Today I am joined by fellow Chindi author, Angela Petch, to talk about her writing including her latest novel, Mavis and Dot. This week Angela is Chindi’s Author of the Week.
Hi Angela, thank you for joining me today. Mavis and Dot is your latest novel, can you tell our readers what inspired you to write it?
Thanks for having me on your blog. It’s always great to have the chance to talk books.
Mavis and Dot had been on the back burner for more than thirteen years, since losing my best friend to ovarian cancer. We used to enjoy charity shops and auctions and when we went out and about, we nicknamed each other Mavis and Dot.
When she fell gravely ill, I wrote her a silly story about Mavis and Dot and it made her laugh. Out came her paints and she sketched a cartoon, which I still have in the cloakroom.
That’s one fabulous painting. It’s lovely that you still have it.
Over the years I wrote more stories until last year I decided to publish them as a novella. I felt as if she was in the room when I wrote, urging me on. I still miss her.
Writing the book is a great tribute to her.
I understand Mavis and Dot is a move away from your normal genre, is that correct? What prompted you to take this step?
My usual genre is historical fiction. But I felt I had to write Mavis and Dot, for reasons explained above. All profits from sales go to Cancer Research. I think we all know somebody who has suffered from this disease. We need a cure.
I also feel we are judgemental about the elderly. They were young once and there’s a lot of colour in that grey. I love the company of older people, they have so many stories to share. And they are fun.
It’s wonderful that all profits from sales are going to Cancer Research.
How long have you been writing and do you write anything else besides novels?
English was my favourite subject at school and I’ve always been a bookworm. I wrote a play for my family when I was eight, made all the puppets from papier-maché, forced my parents pay to watch and got very cross when my father started to read his newspaper half way through. In my teenage years, I wrote angsty, moody drivel… the short answer to your question would be – for a long time.
I enjoy writing short stories and in the last year have been published in women’s magazines. Short stories are underrated. I like capturing glimpses of life.
Do you have a special routine for your writing?
I always have a notebook and pen with me, but I write best at my desk and in absolute silence. In Italy I write during the afternoon siesta and in England, whenever I have time. I need to write every day.
I understand that you’re a Hybrid Author. Can you explain to our readers what this means?
I’m self-published and have written three novels that way.
But in 2018 I signed a two-book deal with Bookouture, a digital publishing company, and I’m very excited about this. So, I have a foot in both camps. I’m presently rewriting my first novel and enjoying the editing process. It’s very hard work and was hard to “let go”, after having gone solo (albeit with the help of beta-readers and a paid editor) and follow a professional’s suggestions. But I think “Tuscan Roots” (which will have a new title for June 2019) will be a better book in the end. I hope so!
I’m also writing a new Tuscan book for Bookouture and that will be out in April 2020. Readers of “Mavis and Dot” have asked for a sequel, so that is on the cards too. I am busy!
It all sounds very exciting.
What advice would you give to writers contemplating self-publishing?
Brush up your social media skills and be prepared to be active on authors’ sites. I’d suggest joining a friendly, supportive indie group like CHINDI, but be prepared to give as much as you take. We can all learn from each other. It’s not enough to sit at your desk and write. As wonderful as your work might be, nobody will find you by chance.
Very true words, Angela.
You also host Writer Retreats in Tuscany. Please tell our readers a little about these, how they work, and can anyone book?
Oh, this is a new venture and one I love. This September 11th – 18th will be the second time we lay on a writing week at our secluded watermill. Anybody can come to Write Away in Tuscany, but numbers are limited, so the group is not too big.
We had a full-time tutor last year but in 2019 we have planned one full day with social media experts, Kathryn and Kent Bax (from One Stop Fiction) and on other days we will have short, morning sessions led by authors on a variety of subjects, such as humour, research, location and short story writing. Each day starts with 5-minute writing warm-ups and there will be other exercises to follow, IF WISHED. All sessions are optional, as we realise some writers may prefer to spend time on their own work. Similarly, our outings and the two meals out are optional.
This year we have reduced the price to £550 and we know we are extremely competitive. That price includes food, lodging and airport transfers.
Sounds and looks lovely, Angela. I imagine it must be very popular.
(If you fancy booking get in touch with Angela via one of the links below)
Your life must be busy with writing and hosting, does that leave any time for hobbies?
I love playing tennis and used to play competitively but since a shoulder operation last year, I limit this to social tennis. Walking is another favourite pastime and I often think of writing solutions this way. Cooking, especially with fresh, Italian ingredients from our Tuscan vegetable garden.
Can you give our readers a taster of Mavis and Dot?
