Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Today we’re here to help launch Ann Victoria’s book: Housewife Writes A Bestseller. Welcome back back Ann.
Lovely to be back, Paula and excited at the launch of my book too. This champagne is excellent.
We try to do our best to please. Let’s start by asking you do you want each of your books to stand alone, or are you building a body of work that are interconnected? Whether that be a theme, a set of characters, a setting, etc. Explain more for our readers.
I’ve always written novels that are different from each other. Even my second one, the dual-time novel, ‘Liam’s Story’, is written to stand alone, despite being a sequel to ‘Louisa Elliott’.
Each of my six novels came about through odd events or sudden moments of inspiration that fired me up and made me want to get the story down. But they all have common themes. Rather than simple romance, the stories focus on the different aspects of love, and the way past events continue to affect our lives.
This new book is a memoir, but it focuses on my life in the 1980s, when for five years, my sea-captain husband was away on six-month voyages. Luckily, that was when I began I working on my first published novel, and the writing kept me focused when real life was difficult. ‘Housewife Writes Bestseller – a Tale of Life & Luck’, includes many of the odd coincidences that brought the books into being, but it also explains why I’ve written just six novels in thirty years!
Do you hope your book will deliver you literary success and how will this look to you?
Well, Paula, I could say, ‘Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt!’ But seriously, it’s far tougher than anyone could imagine. And when you start at the top, inevitably, the only way forward is down. And yet the pressure to keep performing to that standard is immense.
When it happened to me in 1989, I was a complete newbie. Literally, the suburban housewife thrust into the limelight, not knowing where she was, who she was, or what was expected. I was overwhelmed – the craziest things were happening, while all the time I was trying to pretend it was ‘normal’ and struggling to keep my feet on the ground. Luckily, the publishing professionals took care of me, but to be honest, I couldn’t wait for the furore to die down, so I could get back to the writing!
But in sharing the story of how the two Elliott books came about, I would like this memoir to intrigue people. After all, the strange events and coincidences went on for nine years, and even attracted the attention of the journalist and TV presenter, Brian Inglis. He referred to my experiences in his book, ‘Coincidence – a Matter of Chance or Synchronicity?’.
How will you cope with bad reviews on this book?
Well, I have had some poor reviews in the past, so depending on the words used, I’ll probably be confused at first – even hurt or annoyed. But then I’ll pull myself together and look at the positive comments. And then I’ll tell myself that we all have different tastes, and not everything appeals to everyone. And, if necessary, I’ll remind myself of what I say to the nasties of this world – ‘Have you so little in your life, that all you can do is put someone else down?’
How long did you spend researching this book’s subject matter, or was it a book you had already planned?
It began life as a series of blogs on my website – originally written several years ago, around the time I republished ‘Louisa’ and ‘Liam’ independently. Between subsequent novels, I’d expanded it into a memoir, covering much more than was really necessary. Until last year, it was just sitting there, doing nothing. But then, out of the blue, I was invited to speak to a group of fans in York, about the two Elliott novels – both of which feature the city.
I told the story of the background to these books, and the research which had taken me from York to Australia and the battlefields of WW1, all the while accompanied by these odd connections and coincidences. Afterwards, the organiser said privately that he wished I would publish this, because it was worth a wider audience – and that set me thinking. I went back to the memoir, put my editor’s hat on, and set about pulling the memoir into shape.
Was there anything you edited out of this book, you wanted to keep in, but you knew it would be a better book by cutting it?
Luckily, time and distance had given me a clearer view – anything that wasn’t relevant ended up on the cutting room floor. But yes, there was a section towards the end that caused me a lot of heartache. Should I include the full story or not? Ultimately, I decided not to dwell on what happened in the wake of my third novel, but I have referred to it, and I’m sure readers will get the message. I didn’t want to spoil what I hope is a positive and uplifting story.
Did you feel energised or exhausted after writing this book?
With this book, I was simply pleased to have completed what has been an on-off project for a long time. Getting it ready for publication has been the most difficult part, largely due to the photos, but that’s another story!
In the past I’ve written historical novels which have involved a lot of time and research, and even more emotion in the writing. At the end of each one I’ve felt like a lost soul, convinced it was all a waste of time, and wondering why I even bothered. But I think this is largely due to exhaustion – and the huge drop in adrenaline after the excitement of reaching ‘The End.’
Working on the memoir during lockdown, I kept thinking of all the positive things in my life, and that helped a lot. I wanted to record what it means to be a writer – not just for my family and book fans, but for other struggling writers too. I hope they’ll find a few tips along the way, recognise similarities in their own lives, and take heart.
What’s the one thing you would give up to become a better writer?
Nothing. Writers all have to learn to make time for themselves – just as anyone going out to work must do. As Stephen King says, it’s a job, and being there, doing it, is the first lesson. But as my wonderful editor at Chatto & Windus used to say thirty years ago – don’t forget to live. It’s in living that we learn about people, places, and life itself. And without some basis in reality, how can a writer’s imagination flourish?
Thank you so much for joining me today, Ann. I hope everything goes well with your launch. If you would like to find out more about Ann’s books check out the links below.
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.