I am excited to welcome Rose Alexander, author of Garden of Stars, on the blog today.
Welcome, Rose. Tell us a little bit about you…
Hi, I’m Rose, my debut novel GARDEN OF STARS is out now and doing really well in the charts plus getting some lovely reviews. This is so important for a writer as reviews are the validation that all your hard work is worth it. Even a bad one means that someone cares enough to write it! I’m also a mother of three daughters and my day job is as a full-time English teacher in an inner London secondary school. I shouldn’t forget to mention the tabby cat, lodger and husband who also take up my time – in that order, more or less . As you can see, life is pretty busy but I’ve always been like that – taking on too much and ending up exhausted. But my children, my job and my books (yes, there are several more underway) are worth it.
Your inspiration for Garden of Stars?
I’ve written about the inspiration for the story on my blog which you can find on: http://www.rosealexander.co.uk. It’s hard to go into detail without giving away too much so I’ll leave people who don’t mind spoilers to look there. Meanwhile, the initial idea came from a radio programme I heard in which some women were talking about experiences they’d had that really touched me. The rest of the story developed from there. However, just as important for me was the influence of Portugal and the majestic cork oaks that are such an integral part of the culture there. I find that place is really important in my own writing and also often what I love about other books. If I feel that I am there, that I can smell the cork bark and feel the heat of the bleaching sun, I’m transported. I hope I’ve achieved that for my readers. And the life-cycle of the cork tree runs through the book as metaphor for love, loss, hope and new beginnings.
What’s the most frightening aspect of being a debut novelist?
For me, it’s been getting to grips with social media. I’m a very private person and I’ve always shunned Facebook etc as I don’t like too much of myself on public display. But I totally recognise the need to connect with my readers, and in the context of my writing I’m finding that I’m really enjoying getting to know you all over the airwaves. Twitter is definitely my favourite medium and you can find me there @RoseA_writer. Come on down, I’m looking forward to meeting you.
Where and when do you write?
Anytime and anywhere. I have so little time available that I have to use any spare moment – literally, five minutes waiting for the bus will see me making some notes on my phone, jotting in my notebook or editing a draft. The idea of retraining as a teacher, which I did with Teach First a couple of years ago, was firstly to have reliable source of income to support my family and secondly to have the holidays to write in. Of course, it never quite works like that because I also have the aforementioned three children who need the odd meal and bit of TLC – but I do my best. I try to get back from work by 6pm and do a couple of hours in the evenings, as well.
Are you a planner or a pantser?
A bit of both, really. A deadline definitely gets me going and I always take things to the wire. But I have to plan as well so that I can make the most of the writing time that I have. I’ve got much more efficient since writing GARDEN OF STARS – I guess the first is always the hardest?
Do you do any research?
I do research but I’m not sure that the sites would be of interest to anyone else unless they suddenly develop an obsession with cork similar to my own! For GARDEN, I unearthed a wonderful DVD of a film by Portugal’s most famous director, Manoel de Oliveira, which documents life in Porto in the 1930s. It proved invaluable in providing material for the Inês parts of the story. The rest of the information about Portugal came from my own travels there and experiences of the Alentejo, Lisbon and Porto.
Do you read inside your genre or out when writing?
I probably do read mostly in my genre but I also love a psychological thriller – who doesn’t? And I read quite a bit of YA fiction – perhaps because I teach teenagers and am a mother of two newly turned teenagers. I think there’s some fantastic literature for this age group out there. John Green is a favourite – who couldn’t love The Fault in Our Stars? The only genres I don’t really get on with are chick lit and romance. I find them too insubstantial but that’s just me.
Your author heroes?
There are so many and so varied. I love Margaret Atwood, Maggie O’Farrell, Helen Dunmore, Rosie Thomas and Rose Tremain. One of my favourite books of all times is The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West. Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop changed my whole outlook on life when I read it as a teenager. But I also love John Le Carre, and David Nicholls. Nick Hornby’s How To Be Good is a recent favourite and Alex Garland’s The Beach is one I’ll always love. My daughter did work experience at Penguin Random House this summer and got given a copy of the 20th anniversary edition so I recently read it again. I’ve picked up on the current trend for psychological thrillers and adored Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, but I need to intersperse this type of reading with more substantial tomes! As a child I was obsessed by Milly-Molly-Mandy and with the Jill pony books by Ruby Ferguson.
Thank you, Rose, for joining us today.
Garden of Stars is available here.