Many thanks Sue for welcoming me onto your esteemed blog. I do hope my answers to your questions prove of interest to your readers.
Welcome, Olga! What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
I lost my parents and both siblings fifty years ago, and since then I’ve been desperate to continue our (unusual) family name by writing under the nom de plume of Olga Swan (an anagram of my late brother’s name.) My first book was Lamplight, which brother Alan originally typed out for me on a small typewriter.
Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?
A humorous look at how the British and the Americans view each other. The cover image below gives a snapshot of what lies within.
Growing up in the ‘50s, I couldn’t understand why four of us (my mother, 2 brothers and myself) were all shy and introverted, yet my father was loud, extrovert and so large as life in everything he did. Eventually I understood. He’d lived a considerable time in America. Should I then follow his lead and move to America? Would that make me more outgoing?
Did you do any research for the book?
Yes. Lots of it. From immigration tomes to other works in the genre to personal holiday diaries and precious travel memoirs from my father to internet sources.
What does a typical writing day involve for you?
I don’t really have one. I tend to do everything on the hoof. As soon as inspiration hits, I head out to our tiny conservatory, which has plenty of light – particularly from above which helps my SAD – wait an interminably long time for my laptop to get going and then start typing. My problem has always been that I write too quickly and too much, meaning there are lots of deletions to be made later!
How do you decide on the names for your characters?
Well, it’s different for NF, where so many names and places have to be correct to be a true account. When I’ve finished, I then change just the names of family members so they aren’t cross with me!
Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?
For non-fiction, such as the one above, I find it helps enormously to include a Contents page, with chapter headings and chronological years listed. In this way, I’m forced to keep to the itemised structure. However, as far as the main ‘factional’ narrative is concerned, I just let it develop as I write. I do find, though, that having written both fiction and non-fiction, that I use different parts of my brain: the back of my head for the former, but the front for the more observational needs of non-fiction writing.
Which writers have influenced your own writing?
Leon Uris and Simon Sebag Montefiore.
What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?
Being accepted by a publisher and seeing the first sales graph rise like a phoenix from the ashes. The worst? Not being accepted by leading literary agents – not because of the quality or otherwise of your submitted work, but because you don’t already fit today’s need for ‘celebrity’ status.
Now the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Always find a good editor: someone who has been trained in elementary English grammatical techniques… Can’t think of anyone better than you, Sue.