• Word Fest and getting ready for Burma

    The Shoreham-by-Sea Word Fest short story and poetry slam on 7th October was really good fun. The standard was high - as head judge it was hard to know how to pitch the first mark, and we had all agreed that we wouldn't mark everyone 3 out of 5... We didn't want to be discouraging to anyone so we made lots of positive comments, I think, but also tried to be constructive. The first 2 out of 5 came from me about a poem that I felt lacked impact and then Jerry gave a 5 for another poem and we were up and running.

    The event made me think about how you can tell straightaway if someone can write well. We all complain about agents who only read the first page of a submitted manuscript before rejecting it. But when you think about it, literary agents are not paid until their client starts earning so they are reading submissions for free. They simply cannot afford to spend vital hours poring over an indifferently written manuscript. (Yes, the truth hurts - especially if you're a writer!)

    As soon as someone started speaking you could tell if the piece was going to be powerful or not. The pieces that stood out for me were those that reached the emotional heart of their subject. These were my favourite poem, which was a very simple and beautifully under-stated piece about loss, the winning poem which was powerful and disturbing (and very well presented) and the winning short story. There was also a very entertaining poem featuring a coat hanger (wooden) with knickers hanging from it (I'm still not sure why). High entertainment value if nothing else... We would have liked to have heard more stories though!

    I'm now making preparations for my research trip to Burma (Myanmar) for the new book. Just how much mosquito repellant do you need?? (I didn't fancy malaria tablets and their side effects and besides, they do NOTHING for dengue fever!). Recently, I was fortunate enough to be loaned some fascinating material about a Gurkha's first hand experiences in Burma during the Japanese occupation of the 1940s and this has given me a great kick start in the writing of this novel. I'm also using my husband's late father's experiences out there as a Chindit, but very loosely. This isn't his story, but what could be better for a novelist/researcher than a first hand account of how it really was? I've written a few scenes and in the next Blog I'll be telling you how I got on over there.

    Incidentally, The Villa has now sold 29,000 copies. A big thank you to everyone who bought a copy!!



  • Inspirational Cornwall and Hidden Secrets...

    A good course at Alston Hall, Preston on Telling the Story at the end of last month. It's a long way to go but there's always a warm welcome (and great cakes).

    We travelled in the motorhome to the Lake District afterwards to meet up with my son and his girlfriend and had a lovely - but wet - few days. Fabulous news!! They (Luke and Agata) are to be married next year. Luke proposed that very weekend so we got first viewing of The Ring - which is beautiful and made by a local artist. Congratulations and much love!

    This month my article 'How I did It' is featured in Mslexia - my favourite writing magazine. And there's a cute picture of The Villa there too...

    Last week we had a week's holiday in Cornwall which brought back some wonderful memories - of childhood holidays as well as our last visit 4 years ago. We were lucky; it was sunny and we did some amazing cliff-walking and cycling the Camel Trail. In Stile Meadow just above Padstow we watched dragonflies with indigo/ purple wings and swooping swallows performing some kind of random dance together. An inspirational place and a magical time.

    Now, I'm doing a final read through of the next novel. It is to be called The Bay of Secrets and is about the unburdening of secrets... How well do you know your own family? An interesting question... Quite often you hear of people investigating their ancestry, only to discover a murderer or a bigamist or some other dark secret that has remained hidden for generations. The novel has a historical thread which begins during the Spanish Civil War and it is set in West Dorset, Barcelona and Fuerteventura in the Canary Isles. The story is told from the perspectives of Ruby (35), her mother Vivien, Andres (who comes from the island of Fuerteventura) and Sister Julia who took her first vows in the city of Barcelona at the end of the Spanish Civil War.

    I'm hoping that it will be out next summer though I don't have a definite date yet.

    In the meantime, I must continue my research on the next one!



  • Courses and Travelling...

    The launch party is over (it was great) and so are the signings and even the interviews (the last one was with Radio Solent on Tuesday with Katie Martin, who was lovely) and the time has come to re-focus. It has been fun doing all the publicity for The Villa and I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the trouble to write to me and tell me that they have enjoyed the novel and especially those who have posted good reviews on Amazon!!

