Today’s question is: What is your motivation for writing more?
My reply is that I have so many stories tumbling around in my head, I have to keep writing to get them all out. Many of you know I only began ‘writing’ when I came to Canada so I’m now making up for ‘lost’ time! I have always been creative but for whatever reason I had never written ‘stories’ before for the explicit reason of allowing other people to read them.
What is your reason – leave a comment below.
Last week’s question: Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?
I’ve done that. Some of my best ideas come to me in dreams. If I was a thriller or suspense writer, I’d have even more writing material. My brain likes to frighten me at night.
I have just returned from a five day writing retreat in the Rocky mountains. It occurred to me that we (writers) all enjoy escaping every day life to write. So today’s question is: Where is your perfect writing retreat?
Would you prefer mountain or forest cabin, or a beach house or somewhere else? Would you go alone or within a group?
Last week’s question: How did you build your author platform? Was it by personal effort or did you have professional help?
Actually, I have two recently published novels, one of the novels, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost”, is actually the first in a series.
“Queen Mary’s Daughter” was released in March 2018. This novel is an historical fiction/fantasy novel, inspired by a shared interest with my grandmother and spurred to fruition by the ongoing debate about Scottish independence. I like to ponder the many ‘what if’ scenarios in life and there are so many that could have changed the course of Scottish history. For example, what if King James VI of Scotland didn’t succeed in amalgamating Scotland with England? What if there had been another heir to the throne of Scotland? One who would secure its independence? Would Scotland have remained free and independent and a nation of its own well into the twenty-first century? And would Scotland, this independent version, make its own decision to join the European Union when its southern neighbor was choosing to pull away?
My grandmother was my muse in so many of my writing ideas. She and I had a special relationship. When I was old enough, we traveled together. One special trip took us to Scotland where we traced her childhood memories (she was born in Scotland) as well as followed the trail of Mary Queen of Scots. We had been enjoying a number of novels and biographies about the ill-fated queen and my grandmother ignited my interest by telling me about ancestors who helped in her escape from Loch Leven Castle. I always wanted to write about Queen Mary, but it wasn’t until the Brexit debacle and the ongoing desire of the Scottish people to separate from England, that I started looking more closely at the stories around Queen Mary. I knew she had given birth, prematurely, to twins while imprisoned at Loch Leven. History records that the babies died at birth and were buried on the island where the castle sat. An interesting footnote states that the location of the burial and the babies’ remains have never been found. So, I started thinking, ‘what if?’. What if there had been another heir to the Scottish throne and Scotland never did amalgamate with England and Ireland? And my story unfolded. There is a sequel to “Queen Mary’s Daughter”, written at the request of my growing fan club. “King Henry’s Choice” continues the story started in “Queen Mary’s Daughter”. Release date yet to be determined.
My pride and joy is the first book in the 4-part “Piccadilly Street Series”. So much of these stories evolved from my childhood experiences and what my grandmother always called my vivid imagination. “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost”, like “Queen Mary’s Daughter”, also explores the ‘what if’, the fantastical possibilities of my vivid imagination and a ghost that haunted my childhood home. And, yes, there is another Scottish connection in this story, as well as another connection with my grandmother. In fact, she plays a significant role in the story – the role of Granny. My memories played a significant role in inspiring me to write “The Piccadilly Street Series”, this being the first book. Fond memories of the haunted house where I grew up: the ghost, the bats, the uniqueness of the house itself. I have been writing family stories and memoirs for years and I wanted to try something a little different, something for younger readers. I have taught many young, aspiring writers, so I decided it was time I wrote a story they would enjoy reading. And they do. In fact, I gifted a copy of the book to the 10-year-old girl who lives in the same room in the same house that I called my own when I was 10, the same room and the same house as the main character, Mary, in “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost”.
How did you come up with the title?
As I’m writing my stories, I usually have fun playing around with ideas for titles. I usually have quite a list by the time my novel is finished and ready to send off. With “Queen Mary’s Daughter”, there really wasn’t much of a list. The story is, after all, about the daughter of Mary Queen of Scots. Or, I should say, it’s about the daughter that might have been.
For “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost”, there wasn’t a list. It was “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” right from the first line. When I was growing up, we always called our ghost by her name. And, since this story evolved from memories of my ghost, it was only fitting to call the first book in “The Piccadilly Street Series”, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost”.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I like to write about strong women (and girls), those who strive to be the best they can be, no matter what obstacles are placed in their path. Both novels have strong female characters, though Mary, the 10-year-old girl in “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost”, is still developing her strong female character. She grows (evolves) through the book, in fact, she becomes stronger with each book in the series. “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” also deals with the issue of bullying. The bully who bothers Mary was modeled after the bully who bothered me throughout my early school days. I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of bullying, but it’s good that we’re starting to recognize and address the debilitating effects of bullying. Mary has her own means to stand up to her bully.
