Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming my friend and fellow-writer, the fabulous Yvonne Marjot, as my guest. Yvonne's latest novel, The Ashentilly Letters, is due for publication this coming Friday (18 November).
Hello Sue, thanks for inviting me to visit your blog.
What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
I can’t remember I time when I didn’t make up stories and poems. I got into a heap of trouble as a child for “telling stories” (adult speak for making up my own version of events). It didn’t feel like lying – just making the story more palatable.
After a while, it dawned on me that I couldn’t get into trouble if I invented the worlds within which my stories were set. I wrote the beginning of my first (unfinished) novel aged fifteen, and thirty years later, after life and kids had intervened, I went back to writing and paid proper attention to the task. Four novels and a book of poetry later, I can’t imagine not writing. I’ll be doing it on my deathbed (hopefully in many, many years from now). One day I may even finish that first, lost, novel.
Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?
The Ashentilly Letters is the third book in the sequence that began with The Calgary Chessman and continued with The Book of Lismore. Each book tells the complete story of a fictional archaeological discovery, along with developments in the lives of my protagonists, Cas Longmore and her son Sam. This time they are separated by family problems, but life continues to throw up surprises, one of which has been lying in the ground for almost 2000 years.
What was the inspiration for this book?
From the beginning I wanted one of my Cas Longmore stories to be about Romans in Scotland. So little is known about the Roman presence north of the border (although we’re learning more all the time). I wanted to pay homage to one of my favourite childhood books, Rosemary Sutcliffe’s The Eagle of the Ninth, by sending my family of archaeologists to the east coast of Scotland to rewrite the history books. Also, I wanted Cas to go back to her New Zealand home, because there are (some wonderful, and some terrible) surprises awaiting her.
Did you do any research for the book?
Heaps. It’s a great way to avoid the writing part – writing-avoidance is an important strategy to maintain my sanity. Some of the most readable and useful references are quoted at the end of the book, in case you’d like to read up on the subject.
What does a typical writing day involve for you?
There are no typical days. Sometimes, when I know my boys are going to be away for the weekend, I set myself a target and treat Saturday as just another working day. Other times, inspiration will strike in the bath, or the bus, and I’ll be scrambling for paper and a pen to get it down before I forget my train of thought. In the end, though, it always comes down to hard work – I have to make myself sit at the screen and write – and write – and not stop until I’ve written enough.
Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?
I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. I like to know something about my main characters, and I need to have an idea of how the story’s going to end, but the first draft writes itself – I’m just the channel through which my characters tell me what’s going on. Later I go back and tidy it up – they can be incoherent at times – but I never allow myself the delusion that I’m in charge.
Yvonne Marjot was born in England, grew up in New Zealand, and now lives on the Isle of Mull in western Scotland. She has been making up stories and poems for as long as she can remember, and once won a case of port in a poetry competition (New Zealand Listener, May 1996). Her first volume of poetry, The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet, was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing, and her novels are published by Crooked Cat.
You can follow her work via the Facebook page The Calgary Chessman, @Alayanabeth on Twitter, or on the Wordpress blog The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet.