About Mary J Howell

I am a writer living in Snowdonia National Park on the north West coast of Wales. The beauty of the countryside is inspirational, although I love to travel and write about that too. Murielle's Angel is a work of fiction inspired by walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in 2002. Honeymoon, a second novel, published 2017 and a short story is published by Honno in the anthology, Dancing with Mr Darcy. All are available to order from Amazon and bookshops and by request from the library.

Real Refugees

We have come to Spitalfields. Descendants of Huguenot refugees who found respite in London fleeing death and discrimination in France. Thousands were murdered because they were protestants.

The area, as much as is preserved, draws us in and we could imagine ourselves living here as if we too were creative types, Gilbert and George, Jeanette Winterson and others who now have the wherewithal, or even refugees as our ancestors living several families to a room on Brick Lane.

Our family survived, made a life for themselves and subsequent generations. No one says it was easy but the onus was not on them to prove they were bone fide. They were not harried but able to follow their trade, enrich the pool of skills, languages, nations already struggling to survive.

It’s not only plastic in the oceans that will be the shame of our generation if we do nothing, but the wilful blindness to the plight of refugees.

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Real Refugees

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Wooden Boat with Seven People, by Kalliopi Lemos (2011), a monument to the lives and deaths of refugees, sits in the busy marketplace in Spitalfields the area of London where refugees have often found shelter and welcome.

The little wooden boat was abandoned in Greece having carried real refugees from Turkey. Daylight shows between its timbers where water would insinuate and weaken its joints.
Life-size metal migrants now sit forever forlorn in the gunwales where once men, women and children cast themselves on the mercy of the rest of the world little suspecting that the world has forgotten the meaning of the word.

Did they really set out in an open boat to cross an ocean? How many people? What are their stories? Where are they now?
Interesting in this context to read Andrew Rawnsley’s interview with Madeleine Albright in the Observer today, herself a refugee who became America’s first female secretary of state.

The Boxer

My daughter sent this picture the day we learned that my mother had died. Portentous and consoling that the formation of birds like a great force of nature is both a giant bird and a figurehead at the prow of a ship. I like to think of the passing of her soul – any soul – as such a moment, at once inexplicable, momentous and awe inspiring. Named affectionately, the Boxer, for her fight and her penchant for the telly and boxes of chocolates, it is good to think of her steaming ahead to unknown waters or even through those pearly gates.

Interview with an Author”

Honeymoon is your second novel, tell us about Honeymoon.

It’s a love story but it’s not a romance. A complicated, inconvenient past unravels during Rosie and Fergal Pierce’s short honeymoon on the West Coast of Ireland with revelations of death, betrayal and deceit that would seem to implicate Fergal. The truth is hard to find and threatens to wreck not only the honeymoon but lives of others too. Rosie faces hard decisions and decides to trust her own judgement and find her own way to help Fergal reclaim his past.

What was your inspiration for the book?

During a trip to research my family tree to County Clare I spent some time in a churchyard that overlooked the wild Atlantic Ocean. It was such a desolate and haunting place, a good place to lie for eternity and a good place to start a story.

What about the cover?

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? That silver embroidered moon unravelling. The artist’s sister is a friend of mine and I was cheeky enough to ask and she was kind enough to agree that I could use it for the front cover. The picture is called Moon Wave by Lateefa Spiker

What inspires you to write? Have you always been a writer?

I came late to writing, after I’d had a family, after I’d had a ‘proper’ job but the compulsion write was always there. Or, to be more exact, the compulsion to make up stories and what ifs and other endings to films. A story is rather like gossip. You want it to pass from mouth to mouth like wildfire, be embellished in the telling and the retelling. Writing it down it is a much slower process – never mind turning it into a book – but the wish for it to spread, hand to hand, by word of mouth is similar.

Why chose self publishing?

Life is short! My first book, Murielle’s Angel, was traditionally published and it’s a long, slow process even after you have a publisher.

Are you available to speak to local book groups?

Certainly. I would be delighted to discuss the book with reading groups. Authors need readers. All the characters a writer dreams up need readers to breath life into them.

What is the most valuable help readers give authors?

Apart from reading the book and talking about it and passing it on, one of the best ways is to write reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.

Where is the new book available?

The library should order it for you, the little shop, Pieces for Places in Barmouth stock it, otherwise it’s on line from Amazon. I have copies and can be contacted via my website. https://maryjhowell.co.uk

Do you have plans to write more?

Stories come from everywhere and nowhere. I’m always dreaming of something, and I certainly hope to.

Your first book is set in Spain, Honeymoon is set in Ireland would you say setting is important in your books?

Setting is important for me, personally, so I would think yes, very important. I am currently working on a story set in Dyffryn. I’m not sure where it will lead yet. I’ll have to wait and see.

Contemplating Being

So many facts from the internet that heretofore would have passed unnoticed, now cause a ripple of consciousness, a chance to remember or learn something new, even to ponder a new concept.

Turns out that Václav Havel, writer and politician was made President of Czechoslovakia almost to the day, almost thirty years ago. Not exactly an anniversary obviously and perhaps not earth shattering to know. But wait, now there’s Google.
Although but a mere stripling at the time, I do remember the sense of excitement and wonder when he was spoken of; a writer who became a politician, because it meant a slow unpicking of the Communist stranglehold on ‘the Eastern Block’, when that seemed of paramount importance. Now of course there are other infringements of liberty to worry over.

Something he said gave pause for thought, and further pause to filter it to the ether. ‘I’m convinced that my existence – like everything that has ever happened – has ruffled the surface of Being, and that after my little ripple, however marginal, insignificant and ephemeral it may have been, Being is and always will be different from what it was before.’

If it takes insurrection, count me in.

One October half term about fifty years ago, my sister and her friend decided to climb Snowdon. I was delighted to be invited to join their adventure. We pitched a tent somewhere in a farmer’s field in Llanberis. No other campers to be seen. I don’t remember rucksacks, maybe we lugged suitcases. We definitely didn’t have waterproof or lightweight clothing. Did we even have boots? A map and compass were probably on the list of did not haves.

The point of the story is not the unpreparedness but the cold that first night under the stars, still memorable, seeping up from the ground into our bones; impossible to sleep, impossible to get comfortable, impossible to get warm. The following night, the farmer took pity and let us use an old railway carriage he had on his land. The difference was life saving, even though this was a ground frost in October, and was for one night only.

How many more must die in shop doorways before a national outcry. Shelter means shelter, never mind the other mean isms. How many spare rooms, spare outhouses, spare homes even, are there out there? How many would be willing to foster someone in need? How many would be willing to sponsor to make it happen? How to convince this government that homelessness, poverty, destitution, escalated by their policies and including tax evasion, is not acceptable? If it takes insurrection, count me in.

Just saying…

Today in 1901 Beatrix Potter printed 250 copies of her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, fed up with rejection letters from publishers.

Not sure what is worse, a letter from a publisher actually saying no thanks, or no response at all. I suppose publishers and agents are inundated with wannabe writers, and too busy to reply; theirs is big business. Small fry flounder, even ending on the rocks. Actually, anyone traditionally published can be pulped.

So I’m grateful for online publishers and Team Author UK in particular whose blend of expertise in editing, design, marketing, websites, under the expert guidance of Sue Miller, make the process infinitely more achievable. The threat of pulping doesn’t even apply; virtual books are preserved in the ether.

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