Today, I’m delighted to welcome Glynis Smy to my blog. Glynis Smy (nee Honeycombe), was born and raised in the coastal town of Dovercourt, near Harwich, in the county of Essex, England.
She married her school sweetheart, Peter, in 1979 and they produced three amazing children, Darren, Nicola, and Emma. The long hours of a nursing career and running two pharmacies ended in 2005, when she and her husband moved from the UK for an adventure on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. She writes poetry, and has articles published in magazines and online. Her love of the Victorian era inspired her to write short stories, and eventually novels.
In 2013 she moved back to the UK to care for her mother, and life as a writer changed – for the better. New doors opened and her historical novels have found new readers. Maggie’s Child became a #1 best-seller in its genre on Amazon, and made it to the second round of The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2014.
When she is not tapping at the keyboard she enjoys making greeting cards to sell for charity, cross stitch, fishing, and playing with her toddler granddaughter.
Glynis, please tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
I am a fifty-seven-year-old ex-nurse, ex PA for a managing director, mother of three adults, and a grandmother of a little girl. My husband and I met when I was 17, and will celebrate 35 years of marriage this year. In 2005 we took ourselves off to Cyprus for an adventure, and this is where I found the time to write. I kept my poetry and short story file hidden but on my fiftieth birthday I shared it with friends. Eventually, I shared online.
Who gave you your first encouragement as a writer?
Writing novels was encouraged by an online friend, Jan Harper. She read a short story I shared with her, and she returned it telling me it was wasted and should be a book. Ripper, My Love came about but sadly Jan passed away the day I typed, ‘The End’. Her family contacted me and said she was so proud of me, and I needed to keep writing. I changed the surname of my POV, and Kitty Harper lives on in Jan’s memory.
What genre do you generally write in?
I write historical romance, sometimes with a twist. I love the Victorian era. I am attempting to use my nursing background to write medical romance but am struggling with the urge to step back in time.
My leads are women. They are independent characters who fight to survive the suppressive males of the Victorian era. I am rarely nice to my ladies for quite a few chapters. My Ripper book characters tend to die off, and not in a pleasant manner. I am not a soft romance writer. Maggie’s Child is not suspense but poor Maggie suffers dreadfully.
The protagonist in your latest novel is Elle Buchanan. What can we expect from her?
This poor girl is sixteen and her parents abandon her. Alone, she makes her way in the world and has friendships that guide her in her artistic ways.
What was your first recognition/success as an author?
Maggie’s Child suddenly took off in February this year and hit #1 in ebook, #1 in books in historical romance Victorian, paid, on Amazon. It also made it to #25 in the top 100 best-seller for paid. In March I found it has gone into the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. For me, both these events took my view of myself as a writer to another level. They make me extremely happy and proud of what I have achieved. I feel as if it is a tribute to my friend, Jan.
Did you have any early rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
I have had rejections, and an acceptance to be published. One rejection from a NY agent was so good I cried. The agent just didn’t know where to place, Ripper, My Love because of a harrowing scene, and she felt if I removed the scene the feel for the story would be lost. She said I wrote well and had a wonderful imagination. I self-published after that rejection and turning down the acceptance of publication from another American Publisher. That publisher wanted me to remove two vital male characters and focus on my strong female. I started to rewrite as the carrot to be published dangled before my eyes, then I realised I was about to lose my voice and the plot would have rendered the book to nothing. I trembled when I wrote my rejection of their offer but needed to stay true to my voice, and the rejection from the agent gave me courage to do so.
Which publishing platform/s did you choose and why?
I use CreateSpace for paperback and Amazon Kindle Direct for ebooks. I did use Smashwords but my sales at Amazon were much better and I like their countdown deal programme, so went exclusive. CS are easy to use, and their customer team were very helpful when I needed them for advice.
How does your home and its environment influence your writing?
Oh, for this novel it is wonderful. I started to write the book, The Penny Portrait, in Cyprus, drawing upon my memory of my old playground, Earlham’s Beach. Sadly, my father passed away and I am now caring for my mother back in the UK. We moved back to my hometown, and now I can walk the area my POV lives. The sea inspires her moods.
Hilary Mantel says that a Catholic upbringing is the only qualification a writer requires. Do you have any writing qualifications?
No, and I wish I had a degree in grammar and punctuation!
