the traffic lights if I have a brilliant idea!  I also have a pen with a light in it beside my bed to scribble down ideas without having to get up to do it. But if the ideas keep rolling, I'll work by night as well as by day.


What is your favourite part of writing?
A:  Finding out what's going to happen next!


What do you do when you get blocked?
A:  Going for a walk is always helpful.  Or doing the housework - any physical activity that keeps your body busy while leaving your mind free to roam is good.  Or I might try writing something in a different genre: an article or short story perhaps. Sometimes I compose haiku while I'm walking.  Or I do some mind-mapping, or some other writing exercise.


How do you keep your well of inspiration full?
A: I read a lot (novels, newspapers, journals, research material) and talk to friends, particularly other writers who are always very generous with their time and with their ideas.  I have a range of different interests, and I try to keep a balance between work and pleasure.


Do you have any rituals that help you to write? 
A: I have an 'altar' with charms and amulets and artefacts that, for one reason or another, have significance for me. Sometimes I burn essential oils, but mostly I just get on with it. Starting a new novel is always my greatest challenge: I have to trick myself into it.  Once I have an idea, I open a folder and then chuck notes into it - news items of interest, research material, scribbled ideas - anything that might have some relevance to the new story.  Sometimes voices and visions come into it too, or perhaps a conversation between two characters.  I write it all down and file it until I am clear about where the story actually starts - and that's usually because I've already written the beginning without knowing it.  Once I've made a start, I can keep going - but facing a blank screen is terrifying!


Who are ten of your favourite writers?
A:  Only 10??  

Enid Blyton was my favourite as a child (I think I'm still writing versions of The Magic Faraway Tree!) Ayn Rand was a huge influence in my teens. Connie Willis, Phillip Pullman and Guy Gavriel Kay are current favourite fantasy writers. I like C.P. Snow and Maeve Binchy for their memorable characters; Sharon Penman, Geraldine Brooks and Ellis Peters for historical fiction; Helen Garner and Jodi Picoult for difficult and interesting topics; Jane Austen for all sorts of reasons, plus Elizabeth George and other crime authors too numerous to mention.


What do you consider to be good writing? 
A: I'm less concerned about posh literary writing, being more interested in reading a story with a heart, and that takes readers on a journey with characters they care about. 


What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
A: Read a lot and write a lot.  Be professional in your approach: near enough isn't good enough when you send off a mss to a publisher. Getting published has never been so tough, so be prepared to think outside the square, try different genres - keep learning, keep writing,  and don't give up.


What are you working on now?
A:  My new novel for adults titled I, Morgana has just been accepted by Momentum, the e-publishing arm of Pan Macmillan. (Very exciting!)  I'm now thinking about the sequel. 



PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT - I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!
 

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Ellis Peters and her medieval mysteries

Friday, February 22, 2013

This week on the blog, I’ve interviewed Karen Maitland, the author of a number of brilliant and chilling supernatural thrillers set in medieval times, plus reviewed her latest book, Falcons of Fire and Ice

I’ve always loved a good mystery set in medieval times, and for that I have to thank Ellis Peters, the author of the hugely popular Cadfael mysteries.  


Ellis Peters 

Although there is a vast difference between the down-to-earth, good-hearted, practical monk Cadfael and Karen Maitland’s complicated and morally ambivalent heroes, I thought I’d shine a quick spotlight on Ellis Peters, whose books gave me the taste for a good mediaeval mystery. 

She was born Edith Mary Pargeter on 28 September 1913 and died on 14 October 1995, and wrote a great many books under various names, of which Ellis Peters is the most famous.

Her most popular series are the Cadfael mysteries, named after her sleuthing soldier-turned-monk. 
There are 20 novels in the series, set between 1137 and 1145, during the struggle for the crown war between King Stephen and Empress Maud. Many true historical events are described or referred to in the books.

There is always a romantic sub-plot in the books, which I love. Not for Cadfael! He’s getting on a bit in years and, besides, he’s a monk. He’s always helping some poor young star-crossed lovers get together, though, as well as solving a dastardly murder. 



Derek Jacobs as Brother Cadfael

Here is a list of her Cadfael books, in reading order:

1. A Morbid Taste for Bones (published in August 1977, set in 1137)
2. One Corpse Too Many (July 1979, set in August 1138)
3. Monk's Hood (August 1980, set in December 1138)
4. Saint Peter's Fair (May 1981, set in July 1139)
5. The Leper of Saint Giles (August 1981, set in October 1139)
6. The Virgin in the Ice (April 1982, set in November 1139)
7. The Sanctuary Sparrow (January 1983 set in the Spring of 1140)[4][5][note 2]
8. The Devil's Novice (August 1983, set in September 1140)
9. Dead Man's Ransom (April 1984, set in February 1141)
10. The Pilgrim of Hate (September 1984, set in May 1141)
11. An Excellent Mystery (June 1985, set in August 1141)
12. The Raven in the Foregate (February 1986, set in December 1141)
13. The Rose Rent (October 1986, set in June 1142)
14. The Hermit of Eyton Forest (June 1987, set in October 1142)[7]
15. The Confession of Brother Haluin (March 1988, set in December 1142)
16. A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael (September 1988, set in 1120)
17. The Heretic's Apprentice (February 1989, set in June 1143)
18. The Potter's Field (September 1989, set in August 1143)
19. The Summer of the Danes (April 1991, set in April 1144)
20. The Holy Thief (August 1992, set in February 1145)
21. Brother Cadfael's Penance (May 1994, set in November 1145)


(Thanks to Wikipedia for the list)
If you haven’t read any books by Ellis Peters before, you absolutely must, she’s a gem. Read them in order for maximum enjoyment.


Book 1: A Morbid Taste for Bones 

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