Friday, January 31, 2014

Bright Lights, Big City: Big Thanks - Repost

On June 23, 2011, I published this article as a tribute to two people who were instrumental in my determination to become a writer.
I will soon be on my way to the publishing Big Apple, New York City, USA. Though this will not be my first visit, this will be my first opportunity to experience this city from the point of view of a novelist (soon-to-be published). Always before, I have been a 'wannabe' writer and my experiences of writers conferences, publishers and book launches have been small scale in comparison.
Many of you will have heard of The Hay Festival held at the end of May in the village of Hay, in Wales, close to the English border. For many writers to the east of the Atlantic Ocean, The Hay Festival is the Big Apple of literary festivals. Several years ago, I had the extraordinary opportunity to attend The Hay as a fledging writer with a grant from the Arts Council of Wales. My mentor at the time was Tony Bianchi, whose faith in me as a writer I have only now begun to fully appreciate.
The one person I can categorically name as the instigator of my ambition to be a writer was my high school English teacher, Mr. Lombardi. He gave me an 'A' on an essay about John Steinbeck's The Red Pony. The essay began: Gitano was dead. That is all I can remember of this momentous event. I had never achieved an 'A' before and his comments – now lost in the miasma of scores of teachers' and lecturers' and professors' contributions and contradictions – fuelled my passion for writing.
Even so, my experience of the Hay Festival that year had ambivalent results. Although I absorbed all I could of the gentle words Leslie Norris offered in his master-class, to be in the presence of so many professional writers, publishers, booksellers, readers and agents was daunting – silencing. Even more daunting was reading the piece I had written during the master-class week in front of Tony and a handful of festival visitors.
Every experience generates its kernel of self-knowledge. Some of the younger writers were brimming with self-confidence. I wasn't one of them. Neither was I one of the sage practitioners of wordcraft. My publishing record consisted of a few short stories. I had ambitions for longer pieces but that was not to happen for a number of years and even then, I wasn't ready to put my hand in the mangle. If not for being stranded in Hay with just £10 to last the week and not wanting to disappoint my mentor, I considered walking the 55 miles home.
For Tony Bianchi and Mr. Lombardi, I have created several characters who, if they don’t directly reflect these two men in any real sense, they are tributes to the generosity of spirit each exhibited toward writers and students.
This is a tough journey without the open-hearted help of others who’ve gone before us and hold the doors open. Who are some of the writers, teachers, mentors who opened doors for you?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Interview with Stone Wallace, The Last Outlaw - Repost

Stone Wallace is now publishing with Berkley and I had the privilege of reading an early draft of his forthcoming novel, Black Ransom. This interview was published on Avalon Authors June 15, 2011.
When the call went out for interviewers, I leapt on the opportunity to have a chat with Stone Wallace. Although we had just 'met' in an online writer's forum, I had an inkling I wanted to know more about him and his new western, The Last Outlaw, for Avalon Books. I'm glad I went with my inkling – I would not have wanted to miss talking to him as we have over the past few weeks.

You say in your interview with Quinten Mills-Fenn for Style Manitoba, you had a fascination for gangster movies and television series. You've also written non-fiction and horror. Where does your western fiction find its inspiration?
Before I decided upon writing Denim Ryder as a Western, I was actually playing around with the idea of creating a series featuring a female secret agent simply called "Denim". What I think happened was one night I was interviewing actor John Agar and we got to talking about the Westerns he'd made and something in our conversation got me to thinking that possibly I could develop Denim into a frontier female. Had never written a Western before, so that offered another challenge. Plus it gave me the privilege to honor John Agar, who was simply the sweetest, greatest guy, by basing a character on him.
John Agar's films are legendary, including the horror films and I remember them well. Denim was transformed into a frontierswoman as a tribute to Agar. You went on to write another female character in Montana Dawn. Is there a reason you chose to write these books from a female point of view?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Concept to Contract - Repost

Below is my first article on Avalon Authors on May 23, 2011. Avalon is no more and some of us are forming a new group blog at Classic & Cosy. I hope you will join us there. These are my blogs for the original Avalon Authors group blog. Over the next few months, any article title with 'Repost' in it will have come from the Avalon Authors blog. 

Good day. My name is Leigh Verrill-Rhys and I am a new author with Avalon Books. My first published novel is Wait a Lonely Lifetime, a contemporary romance set in Firenze (Florence) and San Francisco. Although this book has had a rocket speed journey from conception to contract, the journey for me as an author has been a lifetime.

What can you say about an event that amounts to the biggest moment in a writer’s career? Selling your debut novel. Every description falls short – despite your finely honed skill at the craft you have made your life’s work.

I have put words on paper from the day I learned how to hold a pen and make letters. I remember the evening I sat at the drop-leaf table in my parent’s living room, scribbling my story of giants and fairies, when I decided to make writing my profession.

Between then and now, there have been a few hundred diversions and denials. All manner of writing has sustained me – from grant proposals to articles to autobiographical anthology editing. Besides short stories, I steered clear of fiction. I told myself, ‘If I truly wanted to write fiction, I would be writing novels.’ But I was writing novels, in my head and in notebooks, a secret indulgence!

The day came when I had to make the final declaration. Though I have always written, I hadn’t given myself permission to be a writer. For years, I struggled with where my writing always took me. One day, I confessed. ‘I write romance.’ I lost a few friends or rather they deserted me but I had finally staked my claim on my future. The journey so far has led me to many new friends and opened a vast world of potential.

Three years later, almost to the day, I sent my contemporary romance to Avalon Books. Though not my first completed novel, I’m proud that Wait a Lonely Lifetime is my debut as a novelist.

Last month, I participated in a group blog as a guest at Four Foxes One Hound. The subject was ‘ideas’ and I wrote about some of the events and images that contributed to this romantic novel. The title sums up not only the relationship in the book but also the length of time to experience enough to be ready for that moment of clear, sparkling inspiration.

My moment came one morning in early autumn as I sat at a table in Venice. Across the room, I saw a man in uniform. From that moment, Wait a Lonely Lifetime took shape and flourished through to the end. In this book, I had to explore a world and a way of life that were alien to me. At the same time, I felt I was ‘coming home’.

Have you had a similar journey? Where has your writing taken you?