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Category: Author Interviews


Tony Kendrew is an American poet of Welsh ancestry. In September 2012 he started an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Wales, Trinity St. David. The campus for the course is in the small town of Lampeter, site of the third oldest institute of higher education in Britain - after Oxford and Cambridge. AmeriCymru spoke to Tony about his work and future plans. Visit Tony Kendrew's website here



Feathers Scattered in the Wind draws together reflections on the people and places of Northern California and Wales. Care to introduce the collection for our readers?

Tony: I would love to. I’ve been living in Northern California since the 80's. Each time I moved it was to a more remote and beautiful place, until ten years ago I found the valley I now call home. All of the places I lived inspired what I suppose we could call nature poetry, though the poems aren’t just descriptive, because I always seem to find a human story hidden in the rivers and forests and deserts. And I don’t mean that my poems tell the story of the people living in those places, but that the places themselves give rise to reflections about what it is to be human. We have been living on earth for a very long time, and I think the landscape is intimately connected with our thoughts and feelings. To give an obvious example, the river: constant but changeable, deep or bickering, “wider than a mile,” you can’t push it, and of course “you can’t step into the same river twice.” And it isn’t just landscape either: sudden encounters with plants and wildlife bring insights of their own. Our minds have been sculpted by nature.

About half the poems in 'Feathers Scattered in the Wind' were written in California. The other half come from Wales. They were my responses to my year living and learning and rambling in West Wales, on the Coastal Path, in the ruins of Strata Florida or the beaches of Ceredigion.

I am, I suppose most interested in the communication of awe. The collection has a number of poems that try to communicate that response to beauty and the ineffable, whether it’s nature, or the effect of a painting on the viewer or a piece of music on the listener.

AmeriCymru: In September 2012 you started an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Wales. What can you tell us about this experience?

Tony: Well, it was a wonderful experience! I fell into it by a stroke of serendipity, and knew immediately that the teaching style and the faculty at Trinity Saint David, Lampeter, were going to suit me just fine. The personal attention and intimacy of this small school made me feel cared for, and the sessions with poet Menna Elfyn and dramatist Dic Edwards, and regular visits from Wales’ best writers, meant that everything I wrote went under the microscope. Just what I needed! It was a lot of work, but that‘s exactly what I was there for.

AmeriCymru: The poems on your Turning CD focus on the themes of migration and identity. What inspired this collection?

Tony: My mother was Welsh and went to China as a teacher in her late twenties. There she met and married my English father. So not only did I have to figure out where I came from, but my options were on the other side of the world!

The themes of movement and identity have concerned me all my life, and my year at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David brought them into focus like never before. So I decided to write as my MA dissertation a series of poems that reflect on the urge to migrate and explore, how that urge was expressed in my own family and life, and how it relates to a sense of place and belonging. There are twenty-two poems, and they take two directions, one towards the history of the Welsh side of my family, arranged chronologically, the other towards the nature of nationality and diaspor a in general.

A number of poems tell the stories of particular members of the Welsh side of my family, trying to capture some of the characteristics of Welshness with illustrations of the delights and tragedies of family and emigration. I also touch on the influence of my cultural and genetic heritage on my own life and work.

And though the Welsh word hiraeth does not appear in these English language poems, we could say that the collection is really an exploration of hiraeth in poetic form.

AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little about your anthology 'Seven Views of the South Fork River'?

Tony: The South Fork of the Trinity River runs past the bottom of my property and has been my muse for the last ten years. It’s designation as a wild and scenic river means it goes up when it rains and goes down when it doesn’t – something that dams and reservoirs have hidden from the experience of a large part of the population. It is an awesome sight to watch the river rise and spread out across the valley. Some years ago I decided to sing the river’s praises with a group of poems describing places along its course. This became 'Seven Views of the South Fork River', which is embedded in the printed collection 'Feathers Scattered in the Wind'. The poems talk about the river in a blatantly metaphorical way!

AmeriCymru: What's next for Tony Kendrew?

Tony: I am currently on the editorial board of The Lampeter Review, the online magazine of the University of Wales Trinity St. David's Creative Writing Centre. It’s terrific to be at the receiving end of great writing and to be in touch with the other editors on the production of the magazine. I also write a regular piece for the magazine, a sort of letter from America, that gives a personal view of the issue’s theme or a literary topic that’s caught my eye.

I hope 'Feathers Scattered in the Wind' will find a US publisher, as I think it has roots on both sides of the Atlantic and wish we didn’t have to get it shipped from the UK. And I’d like to see the poems of the CD Turning in print too. I love to hear poets reading their work, but many people prefer to snuggle down with a book of poems than hear them read out loud.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of Americymru?

Tony: I’m delighted to be able to meet with other Welsh Americans via Americymru. As a writer I’ve been a bit of a hermit, so it’s heartening to see these connections being made through that difficult to define something that is our shared Welshness. And with March 1st coming up I’d like to wish everyone a very happy St. David’s Day. Cymru am Byth.



POEMS FROM 'TURNING'


Pant y Hirion, 1876

...

Is there a way to bridge the years

now the forest has darkened the mountain

and covered the mineshafts

now a wrought-iron gate

makes us back up

half way to the road?

...

The view is much the same

northwest down the Rheidol

to Aberystwyth.

Somebody built right here

for that view -

must have loved the summer sunsets

over the Lleyn.

...

What made you leave this place?

Send your wife to her mother

with your children?

And what did you tell them

when you left for Liverpool?

God be with you?

Look after yourselves?

See you in a few years?

...

Who knows now?

Those conversations took off

with the wind over Llanafan

and never came back.

...

Someone might remember

the accident

with the steam engine

the cheap foreign lead

the drift to the cities

the cough.

...

But that's not enough for me.

I want to lean on that gate

look in your eyes and ask

what took you away?

'''

What longing in your poet soul

sent you wandering?

Was strong enough

to override your chapel interdictions

a life of lessons in duty

in provision

in fatherhood?

'''

Or did the meetings merely aspirate your lungs

give service to your lips?

...

William Richards stonemason

they called you

so you would have known about building.

Did you never make the connection

between building and fatherhood

between abandonment and decay?

'''

You left us letters and notebooks

full of poems brimming with guilt

that urged God's message to the needy

and gave surrogate succour

while the infants dwindled in their bowls

and in your prodigal conscience.

Leaving

...

We have all left

some clean some not so clean

some so strong

there is no justification

and we override the rules

and ride the consequences

down the rapids of remorse.

...

How many words does it take to heal?

How many years?

How many deaths?

...

And who returns?

A few to town, some into the hills

some never

with no glance back -

call it ruthless call it heartless

call it iron cold

they settle their land

and reap their honest corn.

...

How many moons does it take to forgive?

How much forgetting?

How many strikes of the plough?



RHYS BOWEN ON AMAZON

Rhys Bowen is the award winning writer of the Constable Evans mysteries set in the Snowdonia Mountains of Wales. Apart from the Constable Evans series, Rhys has written many other novels and children's books, including many best-selling titles. She has also written some historical sagas and TV tie-ins. She currently resides in California and spends her winters in Arizona. Her latest titles include Dreamwalker (The Red Dragon Academy Book 1) and The Edge of Dreams (available from bookstores and online from March 3rd). AmeriCymru spoke to her about her work and future plans.


 


AmeriCymru: Hi Rhys and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. How would you describe your book - Dreamwalker - The Red Dragon Academy Book 1 ?

Rhys: Thanks for inviting me, Ceri. Dreamwalker is a middle grade children's fantasy novel, set at Red Dragon Academy, a strange boarding school in Wales. The children who have been sent there seem to have strange powers and one hallway leads to another world. If you liked Harry Potter you'll enjoy this. Not the same but the same sort of feel. And plenty of Welsh mythology tied in.

 

AmeriCymru: When can we expect a sequel?

Rhys: As you know I usually write adult mystery novels. This was my first venture writing with my daughter Clare. We were sitting together lamenting no more Harry Potter when I said "You know. I have an idea..." and we talked it through. Now she is bugging me to get that first sequel written. I have a really full writing background but I'm going to try to make time to plot out a second book next month.

AmeriCymru: Can you tell us a little about your Welsh background? What effect did your many childhood visits to North Wales have on your writing?

Rhys: My grandfather is Welsh. My passionate Welsh aunt Gwladys used to take me to Wales every summer where I stayed with Welsh speaking great aunts. We were near Snowdonia and my aunt was a passionate hiker so I've done every trail up Snowdon. From a small child I have always felt the draw of that majestic scenery--towering mountains, streams rushing down them, the bleeting of sheep. That was why I started the Constable Evans series because I wanted to share that experience with those who didn't know about Wales.

AmeriCymru: What initially attracted you to mystery writing?

Rhys: I've always been a mystery reader. I love the puzzle, the suspense. I had been writing in other genres (YA TV etc and suddenly felt I wanted to write what I enjoyed reading. I wanted to write mysteries with a strong sense of place. And of course the place that came to mind was Wales.

AmeriCymru: Your series set in Snowdonia featuring Constable Evan Evans has proved hugely popular. How did you conceive of the character and will there be any further Evan Evans mysteries?

Rhys: As I just said I knew I wanted to write mysteries with a strong sense of place. It was when I was telling a friend about my childhood experiences in Wales that she said "Did you ever put this in a book?" and I thought Aha! So then Constable Evans walked in, almost fully formed and said "Hello, here I am." The funny thing was it was as if I knew him from day one. I didn't have to make anything up.

I've really loved doing those books and would like to write another one, but alas the publisher started taking some of the books out of print. It made no sense to me to go on writing if a new reader couldn't find the whole series (Luckily they are now all on Kindle etc). But I have promised readers that I will write an Evan e-story from time to time so that we can see how he is doing. I'm curious to know, aren't you?

AmeriCymru: Your mystery novel  Evan's Gate was nominated for the Edgar best novel award in 2005. Other novels in the Molly Murphy and Lady Georgie series have been nominated for, and won, various awards. What would you say has been your proudest achievement as a writer so far?

Rhys: Of course the awards are amazing and rather humbling. But I think my proudest achievement is my number of fans to whom my books mean something. I've had letters saying "your book got me through time at the homeless shelter, or through chemo, or through the loss of a dear one." Those really mean something.

AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little about your 2014 novel  City of Darkness and Light and the Molly Murphy series of which it is the latest instalment?

Rhys: The Molly Murphy novels are set in early 1900s New York. This book starts with a devastating event when Molly's house is blown up and she is sent for safety to her good friends in France. She arrives to find no trace of them. Alone with a baby in a strange city she has to find out what happened to her friends and how their disappearance is linked to the murder of a well-known Impressionist painter. It was fun to write as I adore Impressionist art!

By the way, the next Molly book is due out on March 3, called The Edge of Dreams .

AmeriCymru:  From Her Royal Spyness ( 2007 ) to  Queen of Hearts ( 2014 ) your Lady Georgiana ( aka Georgie ) series has proved immensely popular. Care to introduce the character for our readers? Are there any further titles in the pipeline?

Rhys: Lady Georgie is 35th in line to the throne in the 1930s. Although she has royal connections her branch of the family is destitute and she is trying to make her own way in the world at a difficult time. The Molly books are suspenseful and serious. The Royal Spyness are pure fun. I poke fun at the British class system, at my clumsy heroine, her awful maid. Think Bertie Wooster meets Bridget Jones with the occasional body!

And yes, there are more titles ahead. The next one is called  Malice at the Palace and is about the (real) wedding of the Duke of Kent to Princess Marina... so tied in to some real history and set at Kensington Palace.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Rhys Bowen?

Rhys: More Molly and Lady Georgie books, the next Red Dragon Academy and hopefully enough time in between to travel, enjoy the best fish and chips in Wales in Usk and Cornish pasties in Falmouth!

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?

Rhys: Cymru am byth!




Significance by Jo Mazelis

"Novelist, poet, photographer, essayist and short story writer, Jo Mazelis was born in the middle of a summer storm on the edge of the Gower Peninsula. She grew up in Swansea, later living in Aberystwyth and London for over 14 years before returning to her hometown.

She has won a prize in the Rhys Davies Short story award five times, was longlisted for the Asham Award and her first collection of short stories Diving Girls was shortlisted for both Wales Book of the Year and Commonwealth Best First Book. Her work has appeared in New Welsh Review, Spare Rib, Poetry Wales, Raconteur, Cambrensis, Nth Position, the Big Issue, Corridor, The Ottawa Citizen, Everywoman, Tears in the Fence and Lampeter Review amongst others. Several of her stories have also been broadcast on BBC Radio 4."... Read more here

AmeriCymru spoke to Jo about her writing and her new novel Significance

...




Jo has also contributed a short story, 'Mechanics' for the forthcoming edition of eto. For an excerpt click here



Jo Mazelis AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about your new novel 'Significance'?

Jo Mazelis: It’s hard to explain in a nutshell – on the surface it seems to be a book about crime and its detection, but it isn’t - not in the traditional sense. The title ‘Significance’ draws attention to the way a reader looks for and finds significance in plot and character which is how all novels function. When there is a crime involved in a story these signs or clues seem to point to a solution and thus narrative resolution. In the real world when a crime has happened, especially a serious crime like murder, those closest to it begin to review past events differently, they restructure their thinking, their plans, their judgement of other people and their surroundings, and crucially even when the culprit is caught people remain haunted and altered by the crime.

I began writing ‘Significance’ in 2007 at a very unhappy moment in my life and I think that is why the book is so much about running away and escape – escape from external factors but also from the self. At times I had to imagine I was an entirely different person when I was writing it; a more confident person who was not afflicted by the self doubt and self hate and depression I was suffering.

I think if the book had to be categorised it would be a novel of ideas rather than thriller or detective genre. I spend a lot of time explaining what it is not and as I said find it difficult to summarise what it actually is. My aim was however to produce a work which could be read at different levels and lent itself to multiple interpretations – sometimes I had in mind a giant riddle or perhaps a maze, but what the answer to the riddle is I prefer not to say. In a similar way I very much wanted the narrative to be open ended. Not so that I could write a sequel (though at times that crossed my mind) but because I wanted readers to make up their own minds about it.

AmeriCymru: When did you decide to start writing and why have you concentrated on short stories until now?

Diving Girls by Jo Mazelis Jo Mazelis: I discovered almost by accident that I had some ability when I was quite young, perhaps 15 or 16 – I had been moved down to the English class that took a lower grade of exam – then known as the CSE. This was not the qualification that led to Higher Education so the approach was informal. The teacher was an ex-merchant seaman and published poet known to be quite tough but he was passionate about writing. One day after we had done a homework exercise in alliteration he told me that I wrote almost as well as he had at the same age. I guess those words planted a rare seed in my head and stuck because I very rarely heard any words of praise from teachers. The following year I moved to the O-level English class which was taught by the headmistress and more than once she read my compositions (they were short stories in reality) aloud to the class. But none of this meant anything really – certainly not university as I had hardly any qualifications when I left school – just enough work in a portfolio to get me into Art College. I began writing seriously around the time my daughter was born in 1987 but as a working single mother there wasn’t an awful lot of time. However I had always loved short stories whether written by DH Lawrence or Thomas Hardy or Edna O’Brien or Ian McEwan. The words ‘...and other stories’ on a book jacket was never a turn off for me as it supposedly is for the majority of readers.

I think there is a lot of confusion around short stories currently; people try to read them by ploughing on through a collection as if it were a novel. Each story needs to be read and savoured, then reflected on. Of course this demands a certain level of engagement on the part of the reader – or rather a different sort of relationship than a reader has with a novel. Further confusion seems to exist around word length – how short or how long should a story be?

Sadly in the UK there are few (if any) general interest magazines that regularly publish short stories – no equivalent to The New Yorker for example. I think it’s such a pity that newspapers like The Guardian or The Times don’t have regular short stories, not only from the point of view of opportunities for writers but as a means of familiarising ordinary readers with the form.

It struck me a few years ago that while Britain is meant to be the country of long tradition (to the point of rigid stodginess) while the US is that of innovation (think of that clichéd image of flashy newness) it is in the US where you find that a magazine like the New Yorker sticks to its menu of quality fiction and brilliant journalism on a wide range of topics from politics to science to culture. The New Yorker you might say – knows what it is – and doesn’t attempt to change itself somewhat hysterically every couple of years.

Despite the gloomy prospects it was a combination of a love affair with short stories and a lack of time that kept me glued to the form. Annie Proulx followed a similar pattern; publishing short stories in magazines for at least ten years before her book Heart Songs came out.

When my first collection of short stories Diving Girls was well received, being shortlisted for both Commonwealth Best First Book and Welsh Book of the Year, I discovered that what was expected of me next was a novel. This was perplexing as I had spent years working on the short story form with its particular demands of speedy elegance and brevity, and I felt I’d proved myself to some extent. But no, the attitude seemed to be that short stories were a lower form, done only as exercises in the run up to the real event, the novel. A case in point followed the untimely death of Raymond Carver, when some critics bemoaned the fact he hadn’t quite got around to writing that novel and therefore his true status was open to debate.

It’s no coincidence that the great age of the novel was the nineteenth century and that many of its most notable authors had swathes of time on their hands and few distractions. But for me, in the period after Diving Girls I was still a single parent, still working almost full time, still broke. I tried to write a novel but failed, and instead brought out a second collection of stories Circle Games. For some reason this book sunk without a trace and I, as its captain went down with it.

I began Significance in 2007 and had a first draft completed by 2010 or thereabouts. After the book had been rejected by the London publishers I had got to the point where I was planning on self-publishing, merely to have a few copies to distribute amongst friends, when someone suggested I approach Seren and thankfully they took the book.

AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little about your two published anthologies, ''Diving Girls'' and ''Circle Games''?

Circle Games by Jo Mazelis Jo Mazelis: The stories in Diving Girls and to a lesser extent Circle Games were written over a long period of time, the earliest of these The Blackberry Season was written in 1987 when I was living in London, it was published in a Cambridge student magazine which was very strange in a way because at that point I didn’t have a degree let alone a Cambridge degree.

It was another fourteen years before my first book was published. When I look back at my writing career I think anyone with an ounce of sense would have given up long ago. I suppose every so often something or someone along the way reaffirmed the idea that I had some talent to go along with my staying power.

Recently on a short story forum someone asked if a collection should have a theme or not? It struck me then that a lot of new writers especially those doing creative writing degrees were constructing collections of short stories in a far more formal way than I ever did. My stories came one at a time, each changing according to what was happening in my life at that moment; what I was reading, or remembering or experiencing.

For example Too Perfect was informed by several sources; a news story about supposedly documentary photographs of lovers embracing on the streets of Paris. Someone had come forward to claim that the images had been posed by models. As documentary photographs get much of their power from the idea that they represent truth this was shocking. A year or so before I learned that a woman student at college with me was having an affair with one of our lecturers and then I read The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism by Katie Roiphe. I think I also saw David Mamet’s play Oleanna about this time. So essentially all these informed my story, in particular the questionable view that a photograph represents a moment of truth and secondly the idea that a woman (if she is over 21) does not act under her own volition. I wanted to make the man and woman in the story equally culpable, equally reckless, equally regretful afterwards. This description makes that story sound like a dull thing built purely on theory, but when I created it I was hardly aware of everything I’ve just described. It was only with hindsight that I was able to see the subconscious mechanism behind the creative process.

Too Perfect as a phrase is tautological and I used it for that reason - calling attention to a thing which cannot in reality exist. The story is about surfaces; how people judge things by their appearance only, so this motif recurs more than once in the story and is at its heart.

AmeriCymru: Is there any one of your stories that you are particularly proud of or that you would like to especially recommend?
 
Jo Mazelis: I think I am always most enamoured by whatever the last thing I produced was – maybe because new work makes me feel more alive and active and hopeful. I was recently commissioned to create a story that reinterprets a classic Welsh story by Arthur Machen and it was such a pleasure to write that it is still buzzing about in my head. Buzzing so loudly that I wonder if I shouldn’t try to develop it further and create a novella.

There isn’t a lot of my work available online but I have a story called Atlantic Exchange which can be found in The Lampeter Review. It’s a magic realist story about Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath meeting in New York and is quite different from much of my other work. Also online is a non-fiction piece called Haunted Landscape available in Wales Arts Review’s nature issue.

