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.

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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.

A long winded way of saying thank you

The world faded to black and white, driving past Cadair Idris. A believer in portent and omen for no other reason than life is made up of so many coincidences and near misses that just maybe omens exist too, I think today just might have been the real thing.

December 12th was, as some may know, the day of the official online launch of a self published book that has been waiting in the wing folds of my life for too long. I duly prepared for the uncomfortable zone of maximum internet coverage, even scheduling posts, but in the early hours the photograph of the front cover, the beautiful moon wave by Lateefa Spiker, corrupted every time I tried to add it. By then I had adopted a Doris Day cavalier attitude to this mechanical failure: que sera, sera, and decided to sleep off the niggle of worry.

The first phone call of the day, usually a mechanical voice offering a new boiler in exchange for the old when we don’t even have a boiler, turned out to be my sister. I was forewarned. My mother was ill. In a split we decided the day could be spent no other way.

This is a long winded way of saying a big thank you to all who encouraged, tweeted and liked all those posts and that coming here to be with my sister and my mother today was the right decision.

Bringing the Camino Home

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Walking my first Camino was a liberating and a creative experience. The physical activity, the spiritual dimension, the beauty of the place and the encounters with other pilgrims’ daily, if not hourly, kindnesses all played a part. For me, as it does for many, it led to writing.
Since then I have written consistently, publishing short stories and blogging.
My first book, Murielle’s Angel, a novel based on my own experiences of walking the Camino Frances, was published four years ago.
Now a second novel, ‘Honeymoon’ is about to be published.

Ostensibly, ‘Honeymoon’has nothing at all to do with the Camino or Spain, but the creativity and learning to trust myself and the universe certainly is thanks to the Camino.

Ewan MacColl and The Manchester Rambler 


I love the way blogs lead to places. Avenues open to new ventures, new ideas,  to follow or discuss.  Or is that life?

The Peak and Northern Footpaths Society’s walk in May in commemoration of the opening of the Snake Path  and subsequent Mass Trespass, led not just to the Snake Pass and a well deserved half in the Snake Inn, but to music and poetry too.

The Manchester  Rambler, Ewan MacColl’s folk standard sung by folk heros across the land stems from the 1932 Mass Trespass that Ewan MacColl took part in. The story is in the song.

The  bastardised version we sang in pubs in our misspent student days, only ever joining in the chorus and getting it wrong to boot belied the serious undertow. We knew more of whiteslaves than wageslaves and we knew precious little of those either. Perhaps in this era of austerity and the misery of zero hours contracts it is time for a re release.

The Manchester Rambler

Ewan MacColl

Lyrics

I’ve been over Snowdon, I’ve slept upon Crowdon

I’ve camped by the Waynestones as well

I’ve sunbathed on Kinder, been burned to a cinder

And many more things I can tell

My rucksack has oft been me pillow

The heather has oft been me bed

And sooner than part from the mountains

I think I would rather be dead

Ch: I’m a rambler, I’m a rambler from Manchester way

I get all me pleasure the hard moorland way

I may be a wageslave on Monday

But I am a free man on Sunday

The day was just ending and I was descending

Down Grinesbrook just by Upper Tor

When a voice cried “Hey you” in the way keepers do

He’d the worst face that ever I saw

The things that he said were unpleasant

In the teeth of his fury I said

“Sooner than part from the mountains

I think I would rather be dead”

He called me a louse and said “Think of the grouse”

Well i thought, but I still couldn’t see

Why all Kinder Scout and the moors roundabout

Couldn’t take both the poor grouse and me

He said “All this land is my master’s”

At that I stood shaking my head

No man has the right to own mountains

Any more than the deep ocean bed

I once loved a maid, a spot welder by trade

She was fair as the Rowan in bloom

And the bloom of her eye watched the blue Moreland sky

I wooed her from April to June

On the day that we should have been married

I went for a ramble instead

For sooner than part from the mountains

I think I would rather be dead

So I’ll walk where I will over mountain and hill

And I’ll lie where the bracken is deep

I belong to the mountains, the clear running fountains

Where the grey rocks lie ragged and steep

I’ve seen the white hare in the gullys

And the curlew fly high overhead

And sooner than part from the mountains

I think I would rather be dead.

Songwriters: Ewan Maccoll

The Manchester Rambler lyrics © The Bicycle Music Company

Truth better than Fiction. A postscript.


The poet Dave Toft has sent me a correct version of the events following the 1932 Mass Trespass. Good to have the facts straight. I take the liberty of posting it here (with permission).

“There was no physical battle – just one scuffle. The gamekeepers were overwhelmingly outnumbered. One was injured in the single scuffle – he tried to hit someone with his stick and they took it off him and hit him with it.

The five who were sent to prison served up to 6 months hard labour. There was a public outcry but they weren’t freed because of it, they served their time

4 of the 5 were blacklisted and lost their jobs. The 5th was expelled from Manchester University and instead took up a place in Cambridge

The oldest of the trespassers was 21. The leader was 20. Jimmy Miller, better known as Ewan MacColl the famous folk singer, was 19, but not arrested. They would have all been working in the mills since being 14.

At least 2 were killed in the Spanish Civil War.

They were almost all in the Communist Party, which was not unusual amongst progressive young left radicals in that period,who wanted a fairer society and who opposed the rise of fascism. The repressive nature of Stalin’s rule was not known at that point.”