A Look Behind The Book With Natalina Reis.

MeWhile Natalina Reis has written other genres, she always comes back to her first love – romance.

Currently working on her sixth novel, Natalina juggles writing with teaching and family life.

Her latest release, Blind Magic, came out in November has been winning lots of praise on Good Reads so I was delighted when she agreed to let me quiz her for my Behind The Book series.

Here’s what she had to say.

You’ve strayed into other genres but always come back to romance. What is it you enjoy?

Romance makes me happy, gives me hope that no matter how bleak things look, there is always hope. Love transcends everything else, even death to a certain extent. And of course, there is always the happy ending.

You wrote your first book at 13. Has writing always been your thing?

Yes, I’ve been writing ever since I knew how. I wrote stories even in elementary school. Being an introvert who had the worst time expressing my feelings, writing offered me a way of doing so. For some reason the written word was always a form of solace, of therapy for my soul.

That first book was a collaboration with your best friend, can you explain how that worked? Do you write together or do you do a bit and then send it to her?

We were both on spring break and we spent our evenings in my room discussing characters and parts of the plot. She would suggest something and I would suggest something else. Once we agreed on what to write, I would write it down as part of the story. It was fun. Even though I haven’t done anything like that since, I still enjoy when my critique partners or friends make suggestions. Some great ideas came out of discussions just like those.

Blind Magic for jpegs_frontcover310In Blind Magic your main character, Marcy, is a witch. What made you want to include that magical element?

Marcy happened as a happy accident to be truthful. She first appeared as a sidekick on Loved You Always where I needed her as comic relief and also as an outrageous way of helping my two main characters out of a very dangerous situation. Turns out Marcy became so much more than that. My sister was also a great inspiration for Marcy’s occupation and beliefs, since she has always been interested in the esoteric.

Did you already have an idea for Marcy’s story when you were writing Loved You Always?

I never expected to love her so much and I definitely didn’t expect the readers would fall in love with her as hard as they did. There were so many requests to write Marcy’s own story that eventually I gave in and wrote it. She is one of my favorite characters.

Blind Magic is winning a lot of praise. How does it feel to know your readers have connected with your story?

It’s amazing. As a writer I love all my characters, but to have others love and connect with them as well is heartwarming and makes everything worthwhile. One of my favorite parts of the publishing process is the beta readers’ comments as they read the book. Marcy got a lot of oohs and aahs. She really touched a chord in many readers’ hearts (and so did her man, Oliver) and I’m still shocked (in a good way) by the reactions.

You don’t just write about male/female relationships, in Lavender Fields your main character, Sky, an angel of death, falls in love with another man. Can you talk about what made you want to explore that angle?

I wanted to write a story that my son, who is gay, could identify with. But most of all I just wanted to write a love story. It just happened that the two main characters are both men. All my books have a few things in common, and one of those is the theme of diversity and universal love. In fact I wrote my first M/M romance when I was about 19 years old (a story that will never see the light of day!).

Let’s go right back to the beginning and talk about your first published book, We Will Always Have The Closet. How long did it take to write? Did you submit it to many publishers?

I wrote The Closet in 30 days during National Novel Writing Month. I polished it, hired an editor and on a whim participated on a Twitter Pitmad and was shocked to have a publisher request the full manuscript. I was offered a contract shortly after and I think I’m still in shock.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a romantic comedy that started as a short story. It’s called Fictional-Ish and it’s set in Scotland where I lived for four years a long time ago. It’s a friends to lovers, second chance story with a lot of humor and, as in most of my stories, a bit of mystery drama.

Do you have any tips for writers?

Write, never stop writing no matter how much you doubt yourself. And don’t get too stuck on what the “experts” say because writing is as individual as humans are and what works for one writer may not work for another.

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What fabulous answers, a huge thank you to Natalina for taking part. I love that she wrote a story for her son and her writing tips couldn’t be more relevant to me this week when I’m having yet another crisis of confidence. I’m definitely going to be taking note.

If you’d like to connect with Natalina you can do so in various ways. On Twitter, Instagram,  Facebook, and, of course, you can buy her books via Amazon.

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A Look Behind The Book With Ralph Webster.

Author PictureInspired by an overseas trip, Ralph Webster set about taking his family history and turning it into two books, which feature topics not only important to him personally but also the world in general.

