Friday 11 January 2013
Author Interview: Debbie Martin
Almost a child of the sixties, I’ve had quite a varied – and sometimes disconcerting - life until now, but it has always been interesting!
I’m widowed and have two teenage daughters who I’ve brought up largely on my own. Sadly my husband died from cancer some while ago. My daughters are amazing – the eldest, at now 18 has just gone to Oxford University and the younger is 14, and a budding dancer. I am extremely proud of their maturity and strength of character.
Being on my own led me into trying to work out the best way of living a happy life as a singleton. About two years ago I took over a singles social business because, having tried internet dating, I had come to the conclusion that it was the worst possible way to try to meet someone, whereas the no-pressure sociable way the business I took over approached it promoted self-esteem and a good social life; win- win, it seemed. It is called Singles that Mingle and is still running – although ironically, with its own dating site now too because the members wanted one! It was because of this that I wrote the two other books I’ve already had published:
Are You The One? – a humorous look at internet dating.
The Strategy – ways of meeting people appropriate to you in terms of dating and sociability.
After that I got the writing bug big time, and not only was my current book, Chained Melody written but two more just waiting in the wings for all the buzz about it to settle before I publish them too!
I now also work for the University of Winchester as an event organiser for their business networking group, Wired Wessex, so I’m using my contacts and knowledge of business needs to identify speakers and workshop leaders to meet their business community needs too, which is fascinating.
Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
I plan the plot and overall structure and it varies whether I follow it to the letter or the characters take over. With Chained Melody the ending hanged several times and so did the last third.
Do your characters ever want to take over the story?
Quite often – well, after all l it is their story. Although you can know how you’d like the story to flow, sometimes the way the characters develop means the original plot line no longer works
What is your favourite food?
Oh dear – all the worst kinds: biscuits with coffee to keep me going when I’m writing, and peanut butter on toast. When I’m being a bit more sociable, it’s French, Italian and Indian cuisine –although being British, I do like a good Sunday roast too…
I’m more of a night owl but unfortunately I’m also one of those people who burn the candle at both ends so I quite often end up having to be a morning person too, whether I like it or not. That’s when the day has to start with coffee!
Where do you dream of travelling to and why?
I would love to travel to Peru – to see the Inca cities, Egypt to see the pyramids, The Galapagos isles to see the turtles and India for the tigers. They’re all exotic and exciting places for me – I like adventures.
Do distant places feature in your books?
Funnily enough, not so far, but the next book I’m writing it may all be very different as I’m telling the story of a ‘Private Dancer’.
Do you listen to music while writing?
No – I find I have to write in silence – I’m far too easily distracted. I once tried a ‘jelly’ – where people who usually work from home all get together in a café and work together for the day. It was a great day, but I didn’t do any work.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?
Why did I write Chained Melody, as I’m not gay, transvestite or transsexual? Because after discussing with my older daughter how Twelfth Night was one of the earliest plots to include gender confusion as an issue, I realised that it was a very serious and distressing issue, yet one that barely gets any really empathetic airtime. Much of the LGBT type fiction is blatantly erotica and I wanted to write an account that led non-transgender people to understand it as a serious issue, not a tacky joke. ‘Trannies’ are usually figures of fun, not sympathy. I hate prejudice and closed-mindedness,so I set out to write something that spanned a wide range of difficult situations including transsexualism, and get the reader rooting for the two main characters, who experienced these dilemmas, despite the fact that one was transsexual and they would therefore not normally be regarded as the hero(ine).
What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?
It can be hard work and often demoralising unless you have faith in yourself and stay determined to achieve whatever it is you’ve set as your goal.Getting published is a continual issue for all writers. I lost all faith in the traditional system after meeting a range of publishers and agents at a literary conference last year via the university I now work for, and realising how blasé and dismissive they were of debut writers in their search for the next ‘Fifty shades of…’ money spinner. Literature should be about great writing not great piles of cash (even though we’d like some of it …)
My best moment as a writer has to be the time I held the first printed book in my hand and thought – ‘this is mine!’ There is a family photo of me with a grin bigger than the Cheshire Cats holding it up. Classic! Don’t wait for someone to offer you the miracle book deal with the big advance – it’s unlikely to happen – make your own opportunities and fly with them.