AmeriCymru: I''d like to ask you about your writing process. Do you have some kind of creative routine or do you write as and when inspiration occurs? 

Jo Mazelis: You can’t sit around waiting for inspiration; you have to actively summon it. Sometimes that means writing even when it feels flat and mostly worthless, but doing this means that you acquire the habit of writing. I always use a pen and notebook in the first instance as this seems to allow me to find a sort of natural flow. My words are somehow more tangible on paper and rather childishly I like to look back on page after page of my handwritten text. Strangely I’ve noticed how my handwriting improves when things are going well and deteriorates when I’m struggling.

AmeriCymru: Are there any writers that you draw inspiration from or especially admire?

Jo Mazelis: There are so many it’s hard to know where to begin. Lately I haven’t been reading so much fiction, but among non-fiction I love Joan Didion. I first read her in the seventies and more lately she’s produced two powerful memoirs, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights. I loved Graham Swift’s 1983 novel Waterland and Ian McEwan’s collection of stories First Love, Last Rites. After reading Jane Eyre when fairly young, Wuthering Heights just left me reeling with its claustrophobic weirdness. I read everything by Richard Brautigan from In Watermelon Sugar to Sombrero Fallout to So the Wind Won’t Blow it All Away. Everything by Edna O’Brien too. I adored Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, in particular the story A Temporary Matter.

A huge influence on me when I was young were the stories of Hans Christian Anderson and also an unexpurgated copy of the Brothers Grimm that I found in my grandmother’s house – in these books little girls get their feet cut off or freeze to death and false princesses are put in barrels filled with spikes, princes are blinded by thorns and wander through the world helpless, children are abandoned in the forest and cloaks are woven from stinging nettles. These stories still take my breath away.

AmeriCymru: What are you working on at the moment?

Jo Mazelis: I’m hoping to bring out a third collection of stories – these will be a mixture of stories that have been published in magazines and unpublished work new and old. Because there is an excess of material – I’ve got around 125 stories of which 36 appear in my first and second books leaving around 90 potential stories. I just don’t know how to decide which to choose. Some form parts of my attempts to create linked stories for example there are several stories set around the early 20th Century in an invented village called Cwm Bach, another group are set in 1969 in a large Welsh comprehensive school. Other stories might be linked because they are ghostly or gothic or dystopian.

I think the most important thing for me now is to complete a second novel. I’ve got several in different stages of development and they are all very different from each other and different from Significance. As with the period when I was writing Significance I may have to stop writing any new short stories or anything else at all and immerse myself totally in the new novel, but what that book will be is very uncertain at present.



AmeriCymru: Hi Norma and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru. When did you first discover your passion for writing and literature?

Norma: I have always had a passion for writing, but could never devote enough time to it, because of pressure of work. As a child I loved writing essays and stories. My professional career as a teacher, specialising in English Literature, nurtured my love of good books. I wrote a number of academic articles for journals such ''Management in Education'' and I also wrote an article for a book called ''Take Care Mr. Blunkett'' about curriculum issues. However, at the back of my mind there was always a hankering to write fiction. When I took up writing full-time I decided to write about my experiences as a child growing up in the Welsh valleys, but I was really interested in creative wrting. I enjoy writing fiction. For me it is a pleasure, not a hardship.

SWeason of the Long Grass AmeriCymru: Season of The Long Grass is a true story of a childhood spent in the Cynon Valley in the fifties. Care to tell us a little more about the book and how life in he valleys has changed since that time?

Norma: My first book ''Season of the Long Grass'' is a journey through childhood to adolescence and the realisation that everything changes. It depicts the importance and strength of family life in the Welsh Valleys in the 1950s. A mining village wasn''t just a community, it was almost an extended family where people looked out for each other. Front doors were never locked during the day, the pubs closed at ten o'' clock and were shut on Sundays. Families sat around the table to eat and talk about their day. Television didn''t invade households until the late 1950s so entertainment was mostly board games and family activities.

Children could play ball on the main highway, because there was very little traffic compared with the present day, and vehicles were much slower. Whole streets went to the seaside together and the generations mixed together, unlike today. After ten o''clock the local dance hall was full of all ages from teenagers to grannies. Alcohol wasn''t served in the dance hall, only soft drinks and snacks, but it didn''t matter. Teenagers didn''t go into local pubs, because they knew they would be seen by somebody who would report back to their parents.

Discipline in schools was much stricter and the cane was administered just for being late on a few successive days. I remember being told that if a strand of hair was placed across the palm of the hand the pain of the cane wouldn''t hurt. They were wrong! There was more respect for the police. Children were not afraid to approach a policeman if they needed help. Conversely, most misdemeanors were dealt with by dragging the miscreants home to be punished by their parents. Going to Sunday School was positively encouraged and being drunk was frowned upon. It was altogether a gentler way of life where people looked out for each other.

Unlike today children were free to play and roam the mountains without fear. No problems with health and safety when climbling trees, playing conkers or building bonfires for Guy Fawkes night. Children ate what they were given, because they had been brought up on war rations which didn''t completely end until about 1953/1954. Designer clothes and trainers didn''t exist for children. They were expected to dress like children and wear what they were given to wear. Sex was only spoken about in hushed tones and never in front of the youngsters. There was no sex education in schools other than human biology. Most information was acquired behind the bike shed or from older siblings.

Even though there was pressure to do well in school and pass the ''scholarship'' to get into grammar school, there were fewer pressures on young people than today. Nowadays children want the latest fashion, indulge in anorexic diet fads and can''t wait to become fully-fledged adults. In the 1950s children were content to be children until ''teenage culture'' became fashionable.

The Regis Connection AmeriCymru: Your second novel The Regis Connection is set in Berlin and Russia. What inspired you to write a thriller set in the WWII and cold war eras?

Norma: Your second novel ''The Regis Connection'' is set in Berlin and Russia. What inspired you to write a thriller set in the WWII and cold war eras? ''The Regis Connection'' was inspired by my time living in Berlin during the Cold War. I had many conversations with Berliners who had experienced the Soviets marching into Berlin at the end of the Second World War. They related what happened and the differences in how they were treated by the Soviets and the Allies. I also met people who had been involved with resisting Hitler. One woman told how soldiers broke into her house and shot her husband, because he refused to join the Nazi Party. Subsequently, she was forced to become part of the Lebensborn, a programme that used blonde, blue-eyed women to increase the population of Aryan children often fathered by SS officers.

I lived in the British Sector about two hundred yards from the Wall and close to Gleinicke Bridge where spies were exchanged, as depicted in Hollywood films. Travelling into Charlottenberg, on the top deck of a double decker bus, it was quite normal to see armed Grepos manning the Goon Towers. Gunshots and minor explosions from the East German side were commonplace. Military personnel families lived on constant alert in case the Soviets came over the Wall to invade West Berlin. I actually travelled on the military train through East Germany and experienced the precautions put in place by the British Forces and also visited the Russian War Memorial in Treptower Park in East Berlin. Visits were only allowed with the military and were closely supervised. Compared with the thriving, cosmoplitan atmosphere in theWest, East Berlin looked shabby and poor. Many bombed out buildings were still in existence.

I was so intrigued by events and stories I heard that I decided to write a fictional story based on what I had heard and experienced.

AmeriCymru: You are currently working on your third novel. Care to tell us more about that?

Norma: My latest novel is also a thriller set in present times. Currently, it has the provisional title ''Until Tomorrow Comes''. It is now with the publisher. Below is a brief synopsis of the book.

Chief Inspector Brian Wallace is called in to investigate the murder of a naked victim, wrapped in a blanket, found at the bottom of an old engineering shaft in Shropshire. A local reporter informs him that another naked body was washed up on the beach near Portsmouth suspected of being thrown from a cross channel ferry. The murder had been swiftly hushed up leaving no record of the incident. Wallace is furious when he is warned against pursuing his investigation by the top brass.

Determined to find out if there is a link with the murder in Shropshire he contacts Ernst Dreher, his counterpart in Geneva, who has links with Interpol. Subsequently, he and his pathologist girlfriend, Jo Barnett, fly to Geneva to discuss the case. Unknown to Wallace, Jack Conrad, a former colleague in British Military Intelligence, is also in Switzerland investigating the disappearance of two British army officers, Bruce Foley, working for MI6, and Robert Macaleer of British Military Intelligence. Gradually, Conrad and Wallace uncover a sinister connection between the murders of the two military men, the brutal murder of a young woman in Shropshire, who is connected to Colin Lynes, a Russian ‘sleeper’, and an American senator found dead in a hotel room in Paris.

Their search for the two missing military men sets off a trail of events that leads them to a covert organisation, known as the Black Militia, hidden away in the Swiss Alps. It is headed by a man known only as the Generalissimo. Wallace infiltrates the facility and discovers the full extent of the Generalissimo’s plans before escaping with Conrad. When they return to capture him they find that the entire organisation has decamped. They recover a disk from the Militia’s crashed helicopter containing precise information about the organisation and the Generalissimo''s plans; information that makes their blood run cold. The plot is full of intricate twists and turns. The action takes place in England, Switzerland, Paris and the United States of America.

AmeriCymru: Where can we go to purchase your books online? Are they available on Kindle?

Norma: Both ''Season of the Long Grass'' and ''The Regis Connection'' can be purchased on Amazon.com/ Amazon.co.uk, the Welsh Books Council, Waterstones and other good book stores. Both have five star reviews on Amazon.

''The Regis Connection'' is now available on Kindle

''Season of the Long Grass'' will be on Kindle very shortly.

My new novel ''Until Tomorrow Comes'' will also be available on Amazon and Kindle.

AmeriCymru: What are you currently reading? Any recommendations?

Norma: I have recently read some good historical novels such as C.S. Sansom''s Shardlake series, ''The Revenge of Captain Paine'' and ''Last Days of Newgate'' by Andrew Pepper; also Philippa Gregory''s ''The Other Queen'', ''The Queen''s Fool'' and ''The Red Queen''. I also enjoyed Bernard Knight''s books.

AmeriCymru: What''s next for Norma Lloyd-Nesling?

