Author Interview with Chrisoula Panagoulia

Hi Chrisoula, tell us a bit about yourselfI am an English teacher here in Athens, Greece and at the same time a novice author. 

What makes me happy? What makes me happy is going to the swimming pool three times a week. I have a great time there as I’ve met some gorgeous people. I don’t mind that they are older than me as we have a blast every time we get together in the water. 

Regarding being discouraged to write: I have to tell you that I did get discouraged by a member of my family but I didn’t give up. I’ve always wanted to write and when that moment came nothing was going to refrain me from doing so, so I continued writing because when I love something I stick to it , no matter what. 

My favourite childhood book is Dennis Bones the Mystery Book by Jim and Mary Razzi which I read when I was in 5th grade in Sydney. Maybe that book was the spark for my writing career, I don’t know…However, it’s quite rare for me to sit down and read it as I have so many committments but just knowing that it is sitting on my bookshelf is enough for me because I know that I have something in my house that reminds me of Australia.

Regarding my stories, a lot of myself is in there. It’s a way to expose myself and I think that every author or poet exposes themselves by writing. 

My BIO: I was born in Greece but at the age of 5 months old my parents moved to Australia taking me with them. They needed to get away from ‘poor’ Greece so they decided to migrate to Sydney for a better life which they definitely had. But don’t ask me why my family and I came back to Greece. My parents’ generation made decisions without asking their children about their opinion. I was never asked whether I wanted to go back to Greece so inevitably I followed them back to their homeland when I was eleven years old. I say ‘their’ because I consider myself an Australian as English is my first language. It might come across as strange to you all, but I was bullied both in Sydney (at school) and here in Greece (at school too). It’s very difficult to have to put up with children and kids who call you names and point a finger at you just because you are different, you don’t speak their language, you don’t dress like they do. I was always an OUTSIDER for them. Both in Sydney and here in Athens. And it was difficult to make friends of course, in both countries. That’s all about my early life as a little child. Now, I’m married and have 2 great children, 24 and 16 respectively, a boy and a girl. And of course my two other children. Our cat Markos, and our bunny Alex! So, that’s it about my life.

Thanks Chrisoula, what’s your book called and where can we find it? As you have realised you can find my novel ‘One More SmileAmazon.com link Amazon UK link on Amazon (both as an ebook and a paperback). Have a look here: My Amazon author page 

If you want to contact/find me you can do so here on my blog: The Purple Pen

Also you can find me here:

My Twitter page

My Facebook author page

My Goodreads page

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Under the Green

It’s St Patrick’s Day today and all those pictures of leprechauns brought back a memory. You see, when I was nine, I saw a …

Well I don’t know what he was exactly. He could have been a leprechaun I suppose but that seems unlikely since I saw him sitting near a bridge in South Wales. However, he was very small and very definitely of the elven type. 

On the other hand, I lived ten miles from Banwen, where St Patrick was allegedly born, so possibly he was a leprechaun tourist doing a road-trip. 

À propos of nothing, the town and the schools I attended were named after a different saint, St Catwg, who was less worried about snakes than St Patrick. We lived off what is called the ‘Heads of the Valleys’ road, which perhaps gives you an idea of how far from the beaten track we were. Banwen was even further into the wilds and from what I recall, the Banwen kids who came to our secondary school were teased about being unsophisticated by those of us who lived closer to what we thought of as civilisation (there was a Wimpey bar three miles away). Trust me, none of the rest of us had a cosmopolitan or sophisticated leg to stand on, but that’s teenagers for you. At least the Banwen kids had a patron saint to be proud of, even if he’d emigrated. The rest of us had nothing. Even St Catwg had travelled up from Monmouthshire and thence left our place for Brittany and possibly Scotland.

Going back to my elven man – I was as I said, around nine. He was ageless. I had been communing with the river which ran along a gorge fifty yards/metres or so behind my house. This means I was troubled or unhappy or or being bullied or lonely or a mixture of all of those. I can’t remember the reasons but can remember the emotion. One of my ‘places’ was the river and I would stand on the bridge that crossed it and talk to the lights which sparkled on it under the trees. I don’t recall the sparkling ever not being there, even though I also remember it raining for months. This either means I only visited it when it was dry or there was something unusual about the place.

The path to the bridge on our side ran down the length of gardens and then a field and then there were some rather rusty railings which were designed to stop people (children) from getting to the edge of the gorge and falling into the river. Naturally, they had long since been bent so that a child could get through. It was possible to climb down to the river’s edge and stand on a sandbank. This was where I observed the river beasties, while I still had ideas of becoming a naturalist. 

That particular day however, I’d just walked down to the bridge, poured out my worries and was returning home. As I stepped from the bridge onto the path, I saw a small man, cross legged on a post, smoking a pipe. He was quite serene, saying nothing but giving me a small nod and smile as if to say ‘it’ll be all right.’

Being well brought up I said ‘hello’ and passed on. A second later, the penny dropped that this small man was actually smaller than me, smaller than my little sister, small enough to sit on a post in fact. 

I turned and he was not there. Or he was gone. Whichever one prefers to think.

I’ve never really told anyone of this, because after all, it sounds a bit bonkers. I never saw him again, nor did I ever see any other elvish type, despite feeling they were there just out of sight. Ultimately I grew out of talking to the river and trees but never quite lost the sense that there was some other world just beyond. I am an educated woman of faith but I fundamentally feel that the universe is infinitely more complex than a mere human who might live seventy years or so can ever codify. 

Those who know about Celtic mythology talk about another world which touches ours and scientists talk about alternative universes. I think of those moments under trees, I think of other moments when I clearly knew I could go one way or another and the outcome would be hugely different and I wonder. 

Of course, I could just have been bonkers. I was immensely stressed aged nine.  

On the off-chance that he really was an elf, I’ve done a bit of research into things about which I’d have known nothing then. I was an English outsider in a Welsh village but actually I doubt many of my Welsh contemporaries knew either. 

I think he was definitely Welsh. According to Wirt Sikes, ‘y Tylwyth Teg’ (Welsh for the fair folk) come in five varieties: Ellyllon (elves), Coblynau (mine fairies), Bwbachod (household fairies), Gwragedd Annwn (underwater fairies), and Gwyllion (mountain fairies).

The Ellyllon are pigmy elves who haunt the groves and valleys. They dine on poisonous toadstools and fairy butter, which they extract from deep crevices in limestone rocks. Their hands are clad in the bells of the foxglove, the leaves of which are a powerful sedative. They are sometimes kindly, sometimes menacing and almost always mischievous.’ 

So I’m going to own my elf as one of the Ellyllon – a kindly one.

It was a long, long time ago of course. I only really recall the sense of calm and an unspoken wisdom that said ‘it’ll be all right.’ So he could, depending on your view point have been an elf, an angel, a manifestation of my internal determination to win through or a manifestation of stress. 

Whichever he was, he made me feel better. I somehow knew I’d never see him again, but it didn’t matter. 

At that moment, I felt comforted.

green man

 

Words and photograph copyright 2019 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

Article about British Goblins (1880) by Wirt Sikes

Book Bereavement

I’m suffering book bereavement.

There’s probably an equivalent for artists and musicians and it hurts.

Book bereavement is when a piece of writing is complete, leaving a gap in your life you don’t know how to fill. (Readers can feel much the same when a good book ends.)

In my case, I’ve just finished writing a novel and I’m missing my main characters so much I don’t know how to stop thinking about them. It’s a really odd sensation to have about people who, let’s be honest *whispers* don’t really exist at all. The thing is, they feel real to me. 

This sensation may be intensified by the fact that I took last week off work purely to write and wrote nearly 36,000 words. Fundamentally, except for a few hours spent eating and having to live in the real world, I was imagining, dreaming, writing and living in my novel for nine days and nights.

