Monday, 18 June 2018

Books For Older Readers: Newsletter Two

Because we never stop reading.........

Welcome to our June 2018 BFOR Newsletter. In this issue we are delighted to have four guest posts from authors featured on our website. Called People and Places, these pieces tell what has inspired some of the settings and characters in our novels. But first, here is a quick 'catch-up' on our recent news. 

The BFOR website has added a new page, called 'Something Different'. This is where we hope to add occasional non fiction books which might appeal to our readers. It's early days, but please drop in and glance at the first few titles in this category.

We also have a new strapline "Because we never stop reading......" We hope you agree that this helps to divert the focus away from 'age' and towards 'content'.

Enthusiasm about the site's aim to promote books which tend to appeal to readers in mid-life and beyond has continued to grow and flourish. We are, as ever, grateful to everyone who shares our books and relevant articles on social media, especially since many (though not all) of our great authors are independently published, so do not have access to the marketing resources of a traditional publishing house. Books For Older Readers was recently featured in a terrific 30 minute audio interview with The Alliance of Independent Authors. Follow this is the link to hear site founder Claire Baldry and prolific 'older protaganist' author Maggie Christensen  talk about their books.
Lots of our authors are involved in book launches and signings, festivals and similar events. You will find a list of some of these dates at the end of this newsletter. In particular, we will have our very own stall at the Hastings Litfest on 1st September. Keep an eye on our facebook group for further details.

People and Places
As we rapidly approach the holiday season, where better to start our People and Places feature than Thirty-five Minutes from St Tropez with author Jane Dunning?


"As soon as I knew that the main setting for my first novel was going to be a vineyard in Provence, it was obvious that my principle characters would have to be comfortably off and in their late fifties, with grown-up children and grandchildren. I was in the middle of a four month stay in the Var, house-sitting on a vineyard, thirty-five minutes from St Tropez, which became the title of my first novel.  We had taken a wrong turning on the way to the chestnut capital of the Var, Collobrières, when the tarmac road became a deeply rutted track with a steep drop to one side. A scary six-point turn later, the idea came to me and the book was published a few years later. 
It seemed natural for my main character, Richard, to have a brother who turned out to be a wealthy former superyacht broker living with his American wife in a valuable apartment in Monaco. I’ve been to Monaco a few times so it was fairly easy to imagine what their life might be like as wealth is so evident in the Principality. Richard’s wife, Helen, has a younger sister who moved to Juan-les-Pins with her husband but he had sadly died, meaning she was trying to make a life on her own. I based this character on a mix of one of my friends and someone I knew of who lived on the Côte d'Azur. I found her character interesting as she grieves, and deals with loneliness before life starts to turn around for her. Having characters living in three different places on the French Riviera, allowed me to focus on setting as well as on them.

 I particularly loved writing about Richard and Helen’s twin grandchildren and their blossoming romances. Danielle is studying at university in Aix-en-Provence and undertakes her business placement at the Belle Époque Hôtel Hermitage in Monte Carlo, while staying with her uncle and aunt. I have stayed at this particular de luxe hotel and it features in both books, especially in Stolen Summer. Her twin works on various superyachts in the Mediterranean and, in Stolen Summer, has been promoted to bosun on an Italian boat which explores the Ligurian coast of Italy, visiting places I have stayed in over the years. 
The twins’ mother is a very difficult character. Around forty, she has quite a hard edge and a distinct lack of empathy even for those close to her. In Stolen Summer, she is very unhappy that her father has agreed that her brother, his French wife and three young children can move to the vineyard to run their rental property while his parents take it slightly easier and concentrate on promoting the vineyard. 
The villain in Stolen Summer is an Algerian grape picker, down on his luck, who causes trouble at the vineyard throughout the story. When we were house-sitting, the police visited to speak to the owner to find out about an actual grape picker who they were trying to trace. We didn’t know anything about this, but after hearing about him from the real vineyard owner, it gave me the idea to develop his role. 
When I wrote Thirty-five Minutes from St Tropez, I felt that everything had to be realistic but when writing Stolen Summer, I was quite happy to let my imagination run away with me. I am planning on making it a trilogy and will start writing later this year when I hope to include a Second World War thread."

Jane was born in Guernsey but grew up in Bournemouth. After a career in finance and latterly at Bournemouth University, she retired in 2007 and now spends several months a year exploring France and Italy.
Visit Jane's Facebook page

Next we take a tour of selected areas of Britain with writer Paula Harmon. You can find Paula's novel The Cluttering Discombobulator featured on our website.