Is there anything you would do differently?
Who, or what, if anything has influenced your writing?
There are many books that have had a lasting effect on me. Enid Blyton’s Famous Fives were probably the first major influence in getting me hooked on reading the next and the next and the next as quickly as possible. Shakespeare was a revelation when I started reading and understanding the skill of the writer in my teens. At university, I was struck by the drama and spectacle of the Jacobean tragedians but also knocked sideways by the punchiness of controversial writing like Selby’s ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’, yet I also love the epic other- worldliness of Tolkien. I would say overall that there are so many influences it would be difficult to lay the blame for my writing now on any specific one of them!
In terms of experience, probably being widowed, coping on my own with a youngish family and running my own business have made me admire people who deal with adversity and difficult issues. I’m a bit of a no-nonsense, speak your mind person – which occasionally gets me into trouble. It may also be why I like to tackle challenges when I’m writing.
Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?
• Try to find some time every week to write something. You can draw on what you think as even disconnected ideas at a later stage
• Always have something to record ideas wherever you are. It may not be possible to write every day, but the longer you don’t write the more the frustration builds and when it’s built up enough I always find that’s when the great ideas spill out – usually when I’m driving! Make sure you have some way of recording them wherever you are – notebook, dictaphone, phone even.
• Have goals - even if they are small ones, so you feel you have achieved something.
• Have a long term plan – if you want to publish, have that as your plan.
• Join a writers group – they will encourage you and give you ideas, and you will do the same for your fellow members.
• Read, read, read.
• Go to some classes if you aren’t sure on technique, style, content. One of the best inspirations I had was a course at Bournemouth University (my ‘local’) – the course teacher is now a personal friend and I learned so much from it, and the other people on it, it was invaluable.
• Learn how to edit and ‘kill your darlings’ if you have to.
• Find and take advice when it’s needed. We can’t all do everything perfectly – yo may need someone else to edit, proof-read, critique …
• Read aloud – it really pinpoints problem areas.
• Be bold. No-one got anywhere without a little self-belief.
What are three words that describe you?
Driven, quirky, fun.
What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer?
Maybe not my favourite writer overall, but definitely one I admire enormously: P D James. I heard her speak at a writers group meeting I had the privilege to go to last year and at over 90, she is still sharp, charming, interesting, relevant and a brilliant speaker as well as writer. Please may I be as quick-witted and skilled in my nineties!
Blurb of your latest release or coming soon book
'Chained Melody is a tale of two men’s journey from boyhood to maturity. They are best friends as children but are completely different in personality. Their lives go in extraordinarily different directions as one embraces his masculinity and the other realises his feminine side by changing his gender. Their worlds collide at a time of great personal discovery, and their feelings towards one another change dramatically too. Eventually their relationship evolves into something special and incredible against the backdrop of prejudice and their own confusing emotions but not before they’ve each had to challenge their beliefs and find their own version of inner courage.
I describe it as ‘possibly the most unusual love story you’ll read in 2013’.
List of previous books:
Are You The One? - A Humorous tale of internet dating. Paperback at amazon Kindle at amazon
The Strategy – single and don’t want to be? - availabe on amazon kindle
Chained Melody is available at amazon in paperback (18th Jan) and kindle (out now)
Any places readers can find you on the web:
Linked In: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/debbie-martin/21/27b/3b4?trk=shareTw
Fancy winning a signed copy of Debbie's book, Chained Melody? She has a contest on her facebook page running until Feb 1st.
And if you're in Bournemouth (UK) on Jan 19th, Debbie is having a book signing for Chained Melody at the Flirt Cafe Bar from 2 p.m. onwards. Pop in if you're there!
Thank you, Debbie and good luck with your books!
Books and Tales will be closing in January 2018.