For those of you who’ve stuck with me so far: who are these people who are still hovering about and what’s their story?

The main character is Margaret Demeray, the younger sister of Katherine from the Caster & Fleet series.

Liz Hedgecock and I decided we’d do spin-offs which we would write singly, rather than as a collaboration and I chose to see what happened to Margaret when she grew up. (You’ll have to wait and see what Liz comes up with.)

The book is set in 1910. 

I picked the year partly because the fashions – with the possible exception of hats – were lovely (which is perhaps not very rational) and partly because it was a kind of tipping point historically. King Edward VII has just died, the women’s suffrage movement is gaining momentum, the old monarchies and empires of Europe, including Britain’s, are quietly sabre-rattling as they struggle for dominance.

Margaret is thirty-six, the age when a woman is supposed to be in her prime. (I can’t really remember because at that age I had baby well under two and was expecting a second.)

Margaret’s life is much more interesting. She is medically qualified and working in a teaching hospital. She has been asked to speak at a scientific symposium, the only woman to do so. She has great women-friends, equally determined not to be overshadowed by men, and has maintained her independence. But somehow she has also become engaged to a man so hung-up, he appears to find kissing her a chore. Perhaps if he were a little more passionate, she wouldn’t keep putting off the wedding. But as it is…

Then a stranger asks about the nameless subject of Margaret’s most recent post-mortem and her world turns upside down.

Obviously, the first draft being hot off the fingertips so to speak, it’s too close to read through and see what works, what doesn’t and which loose ends are still flapping. And it doesn’t have a name either. 

Oh well, I’m sure my subconscious will tell me at 4 a.m. or during a business meeting sometime soon. 

Today I’m back at my day job (the one that pays the bills) where there is regrettably very little scope for creativity, unless you count obtaining statistics and then turning them into a pretty graph. So perhaps to distract myself from having left my main characters wondering what they’re supposed to do next, I did a bit of number-crunching of my own.

My husband and I have recently started counting steps and we have been making ourselves do a circuit of our town pretty much every day to reach our 10k. 

So I’ve created a graph to show how many words I wrote each day last week against how many steps I walked. On the basis that statistics are supposed to prove something, these seem to prove nothing except it is possible to write words and do exercise, even if your husband has to drag you out of the house and put up with your mind being somewhere else entirely as you walk. (For the record, it rained all day on Friday 8th, he wasn’t home till late and it was more appealing to stick at writing rather than waste time walking round town getting drenched. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

For anyone who actually cares about the words side of it, an average under 4,000 words a day may not seem a lot given that I was writing for around 8 hours a day and I’ve been known to write 1,500 on an hour and half train journey. Every writer has their own way of doing things. Some people write to a strict plan, some to no plan at all; some pour everything out and worry about it afterwards, some do a bit of editing as they go along. 

I start with an outline, some idea of who’s who, what they’re up to and where they’ll end up, but let the rest fall in place as it comes to me – which as I said above sometimes occurs at 4 a.m or in the middle of a business meeting. My process last week was: get up, review the previous day’s writing, tweak it, often move it about or hold it back, and then crack on with the next part. I think there was one day I did more tweaking than writing.

For now as I write this, I must put Margaret, her friends and her enemies firmly to one side, because it’s lunchtime and I’m going to do some steps. 

Only 7,353 more to do. Sigh. I’d rather be writing.

 

 

Words copyright 2019 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

Charming Gowns:www.designrush.com

Graph: my own with dodgy stats

Cat: www.pixabay.com

Author Interview with GB Williams

Hi, I’m GB Williams, I write complex, fast-paced contemporary crime novels and didn’t realise they were hard-bitten till my publisher said so.  

Questions

Do you like to reflect a sense of place in your stories? If so, how/where?