"I try to bring a sense of place into everything I write, whether it’s a train carriage or a cliff top, or somewhere completely imaginary. I’ve been making up people or creatures ever since I can remember so if I haven’t anyone real to base a character on (friend, relation, colleague, stranger), I’ll imagine ‘who used to be here?’Who might have been here? and go from there.  All the same there are places and people who have been heavily influential. 
Dorset and Gloucestershire 
I lived in Gloucestershire for many years before moving to Dorset in 2005. In my short story collection ‘Kindling’, the story ‘Goth Girl’ is inspired by a real half-timbered house in Gloucestershire which I used to pass in the bus. All sorts of odd things had been found when it was renovated and yet it appeared so olde-worlde, cosy and peaceful in the sun. Who lived there once? Why did she hide the things she did? 
Roads take on a personality of their own when you travel a lot. The A35 from Dorchester to Exeter, for example is beautiful, soaring and diving with the contours of the Jurassic coast. Fogs envelop and then disperse, revealing pretty villages or past mysterious groves. In the fog, I feel I could be  somehow travelling alongside Ancient Britons or Romans. ‘Bauble’ in ‘The Advent Calendar’ and ‘Night Navigating’ and ‘Threshold’ in ‘Weird and Peculiar Tales’ are inspired by this journey. 

South Wales 

"When I was eight, my family moved from Berkshire to West Glamorgan. Dad was quite unique and hugely influential in shaping my thoughts and ideas as a child. I was deeply unhappy when we moved as I’d had to leave friends and grandparents behind, but at home there was love and there were books. Lots and lots of books. It wasn’t until my late forties, after Dad died, that I started to take writing seriously. I began to recall my childhood in South Wales, playing in the woods and river, dangling my feet in the waterfall. Dad would take us on fossil or jasper hunts along the Gower coast, bringing ruined castles, caves and woodlands alive.While our Welsh village (and sometimes Dad) gets into several short stories in ‘Kindling’ and one in ‘The Advent Calendar’, it is in ‘The Cluttering Discombobulator’ that I wrote not only about that first year after we moved to Wales, but about Dad in his thirties with all his wild ideas as well as Dad as a pensioner, complaining that I - forty plus - had grown far too sensible for his liking. 
Nowadays, I travel to London at least twice a week and much of my writing is done on trains. I love London. Its history and vibrancy fascinate me, though I’m so glad to go back to Dorset in the evening. I often walk from Waterloo to the office rather than take the tube, and imagine what it was like through the ages, from Roman times through war and fire to nowadays. When Liz Hedgecock, asked if I’d like to collaborate in writing a novel, both of us felt that Victorian London was the place to set it. Our main characters are young women, brought together when one receives a mysterious letter which catapults them into danger. One of the characters has an Aunt and a lodger living in her house, maiden ladies in their forties. Katherine thinks them impossibly old to begin with, but in fact they are not as stuffy as she thinks. I drew on memories of my maiden aunts who were all very determined, intelligent women with strong senses of humour and far from over the hill. I recall my favourite great aunt sitting down with punks in 1978 to ask them how they did their hair, pleased to report afterwards how pleasant and polite they were despite appearances. 
‘The Case of the Black Tulips’ is first in a series and as the adventures continue, one of the maiden ladies at least, will show her mettle and become an indispensable ally."

Paula Harmon, author of ‘The Cluttering Discombobulator’, ’Kindling’ and ‘The Advent Calendar’, co-author of ‘The Case of The Black Tulips’ and ‘Weird and Peculiar Tales’ is a Chichester University graduate who has lived in Blandford Forum since 2005. She is a civil servant, married with two children. 

And now we head to North Carolina in the USA to meet author Beatrice Fishback. Although originally from New York, Beatrice lived in the East Anglian area of Great Britain for over twenty years and has travelled extensively in the UK and throughout Europe Her Novel Dying to Eat at the Pub is based  in an English village.  

"It starts with an idea ..... It started with a sentence, spiraled into a paragraph and morphed into an article. That’s how writing in my fifties grew into a craft I have grown to love in my sixties. 
Writing begins with one word, one idea. 
How did “Dying to Eat at the Pub” come into being? Believe it or not, the idea spawned from my husband’s grimy gardening shirt. Here was a man who had been in the military for over twenty-years, had worn spit-shined shoes, creased trousers and was always clean-shaven. 
In his semi-retirement years, it seemed as if all those things went to the wind. He became quite comfortable in his grubby clothes, unshaven chin and a growing interest in gardening. Not that there’s anything wrong with gardening, but tools were scattered here and there, hats and gloves left hither and yon, and a leisurely approach to life was a transition I wasn’t prepared for. One of his favorite gardening attire was a green, corduroy shirt and tattered jeans. Day after day he would don these coveralls and head outside into our small garden plot. We lived in a converted pub in a small village in Suffolk and the setting was ideal. 
On a particularly early morning, we were sitting at the kitchen table having our usual breakfast fare. It was when I looked at this stubble-faced man, green shirt with rips and buttons missing, that the thought occurred to me how perfect this new lifestyle was the ideal backdrop to a cozy mystery. 
My encouragement to anyone wishing to write is to keep your eyes and ears opened to what is happening in and around you. They say the best stories are told about a subject the author knows the most about. And what could we know more than our very lives. A memoir doesn’t have to be non-fiction. It can be written as a fictional piece, with humor thrown in, and tidbits of everyday life. 

