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Virtual Book Club: Vicky Adin introduces Gwenna

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Vicky Adin to Virtual Book Club, an interview series which gives authors the opportunity to pitch their novels to your book club.

Vicky is a New Zealand historical fiction author. She lives on the North Shore of Auckland within walking distance of the beach, the coffee shops and inspiration.

After decades of genealogical research and a life-long love affair with words she has combined her skills to write poignant novels that weave family and history together in a way that makes the past come alive.

She confesses to a vibrant and varied career that enriched her life and now provides a lot of inspiration. From being a stay-at-home mum, executive assistant, retailer, seamstress, embroiderer and tutor, local politician, amateur thespian, professional conference organiser, university graduate to full-time author, she wonders what the next twenty years will bring.

Under The PastFinders Logo, Vicky writes stories about people, the past and their passions.

Q: What is it about your novel Gwenna that you feel makes it particularly suitable for book clubs? 

My novels are set in New Zealand, a place some people have a limited knowledge of. If they have visited, they know the country for its adventure tourism or its beautiful scenery rather than its history. Writing about how people lived, why they came, what they expected and how they survived are all great topics for discussion.

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 and a few long-term settlers started to arrive soon after, but by the 1850s the European settlers still only numbered 28,000. After the Land Wars with the Maori in the 1860s the population spread to the Provinces but it wasn’t until the 1870s that immigration numbers increased.

New Zealand was still a new country learning to become a nation by the turn of the 20th century. The immigrants, who had come a long way and risked everything in search of a better life, did things differently here. I try to capture that spirit with reminders of how people lived. My stories all have underlying themes of sadness and longing, of repression and battling the odds and of making the best of what life offered. 

Q: The protagonist in your latest novel of the same name is Gwenna. What ten words best describe her? 

Plucky, young, skilled, determined, the sweet maker refuses to relinquish her dreams.

Q: We already know where Gwenna is set, but when does the action take place?

As a genealogist, I have dug into New Zealand’s past and have a particular a fascination with the Victorian period. Whilst I can ooh and ahh over the beautiful and feminine gowns of that era, I have to remember that the working class immigrants didn’t wear such attire, nor did they own the finer things in life, not until they were more established.

Q: Did you know where this book was going to go right from the start?

More or less – or at least the bones of it, but, like all good stories, it took on a life of its own and ended up taking me places I hadn’t intended. The story is loosely inspired by my great-grandmother, but her story could have been one of many, and she never came to New Zealand.

The story of Gwenna, the master confectioner, amid the hustle and bustle of Karangahape Road in Auckland at the turn of the 20th century.

 ‘I was captivated from beginning to end.’ ~ Amazon reviewer

Click here to Look Inside or buy. 

Or watch the book trailer.

Q: If you were trying to describe your writing to someone who hasn’t read anything by you before, what would you say?

I write about social history, inspired by real people, in real situations. Queen Victoria and the Boer War are two of the most obvious inclusions for that time period. Political figures are mentioned as being behind major historical events, Gwenna met and was involved with business people who were to become household names in New Zealand and still are, plus I was able to make use of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York and Cornwall in 1901.

Sadness and longing are underlying themes in my stories, which the protagonists have to overcome, but the human spirit is strong and resilient and finds a way to rise above what life hands out.

Q: ‘Without chaos, there’s very little story to tell.’ What is the source of chaos in your story?

Overcoming the odds. Women had a difficult time in that era to be anything more than subservient housewives. Societal mores and the rules of law controlled what they were allowed to do, but many of them found ways of working within those constraints and became successful women.

Q: What are the particular challenges of writing fact-based fiction?

Getting the facts right while still maintaining an authentic feel for the characters and the way they lived. I strive to make sure the facts I use are accurate but weave the fictional characters around those facts as I did with the funeral of Queen Victoria and how it affected the characters in Gwenna. It is too easy to look up facts on the internet these days and getting basic facts wrong could destroy the credibility of your story.

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? 

I’m definitely a gardener. I have a few facts to begin with, which often give me a turning point or two, and then I sit down and write until I’ve joined all the dots (as my husband calls it). I take my ideas from genealogical research. The tiniest snippet might spark an idea – an unusual occupation, a tragedy or disaster of some kind, or a newspaper clipping.

Q: Have you always felt driven to write or was there a particular trigger? 

I’ve always loved reading. I’ve read from as far back as I can remember. As an only child, my playmates were in books. I used to love writing essays at school, but I never dreamt I had the imagination to write a story – which is why I don’t write fantasy and sci-fi – but writing a story about people was the thing I discovered I could do while taking my Bachelor’s degree as a mature student. I went on to get a MA (Hons) (at the age of 56) and I have to thank my tutors for telling me not only could I write, but I should write, and write to publish.

Q: What key factors influenced your decision to become an indie author?

Being told by ‘experts’ that nobody reads historical fiction any more, that fiction didn’t sell and I should write as a hobby. My first book was essentially a novelised biography or factual novel, or whatever other tag fits about an ancestor who came to NZ in 1863. I started off writing it because I believed the story of the immigrant soldier and pioneering Daniel was a tale worth telling. I was proved right. With five books to my name I’m still writing historical faction/fiction and loving it.

Q: Which professional services won’t you skimp on? (Editor/ professional proof-reader? designer for your book interior.)

I have the most wonderful editor. I met her at a seminar I organised on self-publishing before my first book was published in 2011, and she is a professional of the highest kind. She edits and proofreads my books, lays the print book out, formats the ebook and, between us, we design my covers. She is one talented lady with an eye for detail. I would pay her anything she asks and I only reluctantly share her with others when I don’t need her. If Professional editing, proofreading and cover design are vital to ensure the best product, in my opinion.

Q: John Green says that writing is a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it. Is that how you see yourself?

Totally. I will do talks at libraries and service clubs to promote my books, but I prefer to hide in my writing cave. I’m a natural loner. I think it’s the result of being an only child. I learnt to be alone. I have a few good friends but mostly I interact with my family. My husband of forever is my best friend, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything without his support but I’m happy on my own. I walk, I read, I write. I organise my house. I’ve been known to spend the whole day without the radio on or music to listen to and not talk to a soul. Once I’m in the zone, I’m there and don’t like being disturbed. 

I’m better at promoting other people’s books and including mine in the discussion than I am talking about myself. I also exhibit at and support our local NZ Book Festival, which showcases indie authors (the next one is coming up on 11 November).

Q: How do you divide your time between writing and marketing?

Basically, I write and then I market, which probably isn’t the best way of going about it. I’m not good at marketing. I am on lots of social media, but I’m best at Facebook and blogging on my website and on the GrownUps 50+ community website. Spontaneous posts on Instagram and Twitter are not my cup of tea. I have to think about what I want to say first, so my postings are few. 

Q: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?

T’other half and me, we love to travel, especially since he retired. We hook up our caravan and head off to goodness-knows-where for however long it takes. When we have had enough of that or the weather turns we then head off on a cruise and go with the flow. I don’t write much when I’m travelling. I prefer to just be in the place and the time, but the brain keeps ticking, notes are kept and blogs are posted.

And we love our garden especially the roses (I used them as a theme in The Art of Secrets) and we walk.

Want to find out more about Vicky and her work?





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