Norma: I am not a single genre writer. After writing two thrillers I am now researching for a novel with an historical twist that moves from the 16th century to the present day. I am also writing a chic lit novel under a pen name. A little note for readers and members of AmeriCymru - my new novel, and any future books, will be published under the name Lloyd Nesling cutting out my first name and the hyphen.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Norma: Getting published is extremely difficult on both sides of the Atlantic. It is hard to know what publishers want other than chic lit, celebrity autobiographies, and what I term ''doom and gloom'' books. Keep at it! You never know when you''ll hit the jackpot. In the meantime write for pure pleasure. Enjoy!



AmeriCymru spoke to Welsh author Terry Breverton about his recent books on the Tudor dynasty and other topical matters. In this controversial interview he offers opinions on ''wind farms'' and the current state of Welsh politics.

For more from Terry Breverton on AmeriCymru check out the links below.

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AmeriCymru: Hi Terry and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by Amri Cymru. Care to tell us a little about your recent book Everything You Wanted To Know About The Tudors But Were Afraid To Ask ?

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Tudors but were Afraid to Ask Terry: I wasn’t keen on the title, but it’s what the publishers wanted. After my books upon Richard III and Jasper Tudor I was suddenly one of their ‘Tudor experts’. Of course, being Welsh, they are my favourite dynasty, despite Henry VIII, who was fairly repulsive in every way. If his elder brother Arthur had survived, history would have been very different – perhaps Catholicism would still be the main religion. I wrote the book as one that I’d like to read – entertaining and informative. I’ve had dozens of emails and letters telling me that it’s kept people up at night. One 84-year-old scientist emailed me that he was reading it on a train to London from Portsmouth and kept laughing. By the end of the journey the three strangers sitting at his table on the train all said that they would buy it, as he read out bits to them. Books Monthly reviewed it and also commented on the title: ‘A different take on the Tudors – this magnificent collection of facts and figures is a little like a Pears Cyclopedia of Tudor information – the title is the only unwieldy thing about this book, the contents are brilliant and well packaged, meaning you can search to your heart’s content and come up with the information you want or need. A fantastic idea, one of the best history books I’ve encountered!’

It asks whether Henry VIII composed Greensleeves. What were Thomas Cromwell''s bizarre toilet habits? Did Anne Boleyn have six fingers on one hand? We all know the old nursery rhyme: Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells, And pretty maids all in a row . Did you know that this is Mary Tudor, and her garden is an allusion to graveyards which were increasing in size with those who dared stay Protestant? The silver bells and cockle shells were instruments of torture, and the maids were a form of guillotine. Peasants had never heard of ‘the Black Death’. Henry VII was the first English king with British (i.e. Welsh) blood, from his father Edmond. The Tudors could have been called the Merediths or Bowens. The Tudor line did not die out with Elizabeth I. The first National Lottery was in 1569, discontinued in 1826 because of religious feelings. Elizabeth liked appearing topless as an old woman. And so on – it includes brief biographies of all the rules as well.

AmeriCymru: You have also written recently on Jasper Tudor: Dynasty Maker . How important was Jasper in British and Welsh history?

Terry: I had to fight for this title, as the publishers wanted ‘ Jasper Tudor: The Man Who Made the Tudor Dynasty’. The reason is that every English student has heard of Warwick the Kingmaker , but Jasper was far more important in the history of the country. Hardly anyone has heard of him – mainly because he is half-Welsh and half-French. On his father’s side he is descended directly from the Tudors of Penmynydd who fought for Glyndŵr, and his mother was Catherine of Valois, the widow of Henry V and sister of the French king. His father Owain Tudors’s ancestors had nearly all fought the English since well before the time of Ednyfed Fychan, around 20 generations fighting for Wales. His great-grandparent Maredudd Tudor lost his two older brothers fighting for Glyndŵr. They were integrally important in the 15 year war against England. It is very rare to come across an unknown true hero – he was the only peer to fight from the first battle of the Wars of the Roses, to the last at Stoke Field – 32 years of fighting, being exiled, hiding and fighting again.

AmeriCymru: What line does your recent book on Richard III take regarding his historical reputation? Was he a monster or was he a victim of Tudor propaganda?

Terry: Most so-called ‘Tudor propaganda’ was perpetrated by the followers of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, otherwise Henry VII would be regarded as possibly the greatest King of England. Everything Henry did was aimed at solidifying a new dynasty.

Richard III: The King in the Car Park is a comparative analysis of the lives of Richard Plantagenet, a usurper king, and Henry Tudor, demonstrating the cruelty of Richard throughout his career and his arbitrary executions to take power. Ricardians fail to see that so many Yorkists deserted his cause in his two-year reign, and so few peers turned up to support him at Bosworth Field. He was not liked by peers of people, even in the Yorkist stronghold of London. He made Edward V and Prince Richard illegitimate when he imprisoned them and seized the throne, while Edward IV’s widow fled into sanctuary. He murdered Edward V’s bodyguard and Edward IV’s best friend Hastings. From sanctuary with her daughters, Queen Elizabeth Woodville plotted with Henry Tudor’s mother Margaret Beaufort to bring Henry to power, once she knew her sons had been murdered in the Tower in June 1483. Richard’s greatest ally, Buckingham, rose against him in the first year of his reign. Elizabeth Woodville’s remaining male family joined Henry in exile, along with hundreds of disaffected Yorkists who had rebelled across the south of England. Richard’s history from his time as a young man until king demonstrates a ruthless personality. Henry never displayed any vengeance in all his lifetime, and European ambassadors reported their astonishment at his treatment of his enemies after Bosworth and throughout his reign. Those that believe that Henry VII killed the ‘princes in the Tower’ are very misguided.

AmeriCymru: You recently contributed an article titled The Wind Follies of Wales to the AmeriCymru site. Have there been any further developments on that front? Anything you would care to add?

Terry: Wales is still being despoiled – near me great forests are being cleared at Brechfa for more of the pointless things, but even bigger than previous generations. Unfortunately all political parties in Britain see them as some sort of answer to a possible energy problem, ignoring fracking potential. They also seem to think that climate is controlled by man, not wishing to look at historical variations caused by Milankovic Wobbles, which I explained in my ‘Breverton’s Encyclopedia of Inventions.’ It baffles me, with an engineering background, how people call wind turbines ‘renewable energy’ – it’s just lies as no energy is renewable, only transferable with a loss of efficiency. And as for wind farms, again it’s marketing-speak – what about coal farms, gas farms, nuclear farms and oil farms? I fear that the Western World is killing itself economically with all this climate change garbage – climate is always changing – just read any history book. Gore’s Nobel Prize was based upon a statistical untruth – the Mann Hockey Stick graph. An analogy would be that a team wins three games in a row, so will always keep winning. Nonsense.

AmeriCymru: What''s next for Terry Breverton? Any new titles in the pipeline?

Terry: Henry VII: The Maligned Tudor King is on its way for next Summer, showing how his position as y mab darogan , ‘the son of prophecy’, was vital in his taking the crown by marching through Wales and amassing an army. There was no opposition as Yorkists and Lancastrians alike flocked to his banner. It’s a great story of being in danger nearly all of his life to taking the crown in his first ever battle in his late twenties. Then he changed England and Wales to solidify the power of the monarchy against nobles and made the country economically sound, while beginning the British Empire. A recent prize-winning book, The Winter King , was a hatchet job to sell copies and I want to readdress the balance. It was the last successful foreign invasion of England – Welsh and French armies – but historians still follow the line that 1066 was the last. I have no idea why many historical writers just follow their feelings and what they have read – instead of truth.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Terry: I’ve been to the National Festival of Wales in Vancouver and Washington, and many of our countrymen on the American Continent have a lovely, nostalgic view of the Wales they knew. It has changed massively in my lifetime – I’m now 68 and remember when living standards were on a par with those of England and far above those of France and Italy. Wales is struggling desperately economically… you have to be aware that the Wales Assembly Government has no answers. Like Westminster it is full of unemployable placemen and women who have never had a proper job in the private sector. Their major advisors, quango leaders and civil servants are equally dense as regards the Welsh situation. Some Assembly members refuse to answer any questions directly unless they get them in advance for a team to write an answer. As well as zero knowledge of how to restore the nation to parity with England and the rest of Europe, they have limited awareness of what is happening across Wales – the dying of the language and the disintegration of the infrastructure – as they are insulated from the people. We can add to this their ignorance of what the past means to Wales – there is little interest in how our heritage can really stimulate tourism. I’m a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and of the Institute of Consulting, with a track record in international strategy and consultancy, but there seems to be no-one advising Welsh MPs or AMs with any understanding of private industry.

Astonishing amounts of funding is thrown at non-Welsh companies on its north-eastern borders, employing English commuters, to no benefit to the Welsh economy. The Labour administration is intent upon building more and more houses when there are no real jobs – all this does is attract incomers who rely on benefits, or retirees. 90% of Welsh population growth for the last 20 years has come from incomers – they do not come here to work. The population has grown from two to over three million people in my lifetime, and over a third of the people now say that they are not Welsh. Perhaps another sixth are the children or grandchildren of incomers. I believe that the true Welsh people are down to about 1.5 million people, less than half of the Moslem population of Britain. Millions of pounds are thrown into promoting multiculturalism, while the relict British population exists on something similar to a Native Indian reservation. I have called Wales ‘Europe’s Tibet’ in the past because of the displacement of the population. The best have to go to England or overseas to work. They are replaced by incomers. The unemployed want to be relocated to Wales – they get free housing and benefits in the full knowledge that there are no jobs that they can be forced into. The elderly ‘white flighters’ escape multicultural England to moan about the language and become an increasing drain on the health service. Upon all socio-economic parameters, Wales constantly falls against the rest of Europe. Labour does not care, as the unemployed, elderly, ill, benefits-seekers and immigrants are overwhelmingly Labour voters. And the Welsh vote Labour as if we have been ovinified. If we voted tactically, perhaps more attention would be paid by Westminster.