His first, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear In The Other, which tells the story of his father’s flight from the Holocaust, was nominated for Best Memoir/Autobiography in the Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards.

His second, One More Moon, which is due to be published next month, tells the true story of his grandmother’s desperate journey from Naples to America as countries across the world closed their doors to Jewish refugees fleeing the spread of Nazi evil.

I couldn’t resist asking Ralph to be my latest Behind The Book interviewee and was thrilled when he agreed to answer my questions.

Here’s what he had to say:

I know that becoming an author was never really in your grand plan but the tale of how you came to write your first book is inspiring. Can you tell us about it please?

Thank you for asking that question because it really goes to the heart of what I am trying to do with my writing. A little more than two years ago my wife Ginger and I spent eight weeks in Europe travelling. We are retirees and have the luxury of being able to take off for big chunks of time. This was a pleasure trip. We were taking trains, backpacking, hiking, and biking. I suppose you could say we were celebrating the good life. We started in France and ended in Stockholm for their jazz festival.

Ironically our trip coincided with the escalating refugee crisis in Europe. Refugees in large numbers searching for safety, security, and economic opportunity were fleeing Syria and other areas under siege with literally the clothes on their backs. At night we watched the news reports on CNN and BBC. And, by day, we encountered groups of refugees on trains, at train stations, in cities, in small towns, and at border crossings. Right before our eyes we watched mothers, fathers, children, and groups of young men literally just trying to survive. We saw conversations and confrontations with authorities – some civil, some heated. We saw people being removed from trains and taken away by police officials. We recognised the difficulty and frustration in trying to communicate across the medium of different languages. It was easy to see that these were people simply looking for a hand up, not a hand out.

This touched our hearts and brought tears to our eyes. I hope we all feel compassion for those forced to leave the lands of their mothers and fathers through no fault of their own. Watching this I realised that this is what my family must have experienced when they had no choice but to leave their homes. It may have been a different time, a different circumstance, and a different generation. But I am certain that the feeling was much the same – the anguish, the loss, the confusion, the uncertainty, the isolation, the fears, the unknown, the way others reacted.

That is what inspired me. This is the story I want to tell. Far too often, particularly in the United States, refugee and immigration issues have become involved in the politics of fear. I wanted to do my part to shine a light on this issue. I want others to understand the personal depth of this humanitarian crisis. Mine is not a plea for money. It is a plea for compassion, respect, and dignity. I want us all to recognise that refugees, those forced to leave the lands of their mothers and fathers, are the victims. They should never be made to be the enemy.

How much research was required before you started writing? Did you have any family files to help you? How much involved talking to people and how much was spent in archives or online? How much is fiction and how much is fact?

Wow! That’s a lot of questions! I really can’t say that there was a great amount of research required before I started writing and that was true for both of my books. I did have to take stock of the items that we had in our possession. This meant checking in with other family members which can sometimes become complicated. They were curious to know what I was doing. Some wanted to become part of the process and they had their own opinions of various situations. I was resistant to share too much with others because I was still trying to get my arms around what I was really trying to do. I needed to complete my vision before I was ready to share. We had some items – mostly copies of official documents like birth certificates and marriage licenses. For my second book, One More Moon, I had a few pages my grandmother had written about various times in her life. As for talking to people, too many years had passed. Memories were lost and people who had been around then were no longer alive. For my first book, A Smile in One Eye, I had some communication with the British Archives and had to petition for the release of my father’s World War II records. As for what is fact and what is fiction? Both books involve real people, places, actual events, and pretty specific timelines. Connecting the dots between them often involved some informed speculation and conjecture. Admittedly, like a stage play, sometimes there are moments that need to be more expressive than real life. Sometimes fiction is more interesting than fact.

One other point and I think it is important. I wasn’t interested in family trees and ancestry research. Those are stories for others. I was trying to tell a very specific story of one generation (actually for a very specific time in our history). My focus has been on the story and personalities. I want the reader to intimately know my family – for the reader to feel that they are on the inside looking out.

Your first book was a Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards Nominee for Best Memoir/Autobiography. How did it feel to find that people were connecting with your story?

That is always especially gratifying. I think that is what we all hope is accomplished with our writing. What sometimes gets lost in the book description is that there really are two parts to A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other – actually two stories that are married together into one book – two voices. The first is my father. He is telling the story of his journey from Germany to America. Remember his was a Lutheran family who were informed of their Jewish roots. They considered themselves Germans through and through. They had a difficult and emotional journey. The second voice is my own. I tell the story of the last eight weeks of my father’s life and how our family dealt with this family crisis. Every family at one time or another has to deal with the passing of a generation. I always receive comments from readers about this, especially when I meet with book clubs. It is a connection we all share and it is deeply personal.

