Set in 1917 Trinidad, twelve year old Latchmin is debilitated by typhoid fever and close to death. Miraculously, she begins to recover, but is horrified that a marriage has been arranged for her by her Indian parents who are trapped in this culture, Latchmin's future seems bleak. But she is prepared to fight to end the cruelty of arranged marriages and replace it with education, as well as help her friend who is forced into prostitution.
My life has always been varied and interesting, which means that I have lots to write about. Here are some of those things. Teaching in Trinidad. Nursing in the UK. MD of a lingerie design and manufacturing company, Leamington Spa. Lecturing in Business and Marketing, Warwickshire and W.Midlands. But a most important learning period of my life was bringing up my own three children, and two step children. Writing fiction is fun, fun, fun, not such fun, fun again.
The Last Year of Childhood is the first of a trilogy, all set between 1917 and 1960. The second book begins in 1933 with the first hurricane on record, the beginning of the oil industry in Trinidad, the effects of WW2 and the oil that it exported to help keep Britain in fuel in wartime, and the how they coped with life as changes took place, and the effect of Britain leasing the island to America for the military.
This week I have the pleasure of interviewing author, Alison May. She has just this week published her first novel with the publisher Choc Lit. Alison is also a writing tutor. Here she is to tell you all about herself, and answer the questions I put to her.
I was born and raised in North Yorkshire, but now
live in Worcester with one husband, no kids and no pets. There were goldfish
once. That ended badly.
I studied History at the University of York, and
worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a learning adviser, an advice centre
manager, and a freelance trainer, before settling on ‘making up stories’ as an
entirely acceptable grown-up career plan.
I am member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association,
and won the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy in 2012. Alison’s debut novel, Much Ado
About Sweet Nothing, is published by Choc Lit this week, and is available here: http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/sweet-nothing/
A. My first
novel, Much Ado About Sweet Nothing, is a romantic comedy, apart from
the bits that aren’t romantic and the bits that aren’t funny. It’s at least 84%
romantic comedy certainly.
find it tricky to describe what genre I write in because I write books that I
would like to read, so there are bits of romance, bits of comedy, but some of
my influences are darker and more literary so that gets chucked into the mix as
2. Have you always been a writer? If
not, how did you get interested in writing?
A. I haven’t always been a writer, but I’ve always been a
reader, so the interest in story and character is definitely a continuous
thread. I do remember setting out to write a play with one of my school friends
when I was about eight, so I could look back on that, and think ‘See - I’ve
always been a writer.’ But I also remember running races in the back garden
with my sister and I definitely haven’t always been sporty, so I probably
shouldn’t read too much into my apparent childhood interests.
3. Do you have a best time of day or
week for being productive or creative?
A. Generally morning is better than
afternoon, but realistically there is no good productive time, apart from the
24 hours immediately before an unmissable deadline. At school I was always
better in exams than at coursework, so it’s probably not ideal that I’ve picked
a career that is basically the adult equivalent of constantly having to do
I tend to give myself fake
self-imposed deadlines to force myself to write. At the moment I’ve got a party
I want to attend in four weeks time and I’m telling myself I can’t go if I
don’t finish the first draft of my current work-in-progress by then. I’ve got
about 60,000 words to get through. Wish me luck.
4. How often do you write?
A. Most days if I’m writing a first
draft. If I’m editing sometimes not looking at the manuscript for a bit is a
part of the process. I’m really lucky in that my day job is freelance and
sporadic so I do get days each week or month when I don’t have to go out to
work. If I’m working on a first draft I’d expect to write between two and four
thousand words on each of those days.
5. How do you pick your characters?
Are they from real life?
A. I’ve never intentionally based a
character on a real person, although I have no doubt that bits of and bobs feed
into my writing from real-life. I write two different sorts of books -
adaptations of Shakespeare plays, like Sweet Nothing, and entirely original
stories. For the adaptations, obviously the character starts with the character
in the play, and then I work on the things that are specific to the modern
setting, like their job and interests. Usually I once I’ve got a character’s
voice in my head the rest of the character falls into place - it’s the
characters that I can’t hear in my mind that I struggle with.
6. What are your hobbies?
A. Reading obviously - although I tend
not to read very much fiction while I’m working on a first draft. I love films,
theatre and TV as well though - really anything that’ll tell me a story is good
with me. I’ve developed a recent liking for Zumba, Bokwa and yoga, which upsets
me somewhat. As one of the world’s natural curvy girls this growing tendency to
exercise is a bit of a worry. It is an increasing necessity though as I spend
more and more time sitting on my behind writing, and less and less on my feet
at the front of classrooms.
7. Do you have any indulgences? Do
you treat yourself after a good day, or week?
A. never really been one to save indulgences until the
end of a good day or good week. Hence the curviness, perhaps. I love good food,
and quite a lot of bad food too, and wine, and vodka, and going out and
enjoying all of the above with friends.
I don’t find I need a treat after a good writing week -
the feeling of ‘having written’ (which is so much nicer than the feeling of
actually writing) is sufficient. It’s the bad writing weeks that require
8. Tell us something about your new
A. Much Ado About Sweet Nothing, which is out with Choc Lit’s
digital first Choc Lit Lite imprint, is a romantic comedy based on Much Ado
About Nothing. It has love and heartache and wedding dresses and maths, and I
am very quietly and very nervously rather proud of it.
9. As a writing tutor, what would be
your top three tips to adult writers?
A. That’s easy:
1. Write lots.
2. Read lots.
3. Edit like you didn’t write it,
and you aren’t emotionally attached to it.
If I was allowed a fourth tip, I’d
add: Submit your writing lots. And then go back to number 1 and repeat.
Thank you so much Alison! It was a pleasure interview someone with such a sense of humour. I can't wait to read your new novel.
Follow Alison on Twitter, and check out her web page and her new book.
See above for all the details.
Thank you for visiting my blog, and see you again next time.