It is a sad story but I see no end to our problems. If we were a more violent nation, like the English, Scots and Irish, perhaps we might get somewhere, but we have always been pacifist. If you visit Wales, please travel across the land, and write to the press about what you see. Outside Cardiff, there are deprivation, poor housing and low incomes. Our tourism industry hardly exists. The seaside towns along the North Wales coasts have hotels now converted to social housing. The west coast is very underdeveloped in terms of good places to stay, unless you want to stay on one of the ubiquitous caravan sites cluttering virtually every mile of coastline across the country. In South Wales it’s the same story. Across the land there are very few good hotels for a touring holiday. I apologise for being so downbeat about a nation that I love but you will not get politicians telling the truth. I lived and worked for most of my life outside Wales, and can see the reality from an external view. There is poverty here, not just in terms of housing stock and people on benefits, but in terms of any politicians taking a long-term view of how Wales can get out of the mess it’s in.

We desperately need a dose of reality. This is a letter which I recently sent to the press but was never published:

‘I cannot believe the political squabbling about Wales being granted £2 billion by the EU because it is one of the poorest parts of Europe. Welsh politicians should have been trumpeting this poverty for decades, as the nation has consistently fallen behind upon all socio-economic indicators. I am a Fellow of both the Institutes of Consulting and Marketing, have written over thirty books upon Wales and have published criticism of politicians and the Welsh economy for over two decades, so have some inkling of what is going on. [John Redwood, when Welsh minister, famously and moronically refused much-needed EU monies upon ideological grounds.] If that quagmire of bureaucratic idiocy, that represents EU policy, recognises that Wales has very serious problems, why cannot our politicians? Wales has missed out upon billions of pounds under the flawed Barnett Formula, but why has it taken until now for any senior politician to think about raising the subject? Why do politicians moan that the EU has at last discovered that the nation has serious problems? These are problems that the WAG should have been addressing, not pouring money into English Deesside and pointless ‘aeroscience’ parks.

We have poor and underfunded education, from schools to universities. We have among the poorest health statistics in the Western World. There are no real private sector job prospects, and little help for indigenous companies. Our towns and villages are mouldering outside Cardiff and a very few places like Narberth, Cowbridge, Abergafenni and Hay. It will be interesting to see how the £2 billion is dispensed (i.e. lost) among and by committees, quangos, councils and the Assembly – do not hold your breath for it to be allocated in a cost-effective manner, by politicians, civil servants and their advisors who have never had a real job. It must be spent upon building up a tourism infrastructure - tourism is Wales'' primary hope for its decimated private sector. A serious reallocation of the Barnett Formula can start readdressing major health and education issues. Welsh politicians must seriously argue for more British Government funding to help its indigenous people, not consistently conform to Whitehall and Millbank policies. They should begin to represent the interests of Wales and the Welsh, not London parties as in the past.’

I realise that this sort of stuff in unpalatable – but my career was in corporate strategy and international consulting, so I’m not constrained by what happens across the road or what someone else repeats. I have an odd background for a historical writer, but it gives me a better perspective that our politicians who have never worked in the private sector. We have to compare Wales to other countries, benchmark what happens here, and unless we get this dose of reality we’ll get nowhere. And we have to begin with better protecting our heritage, culture, landscape and language - Hwyl


Back to Welsh Literature page >


Ralph Jones

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AmeriCymru spoke to Welsh writer Ralph Jones ( author of The Silent Wheels and The Deceit ) about his work and future plans. Ralph lives in Merthyr Tydfil and his first novel ( The Silent Wheels) is the story of the 1984/85 British miners strike and how a group of striking miners survived one of the most bitter industrial disputes in the history of the British trade union movement. A story of some of the comical things that happened during the year long dispute, and how they managed to survive.

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AmeriCymru: Hi Ralph and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru.. What first inspired you to write?

Ralph: I had the idea for the book about the miners strike for a long time, but I never got around to it. Myself and my work colleagues used to discuss the strike and reminisce about the stories. We always said that somebody should write a book about it, so one day I decided to have a go. The main character in the book Big Jones was my best friend, a real great man and I was as close to him as a brother. He sadly passed away three years ago and I then lost interest in doing it and almost deleted the file. One evening my son asked me how the book was going, "I can''t face doing it", I replied to him. He then replied to me, "I think you should finish it as a tribute to uncle Brian, (as he always called him,as he was Brian''s godson), he would have loved that".

I thought then, yes he would so I knuckled down and finished it.

The Silent Wheels - Ralph Jones AmeriCymru: Can you provide a little historical context to the events behind your novel The Silent Wheels ?

Ralph: The book is based upon the events of the 1984 British miners strike. I decided not to go down the political route, as it had been done many times before. So I thought that I would try and put into words an alternative side. The stories are all true and are written as I saw then happening and all the main characters are really friends of mine, although some have now sadly passed on.I have tried to capture the camaraderie of a group of workmates who were also friends and the bond that was between them that is still there to this day.

AmeriCymru: I know the book is not really about the political situation surrounding the strike but concerns itself more with the way that people survived the whole ordeal. Care to expand a little?

Ralph: As I said I don''t want to touch upon the political side of the strike. I have tried to show that the mining communities in Wales where I am from,and I suppose everywhere, will always stick together. The strike was not about money it was about saving jobs,most people we spoke to understood that if the mines were closed down there would be a knock on effect on the community that they lived in. Also with a lot of the steel works and other places also being earmarked for closure we were fighting for other people as no one seemed to be safe.

AmeriCymru: What, for you was the most poignant episode you experienced during the strike?

Ralph: The attitude of some people really shocked me. Although in general most people supported us,there were the odd few who would call us lazy and troublemakers. Also some of the things that went on at the picket lines shocked me .I am not saying that the miners were innocent but some of the police tactics were really brutal, with a lot of them just charging in and swinging the truncheons at some of the mass protests.

AmeriCymru: What, for you was the most humorous incident you experienced during the dispute?

Ralph: There are too many humorous stories to pick one out and I couldn''t pick a favorite one. But one story will always stick in my mind and I have told it often.We were up in Oxford and there was a lady sitting on the floor on the pavement and we looked at her and she had no legs. One of the boy''s walked over to her and emptied the contents of the bucket he had,as we had been around the town asking for people to donate to help the miners. We were staying in the students union in the university and when we told the students they all laughed at us and we didn''t know why. A week or two later we were walking down the same street,she was still there, when a car went past and a gust of wind lifted her skirt  up, it was then we saw that she was standing down an open manhole cover with her skirt arranged in such a way that it appeared that she had no legs.
 
AmeriCymru: A little bit off topic I know but still I think many readers will be curious. What do you think is the most essential prerequisite for economic recovery in the former Welsh mining valleys?

Ralph: Personally I don''t think there is a lot of hope for the Welsh valleys as no one will invest anymore. In the town where I live (Merthyt Tydfil), there is a lot of unemployment and the big businesses have pulled out and gone to more economic countries.The government will tell you to go and look elsewhere for work, but there is no work around in the valley''s. If the youngsters want work they have got to leave the valley''s, and when they do they don''tcsome back as there is nothing here for them.

AmeriCymru:  Your second novel is titled The Deceit . Can you tell us a little more about the book?

The Rage Within - Ralph Jones Ralph: The rage within is a purely fictional story,although some people might think that they recognize some similarities. It is a story about a young boy named Jake,who was born when his violent and abusive father was in prison. Subsequently the father would not accept the boy as his and he resented the child as he was growing up. The boy, although he had a hard childhood, grew up with the love of his mother. He was taken to a boxing gym by a school teacher who had grown up in a similar position to him, after he got into trouble for fighting in the school yard.

Jake was taken in by the owner of the gym after he saw potential in the youngster and he was soon making a name in the boxing ring. But trouble was not far away from the young Jake and he had an injury which finished his boxing career. After this he started to drift into different things.He was given a job working on a farm and this was where he met Fran a girl older than he was. Fran was the girl who taught him about sex, she also used him as her own personal thing. When she moved away without telling Jake it broke his heart and this was when the downwards spiral started. Jake was then taken in by Alex a Londoner, an East end gangster who gave him a job firstly as a debt collector and a bouncer on the door of the club that he had opened in Wales. Alex had an associate, Andy a brutal and vicious man who took an instant dislike to Jake. This dislike led to many brutal fights between Jake and Andy and the two had a mutual contempt for one another.

Fran eventually returned but unknown to Jake she brought her new boyfriend with her, although she continued to taunt Jake. As Jake made his way up in Alex''s company he was drawn into a complex web of corruption which would see him travel to London with Alex, which Jake thought was a start in moving up the ladder in Alex''s empire, this was not to be the case.

The story takes a lot of twists and turns along the way with Jake eventually being framed for the murder of his best friend Slugger, a man who had looked after Jake during his early criminal days.

The story travels from the Welsh valley's to the East end of London and along the way there is a lot of greed, corruption, blackmail, deceit and also a bit of lust, with a few murders thrown in.

AmeriCymru: What''s next for Ralph Jones? Are you working on a new book?

Ralph: At this exact time I am working on a book about the history of Dowlais rugby football club. It is my home club as I was born in Dowlais and it is a subject close to my heart. I am about 75 per cent finished,the only thing is that when I think I am getting close to finishing, one of the older players wil come up to me and tell me some more stories. I have also been trying to write about a local pub I used to go to. There were a lot of real characters there, and I am thinking about doing part 2 of The Rage Within.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?

Ralph: I would just like to thank you for giving me this interview and would like to say that if any of the readers and members of Americymru would like to buy the book it does need a good editing, but I thought that the publishers were going to do it. But it is written from the heart, and if anybody would like to send me any questions I will be more than happy to answer them.






'Wingspan' - A Review

wingspan Jeremy Hughes is one of the more interesting writers to emerge from Wales in recent years. His first novel Dovetail , held us spellbound with the story of a young boy emasculated in a school bullying incident, whose  later life became a remorseless quest for revenge. The ghastly contrivances which he manufactured for this purpose bring to mind some of the more gruesome episodes of ''Dexter''. His second novel Wingspan could not provide more of a contrast. It is a quiet and reflective work which tells a tale of loss and discovery following a whirlwind wartime romance and subsequent tragic air crash in the Brecon Beacons.

The two characters (father and son) who dominate this narrative are from profoundly dissimilar backgrounds and lead acutely contrasting lives.