Have you ever seen a member of the public reading your book… in an unusual location, perhaps?
No but my best friend found a woman reading, Maggie’s Child, in a hospital waiting room and boasted about being my friend.
One of the key stories of 2013 was the revelation that The Cuckoo’s Calling had been penned by J K Rowling. Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you think they make a difference to an author’s profile?
No, Glynis Smy is my real name. I have a pen name or two for other genres should I wish to use them. I do not think they do any harm at all.
Do you think literary agents are vital to an author’s success?
As much as I would love to have an agent, I simply don’t want to wait forever to see my books come alive while I query the manuscripts around. Yes, I do think they can help with the support but I also believe in Indie authors and their abilities to produce readable books. Vital? Not so much nowadays but not to be dismissed from our lives altogether. I have good friends who have brilliant agents.
Do you use any writing software such as Scrivener, ByWord or Mars Edit?
I purchased Scrivener three years ago. I struggled along but went back to Word. These past few weeks I have followed several Youtube ‘how to’s’ and found a way to use Scrivener to my satisfaction. I am determined to use the programme to its fullest as so many folk love it and I could not see why. This week I am liking it again!
Khaled Hosseini says that he feels he is discovering a story rather than creating it. Are you an avid plotter or do you start with a single idea and let the novel develop organically?
Planster with a capital P, although I am trying very hard to plot for my next novel. I hear it makes life easier but sadly my characters never listen!
Do you have a method for creating your characters’ names and what do you think makes them believable?
I tend to dream my POV name but the others are made up from my name tub. I have tubs with girls’ names, boys’ names, and surnames. I throw them onto the floor and play a game of match and see. If I hear a name I like I pop it into the pot. Arthur Twigg was created for me by a friend when I wanted a Victorian journalist’s name. It was perfect for the weasly male I had created.
Who do you show your first drafts to?
I have three beta readers who I value so very much. They see the fifth draft. I never release anything until it has had five shreddings from me.
Do you write your first draft on paper or do you prefer a computer?
First draft is a mix of both. Ripper, My Love was written by hand using fountain pen but my wrists were happier when Ripped Genes was typed out on computer.
Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop or the rumble of a train. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
I have a playlist of music to suit the moods I wish to create. Most days I prefer silence but I can write a few lines in public places if my characters are willing.
Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Oh, yes! I have tried several genres but some will sit in a drawer, and once I am done with seeing them they will hit the shredder.
What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
My favourite: I am able to write, meet writers and live my dream.
My least favourite: Marketing. Selling myself – it’s hard to say look at me and my books!
It is difficult. How do you divide your time between writing and marketing?
I try and do a little marketing at least twice a week. I am not great at selling myself but use what time I have wisely … I hope.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Write it. Do it. You will get there eventually. Never give up. Find a supportive network, and be supportive. Grow and enjoy the process. Remain true to yourself and believe in your work. Listen to what others have to say but do not always consider it as written in stone.
Is there a phrase or quote about writing that you particularly like?
Not necessarily about writing but it helps me … Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough. Og Mandino
Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
I use Facebook and Twitter. These two platforms have been a great source of informative relationships, and a huge base for friendships within the writing community.
The shift from paperback to digital books appears to have plateaued in 2013. Was this a glitch or will the upwards trend resume?
Interestingly, a recent survey of young readers indicated they preferred paperback books to digital, despite their technical world revolving around computers, smart phones and tablets, etc. So I feel a balance of the two exists.
At the beginning of 2013, Smashword’s Mark Coker predicted that ‘Global’ would be the year’s biggest story. Do you have a readership in a country other than your own?
I have sold in USA, Cyprus, Canada, Japan, Germany, Greece, Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, New Zealand, Uganda and Australia. When I realised I had sold in these countries, I was amazed and thrilled.
It’s an exciting time in the world of publishing with Kindle’s Matchbook, providers such as Oyster and Scribd launching e-book subscription services, and predictions that Amazon will open physical stores. What are your top tips for the year ahead?
Network. Keep networking and reading all up to date information.
When did your love affair with reading begin?
I am told around the age of three.
Can you remember being read to by your parents as a child?
I can clearly remember my Grandfather reading me the book, The Wonderful Isle of Ulla-Gapoo by F. Dubrez Fawcett. It has the most wonderful, wacky pictures inside. I still have the book, it is tatty but well loved.