How much of the book is realistic?
“Queen Mary’s Daughter” has been thoroughly researched for historical accuracy. However, as the timeline changes through the ‘what if’ scenarios, the historical accuracy as we know it changes significantly.
“Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” is part memories of my childhood and part fantasies I conjured in my head using my ‘vivid imagination’. The first few chapters are almost exactly as it happened when we first moved into the haunted Victorian mansion.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The grandmother in both books are modeled after my grandmother. Gran (as we called her) always claimed we would soon forget her once she was dead and gone. She was too important to me to forget and I’ve proved her wrong in so much of my writing. Mary in “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” is me as a 10-year-old.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
There is a sequel to “Queen Mary’s Daughter” – “King Henry’s Choice”.
“Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” is the first of 4 books in the “Piccadilly Street Series”.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
The grandmother in both books. Why? Because Gran was so important in my life and I’ve made her character in my novels just as important in the lives of the main characters of each book.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I dabble in more than one. I enjoy writing memoirs and creative nonfiction: family stories and stories about people I knew. I also enjoy writing historical fiction, fantasy, and stories for young people.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
A bit of both. I tend to be a planner at heart, but somehow the inspiration of the moment usually pushed me down an alternate tangent.
What is your best marketing tip?
Don’t give up. Keep trying everything. I use Facebook a lot to frequently post a plug for my books. I actively seek book reviews and I encourage blog interviews (like this one) and blog tours to promote.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
Both. It’s time-consuming to constantly post promos about one’s books. And, after awhile, people get tired of seeing yet another plug for my books and they stop paying attention to my posts. However, one must get the word out there somehow. And social media is the best way in this era of high tech everything.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
The solitude and the thrill of letting my ‘vivid imagination’ take flight.
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
As soon as I could hold a pencil in my hand (probably about 5), I was writing stories. As the youngest in a family of storytellers, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, so I wrote my stories.
What genre are you currently reading?
Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
Both. I also write a lot of book reviews, mostly for readersfavorite.com
Where is your favorite writing space?
I have an antique spinet desk that is positioned to look out onto my wooded front yard. I can write, like Jane Austen (only I write on a laptop), with the view of birds and wildlife as my inspiration.
Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?
Yes. Canadian Authors Association, the Writers Union of Canada, and Ottawa Independent Writers.
An avid gardener, artist, musician and writer, Emily-Jane Hills Orford has fond memories and lots of stories that evolved from a childhood growing up in a haunted Victorian mansion. Told she had a ‘vivid imagination’, the author used this talent to create stories in her head to pass tedious hours while sick, waiting in a doctor’s office, listening to a teacher drone on about something she already knew, or enduring the long, stuffy family car rides. The author lived her stories in her head, allowing her imagination to lead her into a different world, one of her own making. As the author grew up, these stories, imaginings and fantasies took to the written form and, over the years, she developed a reputation for telling a good story. Emily-Jane can now boast that she is an award-winning author of several books, including Mrs. Murray’s Ghost (Telltale Publishing 2018), Queen Mary’s Daughter (Clean Reads 2018), Gerlinda (CFA 2016) which received an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, To Be a Duke (CFA 2014) which was named Finalist and Silver Medalist in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and received an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards and several other books. A retired teacher of music and creative writing, she writes about the extra-ordinary in life and the fantasies of dreams combined with memories. For more information on the author, check out her website at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca
From the outside the Christmas tree glittered and sparkled with lights, tinsel and ornaments. It’s place in the bay window as always. Miriam gazed at the symbol of Christmas shining like a beacon of family and cheer. Pulling her coat more tightly around her, she walked on stopping at each window to gaze at the many Christmas trees on display along the street.
At the corner she entered the park, the light dimmed the further she walked away from the streetlights. The only beacon of light came from the old bandstand decorated for the season by local authority workers the week before.
She looked forward to attending the carol service the following week – a regular occurrence each year. After looking this way and that, Miriam pushed aside a panel on the side of the bandstand and crawled in.
This was home, a safe place hidden from sight and as comfortable as she could make it. A platform made of old pallets kept her off the cold wet earth, cardboard and an old single mattress on one side and food supplies on the other. She’d been able to hook up a little heater scrounged from a dumpster, to an electrical outlet on the underside of the bandstand to keep warm. To disguise her apartment she’d placed panels on each side so even if the workers crawled under they would not see her. Well, that was her hope.
A can of soup and a stale loaf made a meal and then she lay down to sleep.