The father, an ace US Air Force commander in WWII, describes his excitement as his formation emerges from cloud cover after another successful bombing mission over wartime Germany:-

We emerge number one in the high squadron, coming to the surface as if from dark water, and then we see the others breaking through, their tailfins first, large dull fish suddenly plated gold by the sun. Someone says "Wow!" on the interphone, "would you look at that!" Not many people get to see such wonder. Thirty-six forts in formation moving gently in the currents.

The son, a mild mannered headmaster at a rural English school, relishes the feeling of comfort and security he experiences viewing factory lights from a passing train:-

Industrial units, so often a feature of derelict ground near stations these days, have dull amber lights over their back doors. I feel well off, suddenly: if I were out there I''d be confronted with something that might threaten my mortality. I''m thinking motiveless murder. All from a light above a door. I used to look out of my bedroom as a child and watch the rain lashing past the amber street light. It''s a similar feeling. I''m safe.  

The action takes place in England, Wales and America and the story unfolds in episodes from the war period and the present day. The plot details are skifully interwoven and as layer upon layer of the unfolding drama is revealed we become engrossed in the son''s ongoing quest to connect with the ''ghost'' of his dead father. In deciding to pursue this quest, he embarks upon a voyage of self discovery which ultimately transforms his life and circumstances.

Readers of Jeremy''s first novel ''Dovetail'' may be surprised by the contrast in thematic material and content but this only demonstrates his extreme versatility as a writer. What both novels have in common is that they are beautifully crafted and a delight to read. A former ''Book of the Day'' selection on the Welsh American Bookstore, this title comes highly recommended.  


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An Interview With Jeremy Hughes

AmeriCymru spoke to Welsh author Jeremy Hughes about his latest novel ''Wingspan" - "Jeremy Hughes was born in Crickhowell, south Wales. He was awarded first prize in the Poetry Wales competition and his poetry was short-listed for an Eric Gregory Award. He has published two pamphlets - Breathing For All My Birds (2000) and The Woman Opposite (2004) - and has published poetry, short fiction, memoir and reviews widely in British and American magazines,. His first novel Dovetail was published in 2011."



AmeriCymru:  Hi Jeremy and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru. How would you describe your new novel ''Wingspan''?

Jeremy:   Wingspan is the story of a WWll American bomber pilot who has always believed he can fly and who crashes when returning from a mission, leaving behind a wife and baby son.  The first half of the book explores his world.  The second half of the book is set fifty years later with the son searching for the father he never knew.

AmeriCymru:  What does the novel have to say about the importance of understanding and re connecting with our past?

Jeremy: The past is integral to our lives.  The novel explores the relationship between familial generations and their historical significance.  The global is always played out in the domestic. 

AmeriCymru:  The experience of wartime flying is superbly evoked in the book. How did you research this topic?

Jeremy:   Even though the book is relatively short, it contains a great deal of research. This includes finding out about the training of pilots, hunting out documentaries, feature films, visiting the American war cemetery at Madingley, Cambridge, visiting airfields and crash sites, as well as the Imperial War Museum, Duxford where they have a Stearman and Flying Fortress in the collection.  All of these contributed to the book in some way.  A great deal of research is always left out. 

AmeriCymru:  A number of American and British planes crashed in the Welsh mountains during World War II. What attracted you to this theme or setting?

Jeremy:  I discovered a pamphlet in the mid-1990s which plots the locations and stories of the aeroplanes which have crashed in the area.  I was very moved by the story of “Ascend Charlie”, a Flying Fortress which crashed when returning from a mission.  Its crew of ten perished and were buried at Madingley.  I couldn’t stop wondering about each of these men and their individual lives: who they were in civilian life, what had been their hopes and ambitions, who they had left behind.  This is what set me off.  I’d been thinking about it for years.

Tim is emasculated by a gang of bullies at the age of fifteen and devotes his life to revenge. He plans to build a machine that will kill each member of the gang one by one. Each death must be aesthetically beautiful, and so Tim apprentices himself to a brilliant craftsman to acquire the skills he needs. Then he begins to practice the perfect murder. A psychological thriller set in Spain and south east Wales, focused on obsession and the far-reaching evils of perfectionism.

AmeriCymru:  Your first novel ''Dovetail'' was also set in the Welsh hills. Care to describe it for us?

Jeremy:   Reviewers described ‘Dovetail’ as a psychological thriller and as literary horror.  For me it is quite simply a revenge story.  The protagonist devotes his life to putting right the wrong perpetrated upon him by a gang of boys when he was fifteen.  He apprentices himself to a brilliant craftsman in order to acquire the skills he perceives he needs to build a killing machine out of fine timbers.  He is obsessed with perfection.  The moment at which the machine is perfect is when it kills beautifully.  The book interrogates the notions of aesthetic beauty and moral imperfection, as the protagonist busies himself with a love of birds, craftsmanship and the story of Saint Sebastian with whom he identifies. 

AmeriCymru:  In addition to writing novels you are also a published poet. Care to tell us more? Where can readers go to buy your poetry online?

Jeremy:  Before I wrote ‘Dovetail’ my whole world view was poetic.  I interpreted what was around me in terms of poetry constantly.  I published the first poems I wrote as an undergraduate.  I was shortlisted for an Eric Gregory Award and was awarded first prize in the Poetry Wales competition.  I had a great deal of magazine publication.  I published two pamphlets: breathing for all my birds and The Woman Opposite .  I read enormous amounts of poetry and built up a great library.  Then it all stopped when I entered the world of fiction. 

I had wanted to be a novelist when I first started writing but didn’t know how to achieve this, so turned to poetry because I thought it was ‘achievable’: poems were short and I could complete one in a reasonable amount of time.  I haven’t written a poem for several years but without the experience of crafting poems I would not be the kind of prose writer I have become.  Baudelaire said, “Be a poet even in prose,” or something like that… 

AmeriCymru:   What''s next for Jeremy Hughes? Are you working on a new book at the moment?

Jeremy:   I am working on a crime novel set in Abergavenny and Madrid.  The book’s central idea is related to identity.  The criminal is a portrait painter. The police officer returns to the small town of his upbringing with the skills and years of experience he acquired as a detective in the Met. People disappear and artistic clues are left behind.  The criminal and the officer share an event in the past which causes these disappearances. 

I carried out research at the Prado and Reina Sophia in Madrid, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, the fine gallery in Céret, southern France and the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. 

AmeriCymru:   Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Jeremy:   I am so pleased to be able to connect with readers around the world.  I love writing about the place of Wales within a global context, however modestly.  I hope that American readers enjoy the books I make as much as I enjoy creating them.

All best wishes from Abergavenny,

Jeremy Hughes


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About the Author

Jeremy Hughes was born in Crickhowell, south Wales. He was awarded first prize in the Poetry Wales competition and his poetry was short-listed for an Eric Gregory Award. He has published two pamphlets - Breathing For All My Birds (2000) and The Woman Opposite (2004) - and has published poetry, short fiction, memoir and reviews widely in British and American magazines,. His first novel Dovetail was published in 2011. He studied for the Master''s in creative writing at the University of Oxford. He now teaches Creative Writing at Oxford and the University of Wales, Newport, as well as literature for Aberystwyth. He is married with a daughter and a son.

Product Details

Wingspan

In September 1943 an American Flying Fortress returning from a bombing mission crashes in Wales.


Published by: Cillian Press

Date published: 2013-1-11

Edition: 1st

ISBN: 0957315589

Available in Paperback




Anthony Bunko's brave new memoir reveals the hilariously funny and scandalous world of the Business Consultant In a brave new memoir, best selling author, Anthony Bunko from Merthyr Tydfil reveals all about the hilariously funny and scandalous world of the business consultant after spending 15 years in the job. Lord Forgive Me... But I was a (Business) Bullshit Consultant (published by Y Lolfa) is a laugh-our loud ‘consultant had enough’ memoir based on true events, and is a rollercoaster ride full of fist-fights, muggings, kidnapping, gun chases, ghosts, psychopaths. hookers, back stabbing, bullshit, weird sex, strong drugs and the odd plate of sausage rolls.......It was a bloody nightmare!!!

AmeriCymru talked to Anthony about the book and his new career as a writer.

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Books By Anthony Bunko ...... ......... Press Release


AmeriCymru: Hi Anthony and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru. Care to tell us a little about your recent book:- Lord Forgive Me...But I Was a (Business) Bullshit Consultant?

Anthony: I’ve been told by the people who have read it, that it’s a laugh-out loud ''consultant had enough'' memoir about a writer trapped inside a business consultant’s body.

It’s quite funny because when I first landed my dream job as a management consultant I thought it would mean a life of travelling to exotic places, meeting interesting people and making lots of money. Yet, what many people considered to be a glamorous profession, nearly got me murdered in New York, kidnapped in Amsterdam, mugged by the police in Moscow; got me in a fist fight in Germany, threatened by the business mafia in Italy and scared half to death in a ‘Psycho’ hotel in Sweden. And that was just for starters!

I used the experience of writing the mad events as therapy. Instead of lying on a couch talking to some bloke charging me £50 an hour, I used the novel to offload 12 years of walking through the fires of consultant Hell without a safety net.

AmeriCymru: Was there any one incident in particular that made you decide to ''go straight''?

Anthony: There were lots of incidents in many years of talking bullshit for a living that made me ‘go straight’. But below is a little snippet from the book, which was probably the post-it note that finally broke the flip-chart’s legs.

Picture the scene; after 8 hours delay in Cleveland, I finally find myself alone in Newark airport in New York at midnight. My connection to London had gone, I’d lost my luggage and I was in a taxi going to a motel until I could get a flight home in the morning. The insane taxi driver was not only trying to rip me off, but he didn’t have a bloody clue where he was going. I had enough and told him to stop the cab. We both jumped out….here’s what happened next :-

He leant into the glove compartment and pulled out a gun. I sprinted over the bridge without looking back. The car horns blared as I zigzagged in and out of the oncoming traffic. Their headlights lit up my face. I darted up an alleyway, into a side street.

When I thought I was safe; I stopped running. My heart pounding in my chest, my legs felt like jelly. I punched the air. I had taken on the mad taxi driver of Newark on his home patch, and beaten the money-grabbin’ bastard.