OneMoreMoon_eBook_Cover_finalizedYou are about to publish your second book, One More Moon, where you go back another generation to your grandmother. Both books are important in terms of your family history but also for the wider world so we don’t forget what happened. Did it feel important when you were writing it?

Absolutely. I wanted to convey my message by telling a story. Isn’t that what all storytellers try to do? I want the reader to feel that they are in the moment. I suppose that gets to the heart of the difference between trying to write a family history to pass on to family versus a book which one hopes to share with a broader audience. When you write for a broader audience there is a certain commercial aspect to it. Afterall, what purpose does it serve if no one finds the book interesting enough to pick up and read all the way through. I want to write books that readers don’t want to put down. I want readers to stay up all night to get to the end. Those are the books I like. You don’t have to consider that when you write a family history for family members. The other thing that comes to play in all of this is defining the line of what is personal and what can or should be shared with others. I suppose that is a reflection of our personalities. Some of us are extremely private – others want to tell it all. Writing a book for others to read about real people within one’s family can become very complicated. My wife Ginger and I had many conversations about that very issue. I think she was aghast when she realised what I was doing. Consider that a forewarning for others who might attempt it.

On that same note, are you ever tempted to write about current refugees? You say “we must remember that refugees are the victims, not the enemy” something I that I think some people have forgotten. Do you think your books are a reminder of that?

I truly hope they are a reminder. If little else is accomplished with all of this I hope all of our children and grandchildren embrace this as an important value and a way they look at the world they live in – a world where some have more and some have less. As for writing about the current refugees, I honestly believe that is a story for others to tell. I believe I write with passion and emotion because I know my family’s story. Readers would recognize the difference. I think a good story has to be told from the depth of the heart.

How have you found promoting your books, being interviewed, and speaking at book clubs?

I love it. Apart from being good for the ego, the books have become a wonderful platform to express some values I find important. Even more than that, I have learned so much from the stories of others.

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What about the technical side of publishing? Can you talk about the route you have taken with your books?

My gosh! I have learned so much and continue to learn so much everyday. Writing a book and getting it noticed is quite an adventure. Fortunately I don’t have to make a living doing this. Perhaps that gives me some freedoms that others don’t have. I can write for the pleasure and for my purpose. Of course I value my time and I want something in return. That is where the readers come in. I want them to read my book. And when they do, when they leave a review or send me a note, whether it is good or bad, that is my joy.

It didn’t take me long to realise that I wasn’t a rock star, a controversial politician, a talented sports figure or an extremely imaginative writer. I am an older guy who wrote a book or two. I was not embarking upon a series or trying to build a brand. I took the self publishing route.  I chose not to invest the time in searching for an agent or a publisher. I wanted to get from point A to point B as quickly as I could so I could be here to see the finished product and enjoy the mystery of what might result. I suppose that adventure is the word that best combines rewarding with frustrating!

Are you working on writing anything new at the moment?

No. I am taking a breather. I think I have exhausted all of my dead relatives. I know my family agrees.

Do you have any writing tips you can share?

Make the story your passion. Remember writing begins with the reader. Always find an editor. Be humble and have a thick skin.

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Thank you very much to Ralph for answering my questions in such detail. I love the way he was inspired to write and hope, after a well earned rest, he carries on (maybe he can find another family to write about?).

One More Moon is scheduled for release on February 28th in soft cover and Kindle formats and is available for pre-order at Amazon. You can also follow Ralph on Twitter and visit his website.

I’ll have more Behind The Book posts for you next month.

A Look Behind The Book With Ian Wilfred.

FullSizeRender 2.jpgIan Wilfred describes his perfect day as going for a walk on the beach with his dog, coming back and enjoying a lovely hot coffee and then writing.

Swap the dog for Freya and coffee for a hot chocolate and Ian and I are on the same page but we also have something else in common – having both adopted Norfolk as our home county.

Ian is the author of three books (so far), after publishing his debut in 2013 and then two more last year. I was so pleased when he agreed to be my first Behind The Book interviewee of 2018.

I hope you enjoy his answers as much as I did.