I do try to.  My Locked Trilogy is odd in this respect, because I have been very careful not to state where they are set, not even a fake town name.  However, I think that they do have a sense of place.  “Locked Up” is set inside a prison and that sense of being shut in, how claustrophobic it can be, does come through in the writing.  “Locked In” is set during a bank raid gone wrong, so again there’s that feeling on being restricted, of knowing what’s there, including the stray cotton thread on the carpet.  “Locked Down”, releasing February 18th, is much more wide-ranging location wise, and I’ve done my best to give a sense of where my characters are at all times. I try to do this through the senses, how places look, what the weather does, how it smells, I find smells most evocative, but most importantly, I try to show how the characters interact with the place. 

What’s your earliest writing memory?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write.  Clearly there was one, one doesn’t get born writing stories.  But I do remember some distinct moments when I knew I was a writer.  The first happened when I was very young, probably 4 or 5, my sisters and I were over my grandparents’ house, a weekly event back then. We were at the kitchen table and they’d given us some cardboard boxes and odd bits, sticky tape and pens, general art supplies. I think I’d made a shop, was pretending people were coming in and out, having conversations.  One of my sisters had a sulk on about how things weren’t fair because I always made up the best stories, had the best imagination.  I remember thinking that was because making up stories was what I wanted to do. When older I went on a youth hostel trip with the school and told stories in the dorm. They asked for horror stories, so that’s what they got.  Some complained next day they hadn’t slept because of my stories, so I did my job. The first time I wrote a play was aged 11, a class exercise. I was embarrassed as hell when the teacher held it up as the only one that actually worked as a play.  He told me I should give it to the Drama Department and see if they’d perform it.  I never did, and that’s pretty much my earliest writing regret.

Who are your main characters in your book(s): can you tell us something about them?

The three that matter are:

Ariadne Teddington; Life definitely happened while Ariadne was making other plans.  When her marriage broke up after SIDS claimed her daughter, she took the prison officer job because it was there, and she could.

Charlie Bell; all he ever wanted to be was a policeman, now the ex-Detective Sergeant is a rightfully convicted murderer. Charlie considers his failed relationships as proof he isn’t half the man his father was.

Mathew Piper; A career copper, there is little in DCI Piper’s professional life that he regretted, except failing to stop a gang lord and having to arrest his own DS for murder.  

What is their happiest memory/ies?

Ariadne: The birth of her daughter

Piper: The birth of his children, his twin daughters or his son, he couldn’t pick between the two, though he cried when he had a son.

Charlie: The realisation that Ariadne loved him, that he was a free man.

What is the biggest challenge they face?

Ariadne: Finding out what happened to her brother.

Piper: Walking the thin blue line.

Charlie: What comes next.

Biography:

GB Williams lives in her own private dungeon populated with all the weird and the wonderful she can imagine.  Some of it’s very weird, and the odd bits and pieces are a bit wonderful.  With a vivid imagination fuelled by a near death experience at the age of three, there was really no other choice for GB than to write, something she’s been doing her for as long as she can remember.  She’s tried not doing it, but it never works for long, her brain gets itchy if she hasn’t written anything for a couple of days.  GB is English by birth, but Welsh by choice, married a Welshman they have two fantastic children. They live with the world’s most imperious and demanding cat.  A DBA by day, a freelance editor and keen writer by night and weekend, she really needs to learn to sleep. 

Shortlisted for the 2014 CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Competition.  GB is also a feature writer and comic book reviewer. Crime novels are her stock in trade, but she has had success with a steampunk series of novels, and short stories in assorted genres.  

My Links:

Twitter:       @GailBWilliams (for crime) @ShadesOfAether (for steampunk)

Facebook:  @GBWilliamsCrimeWriter (for crime) @ShadesOfAether (for steampunk)

Blog:           thewriteroute.wordpress.com

Website:     www.gailbwilliams.co.uk

You’ll find my books on Amazon or at the various fairs I attend, there are links to all from my website.