Where do you get the majority of your book recommendations from?
From friends and Amazon. I also run a site to showcase authors and often am gifted a book by the author as a thank you.
If you discover a new author, do you tend to devour everything that they have written?
Oh yes. If I have enjoyed their first book I will always seek out the second, and beyond.
What is your favourite opening line of a novel?
‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina (1878)
Do you prefer eBooks or ‘tree books’? How do find the experience of reading a novel on an eReader differs from reading a ‘tree book’?
I have room in my life for both. I am a book abuser (only my own, never ones that are lent to me), I turn corners and bend spines. There is something magical about holding a paperback.
What are your reading habits? Do you have a favourite armchair, perhaps? big cup of tea? glass of wine?
My favourite habit is to shower, pop on my dressing gown, curl up in a comfy seat with wine, and sometimes a chocolate or two.
On average, how many books do you read a month?
I can honestly say I have never counted. I daren’t!
Are there any books that you find yourself returning to time and time again?
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I love that book!
Are you a book shop person or a library person?
Both. I enjoy owning some but browsing and returning others.
How often do you visit your local library?
Weekly at the moment as the roof is being repaired. I lived without a library for eight years in Cyprus, and now I have one on my doorstep they have limited the times. Roll on the day it reopens properly!
The publishing industry recognised in 2003 that reading as a pastime was in steady decline and that for some, book buying and reading had ‘little relevance to their lives’. How do you respond to that?
I think the statistics are no longer valid. E-books have revolutionised the way folk read.
Ruth Rendell once said in an interview that you can genuinely tell when you meet a person if they never read a novel: that there is something missing there. How do you respond to that?
Mm, not true. I cannot believe I would know whether a person has read a book or not without asking them.
As a book blogger, do you find yourself inundated with requests for reviews?
I do get asked to review but I cannot always afford the time. I do run a site to showcase authors. On the site I simply share the book and author, and for a very small fee they can enter the permanent library page for their chosen genre. I have over 500 books showcased, and 400 in the library. The site is growing daily. The Virtual Bookcase.
Do you have any celebrity followers?
I have a film writer/producer from the US who started following me, and we have become Twitter friends. She has produced and written a film that stars Colin Firth, so that’s the icing on the cake! *drifts to a scene in Pride and Prejudice with a lake*
Have you ever been instrumental in helping to launch the career of a new author?
I like to think I have helped a few with marketing and promoting their work. I regularly interview new authors (and established), and enjoy seeing them succeed.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Website/blog: WWW. glynissmyauthor.com
Finally, can I ask what you think the future holds for writers?
I think the Indie writer is going to enjoy the world of publishing more and more. Events who only opened their doors to published authors are slowly embracing the idea that Indies can write, and have ideas to bring to the table. Exciting times.
Excerpt from Maggie’s Child
Maggie strained her ears. She could no longer hear the baby noises that called out to her earlier. She settled back into the soft mattress. Crisp linen smelled fresh and inviting, and she gave into the comfort of her surroundings. It was hard to fight to stay awake. Heavy limbs, an aching head and her abdomen reminded her of the attention her husband had bestowed a few hours previous.
Names entered her mind. People who had touched her life. Those who had destroyed it, and those who had given it to her. Only two of those names had ever received love from Maggie. In the fog of mid-sleep, Maggie remembered.
Autumn 1855; the first loving kiss touched her lips. New Year 1856; the first time she learned the intimate love of a strong man could bring a woman alive, and yet destroy her soul at the same time. Maggie recalled the smells and sounds of that night. She drew comfort from them. Her mind relaxed and then she saw him in her mind’s eye; Stephen. His smile brought about sensations she had never known until then. He gave his love so freely and so did she. From their union came Nathaniel. The child he didn’t know existed. The child he could never nor will ever know about.
Her mind became fuzzy. Suddenly Maggie was frightened of the night. She sensed the Grim Reaper lurking; waiting to take his chance. Logical thoughts mixed with fantasy swirled around her mind.
Stephen, the killer of love, you disgust me. Dukes, where are you? Please never forget me. Remember me. Make my life mean something to someone on this bleak earth. Goodbye. Dukes, save me.
Warmth and softness brought about heaviness around her body. Maggie no longer held back. She floated on their comfort.
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