Author Interview with Angela Wreninterviewed on Apr 16, 2021 Yorkshire, UK
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Q. How would you describe yourself?
Author, actor and theatre director. I did once have a proper job in business change and project management, but it was very pressured and very demanding. After twenty years, I made my escape and took up my pen. I've always loved stories, and I am an avid reader, so starting to write my own stories just seemed natural to me.
Q. Tell us something about the books that you have written and the story behind them.
My Jacques Forêt mystery stories are set in the Cévennes in south-central France. It's a mountainous area that is sparsely populated but ruggedly beautiful. I've visited many times and it was whilst I was there in September 2007 that I had my very first idea for a story. I'd arrived at the tiny village where I always stay up on the Col de la Pierre Plantée in Lozère (48) on a bright Autumnal afternoon. The sky was azure blue and the mountains were shining with the red and gold of the deciduous trees in amongst the inky green of the pines. It was a fabulous afternoon. I woke up the next morning to snow and the whole of the landscape was covered in a white blanket. As I watched the snowflakes drifting down my thoughts immediately turned to murder - it had occurred to me that, if you knew the weather could change so drastically in less than 24 hours, you could use the opportunity to cover your misdeeds. The very first paragraph of Messandrierre was written that afternoon.
Q. What place does writing hold in your life, how has been your writing journey so far?
Way back in 2007, writing was just a hobby. I wasn't even a member of a writing group, but I had recognised that I missed putting words on paper. My job in project management had involved a lot of drafting for business purposes. It was a part of my job that I had always particularly enjoyed despite the stricture of the format and vocabulary. after I'd escaped my job, I found needed to write. I started with short stories. I joined a writing group and took some of my work with me and quickly realised how very different writing fiction was in comparison with the business documents I had been producing. I enrolled myself on some workshops and writing courses, which gave me enough confidence to start entering competitions. When the magazine, Ireland's Own took one of my stories and actually paid me for my words I knew I was on the right path. four years later my first full-length novel was published and I haven't stopped writing since
Q. What is your writing process, a typical writing day routine?
I prefer to write in the morning, rather than later in the day - my brain just seems to work better then. I frequently write for 2 to 4 or 5 hours in a morning. When I'm working on a novel, the first thing I always do is go over the pages I wrote the previous day and refine the text. Once I've done that I'm able to continue adding to the story. I plan my stories and I always start with my victim. At the planning stage, I will work as many hours as it takes to get what I need to be done that day completed. I write crime so I need to know where I'm going with the investigation and it's usually whilst I'm fleshing out who my victim is as a person, who and what his/her connections are that I make decisions about the how and the why of the crime. It's not possible to work out every detail in advance. Sometimes when I'm writing my characters take me off-plan. Which is often a good thing and I will usually go with the flow. As for a daily routine - no not really. I write when I know what it is I want to say, which means I often carry great tracts of words around in my head for days before I can sit at my desk and get them on paper.
Q. What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
My blog - which is full of stuff about writing, my books, the history & culture of France, my own travels in France and interviews with other authors. I also have a Facebook page, and I'm active on Twitter, Instagram, and a website. All of these things are a major part of my combined strategy to keep my book sales buoyant. I support that with paid advertising on several trusted sites that I use regularly. I also give talks in local libraries and local groups interested in reading or books or France.
Q. What do you think makes a book sell, or makes a reader buy it?
I'm not really able to speak for others but I know what makes me, the reader, pick up a book. I never read blurbs. It's the cover and/or the reviews that I've read that will make me pick up a book. Once I've teased it off the shelf I immediately turn to the first page and begin reading. If I can't see the colour in the writing in the first paragraph or so, then the book usually goes back on the shelf. So, for me, a book needs a good strong cover that conveys something of the content. The first line has to grip the attention of the reader and the writing, in general, has to keep the reader turning the page. The characters must be believable and I must be able to empathise with them as the story progresses. Finally, the plot must be tight and keep me interested.
Q. What's the most moving or affecting thing a reader has said to you?
Over the last two books in my crime series, my central character, Jacques Forêt, has had to deal with some difficult personal issues. A loyal reader, after finishing Mercœur, told me that 'she was still crying' because the story, and how Jacques had dealt with his personal difficulties, had 'touched her heart'. I'm not sure it's possible to get a better reaction than that.
Q. What are your favourite three books, and why?
Only three? Wow, that's a seriously tough choice! My first is The Lost Girl by D. H. Lawrence. Lawrence writes with such colour in his work and especially so in this book. It's the tale of a woman and how she moves through the various phases of her life. There's happiness, hurt, regret, joy, loneliness and eventually an aching sadness and this book makes me cry at exactly the same place every time I read it. I see something new in the words every time I read them. My second has to be The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Another book that I keep going back to. I love the narrative voice and the gentle drama of the story. I have a number of his books and poetry and I never tire of reading them. Lastly, it would have to be my book of poetry by Thomas Hardy. He was a poet before he was a novelist and I enjoy both his prose and poetry. He is a true wordsmith who can convey a complex idea in a well-crafted single phrase or sentence. I never cease to marvel at how he does that.
Q. Who are your favourite three authors and what do you like the most about them?
Again, only three??? William Shakespeare has to be my first choice. I have his complete works on my bookshelf - I can reach it with my outstretched hand from right here at my desk. there's everything in Shakespeare, life, death, love, power, jealousy, murder... I could go on and on. I've been learning and reciting Shakespeare since I was 6 years old, so he's a part of my psyche and I can't give him up. My second author has to be Agatha Christie. I discovered Agatha when I was about 12. I'd strolled over to the adult section of the library whilst my mum wasn't looking and found one of her books. I was so taken by her story and her writing that I then read everything she had written one book after the other. I guess Christie, Wilkie Collins and Conan Doyle are the reason why I write crime. My final choice - if you haven't already guessed - has to be Thomas Hardy. I have all of his novels as well as his poetry and I still reread his stories and always see something new in them.
Q. Tell us about the books that you are currently writing and their progress.
Mercœur, book 5 in my Jacques Forêt mystery series, was published in March, so I'm taking a bit of a break from Jacques at the moment. But, in May, I will be starting work on the planning and research for book 6. I'm editing a short story for the third Miss Moonshine anthology, which will be launched in June. I'm also in the process of writing a second short story for a completely different anthology that will be published in Autumn this year.
Q. What challenges do you think are faced by writers, what's the worst thing about the book industry according to you?
This is a far-reaching question, and I'm sure there are far more experienced writers than me who are better qualified to provide an answer. But from my perspective, although I've had a great deal of help and support from my publisher - Crooked Cat/Darkstroke - and my fellow authors, it seems to me that breaking into this business area is perhaps the hardest thing I've ever done. I'm also very much aware that I have been fortunate. When I submitted Messandrierre, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. It worries me, greatly that the book industry seems to be primarily controlled by one massive commercial giant. I think such is unwise in a business environment. I'm also concerned about the need to constantly pigeonhole writers and to use that need to drive what we create.
Q. Apart from writing, what goals do you want to achieve in life?
My most important goals are to be happy, stay well, and continue writing my stories for as long as possible.
Q. At QwertyThoughts.com, we are trying to bring authors and readers under the same roof, to connect, discuss and socialize over books. What's your take on this?
Great idea. Let's keep doing that.
Q. What message do you want to share with budding writers?
A simple one and something that was said to me whilst I was still trying to find my place in the world of writing: never give up.