First up, please tell us about your connection to Wales. (Do you live here? Are you Welsh? Did you live in Wales or did we meet in Wales?…)
I was born in Cardiff in 1958 and lived there until I left home at eighteen. Growing up we had compulsory Welsh lessons but few people took it seriously. It is wonderful how the language has been revived. I still have family living in Wales and it has been great to have one of my children studying at Cardiff University. Wales is in my DNA. When I started to write it was natural to set my stories there.
Tell us a little about yourself as writer and as person. (Tell us about your writing history. When was the first time you decided to write and when was the first time you did? Your hobbies, family, pets..?)
I often read of writers who started writing stories when they were very young, but it was not like that for me. My love was always music. I came to writing in my early fifties. I went to a class at the local college and it was very inspiring. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else. My life outside writing is walking my Cocker Spaniel and looking after the family. I was a teacher of Deaf children but that feels a lifetime ago now.
‘Free to Be Tegan’ is about a woman who had been brought up in an isolated , psychologically abusive cult . It is the story I first wanted to write and therefore, in a sense , it chose the genre which is Biographical Fiction / Literary Fiction /Woman’s Fiction.
Tell us about the concept behind your book(s). (How did you get the idea? Who is your favourite character? Who would you cast to play the characters in a movie? What song would you pick to go with your book? Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?)
The idea for the story came from my own experiences of being brought up in a strict religious sect. However, Free to Be Tegan is a novel not an autobiography and although it calls on my experience and those of others, the cult and people in the story are fictitious. One of my favourite characters is Cerys who proves to be a wonderful friend for Tegan in her recovery. Cerys is one of those kind, gentle, practical people we all know and depend on but so often they get overlooked.
I would really love a Welsh actress to play Tegan, maybe Catrin Stewart or Alexandra Roach as Tegan and Mali Harries as Cerys. Music I would choose would be Cerys Matthews singing ‘Ar Hyd a Nos’
If I had to chose a character I am most like it would be Tegan, but she is more vulnerable and naive and had a much harder time than I have ever had.
What is your life like outside of writing? What makes you laugh, what makes you cry?
Humour is really important to me. I love funny programmes and films. Gavin and Stacy is one of my favourite TV series. I love the parts set in Barry. It is often the little things, a turn of phrase or a look which reminds me of my upbringing. Loss of loved ones makes me cry. I have lost both my parents and it still hurts deeply.
Which Welsh person would you like to invite for dinner and what would you serve?
I think I would like to invite Ruth Jones. I am in awe of her talent but I think she would be kind and chatty.
Who is your favourite Welsh author?
Dylan Thomas would have to be my favourite writer. I remember going to the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff in my teens to a performance of ‘Under Milk Wood’. I was just stunned at the beauty of the words and description. I have to admit I don’t understand a lot of his poetry but I read it for his use of language.
What is the best thing about Wales?
For me the best thing about Wales is the people. So often they are gentle and friendly and show their emotions easily. When I first went to teach in London I remember thinking that a lot of people were angry with me, not because of what they said but because of the harshness of the tone.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a story set on Gower, a place where I spent many wonderful holidays as a child.
What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?
One of the things I love about being an author is creating a whole word of characters and a life for them. I also enjoy researching the places I set my stories in. One of the hardest things for me is when I hit a wall. I find the best remedy is to go out with the dog up on the downs or on to the beach or alternatively go for coffee and cake with a friend. (Cake always helps!)
How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?
This is really hard. I love using social media and have met some great people through it. The trouble is it can be enormously time consuming and distracting. I would say I am not very good at balancing the two, but am learning to switch off the internet for periods each day.
Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?
I am very fortunate in having some very literate (and honest!) family and friends and am part of a writing group.
What is your advice to new writers?
I suppose it’s the advice that was given to me. Read a lot; try and write everyday. For me it has also been important to try and find my own voice. There is a lot of advice about marketing and branding, much of it perfectly valid. However, I think it is important to stay true to yourself and write what you believe in.
What is your favourite book?
My favourite book is probably The Rector’s Wife by Joanne Trollope.
What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
I read a lot on my kindle. I have just finished ‘What Ever It Takes’ by Adele Parks.
I was born in Cardiff and have retained a deep love for my Welsh roots. I worked as a nursery teacher in London and later taught Deaf children in Croydon and Hastings. I now live on the beautiful Isle of Wight with my husband, where I walk my cocker spaniel Pepper and write. I have two grown up children. ‘Free to Be Tegan’ is my debut novel. It is to be the first of a series of novels set in Wales. The second will be set on the spectacular Gower Peninsula.
Do send feedback to me at email@example.com
Author Mary Grand