It’s great to have you visit Café Cala. I’m excited to see Distance in hard copy. I still haven’t got the hang of e books – on my list! This morning I’ve been making some Welsh cakes in your honour. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?
Thank you so much for having me and also, for making Welsh Cakes. My absolute favourite! A cup of tea (perhaps with a dab of honey!) would be great.
1 Where did you get the idea for Distance?
In 2002, my husband and I packed up our three children and emigrated to Queensland, from Pembrokeshire, West Wales. Our own journey was thankfully very smooth and most people were super-lovely and supportive. My Mum was quite shocked by the news of course and didn’t feel that she wanted to make the move across the world with us. She visited though. Four times – and absolutely loved it here! Sadly, she passed away in 2012.
Whilst our own experiences of emigrating were positive, I started to wonder what would have happened if Mum had been completely devastated by the whole idea. What if she had asked me to stay in Wales? My husband and I were uber-excited about the move – but what if I’d been so eaten up with guilt at leaving Mum behind that I’d been forced to make a choice between dreams and duty? That’s when I had the idea for ‘Distance.’ I was so happy to have the chance to talk about the story with Mum before she died and the last couple of times I visited her in the UK, I read big chunks of the manuscript out loud to her. She had always wanted to write a book herself and gave me all the encouragement in the world.
Anyone who’s moved away from family and friends – even if it’s just to another state or town – will know that it can be so hard to leave loved ones behind. I felt sure that there would be other migrants in the world, who might relate to the struggles I’ve given my fictional family.
Know the feeling – I moved to Australia from Scotland in 1970 as a single.
2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?
One of the loveliest things, is when a reader tells me that they have been affected by the story. It blows me away, to know that somebody reading Distance has been moved to tears, or angered by a character’s behaviour, or has found something funny, or tragic or heart-warming. I believe it’s vital for an author to create emotion. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a book (or film, come to that) and feeling completely flat. It’s wonderful when I hear that a reader has empathy with a character, or is caught up in the story, or can see themselves in a particular situation. Those are some of the most rewarding – and unexpected things I’ve discovered about writing.
3 How did you start writing?
Writing was always there, but you know how it is. Life is busy. Then one day I turned around and realised that I had the space and time and opportunity to actually get that book written. We moved to Melbourne for twelve months with my husband’s job and that’s when I really got to grips with the manuscript. We lived in a small apartment in the city, so every day I would head to my favourite Italian cafe down the road and write longhand over a flat white. And every afternoon, I’d type up what I’d written in the morning and then my husband would read it aloud to me before dinner. We ended up in a lovely little routine and writing every day became a habit.
4 What would you say has helped you most?
Without doubt, my amazing family. My husband and children have been there every step of the way, cheering me on and giving me hugely valuable feedback as I’ve worked through the story. They’ve phoned and texted and e-mailed and hugged and popped champagne corks and made me smile and put up with my whinges when it’s not going well….I know I’m biased, but they are absolutely wonderful! Also, I’m so fortunate to belong to a really lovely writer’s group. We all read 2000 words of one another’s work each month and our meetings are full of honest critiques delivered with love! More often than not, our meetings spill over into coffee and cake too – and the discussions continue!
5 What are you working on at the moment?
Well, I completed the manuscript for the Distance sequel just before Christmas. This story is called ‘Further’ and I’m now in the throes of plotting out the storyline for book three.
6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?
Write every day. Every single day. It doesn’t matter what it is – even a shopping list will do at a stretch…but keep flexing that creative muscle! There’s a saying (and I can’t remember who said it first, but it’s a good one) ‘You can’t edit a blank page,’ so just get something down on paper and worry about fixing it up later. Oh – and never ever ‘should’ yourself. Don’t do the ‘I should be writing this or that’ thing because you won’t do it like that. Write a story that you are passionate about.
7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?
I love discovering new Australian authors. We are so lucky in this country to have such a fantastic array of brilliant writers. Christina Gordan, Rebecca Raisin, Winfreda Donald and Jenn McLeod are all wonderful authors whose work I am currently reading.
Isobel Richardson can cope with most things; her husband’s redundancy, a shortage of money, three spirited kids and a demanding old house on the West Wales coast. She sees the loss of Leo’s job as a chance for new beginnings and her drive and determination propel the family towards a sparkling new life in Australia.
However, Isobel’s mother Helen is devastated. Cold and unsupportive, she refuses to join in the family adventure and throws the guilt card firmly down on the table. Isobel is horribly torn between duty and dreams, but Australia’s promise of opportunity finally proves irresistible.
When the family lands in Oz though, her unbearable guilt at leaving a broken Helen behind is compounded by the pain of missing absent son Ben – and all the while Mother Nature is hatching some plans of her own. Isobel is reduced to a tearful mess pushing Leo away, snapping at the children, overwhelmed, scared and irrational. Worn down and confused, she inches closer and closer to running back to her mother and the life she knew in Wales. Has the great Australian dream really eluded her after all?
One of the saddest things in the world must be to get to the end of your life and wish you’d done things differently. ‘I wish I’d got married; I wish I’d never got married; I wish I’d got married to somebody else; I wish I’d taken this course, or tried that job, built a career, had children (or not); I wish I’d been kinder, thinner, richer; less selfish, more generous.’ Imagine lying on your deathbed and thinking ‘damn! I didn’t do it after all.’ Isobel thought she’d rather die now than face that.
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