CREAM TEA with MANDY JAMES..!!
Well, seeing as I’m sat here drinking tea and eating scones with Amanda James in the beautiful cornwall…
I thought I’d ask her a few questions about her new book… SUMMER IN TINTAGEL which was released on the 16th July 2016.
Hi Mandy and thank you for inviting me to tea…. the scones are delicious…!!
For the purpose of our readers, would you like to tell us a little about yourself?
I used to be a teacher but left the profession in 2012 after 15 years. I really loved working with the children, but I had always wanted to be a writer and decided that it was a now or never moment. So glad I did. I have four novels published already, Summer in Tintagel is my fifth.
I was bought a typewriter when I was eight after much nagging and never really stopped after that. I decided to take it up seriously thought around 2002 and wrote my first novel then – that became Dancing in the Rain. I was teaching full-time so it took ages before I was actually published. It was a short story in 2010.
Can you describe the time you realised you were a ‘real writer?’
It was when I got the email to say I had the short story published, and then later when I had my first novel accepted. I didn’t think it would ever really happen, but it did!
It’s an amazing feeling isn’t it…??
So, this is your fifth book… can you tell us what the inspiration was behind SUMMER IN TINTAGEL?
The inspiration for Summer in Tintagel came from a walk along the cliff tops at the ancient Tintagel Castle. As I stood on the edge looking onto the rocks I thought how easy it would be to step off and end it all … if a person was so inclined. I’m not, in case you were wondering! Then the ideas kind of came to me from there. I visited Tintagel Castle again later and the sketchy parts became easier to see, bold and exciting. I thought that whole area was the perfect setting for a novel – full of history and mystery. I liked the rugged landscape and the history and mystery of the area.
This tea is lovely by-the-way and served in such appropriate cups..!! And yes… another scone would be lovely..!!
With Strawberries…. well… I don’t mind if I do….!!
So… Would any of your story be based on your life and experience? Who is your favourite character and why?
Yes part of the story is based on my own experience. A few years ago I went with my daughter to see a psychic. It wasn’t the first time I’d done this over the years, but this experience topped them all and certainly gave me something to think about. We sat across a table from each other, in the very ordinary sitting room of a very ordinary house, while the psychic, Maureen shuffled a Tarot pack and then I chose a selection of cards. She turned the cards and said random things that could really apply to anybody, then she started telling me the names of members of my family.
By this stage I was trying not to let my mouth gape open, just nodded here and there, not really trusting my voice. Maureen also told me that I had some lovely vegetables growing in my garden and commented on which ones. She said, ‘Ooh, you’ve some lovely tomatoes and cucumbers there.’ I managed to nod. Then she said, ‘You like to feel the earth under your bare feet while tending them too, don’t you?’ I often did walk around the garden without shoes, still do. As you can imagine, I was gobsmacked to say the least. I asked her how she knew – she said, ‘Well I can see you there in the garden.’ She said it as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world. That really freaked me out I can tell you!
To answer your second question – because of this experience, I was able to create a character in Summer in Tintagel called Morganna, who happens to be a white witch. Maureen wasn’t of course, nor was she remotely anything like her in appearance or personality, but they are very similar in their abilities. I really enjoyed incorporating a little of what I experienced into the scenes between Morganna and my main character, Rosa. My favourite character? Hmm it is a tie between Morganna and Rosa.
I love ‘white witches’, in fact I believe my family are descendants of the Romany’s. I’d love to know if it were true and of course everyone loved to read about the ‘white witch of Narnia’, didn’t they?
Have you ever become attached to your characters and have a hard time letting go of them, or are you happy their story is told and you can move on to the next project?
Yes I do! I really loved writing Cross Stitch, the sequel to A Stitch in Time so I could go back and visit Sarah and John! Sometimes I know that the story is done and would be spoiled by a sequel. It is hard to leave the characters, but I always leave them happy with their lives.
If you could be any of your characters, which would it be and why?
If I really had to choose I would be Sarah Needler because she is a time traveller. I’d love to pop back in time on a regular basis and have a chat with historical characters.
I must admit… I loved both Cross Stitch and A Stitch in Time… great books. I believe that A Stitch in Time has 81 x 5 star reviews… so WELL DONE..!!
Are you a meticulous plotter or do you just let it flow?
I am definitely not a planner! I have the basis of a story and then sketch out the characters, jot down a vague idea of where they are going, and then I let them lead me. They often take me down roads I had never dreamt of travelling!
What part of writing a novel do you find most challenging?
I think it would have to be the beginning, middle, and the end… No, seriously, I often find it is the middle because I know where the story starts and ends; it is the middle that can become a bit tangled or saggy. Better than a soggy/saggy bottom I suppose? It is normally around the 30,000-ish mark.
Have you used beta readers, and if so, do you recommend them?
Yes I have and I think they are invaluable. We all get too close to our work and can’t or won’t see the problems! If you can get an honest and constructive beta reader then I would say go for it.
What can your readers expect when they read your book?
I hope they can enjoy an exciting read full of mystery, intrigue and love set against the rugged coastline of north Cornwall.
Can you tell us what you are writing now?
I am about to start a rewrite of a suspense called Cast Away Stones. It’s about a young woman’s search for her birth mother. However when she finds her, she wishes she hadn’t. I might have exciting news concerning that soon
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I think the main thing I would say to new writers is to learn from rejection, take on board what is said and come back stronger. Get a writing buddy that’s honest and perhaps join a writing group. Having said that, getting published and then moving on to the next step in your career has a hell of a lot to do with luck. Don’t give up if your luck is out sometimes. Just keep believing in yourself, try your hardest and never ever give up.
I think both are helpful, but I have never had direct experience of a local group. I think the RNA is invaluable to new writers and the New Writers’ Scheme in particular can make a huge difference to a writer’s chances. The support of everyone in it is phenomenal too.
So… for anyone wanting an amazing summer read…. then I suggest that SUMMER IN TINTAGEL would be a perfect read, on a lazy summers day…!!