– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Arguing with the Dead’ blogtour, organised by Love Books Group Tour.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but b
About the Author :
Alex Nye is the award-winning author of four novels. She grew up in Norfolk by the sea, but has lived in Scotland since 1995 where she finds much of her inspiration in Scottish history. At the age of 16 she won the W H Smith Young Writers’ Award out of 33,000 entrants, and has been writing ever since. Her first children’s novel, CHILL, won the Royal Mail Award. Her fourth book is a historical novel for adults about Mary Queen of Scots. Her fifth title, ARGUING WITH THE DEAD, is another historical novel, this time about Mary Shelley, and explores the chaotic and destructive forces which shaped her. She divides her time between walking the dog, swimming, scribbling in notebooks in strange places, staring at people without meaning to, and tapping away on her laptop. She also teaches and delivers atmospheric candlelit workshops on creative writing/ghost stories/Scottish history. She studied at King’s College, London more years ago than she cares to remember.
The year is 1839, and Mary Shelley – the woman who wrote Frankenstein – is living alone in a tiny cottage on the banks of the river Thames in Putney. As she sorts through the snowstorm of her husband’s scattered papers she is reminded of their past: the half-ruined villas in Italy, the stormy relationship with Shelley and her stepsister Claire, the loss of her children, the attempted kidnapping of Claire’s daughter Allegra from a prison-like convent in Florence. And finally, her husband’s drowning on the Gulf of Spezia as they stayed in a grim-looking fortress overlooking the sea. What she has never confided in anyone is that she has always been haunted by Shelley’s drowned first wife, Harriet, who would come to visit her in the night as she slept with her two tiny children in a vast abandoned villa while Shelley was away litigating with lawyers. Did Mary pay the ultimate price for loving Shelley? Who will Harriet come for next?
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell us something about yourself and how you became an author?
My name is Alex Nye, and I write novels for both children and adults, some of which are ghost stories. I wrote my first complete novel in my final year at King’s College, London before graduating. I called it Martha, and it has never been published. I think I’ve lost it. The inspiration for my first children’s novel, Chill, came from spending a long winter of blizzards in a remote cottage on Sheriffmuir, near Stirling, where I absorbed the history and atmosphere of the place. The estate I lived on was called Cauldhame, and my first two books, Chill and Shiver, published by Floris in 2006 and 2009, are set here. Chill won the Royal Mail Award in 2007. I then wrote Darker Ends which is a ghost story set in Glencoe, and this was followed in 2017 by a historical novel about Mary Queen of Scots called For My Sins, where Mary is sitting in a prison cell at the end of her life, stitching her tapestries while being haunted by the ghosts of her past. The first chapters of this were originally written 28 years earlier and put away in a drawer. I have two new titles out this year, an adult historical novel about Mary Shelley called Arguing with the Dead, and another YA novel, When we get to the Island, about a boy from Syria on the run across Scotland with a girl who has escaped from being in care.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
As a child:
Tove Jansson’s Moominpapa at Sea and Moomin Midwinter. Loved the description, honesty, simplicity and eerie atmosphere.
Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken.
The Borrowers by Mary Norton.
The Peal by John Steinbeck
The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I read all of these as a child, and re-read them even now. I recently discovered The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd, and was utterly transformed by it.
As an adult:
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Muse by Jessie Burton
The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
There are lots of writers I would have loved to meet, many of whom are now dead, but I don’t know what I would ask them other than to gaze in awe and tell them how much I loved their books. Maybe Ted Hughes. He once read a piece I wrote when I was 15 which won the W H Smith Young Writers’ Award. It was about a baby in a glass jar! (produced during a Biology lesson). I suppose I would also love to pick the brains of Margaret Atwood, soaking up her knowledge and experience.O Or have a nice chat with Jessie Burton. And of course I would love to have met the Bronte sisters, , and asked Emily about her life.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
I suppose it would have to be Moomintroll because he is so laid-back and honest. He definitely get me, and I’d get him. In fact, I’d be happy if he became a permanent member of my family, although we might fetch some looks in the supermarket.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
Not really. I just write in a place that suits me, and migrate about the house, the garden or favourite coffee shops, in particular The Artisan Roast in Glasgow, where I can lurk about for ages upstairs under a warm 1970’s lamp which reminds me of being a child back home. Something about that taps into my inner-child, so I feel very happy there. In the summer I love to find a spot on a rock or somewhere wild, and fill a notebook.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
I observe, watch and listen to everything around me, taking note, taking pleasure in what I see, and if I feel the need to document that stuff, then I act on it. Yes, probably people should be worried, because I’m quite perceptive. A single line of dialogue can be utterly illuminating, particularly in the author yurt at the Edinburgh Festival if I’m ever lucky enough to be invited.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
I go with the flow, then re-write afterwards, although I often know the ending.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’t’s)?
Do pick up your pen and write.
Write because you want to, and never write for money.
If you’re finding it hard to fit writing into your life because of a demanding job, carry a good notebook with you, and write in that when you would otherwise be sitting quietly wishing you had your notebook with you.
What are your future plans as an author?
To keep on writing the way I am now. I’m looking forward to beginning another spell as a Writer in Residence at a school in the north of Scotland, and I’m being asked to do author events more and more now. I hope this continues. I love young people, and I love visiting them as an author rather than a teacher. It’s more informal and creative, and suits me.
Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, please?
I have one maid, Lizzie, a young girl who comes in early and lights the fire for me, sweeps and cleans. I like to talk to her. I lend her books and am teaching her to read. Her young hands are already chapped and reddened from her chores. This will be her lot in life, I fear – but she has an enquiring mind, and I like to see her sit with a book and puzzle over the marks on the page, the look of triumph and delight as the words begin to form a pattern, the sentences build to a narrative.
How many women like Lizzie might have written books instead of washing pots and scrubbing floors, if the world were a different place?
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Alex Nye.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!