If I can pen an idea that started with my husband’s gardening shirt, you can write about anything your heart desires."

Finally, we discover why the River Thames provided such an inspirational setting for Julia Thum (known as Ginger Black)'s novel Riverside Lane.

"The River Thames has been an artery of artistic inspiration for centuries and setting Riverside Lane in a fictional village on its banks gave me an excuse to enjoy and research the mercurial muse that has inspired musicians, writers and artists since before the Magna Carta. 
“Serene yet strong, majestic yet sedate, Swift without violence, without terror great.”  (Matthew Prior)
The stretch of water from Bray to Marlow is littered with literary landmarks and a walk along their towpaths takes you tip-toeing in the ghostly footsteps of many artistic geniuses.
For they were young and the Thames was old,  And this is the tale that the River told”  (Rudyard Kipling) Marlow’s literary tales date back to Thomas Love Peacock writing his Gothic satire Nightmare Abby and Percy and Mary Shelley composing The Revolt of Islam and Frankenstein from their home in West Street.  Seventy years later Jerome K Jerome wrote part of his comic novel Three Men in a Boat at the local pub.  T.S Elliot expressed his resentment at the entrapment of marriage in ”Ode on Independence Day, July 4th 1918", from a house in Marlow’s West Street. 
“The river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.” (Kenneth Grahame) 
The watery wanderings of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows characters were dreamed up within earshot of the river.  The Wild Wood is an image of Quarry Wood outside Bourne End and in the village is the Edwardian boathouse, the model for Mr Toad’s boathouse, then Enid Blyton’s beautiful riverside garden. Three locks downstream Rebecca West set her novel Return of the Soldier on Monkey Island, where  she conducted much of her affair with HG Wells. This historic Thames hideaway is now converted to a luxury hotel. 
“You can’t walk by the river at Cliveden Reach and not believe in God” (Stanley Spencer)
 A common sight along the banks of the most painted river in the world is an artist and easel. Stanley  Spencer, who produced some of the Thames’ most legendary paintings, lived in Cookham where there is now a gallery in his honour.  JMW Turner depicted Maidenhead’s Sounding Arch in ‘Rain, Speed & Steam’ and Edward Gregory famously painted Boulter’s Lock.  Shortly afterwards Henry H Parker depicted a more peaceful scene in his painting “The Silent Waters of the Thames”. 
“Sweet Thames, run softly, ‘till I end my song.” (Edmund Spenser & T S Eliot)
 Edward Elgar is said to have composed his Violin Concerto from The Hut on Monkey Island around the time Australian opera star Dame Nellie Melba was practicing her arias in Cookham’s Quarry Wood. Nearly a century later the river’s creative pulse still beat fast when Kate Bush sang of  “that old river poet that never, ever ends”. Perhaps now, if you listen quietly, the ghosts of this magical river may sing you a song.  Or stand silently with the herons and the fishermen and as it meanders with quiet purpose through serpentine curves, The Thames might tell you a tale. The river provided us with the narrative spine to Riverside Lane, giving life blood to our plot and flowing through every character and chapter.  I am told the name ‘Old Father Thames’ stems from the river having so many tributaries, but I prefer think it is because of the boundless works of art, music, fiction and poetry it has sired on its tireless journey to the sea."

With grateful thanks to Jane Dunning, Paula Harmon, Beatrice Fishback and Julia Thum for their contributions to this newsletter. 

Dates for your Diary
25th May 2018
 Ebook Publication Date for 'Weird and Peculiar Tales by Val Portelli and Paula Harmon 
19th June 2018 Ebook Publication Date 19th for  The Case of the Black Tulips by Paula Harmon & Liz Hedgecock.      
22nd July 'On The Rocks' Hastings 7.30pm ENTRY FREE
Claire Baldry will perform excerpts from her forthcoming poetry book 'Simply Modern Life'
8th August  Helly's Festival, Helston 12pm ENTRY £5
A chance to hear popular author Jane Cable talk about 'A sense of Place in Fiction'
1st Sept Hastings Litfest
Books for Older Readers stall from 10.00 am til 4pm.....come and say hello!

The Ri

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