    But other things are happening. Last week I ran a writing course at Missenden Abbey with another lovely group and although it was hard work, I really enjoyed it and hope that they did too. On the last night I had a great evening out with Kim, Claire and Roanne (thank you!) to ensure that we didn't become entirely institutionalised while we were there. The course was entitled Telling the Story and we covered a lot of ground including structuring and plotting a story or novel with the all important internal balance' of character action, description, internal thought, dialogue and internal tension. (You had to be there...)

    Next week I'm off to Alston Hall in Preston, Lancashire for another writing course and then a brief meeting with my son and girlfriend in the Lake District before we head (hopefully) to Cornwall for a much needed break.

    I am starting to plan next year's writing holiday in Spain, so let me know if you are interested and I will send you the info when I have it.

    The new novel is finished bar the final editing and I am starting to think about the next one already... It is to be set in Burma/ Myanmar and I've already begun the research by reading The Lonely Planet and The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh, which so far is a fascinating read. And we're going there on a research trip in November... I can't wait!

    Meanwhile, I've done a guest blog on Janey Fraser's website which you can see at http://blog.janeyfraser.co.uk/2012/08/10-questions-with-rosanna-ley-villa.html

    They were fun questions to answer, so thanks to Janey and Ian for that.

    In the meantime, if anyone who reads this has any experiences or specific knowledge about Burma and its history, do get in touch! And do continue to let me know your comments on The Villa!



  • Book Signings

    Had a book signing at the lovely Bookshop in South Street, Bridport last weekend. They were very kind and we had some interesting conversations in the gaps between (always a plus). Next weekend I am at Waterstones, Worthing (Montague Street) and hopefully will see some more people there. There is also an Author Event at Lime Tree Cafe (St Pauls) in Chapel Road, Worthing at 7 p.m. Tuesday 31st July with a 'light-hearted' (as they say) literary quiz which will no doubt be taken very seriously indeed, a reading and a talk. It's never easy deciding which scene to read. Should it be action packed or enigmatic? Should it be near the beginning or near a turning point of narrative tension? And should I edit it again as I read (it's hard not to) or at last let it go..?

    I met a lovely journalist called Ruth from the Dorset Echo this week who came to chat to me in the cottage. The conversation ranged from keeping chickens to the complexities of a writing career... Can't wait to read the article!

    And my writing holiday in the stunning mountains of Southern Spain is over for another year. It was as good as usual - the food was delicious, the atmosphere was (mostly) tranquil and the company was excellent. Many thanks to those people for their continued support and for loving the place as much as I do!

    The Villa continues to sell well and has just been taken by Asda and Morrisons. Wonderful!! There have been some excellent reviews and I've received some lovely comments by word and email from people who have enjoyed it. Thank you all!

    Although The Villa has been out for a while, the launch party is next Thursday and I'm looking forward to that very much. Two lovely friends are providing the music (Peter and Magda) on saxophone and guitar and another friend Tandy Watson is performing a reading. It should be a fabulous evening...



  • Fiction Heatseekers

    Thrilled to say that The Villa is now number 2 in the Bookseller's Fiction Heatseekers Chart. Hurrah!!

    Sales are going well and there have been some great reviews including this one in 'Closer' magazine:

    ‘Vividly written with a compelling storyline, this is top escapism.’

    I think that's good...Yes, I suppose it's escapism to imagine that one might inherit a villa in Sicily... But villas do exist and someone's got to inherit them...

    Which reminds me of one of Sarah Gorrell's questions when she interviewed me last week for BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey. Everyone (she said) wants to be a writer. Writing for a living is perceived to be the most enjoyable job in the world.

    Well... It has its wonderful moments. But I had to tell her about some of the more difficult bits (like struggling with yet another re-write, re-structuring chapters and trying to hold them all in your mind at the same time - whilst cooking dinner and doing the school run; not to mention (please don't) having YEARS OF REJECTION. Most of these have happened to most of us at some time.)

    But it's true that I did have to go to Sicily to research The Villa. I did have to swim in the sea. And I did have to eat the amazing food. And I loved it! So yes - writing is the most amazing job.

    Check out Twitter's #thingsnottosaytoawriter. It's hilarious.

    Thanks to Sarah Gorrell though. She was lovely. It was a really enjoyable interview and according to my husband I sounded 'very professional'. Phew. What a relief.




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