Arthur tugged at his dog’s leash.
“Come on, Duke, its getting cold and I need a cup of tea.”
The old dog ignored him and continued to sniff the grass unaffected by his owner’s impatience. As Arthur tapped his foot, he saw a shadow approach the bandstand and disappear under it. Well that’s odd, it’s too late for authority workers and I can’t see a truck. Duke pulled on the leash and Arthur followed him down the path to home. The incident left his mind until two nights later when once again walking Duke; he saw the shadow repeat the disappearance into the bandstand. Now he was curious.
The following evening he walked closer to the bandstand but hid behind a clump of bushes. A figure appeared after sundown and with a glance back and forth crawled under. The person was wrapped up in an old assortment of clothes and could have been man or woman; it was too hard to tell. Was there a homeless person under the bandstand? Well that is sad. Once he returned home he pondered what would be the best thing to do. Report them? Engage them? Leave food and blankets nearby? I’ll sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow.
Miriam saw a box to one side of her secret entrance and stopped in her tracks. Was it discarded, some local workers possession or something else? She looked around but did not see Arthur crouched behind the bushes. Cautiously she approached the box and raised the lid with one foot. Inside were cans and a thick blanket. Conflicting thoughts entered her head. Someone knows where I live, I’ll have to move, a kind benefactor has left me a gift, do I take it or leave it? A slip of paper fluttered and caught on the breeze, she grabbed it before it blew away. A hand written note read:
Please do not be alarmed, I will keep your secret but wanted to help you. I have put some supplies in the box. I know it is getting colder and food is probably hard to come by. I happened to notice you while walking my dog one evening. If you need anything my name is Arthur and I live at number 36 Amber Avenue just across from this park.
Miriam read the note twice, it was a long time since someone had been so kind to her. She made up her mind to thank him but to say this gift was enough.
The next evening she took her note and walked Amber Avenue searching the house numbers. To her surprise and delight, number 36 was the house of her favourite tree nestled in the bay window. Tiptoeing carefully, she pushed her note through the letterbox and turned away. A bark halted her tracks. Fearful the dog’s warning would alert Arthur to come to the door, Miriam hid around the corner of the house.
The front door did indeed open and a wet nose and wagging tail found her with ease, followed by an elderly gentleman.
“Well hello, you must be the mysterious bandstand occupant.”
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t want to disturb you, I was leaving a note of thanks. I don’t want to be a bother.”
“No bother at all, it would be lovely to have company, apart from Duke for a change. Why not come in for a cup of tea?”
“Oh, I don’t know, I’m rather dirty to enter a house.”
“Nonsense, just take off your boots, old Duke here comes in with more mud and dirt than anyone I know.”
Miriam took off her boots, curling her toes to try and hide the holes in her socks. Arthur led her into the front room, a fire flickered in the fireplace and that tree stood in pride of place.
“Oh, its so much more beautiful than through the window.”
Arthur smiled. “I always take pride in decorating my tree, the family only come on Boxing Day for the afternoon but its not Christmas without a tree, I always say.”
“I walk past all the houses and look at all the trees and this is my favourite.”
“Well, that’s is kind of you to say. May I ask your name?”
“Well, I will make the tea, why not take off your coat and sit by the fire?”
Miriam eased the coat off her shoulders and lay it on the floor. The warmth of the fire was wonderful. Arthur walked in with a tray with a teapot, cups and biscuits.
“Now we can get warm inside and out. Take as many biscuits as you like.”
With the strong tea and several biscuits inside her and the warmth of the fire, Miriam could feel herself getting sleepy.
“Thank you so much for the tea and biscuits and the lovely blanket and food. I should go before I fall asleep.”
“Well, it is up to you but you are more than welcome to stay if you would like.”
A tear rolled down Miriam’s cheek.
“Oh dear, I’m sorry did I upset you?”
“No, no not at all. It has been such a long time since someone has been kind to me, that’s all.”
“Well that settles it. Have a nap and then you can enjoy a bath while I make supper. I should have plenty of clothes in my closet you can choose from, we are close to the same size I think.”
“I don’t know what to say but thank you so very much, this is the best Christmas ever.”
“Tis the season, as they say and it brings me joy to help you.”
Bathed, dressed in clean clothes and feeling peaceful, Miriam re-joined Arthur later to find he had cooked a feast of a meal for them both.
“Are you expecting more people? There is a lot here.”
“No just us two but you are welcome to take the leftovers.”
“You are so kind, thank you.”
“And if I may, I would like to ask you if you would visit me from time to time, I get so lonely you see.”
“I would love to visit again.”
Their glasses clinked as they smiled at each other. Their loneliness forgotten.