Smirking to myself, I slowly walked towards the broken neon sign of the motel. It was only when I looked around did it dawn on me I was in more trouble than ever. I was in the wrong part of town, at the wrong time, and in the wrong whatever else I wanted to add to the wrong situation.

They appeared out of the shadows, staggering towards me like zombie creatures from the Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. In my mind I was sure I could hear the low murmur of the gutter people chanting. ‘Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the fear of a business man!’

I stood frozen to the spot. A gun shot rang out behind me. I screamed and put my hands over my head. Ok, it was probably a car exhaust backfiring, but I didn’t stick around to find out. I ran again, only this time much faster.

I sprinted around the corner; I could see the sign for the motel in the distance. In my imagination, I could feel their breath on my neck and their hands touching my skin.

I barged into the reception area, nearly knocking the door off its hinges. Everyone in there stopped to look at me.

Three prostitutes sitting on a worn-out sofa in the corner smiled. One uncrossed her legs. I swear it looked like a cave at Cheddar gorge. To be honest, if I was smaller, I would have crawled up there and hidden in the safety of her nether regions. It may have looked dirty and smelt of cheese but it looked like the safest place to be at that moment.

Link to amazon:- Buy ''Lord Forgive Me...'' here

AmeriCymru: Why writing? Of all the trades in all the world, what made you take up the pen?

Anthony: I began writing more by accident than design. However, I now think there was always some creative demon inside of me trying to get out. One day in 2002 I sat in a three hour traffic jam on the M4 after returning from a business workshop in London. Bored, I picked up a pen and scribbled down the now infamous title, ‘The Tale of The Shagging Monkeys’. Two months later, the comedy novel based on my mates from Dowlais Rugby Club was born.

The spelling was terrible and the grammer was worser (ha ha), but the mad-cap tale not only made people laugh, it earned me a 4 star rating in the Western Mail, the National paper of Wales.

After that I got bitten by the bug. Writing became my passion. Every spare minute (even though I was working full time as a consultant) I spent writing fiction stories. To me there is still nothing better than sitting in a pub with a bottle of wine and my imagination for company. (But don’t tell anyone about that, they think I’m weird already!)

AmeriCymru: What was it like working with Stuart Cable on the ''Demons and Cocktails: My Life with Stereophonics'' project?

Anthony: Stuart was a larger than life character with a large smile and larger hair style. What I loved about Stuart was he was a down-to-earth rock star, a real people’s person, who always made the time and effort to talk to anyone about everything. I met him while interviewing him for a spoof magazine I was writing called the rag. After several beers we both ended up in his mansion in Aberdare where he told me stories about supporting U2 and the famous tale about how he ate Keith Richards’ Shepard pie after a gig in Paris. Slightly worse for wear, I asked him if I could I write his life story. He shook my hand there and then, and the rest is history. For a year he took me everywhere and I met some wonderful and weird people. Partying with the Oasis brothers, Liam and Noel, who were both great guys, was a night I will never forget. Also becoming a life-long friend with the infamous and lovely Howard Marks, (Mister Nice, the drug baron) was all down to Stuart.

When Stuart died, it was like losing a brother, such a terrible shock and such a sad waste of someone’s life!

Me and Stuart at one of our many book signings

AmeriCymru: You have written a number of other biographies. Can you tell us more?

Anthony: The book Demons and Cocktails changed my life and to a degree my writing. The success of the book led to a London publisher asking me to write books on Hugh Laurie and Hugh Jackman. Then in 2010 I wrote the harrowing true lifestory, Ma’am Anna, about Human Trafficking Advocate Anna Rodriguez which was released in America.

Next stop on my rollercoaster ride found me in Bangkok in 2013, with the outrageously funny and slightly insane Mike Spikey Watkins – former-Welsh rugby captain. 2 hard to handle earned us the title of bestselling authors after it stayed number 1 for 8 weeks on Amazon best sellers book list, beating off the likes of Johnny Wilkinson and Richie McCaw. To date it’s had 35 reviews on amazon, all five stars out of five.

AmeriCymru: We have all been greatly amused by the recent revelations concerning the NATO summit itinerary. What is your involvement with the Walesoncraic site? How did it come to be founded?

Anthony: I’m not a political person at all, but I just find all the nonsense around things like the NATO visit just completely bonkers. I’ve never seen so many armed police in my life and I’ve been to football matches between Cardiff and Swansea !!! These politicians don’t live in the real world. Luckily, I started walesoncraic with a real talented writer, Patric Morgan from Cardiff a week or so before. Both of us had been doing similar types of stuff separately, so we met up in Wetherspoons in Merthyr for a cooked brekkie and within ten minutes, walesoncraic appeared out of the mist like Frankenstein’s monster. Hopefully it’s going to take over the world. Our first week saw us reporting on the Nato summit and all the madness surrounding it.

Link to the site:-
http://www.walesoncraic.com/

AmeriCymru: What''s next for Anthony Bunko? Any new works in the pipeline?

Anthony: As well as the spoof website, I’m also doing a few different type of creative stuff at the moment. Writing-wise, I’m just finishing off a few mad-cap children’s books which I hope to get released in 2015.

I’ve always wanted to write a stage play and I’ve written a comedy play based on the Wizard of Oz, but set in Merthyr today. It’s called the Wizard of Gurnwah and rehearsals starts pretty soon.

I’m also involved in a new creative group in my hometown, called HWYL – Made in Merthyr – its aim is to change the perception of the town to the outside world and also change the perception of the arts in the town itself. Even though the group has just started, I can’t believe how many talented people we have in the town…from writers, film directors, musicians, artists, poets, software designers, fancy cooks (who actually cooked for Obama and Nato in Cardiff Castle)…the list is endless…..I will keep you updated on progress…

AmeriCymru: What do you do when you finish a book?

Anthony: When I get that first copy in my grubby hands, I always lock myself away in my conservatory and read it from cover to cover while drinking a good bottle of wine. Then I put it away and move onto the next thing. I never read that book again…sad but true.’

AmeriCymru: What is your favourite book?’

Anthony: My all-time favourite book is Catch 22 by Joseph Keller. I revisit it every two years or so. It’s the funniest thing I have ever read. Even now it still makes me laugh out loud. The film based on the book didn’t capture the humour at all…but the book is brilliant.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymu?

Anthony: ‘Yep, a simple message for all the creative people out there looking for some kind of inspiration……

’You can walk tirelessly around the world in search of comfortable shoes… only to find a pair already under the bed.''

Make out of that what you will….it worked for me!!!

Here’s the link to most of my books on amazon:-

Books by Anthony Bunko on Amazon

Stay free

Bunko x



Sarah Stevenson

AmeriCymru spoke to author Sarah Stevenson about her latest book The Truth Against The World

"Sarah Jamila Stevenson is a writer, artist, graphic designer, introvert, closet geek, enthusiastic eater, struggling blogger, lapsed piano player, household-chore-ignorer and occasional world traveler. Her previous lives include spelling bee nerd, suburban Southern California teenager, Berkeley art student, underappreciated temp, and humor columnist for a video game website.

Throughout said lives, she has acquired numerous skills of questionable usefulness, like intaglio printmaking and Welsh language. She lives in Northern California with her husband, who is also an artist, and two cats with astounding sleep-inducing powers." Read more here...


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The Truth Against The World AmeriCymru: Hi Sarah. What can you tell us about your new book ''The Truth Against The World''?

Sarah : Diolch, Ceri, for this opportunity to talk about my writing work! The Truth Against the World is described on the book cover as "a transatlantic paranormal mystery that spans generations"—but I personally like to describe it as a ghostly mystery about a family secret. Two teenagers—Wyn (Olwen), a girl in San Francisco, and Gareth, a boy in London—are unexpectedly brought together online and find out they share a strange connection. Was their meeting a coincidence, ghostly intervention, or something more? Both of them have Welsh heritage, and soon, they begin to trace the mystery together, all the way back to a tiny Welsh village and the secrets it has held close for decades.

I hope that''s enough to whet readers'' appetites without giving too much away…

AmeriCymru: What is your connection with Wales?

Sarah: I have to admit first off that I have no idea whether I have Welsh heritage or not! It was something my grandmother always used to say, but we have no idea if it was accurate, and no real way to prove it. We only know for sure that there''s English, Irish, and French Canadian on that side. Having her say it at all, though, did plant a seed in my mind. I suppose I''ve been interested in Welsh language and culture since my first visit to Wales, at age 4! We took a family vacation to the UK and I remember being quite impressed with the castles in Wales, and the green countryside. I returned with my mother when I was 13, and that''s when I first remember encountering the Welsh language and being captivated by it. In college I had the opportunity to take a couple of Welsh language classes, and since then I''ve kept it up on my own, using online resources, and by attending the Cymdeithas Madog Welsh course as often as I can. Because of that, I now have various friends and other connections in Wales, and feel even more strongly attached than ever. (Now I just have to find time and money to visit again…my last trip was in 2000, for the Cymdeithas Madog Cwrs Cymraeg in Carmarthen.)

AmeriCymru: What influenced your decision to write for children/young adults?

Sarah: To be honest, I hadn''t originally thought about writing for young readers when I first began to pursue a career in writing. Actually, my original career plan was to be an illustrator, and I studied art in college as an undergraduate and even did a year of graduate work in printmaking. After being out of school and working for a couple of years, I was doing some freelance writing of humor articles as part of my job at an internet company, IGN.com, and realized how much I''d always enjoyed writing. However, this was the first time I''d ever thought of it as more than just a hobby.

I took an online fiction writing workshop in about 2001 and that was actually when I first began Olwen''s story. At that point, the characters were adults and it was not a YA novel at all. But I only got about 40 pages in before getting stuck. Shortly after that, though, I decided to return to school for creative writing, and during my MFA program at Mills College in Oakland, I took a couple of courses in writing for young adults and realized not only that Olwen''s story would be a perfect young adult novel, but also that I really had a connection with writing for that age group. I did so much reading when I was a teenager—it was the last time I had really read voraciously and indiscriminately. At the same time, I know how difficult it can be to keep teens reading. I relished (and still do!) the idea of being able to convert and keep lifelong readers. On top of that, I feel like YA novels are all about growth and change and coming of age, and I find that an intriguing underlying theme to explore, regardless of genre.

