Today, I’m delighted to welcome Rebecca Bryn to Virtual Book Club, an interview series in which I put questions to authors about their latest releases. If you would like to pose a question, you’ll have the opportunity to do so at the end.
Rebecca Bryn lives on a smallholding in West Wales with her husband, rescue dog and a flock of sheep. She loves walking, gardening and painting. She write thrillers with a sprinkle of romance, mystery, heartbreak, and a twist. She also paints the stunning coastal scenery in watercolour and has work in private collections worldwide.
Q: Rebecca, perhaps you would start by telling us how you came to be a writer.
About twelve years ago, my oldest friend had a serious accident. She’d always enjoyed writing stories as a child and I suggested she write while she was recuperating. She began sending me hand-written chapters by snail mail. I’d comment on them and return them. Her therapy turned into a desire to be published and, as I thought she had talent, I offered to proofread for her. Paper and barely-decipherable squiggles of biro became e-mail attachments and, one day, quite out of the blue, I sat at my computer and typed Chapter One. Jem frowned and scanned the horizon. Nothing.
I was hooked and my first novel, Destiny, was conceived. Convinced it was the best thing since sliced bread, I sent it off to an agent, stating that I wanted to grab mankind by the throat and shake him. (I was passionate about my subject, as you will gather.) The agents duly returned it saying it wasn’t for them.
A reality check, one of many: the message was always the same. You write well and we really enjoyed your story but don’t feel it is something we can market. After ten years of this I found myself with several stories they’d really enjoyed, none of which they felt were marketable.
It’s frustrating to know you have a story people would enjoy reading, but marketing – profit – gets in the way. I wasn’t writing for money. I was writing to be read and enjoyed… to get across a message, to share my hopes and dreams, my passions – Not marketable.
Just over a year ago, after a close brush with success with an agent, which frankly terrified me, I decided to take control of my own destiny and join the growing ranks of self-published authors.
It’s been a near vertical learning-curve, an immense amount of work (agents and publishers earn their cut) and a very rewarding experience. I’ve met great people, both authors and readers, and had fabulous reviews: a vindication of my determination. I’m one very tired, emotionally battered but very happy bunny.
Q: Your stories of rejections sound very familiar to me. Did you receive any rejections that particularly inspired or motivated you?
Oh yes. Every rejection was a motivation to improve. And those readers who’ve taken the trouble to give me feedback have inspired changes, new exciting paths, and improved characters. I take criticism very seriously. It almost always leads to huge improvements in my writing and my story. If nothing else, it makes me question everything I write and think more deeply.
Q: If you were trying to describe your writing to someone who hasn’t read anything by you before, what would you say?
That’s a hard one. I write about difficult subjects: things that matter to me and to others – injustice, loss, guilt, forgiveness – what makes people who they are. I like to dig inside a character, let them grow and flourish, and I like to think I make my reader aware of all the shades of grey that lie between black and white, lest they judge my characters too quickly. None of them are perfect, any more than I am.
Before you judge a man, walk two moons in his moccasins, a Native American Plains proverb, is a maxim I live by.
The Silence of the Stones is woven around injustice in the legal system and the devastating effects that injustice has on the convicted and their families. It also delves into injured minds and what drives people to do things they wouldn’t normally dream of doing.
When Alana is left a cottage in West Wales by an aunt she didn’t know existed, she is plunged into a village’s conspiracy of silence about a thirty-year-old crime. Why does Rhiannon want her dead?
Murder, arson and deceit threaten all she holds dear. The truth blows her world apart.
Free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Click link below.
Touching the Wire is partly historical, set largely in Auschwitz… need I say more, except that the research had me in tears and it was a story I was driven to tell. It was published to coincide with the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Where Hope Dares, my latest novel, is a rewrite of the novel, Destiny, the story that sparked my writing career eleven years ago. It kept me awake at night thinking about what man is doing to our beautiful planet in the name of profit and progress. Again, it’s a story I was driven to write. Jem is now Kiya: she no longer frowns, nor does she scan the horizon, and Abe has taken on a whole new and more dangerous persona. The story has evolved with me, and several of the events I foretold in the first draft have since come to pass.
Q: The protagonist in Where Hope Dares is Abe. What ten words best describe him?
Committed, driven, compassionate, gentle, lonely, religious, great-hearted, guilt-ridden, open-minded, courageous.
Q: Tell us a little about the major areas you had to research for the novel.
Where Hope Dares is set loosely in the High Atlas Mountains, as it was a region that satisfied the geography and probable climate I required to place both my protagonists and the scenario. Though not set in our time, I still had to research much about the mountain terrain, flora and fauna, the areas of Morocco that border the Oum Erribia and south of the High Atlas to the Grand Sahara. Kiya’s people originate in the Horn of Africa so I researched the customs, democracy, religion and history of the Oromo people, which is fascinating and should be a model for all countries’ governments. I collected images that inspired me and posted them on my Pinterest page. I also researched texts from the bible concerning original sin and the second coming. Berber dress and religion was another area plus Catholicism, poisonous plants, sailing a small ship in a storm, the coastal waters of West Africa, surviving a sandstorm and a blizzard. How to build a snow cave, surviving a desert without water, and climate change and sea-level rise, which is a minefield. Fortunately, I was able to call on someone who has done a lot of research on the past, present and possible future climate of our planet. One joy was the proverbs of the Oromo and Native American peoples. Why don’t these wise people rule the world?