Can we begin by talking about when you first started writing? Have you written since you were a child or is it a more recent discovery?

My first serious writing started in 2012 and led to me publishing Putting Right The Past in 2013. It all came about as I gave up work to become my dad’s full time carer and, with a lot of time on my hands, I thought this is the perfect time to get started. I had always written little bits but no one had ever seen any of it.

You mention you’re a fan of Mills and Boon. I also love them and think they are totally underrated (as a lot of romantic fiction is). What do you like about them?

Oh yes, I’ve always loved Mills and Boon, their books seem to have been in my life as long as I can remember. Back in November I was very lucky to have lunch with the Norfolk chapter of The Romantic Novelist Association (RNA) and at the lunch were two Mills and Boon authors who between them have written 200 books – I was a little star struck. Also, I’m really looking forward to seeing the new look Mills and Boon as 2018 is the year they are having a big makeover. Exciting times ahead, I think.

Was it Mills and Boon that inspired you to write romance/women’s fiction?

I don’t know if it was Mills and Boon that influenced me but what I write is sort of all I know. I don’t think I could write in any other genre.

ian wilfred quote

I’ve been trying to hunt down statistics for what proportion of women’s fiction writers are men these days but they seem to vary – although they are all on the small side. Were you ever put off by the fact that so few men seem to write that genre – at least under their own names?

In the beginning people thought it a bit strange but there are more and more of us out there now. I know of quite a few that write under female names or just their initials but I’ve stuck to Ian.

 

As you’ve said, you published your debut, Putting Right The Past, in 2013. What was that like? It seems to have been very well received, as all your books have, what did it mean to have people connect with your writing?

I have learnt so much since Putting Right The Past and some things I would change knowing what I know now but not the actual story.  The feed back was lovely, I enjoyed the contact on Twitter and the emails with the readers, bloggers and other authors.

Last year you published two more books, The Little Terrace of Friendships and A Secret Visitor To Saltmarsh Quay. Was it an easier process?

After my dad died we moved from the Midlands to Norfolk. For the first few years, our lives were taken up with getting jobs, decorating, gardening and not forgetting a lot of time on the beach with a new puppy but a few things happened in the family and I felt I needed to return to my little world of writing. I first re-read loads of little projects I had started and that’s when The Little Terrace Of Friendships was born. Everything about that book coming together was so lovely from writing it to meeting Rebecca Emin at Gingersnap Books who organised and formatted it, Nancy Callegari who edited it, Maureen Vincent-Northam, proofreader, and working with the very talented Cathy Helms at Avalon Graphics on the cover. The icing on the cake was having it in the top 30 Amazon holiday chart for several months. It was such a happy time. I feel really blessed and I was so lucky to be able to work with these fabulous ladies again on my last book, A Secret Visitor To Saltmarsh Quay

Do you ever miss any of your characters? They take up such a big chunk of brain space and then suddenly they are gone, it must be like losing a friend in a way.

This is such a great question, Tara, I’ve never been asked this before and I’ve given it a lot of thought. One of the characters in Putting Right The Past was a women whose husband got his comeuppance for lying cheating and being a horrible individual but, as she wasn’t one of the main people in the book, we really didn’t know where her life could go. Perhaps one day I should return to her story and give her a happy ending but I find once I start writing something new I get involved with the new characters and they take over your life in a big way.

Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment?

My next project (which at this point has three titles, not sure which one I like the most) is off to the lovely Nancy very soon. It is set in Norfolk and again with another fabulous female over 40 called Caroline whose husband has a secret and this leads to her starting a new and exciting life without him.

Do you have any writing tips to share please?

Me give writing tips? I’m the one always asking authors for their tips and they are so helpful and generous with their advice. The best bit of advice I have been given over and over again is keep writing everyday – even if it’s just a couple hundred words. I work full time so it’s not easy. I manage to write something about five days a week; anything from two hundred to three thousand words. I never go back I just plough through until I write THE END and that’s when the hard work for me starts – back at page one rewriting, cutting, adding, getting rid of characters that don’t need to be there and adding new ones doing this over and over again until I’m happy with it.

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Thank you very much to Ian for kicking off the 2018 series of Behind The Book, I love how modest he is – even with three very well received books under his belt. If you’d like to know more about him you can chat via Twitter or check out his page on Amazon here.

I’ve got some more fabulous authors lined up for this year so please pop back.