AmeriCymru: Your book "The Latte Rebellion'' won an IPPY Award for Children''s Multicultural Fiction in 2012. Care to tell us more?

Sarah: Here''s a brief tale of drastic contrasts for you! Although The Truth Against the World was my first finished book, The Latte Rebellion was my first PUBLISHED book. Truth, I labored over for years, first as my MFA thesis (at that point entitled The Other Olwen) and then afterward as I repeatedly rewrote it and tried to get it published. The origin story for Latte couldn''t be more different—I started it during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2007, and finished the first draft less than 6 months later.

I suppose Latte just came "pouring" out of me partly because of the autobiographical inspiration for it, and partly because it was just a very fun story to write—it''s about students of mixed race/mixed ethnicity who decide to form a club for other students like them and sell t-shirts as a money-making scheme, but of course the scheme careens hilariously out of control. As someone of mixed heritage myself (my father was born in India), it''s not hard to notice that there aren''t many books written about characters dealing with the unique set of issues that come up when you have a family that''s blended in that way, bringing together races and/or cultures. I wanted to write something that incorporated characters of mixed ethnicity, because that''s what I grew up with, but I also wanted to write a story that was entertaining and funny and not "issue-based." The Latte Rebellion is what came out.

AmeriCymru: You also write short stories. Where can our readers go to find them online?

Sarah: I don''t have too many short stories available online at the moment—in fact, this question prompted me to check my own website and I found that most of the links to my online work are no longer active! Surprise. However, I will take that as tacit permission to post some PDFs of those published stories very soon on my website, at www.SarahJamilaStevenson.com

AmeriCymru: What are you reading at the moment? Any recommendations?

Sarah: At the moment, I''m reading a non-fiction book entitled Hubbub: Filth, Noise, and Stench in England by Emily Cockayne. I highly recommend it! It''s a fascinating look at what life was like in English cities in the 1600s and 1700s, based on firsthand writings from the time period. I also recently finished reading the third book in a trilogy by a YA writer friend, Robin LaFevers. The book is Mortal Heart, Book 3 in the His Fair Assassin trilogy, a story of magic, mythology, and political intrigue set in Brittany and France in the Middle Ages. All three books are fantastic, with wonderfully dangerous female heroines.

AmeriCymru: Other interests/hobbies besides writing?

Sarah: Lately I seem to find my free time for other interests dwindling more and more, but of course, when I can, I try to continue pursuing my visual art (drawing, painting, printmaking, bookmaking). I also enjoy cooking (and eating!), traveling, watching BBC shows (just finished Call the Midwife, and I love Doctor Who), listening to music and occasionally playing it (piano, and I''m learning ukulele), and on occasion I have been known to participate in role-playing games.

AmeriCymru: What are you working on at the moment?

Sarah: I''m trying to rewrite a draft of a new book which is part of a two-book set tentatively titled Fuel to the Fire. I like to call it post-post-apocalyptic. (Essentially, it''s a fantasy without any actual magic in it!) Book 1 is called Tinder. It''s set in an imaginary world that relies on water and steam rather than combustion, a few centuries after worldwide disaster has changed the face of the earth. In the stately canal city of Breakwater, a young noblewoman named Chiara is faced with having to undergo an arranged marriage, when all she wants to do with her life is work with technology as an engineer. Meanwhile, a young man, Aden, lives in the poor part of town, scrabbling to pull down enough money from his work as an apothecary''s apprentice so he can pay his dead father''s debts. An irresistible offer of work from a slightly shady individual ends up drawing Aden into a world of thugs, rebels, and guerrillas eager to bring down the noble status quo—and then a shocking, tragic accident brings him and Chiara together. Whether they can stop what they''ve inadvertently helped set into motion is the premise of Book 2.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Sarah: Thank you so much for reading this! For more of my thoughts on books and writing, here are a few more places to find me online:

Blog posts: http://sarahjamilastevenson.com/blog.html

Twitter: @aquafortis

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SarahJamilaStevenson



Time For Silence

"The novel is set in the south west of Wales, in northern Pembrokeshire, where I live now. Even today, it’s isolated, west of the mountains, with poor road and rail links. In the nineteenth century it was one of the few areas where the population remained static or fell, while everywhere else it was exploding."

BOOKS BY THORNE MOORE

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AmeriCymru: Hi Thorne and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru. Care to introduce your new book ''Time For Silence'' for our readers?

Thorne: A Time For Silence tells of a girl, Sarah, a one-time singer, from the home counties, near London. She’s going through numerous crises, including an impending marriage to an up and coming company lawyer and a career in advertising that she got into by mistake, and she’s feeling trapped. Returning from a visit to her mother in Ireland, she’s passing through Wales when she chances upon the ruined cottage, Cwmderwen, where her grandparents had lived, and it prompts her to enquire a little more about that side of her family.

When she discovers that her grandfather, John Owen, did not simply die there, but was murdered – a small matter that no one has ever thought to mention, she starts to escape into an obsession with the place, buying the cottage, and embarking on a determined investigation of a crime that happened in 1948. She’s hampered by the fact that the few people still alive who remember it are unwilling or unable to talk about it. Worse, she is a successful English career-girl, living in the twenty-first century, divorced from her grandparents’ world by time, economics, education, language, religion and attitudes. As a result, she misinterprets most of what she is told. But finally, she does come to realise what happened back in 1948.

The reader is there before her, because interwoven with Sarah’s tale is the story of her grandmother, Gwen Owen, from the day of her marriage to John Owen in 1933, through the war years, with a POW camp down the valley, to the aftermath of his death in 1948, and to the reader it is very quickly clear that life in the little cottage of Cwmderwen bore no resemblance whatsoever to the rural idyll, with roses round the door and songs around the piano that Sarah has imagined. It’s a life of grinding poverty and increasing oppression that is doomed from the start.

Once Sarah learns the truth, she realises the pain and trauma that went into ensuring that one good thing emerged from the tragedy, and it’s up to her, now, to make it worth while.

Frenni Fawr Pembrokeshire

Frenni Fawr, Pembrokeshire From geograph.org.uk Author Dylan Moore Creative Commons Licence



AmeriCymru: Can you describe the area of Wales in which the novel is set for the benefit of our American readers?

Thorne: The novel is set in the south west of Wales, in northern Pembrokeshire, where I live now. Even today, it’s isolated, west of the mountains, with poor road and rail links. In the nineteenth century it was one of the few areas where the population remained static or fell, while everywhere else it was exploding. While the south of the county, known as

Little England, is rolling open farm-land, and almost exclusively English speaking, the northern area of Cemaes, bordering on Ceredigion, is a little lost kingdom all of its own, very wooded, very wild, with tiny bronze-age fields and hills littered with prehistoric monuments and hut circles. It’s the area from which the blue stones of Stonehenge were dragged. In fact, across the road from me is a hilltop circle that has been suggested as the original site of the bluestone circle. The area is still very Welsh: my niece was educated in Welsh before disappearing to the far end of England for university.

There are a lot of images of the area on my website at http://www.thornemoore.co.uk/gallery.html

AmeriCymru: Much of the story is set in in pre-war rural Wales. How did you research the period? What are the most significant ways that rural Welsh lifestyles have changed since those days?

Thorne: I moved to this area 30 years ago, from industrial Luton, and it’s changed a lot in those thirty years of course, but I was startled, when I first arrived, by how different it was to the world I knew. I ran a tea shop in a village where some elderly and talkative customers had memories stretching back to the start of the century, and they used to tell me stories about life in earlier years, as servants in big mansions, or working in the local quarries (long greened over now).

When I moved to my present home, a few miles from the village, I was told of an old cottage nearby where… something had happened (read the book) and everyone knew about it but no one, including the police, had said anything.

I was intrigued, because I could not imagine a situation back in the area where I’d grown up, where it would be possible for secrets to be maintained in this way; someone would have said something. So on a visit to the National Library in Aberystwyth, I took a look at some old copies of the local newspaper, in the vague (and utterly forlorn) hope of finding a mention of the story.

What I did find was a wealth of information about the area in the 1930s and 40s, which painted a very vivid picture of it, including health reports detailing just how poor and malnourished life could be out on the tiny farms. I was particularly struck by a story of a village eisteddfod, just after the war, being won by a German prisoner of war from the local camp. I met several former POWs, who decided to stay on after the war and marry local girls. They were fluent in Italian or German and Welsh, but not so strong on English.

The story that had most effect on me however was a report from a magistrate’s court, in which a young girl was charged with a ‘wicked’ crime that wouldn’t be considered a crime today. The way it was dealt with made a huge impression on me, and I determined to write about it. It has changed, in my book, but the essentials are there. If I am not being explicit, it’s because I don’t want to give the plot away.

Welsh was another matter I had to research, while tearing out my hair. I speak some theoretical Welsh, but in real life every valley seems to have its own dialect, and the Pembrokeshire dialect (probably died out by now) was odder than most. I needed a perfect translation of a couple of phrases, so I sought help from my neighbours, a very local couple and their daughter who chairs the Welsh Language Society: surely they would provide me with the definitive answer. For one three-word sentence they came up with four possible options. I took a deep breath and chose one. I am still waiting for an angry email telling me I got it WRONG!!!

North Pembrokeshire has changed a lot since the time described in the story. It’s changed a lot since I first moved here. Despite Welsh-speaking schools, it’s probably a lot less Welsh-speaking, thanks to an influx of English, retiring here or buying holiday cottages. What industry there was, like quarrying, and even the Ministry of Defense, has more or less vanished, and even farming is on the back foot, but the industry that now overwhelmingly dominates is tourism (please come). We have the most spectacular coast in the country. The world. The universe.

AmeriCymru: Where can people buy the book online?

Thorne: It’s available in print and as an e-book through Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble and probably many other places.

AmeriCymru: What''s next for Thorne Moore? Are you working on anything at the moment?

Thorne: My second book, Motherlove, which is also set partly in Pembrokeshire, is due to be published some time in the next 12 months (I haven’t been given a date yet) and I am working on polishing a third book, set very much in Pembrokeshire, which is called Shadows at the moment, although the title may change.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Thorne: Come to Pembrokeshire. Just remember to bring hiking boots and waterproofs.


 
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