I met Marcia on the South West Authors forum and have read and enjoyed both her novels. Historical romance is probably my favourite genre and Marcia's books are based in Devon and so have that extra local flavour! I highly recommend The Hartford Manor series and am looking forward to the next one.
What inspired you to first start writing? And what led you to choose 19th century rural Devon as your setting?
I am the youngest of four children and my siblings are several years older than me. As a child I had to amuse myself quite a bit and enjoyed reading and writing stories. My mum was adopted and knew little about her birth family and I was curious. When my three sons were all at school, I used the time to research my family tree. This involved looking at gravestones, census returns and parish records. In establishing which of the records belonged to my own ancestors, I often got drawn into other family histories. I found it surprising, that by perusing the records, it was easy to imagine what had happened in peoples’ lives. I remember thinking at the time that some of these tales would make a good book. I found my ancestors from the Victorian period the most interesting and, as I have always lived in Devon, it made sense to base my books there.
Your novels are classed as ‘historic romance’ but having read them both I’d say there’s a good dose of gritty reality in there too. Do you plan your plots ahead, or do they unfold as you go?
With my first book, “The Mazzard Tree” I did a certain amount of planning, but not the entire book and to some extent the plot did unfold as I went. I wrote this book over several years as I was busy with my family and also worked full time in a demanding job. Consequently, it took a lot of editing and time to pull it together when I finally finished it. At that stage I had not seriously thought about publishing it, or writing any more books. However, my eldest son, Stuart is a talented bass guitar player and, as well as teaching and performing, he has written a lot of books about playing bass guitar. It was Stuart who encouraged me to publish my first book on Amazon as an ebook in 2014.
Friends and family who enjoyed “The Mazzard Tree” asked if there would be any more books, and in 2016, I decided to write the sequel, “The Angel Maker”. I did a lot of research into Victorian times and came up with the story. This time I planned the whole book from beginning to end and composed bullet points for each chapter, which I found worked well, though I didn’t always keep to them, and again the story took a few unexpected twists.
Do you like reading the same style of books that you write?
Yes, I like historical fiction and particularly the Victorian period. As a young mother, I read and enjoyed many Catherine Cookson books and always thought it would be nice to write similar books, but based in Devon, rather than the north of England. Another of my favourite writers of historical fiction is Winston Graham, the author of the wonderful Poldark series. I also like crime novels and other favourite authors include Lee Child, Ann Cleeves and Norah Roberts. More recently I have been reading different genres of books and have found several that I have enjoyed.
The publishing process is complicated! Is there anything you regret or wish you’d done differently?
It certainly is! I think like most authors I thought that once I had written a book, I’d done the hard bit. How wrong I was! Marketing a book is much more difficult. Although I started researching and planning my second book in 2016, owing to a family bereavement I did not finish writing it until 2020. During the first coronavirus lockdown, I picked up the half-finished manuscript and continued writing for something to do. Having spent three years when I simply could not concentrate on writing, I now found that I was enjoying it again. I published “The Angel Maker” on Amazon as an ebook in May 2020. Until this time, I had done nothing to promote either of my books and decided it was now time to do something about it. I set up an author page on Facebook and joined Twitter. I mentioned my books on the local village Facebook page and several people asked if they could buy the books as paperbacks. So, the next stage was to buy ISBN numbers and upload the books to Amazon as paperbacks. I found this a steep learning curve. However, I managed it in the end and the books are now also available to order through bookshops. I found the publishing process complicated, but a challenge. I think the only thing I regret is not researching more about the process before I started, but as they always say, hindsight is a wonderful thing!
Your two young protagonists Annie and Robert are both in their teens when the series begins. Who do you imagine would play their parts well in a film?
Gosh, wouldn’t that be amazing! Where do I sign! Well, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m a big fan of the Poldark series and was impressed by Eleanor Tomlinson’s portrayal of Demelza in the recent television adaptation. I think she would make a good Annie. I’ve found it more difficult to think of an actor to play Robert. However, we have just watched the Bridgerton series which is popular at the moment, and as soon as I saw him, I thought Jonathan Bailey would be ideal in the role of Robert. In Bridgerton, Jonathan plays the eldest brother, Anthony. Although not part of the question, I would love Dame Maggie Smith to play Robert’s Aunt Margery in “The Angel Maker”. I absolutely loved her performance in Downton Abbey and think she is an amazing actress.
What are you working on now? When can we expect the next in the series?
I’m busy working on the third novel in what I have called “The Hartford Manor Series”. This time I’ve planned all the chapters of the book and am about three quarters of the way through writing it. Luckily, my daughter-in-law Laura, is a graphic designer and she provides the covers for my books. She has already produced a cover for the new book which should tie in with the first two of the series; I just need to decide on a title. Of course, once the first draft is completed there will be a lot of editing to do and I have several people who will read the book before I publish it. However, I hope to release it later this year, probably during the summer.
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