Having taken the decision to eschew Facebook (WHAT KEPT YOU? you might well ask) and turn again to WordPress and a neglected blog. Among a legion of drafts, many more than published posts, I click on this title: The Joy. The page is totally blank and I wonder what I could have been contemplating so many weeks, months ago and decide to appropriate the title, today of all days, in my stand against the pernicious Facebook on whom I have relied, turned to for publicity since publication of a first book seven years ago. If it has done any good, or served a useful purpose is impossible to tell. The joy I feel at renouncing its middle of the night scrolls in search of sleep I hope will not be short lived. And then a cold voice of reason prods me. What about friends? What about WhatsApp, to which in these Covid times especially, I am slavishly devoted? Facilitated by Facebook: I make allowances for my faiblesse.
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.
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.
I have the artist’s permission to feature one of her pictures for the front cover of Honeymoon, my new, soon to be published novel, a mystery and a love story.
The embroidered silver moon, unravelling piece by piece is a captivating image and so apt for the story of a honeymoon disintegrating under the weight of harsh facts.
Revelations of a murky past threaten to ruin the fledgling marriage when Rosie and Fergal Pierce are on honeymoon on the west coast of Ireland
A raft of characters, living and dead, persuade Rosie to give Fergal a second chance.
I almost didn’t read this book. The title was off putting. It sounded to my prim ears a tad self inflicted, self indulgent.
But what did I know. it is a quote from a Welsh poet Waldo Williams and not as I thought a life style choice… The trials of being homosexual. It is about forgiveness and the lengths needed in order to forgive injustice. Rather than chose bitterness one must do what it takes even crawl through thorns.An image of the First World War comes to mind. Crawling through barbed wire.
I understand the title of this book now and my prejudice and misunderstanding
It was uncomfortable reading too, at first, for a convent girl with a conventional, sheltered upbringing.
Set in Barmouth, a town I have visited most of my life and now live close enough to visit daily should I chose. The experiences of a boy, pretty much the same age, growing up with the realisation of difference was uncomfortable reading.
Growing up a homosexual, with the guilt that engendered with trysts and casual sex hard to reconcile with a ‘normal’ childhood. Perhaps there is a gender difference, too. Sex simply wasn’t on the agenda in the all female household I grew up in.
Memory can be a false friend, but despite being labelled as from a broken home we did well enough. What constitutes an idyllic childhood anyway? Day trips to Barmouth lying on the beach with my sisters in thick jumpers breaking our teeth on sticks of rock from the rock shop. My mother was preparing us for the first of several road trips to the south of France and so the four or five hours drive to and from Wolverhampton, were about right.
I stuck with the book and glad I did. Mostly an absorbing read with some very moving and lovely writing, it is a coming of age story, the life of John Idris Jones, who happens to have been born a homosexual. Coming to terms with what that means in his community and the wider community makes a compelling read, as he and the wider world find acceptance, including aversion therapy by electric shock treatment as a cure and the dawn of AIDS and that devastation, written from the perspective of a gay man in San Francisco.
There are powerful recommendations to live by to take from the book:
‘kindnesses are for passing on’, or if of religious bent, ‘God finds us where we are, and ‘The journey is home’, which I take to mean the journey of life is your life, not a stepping stone.
The eulogy for his dead friend is testament to both hero and friend.
Of how many people can it be said we are better people for having known them?
It shows a closeness born of true friendship that not everyone is capable of.
As a list of chores I have done cleaning, cooking, gardening, and tending the Boxer.
An impressive list.
In reality, only the cleaning was impressive. All the rest was a swift and timed half hour or so of wilful neglect.
The cooking merely reheating, the gardening an intense leaf sweep and dig of roots from a very overgrown patch. The sum of the short bursts of digging will I hope add up to a cleared patch large enough to do something with.
As for tending to the Boxer, after a brief sit in our garden in her wheelchair having been lured with the offer of sunshine and our Sunday paper, when in fact the sun had already gone from the front – lately her only access to the garden unless we have it paved all round – to be abandoned while I did the cooking, gardening ( I had already done the cleaning)
Returned to her own snug little home just in time for her carer to actually do the tending….so I could escape home and do the only thing I wanted to do, but had put off all day.
That is to click my fingers over the key board.
Not a blog post to speak of.
Soon the visitors will come streaming, a chilly season to camp by the sea.
No wind rages, no rain falls, in spite of the forecast, so time in the garden is the order of the morning after all.To work on the latest patch to be laid to lawn , to have seed scattered and checked daily for signs of sprouting. Thus far, this year’s scattering is stubbornly dormant. No sign. Perhaps sewn too early or last year’s seed, or stoney ground.
Writing daily is a joy, a ritual like yoga that clears the mind. Random thoughts, mere wisps, float like motes. By writing, the motes are somehow fixed. It slows their gentle descent to oblivion. Perhaps that is why writing is an essential. Ironic that the motes are fixed on something as ephemeral and virtual as a blog and an iPad.
Mortality is very much in focus, not just the funeral of the late Richard 3, a process almost fabulous even including the relationship of Benedict Cumberbatch. I anticipated dying aged sixty. ‘Will you have achieved all you want by then?’ A friend, well past his 60th, asked when I voiced this.
I hadn’t thought in philosophical terms, or in any depth at all.
The Boxer, sometime feature of the blog, is coming up to 94 and this winter survived pneumonia with accompanying dip in kidney function. She was, as medical parlance has it, ‘off her legs,’ for a while. In fact she was off everything. Surprising what takes a dip, mobility, digestion, cognition. The return to health is wonderful to see. She will never be fully on her feet of course, as she counts her laboured steps to the bathroom with the aid of her trusted Zimmer. ‘Only 59,’ She announces as if amazed by her achievement. (Hers is a tiny bungalow, the bathroom at most six strides from her chair in the living room.) Sadly, too she is delightfully vague, unable to account for hours of her day, unable truly to focus her once fearful intellect but intermittently her old self and still loving life.
I’m uncertain what it says of character, this will to achieve, to survive even at 94, or what my assumption that life for me will peter out soon, but would agree it needs contemplating.
As for writing, that too may peter out, but perhaps will be enjoyed whilst it is and I am still here.
I accepted the Goodreads challenge to estimate the number of books I would read this year. I gave the conservative estimate of twelve, I am in the slow readers, but I’m glad to see I’m half way there and it’s still (just) February.
There is no system to the reading, just what takes my fancy: any book that is currently being reviewed, or has a colourful cover well displayed in a charity shop window and catches my eye, or is on the shelves at home that I’d forgotten but always meant to read and not got round to. Whatever.
The reading is usually a delight and provides some new insight or, uncannily, mirrors my current thoughts, or more uncannily still, mirrors my current writing project but expresses it rather better.