From Chapter Five
Tuesday night saw Mavis in the local school-hall. Bums and Tums was aimed at the reluctant exerciser. She hadn’t known what to wear, although she’d seen pictures in a magazine of ladies in Lycra. Unfortunately, no charity shop had provided a leotard to fit her figure but a bright pink shell suit with orange stripes down the side of the legs and arms seemed appropriate enough. It was a size too small, but she reasoned it would be extra incentive to lose weight and there seemed little point in buying something in her present size when she was planning to shed at least a stone. The legs were a little long, so she’d rolled them up.
‘Well, girl,’ she said aloud to her reflection in the bathroom mirror, ‘you don’t look too bad. In the pink, I’d say.’ She pouted and twirled, then swept her untidy curls up with a fuchsia hairband from the Pound Shop. It was a little on the tight side but, as well as keeping her hair off her face, it had the same effect as a facelift, pulling her eyebrows up and back into a permanent look of surprise. Why people went to the bother of having painful operations at exorbitant prices to remove wrinkles, when they could buy a cheap hair-band to achieve the same effect was beyond her comprehension.
She decided to stay at the back of the class, not only to call less attention to herself but also to follow the moves of Patsy, the pert young instructor. Mavis was in awe of the way the girl managed to move and talk simultaneously into the microphone. The device was cleverly attached to her head and Mavis decided to enquire after class where she could buy one. It would save shouting at Dot, for Mavis had noticed she tended to suffer from deaf moments.
The exercise and moves were harder than she’d anticipated. It was all she could do to move and breathe at the same time. And then when Patsy shouted, ‘And one, two, three, turn…’ and the whole class was facing her and prancing forward in one fast-moving surge, she found herself at the front with nobody to follow. There were titters behind her as she flailed her arms here and there and collided with a lady to her left by side stepping in the wrong direction.
‘Floor work now, ladies. Find yourselves a mat,’ Patsy instructed, not a bead of sweat flattening her slick, smooth, immaculate hair.
‘Good! A chance for a rest,’ thought Mavis, who by this time was the colour of boiled beetroot, hair clinging to the back of her neck like a wet mop. She was also conscious of unsightly perspiration marks spreading like enormous blots under her armpits and between her breasts.
But there was to be no rest on the mats. The positions that Patsy expected her to arrange her body into made her wince. She tried valiantly to bring her right knee up to her left shoulder and extend her left leg as far as she could.
‘Imagine you’re touching the opposite wall,’ Patsy encouraged. ‘Stretch a little further, ladies.’
Mavis duly stretched and heard a ripping sound. When she looked down, she saw the stitching under her crotch had come apart and her underwear was visible. She lay there, wondering how she could creep away without revealing to the whole of the class her three-for-the-price-of-two Poundstretcher knickers. Patsy, anxious and trained in First Aid, came rushing over to administer the kiss of life to her ‘new lady’ as Mavis struggled to sit up.
Thank you Angela for joining me today and talking about your writing and giving readers a taste of Mavis and Dot. I’ve read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. So why not download a copy from the link below, and not only be entertained, but raise funds for Cancer Research too? Also available in paperback.
If you have any questions for Angela about her writing or retreat then leave a question at the end of this blog or contact her on one of her links below.
Angela Petch lives in the Tuscan Apennines in summer and Sussex in winter.
Her love affair with Italy was born at the age of seven when she moved with her family to Rome. Her father worked for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and he made sure his children learned Italian and soaked up the culture. She studied Italian at the University of Kent at Canterbury and afterwards worked in Sicily where she met her husband. His Italian mother and British father met in Urbino in 1944 and married after a wartime romance.
Her first book, “Tuscan Roots” was written in 2012, for her Italian mother-in-law, Giuseppina, and also to make readers aware of the courage shown by families of her Italian neighbours during WW2. Signed by Bookouture in 2018, this book will be republished in June 2019. Another Tuscan novel has been commissioned for 2020.
“Now and Then in Tuscany”, a sequel, was published in April 2017 and features the same family. The background is the transhumance, a practice that started in Etruscan times and continued until the 1950s. Her research for her Tuscan novels is greatly helped by her knowledge of Italian and conversations with locals.
Although Italy is a passion, her stories are not always set in this country. “Mavis and Dot”, published at the end of 2018 and sold in aid of Cancer Research, tells the story of two fun-loving ladies who retire to the Sussex seaside. They forge an unlikely friendship and fall into a variety of adventures. Ingenu/e Magazine describes it as:“Absolutely Fabulous meets Last of the Summer Wine… a gently hilarious feel-good book that will enchant and delight…”.
A prize-winning author, member of CHINDI independent authors and RNA, she also loves to travel and recently returned to Tanzania, where she lived at the start of her marriage. A keen tennis player and walker, she also enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren and inventing stories for their entertainment.
Her short stories are published by PRIMA and the People’s Friend.
Where can readers purchase a copy of Mavis and Dot and your other books?
Where can readers find you?