Q: Regardless of genre, what are the elements that you think make a great novel? Did you consciously ensure all of these are in place?
A plausible, gripping tale, interesting settings, well-developed characters with whom the reader can empathise, good grammar and writing that flows. The reader should find themselves transported to the place, living the story. Re part two of your question: I try to ensure these things are in place, but my readers will judge if I’ve succeeded.
Q: In which ways was writing the book transformative for you?
Writing is cathartic. It allows you to put feelings into words, which most people find difficult in real life. There were many parts of my research that gave me cause for concern about our beautiful planet. I think writing about it has helped me come to terms with my own mortality and insignificance. As Raphel in Where Hope Dares observes, while waiting to be sacrificed, mankind is mere grains of sand. It’s also given me confidence, as did my painting success.
Q: What is it about your novel that you feel makes it particularly suitable for book clubs?
It raises a lot of questions about religion, society, democracy and fear and hope for our future, but all packaged in a story of courage, faith, sacrifice, hope and, above all, love. It also explores the way events shape people, and people shape events and each other.
Caught between the Great Flood and the Second Coming, Where Hope Dares is a story of courage, faith and mankind’s indomitable hope. ‘If it can be imagined, it can be achieved. Man will go where hope dares.’
Free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Click here to look inside or buy.
Q: Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?
Yes and no, in that order. Recurring themes are the stupidity of war, the insubstantiality of religion, man’s greed and brutality to man (and woman), loss, courage, faith, hope and love, and what makes us who we are – nurture over nature. In a way, that answers the question. We are who we are and we keep repeating the same mistakes. Learn from history or others’ mistakes? If only.
Q: ‘I’ve always said there are two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. Architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up.’ (George R R Martin) Which are you?
If I were an architect, I’d have organic flowing shapes. If I were a gardener, I’d have some structure. On balance, I’m more a gardener. I love a garden when it’s slightly out of control, growing wildly and over-stepping its bounds, and I think that’s much how my characters behave. I have a general idea of a plot, my characters decide where that takes them and me, on its devious, twisting, heart-rending route. I let the characters deliver the message and ponder the morals in my stories. I fall in love with my characters, even the evil ones, and I don’t think I ever really let go of them. They all dwell still, deep inside me, and I deep inside them.
Q: Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you think they make a difference to an author’s profile?
I do write under a pseudonym. I think when I began I had no confidence that readers would like my novels. I wanted to save myself and my family any embarrassment. As it happens, though Where Hope Dares hasn’t yet had its first review, my readers’ comments have been amazing and inspirational, in fact one actually had me in tears, so in hindsight, maybe I should have had the courage of my convictions. Does it make a difference to an author’s profile? I really don’t know.
‘It was eerie, isolated above the rows of barracks that stretched, seemingly without end, like rows of neatly-spaced dominoes awaiting a game with no winners.The girl kept her silence, kneeling against her will… Somewhere God watched this girl, this abomination of a place.’
Click on link in post to look inside or buy.
Q: Do any of your books have dedications? If so, to whom and (if appropriate) why?
Yes, of course. I have cause to be grateful to so many people during the vast learning process of becoming a published author, and far beyond. The Word Cloud, an on-line writers’ group, nurtured my early writing aspirations and I would highly recommend them to any writer in need of creative support. My friend Sarah Stuart, author of Dangerous Liaisons and Illicit Passion, has been a tireless support and inspiration. My elderly in-laws have been a role model throughout my life, my ex-husband wrote an afterword for Where Hope Dares, and has been very encouraging, my children because they say everything I do is rubbish and I love them to bits, my dog for taking me on thinking walks, and not least my husband for putting up with not getting his tea, or his dinner for that matter, mostly talking to a brick wall, generally doing all the things I forget to do, and loving me despite it all.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
My next project is a short story for a second charity anthology in support of McMillan cancer nurses, due out sometime in 2016. The first one was called You’re Not Alone and was published earlier this year. My contribution Ooh, Air Margrit can be read at www.independentauthornetwork.com/rebecca-bryn if you download Ooh, Air Margrit.
Find out more about Rebecca and her writing:
- On her website
- On Facebook
- On Twitter
- On Pinterest
- On Independent Author Network
- Watch the book trailers:
- Touching the Wire
- The Silence of the Stones
- Where Hope Dares
Remember, if you enjoyed this post please share it. If there’s anything else you’d like to ask Rebecca, leave a comment.
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