Photo taken by Janey Stevens
Good morning Carol and welcome to OAPSchat. It is lovely to meet you.
My late mother in law was the queen of welsh cake making. I’m afraid mine are shop bought, so I hope you will have one with your cup of tea. Your website states you are a writer of stories, a feminist & a flâneuse!
'Thank you for the invitation, Jan! It’s a pleasure to be here. Yes, I’m all three of these things. Hardwired into the first two – the third is my idle pleasure. Like many writers, I’m politely nosy and hope to reassure people by calling my curiosity something posh and French!'
Please can you start by telling us about your journey from writing to publication?
I’ve been alive long enough to claim reams of writing: the good [sic] the bad and the utterly irrelevant. In faded files in dim drawers lie the tragic leavings of hope failing to triumph over mediocrity. In my late fifties, I decided to take my writing seriously and having explored the traditional route to no avail, self-published my first book in 2008. During the process I learned three things. I was capable of writing a half-decent story. No writer can hope to succeed without professional editing. I wanted to do it again. Only this time, I was going to write something far better.
In 2012, with a draft of Ghostbird completed, I submitted the first fifty pages to Honno – the Welsh Women’s Press. Janet Thomas, who was to become my editor, loved the book from the beginning, but it still took time. Eventually though, it happened – I experienced that life-changing acceptance moment and it remains a perfect and permanent tattoo on my heart. Then the hard work really began: the astonishing process of working with a truly gifted editor who taught me that like so much else in life, nothing of any worth is achieved overnight.
How do you plan your research?
My stories are painted on small canvases. They’re contained, don’t stray far and have casts of few. I do my research as it crops up.
Your novel Ghostbird sounds an intriguing and magical read. Can you give us a brief outline of the story?
Fourteen year old Cadi Hopkins lives in an isolated village in Wales with her emotionally distant mother, and her aunt who is bound by a promise she should never have made. Cadi’s father and her sister both died before she was born and no one will talk about them. When the ghost of her sister follows Cadi home from the lake where she drowned, Cadi is terrified but curious and senses it’s for a reason. As she unravels the truth, the little ghost undergoes her own transformation. Surrounded by hauntings and magic, the secrets unravel and none of the Hopkins women will be able to escape them.
I see that you live in Wales; does the landscape and mythology influence your style of writing?
Wales is a magical land. I’ve lived here for a long time and although I have Irish blood, my heart is indelibly Welsh. The landscape certainly informs that I write about and may well have a bearing on my style. The strand of myth running through Ghostbird comes from The Mabinogion – an ancient Welsh prose legend – and concerns Blodeuwedd, a woman created from flowers for political ends. Once she had fulfilled her purpose she was cursed and turned into an owl. From the moment I read the book this aspect of the myth puzzled me. Why would it be a curse to be turned into a bird? Blodeuwedd could surely escape her fate by flying away. The seed of Ghostbird was set and throughout the years, lurked in the back of my mind until I was ready to reclaim it and write the story.
Did you have a happy childhood?
Yes, thank you!
What was your favourite subject at school?
I despised school almost as much as it did me. That said I did find common cause with one of my English teachers who nurtured my love for language. I enjoyed art lessons and sport but essentially, if one attends the equivalent of St Trinians, one’s options are limited. I’ve been home-schooling myself ever since I left.
Who or what inspires you?
Other writers. Other women. Other women writers.
Do you have time for hobbies?
I make time to swim twice a week, an activity which I enjoy and my body appreciates! I also walk a lot, read avidly and eclectically. And I’m the other member of the smallest writing group in Wales.
What was the last book you bought?
Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood.
What are your plans for the rest of 2016?
To finish my new book! I’m in the middle of the second edit. It’s another ghost story.
FIVE QUICK ONE WORD ANSWERS PLEASE!
Sweet or savoury?
Holidays in countryside or seaside?
TV or radio?
Are you a morning or afternoon person?
Hot or cold climate?
Many thanks Carol. It has been lovely to interview you. I hope we will meet up again one day.
Ghostbird is available to buy from Amazon.
I am delighted to announce that Carol is very kindly donating a signed copy of Ghostbird to one lucky winner. Draw will be held next month and details will be on the website soon. Many thanks Carol!