Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Interview with Loretta Proctor

Today we are welcoming historical fiction author, Loretta Proctor, to the blog. Loretta was kind enough to answer a few questions about her novel, Middle Watch, as well as a few questions about herself and her other novels. Thank you, Loretta. 

1. What was your inspiration for "Middle Watch"?

I have a friend whose life has been complex and very sad sometimes. Over a coffee one morning, she told me that her foster father had taken them to live in a lighthouse after retiring from the Navy.  She was an orphan just like Bridie, my heroine, and had an unloving relationship with her foster mother and brothers. Living by a lighthouse!  This caught my imagination at once, and so Bridie O'Neill was born.  She's quite a different person to my friend, of course.

2. Are lighthouses something you have always been personally interested in,
or did you become interested for the sake of the book?

I've always loved lighthouses and admired the wonderful, brave men who ran them; a lonely
job, but close to the elements and close to danger.  There is something peculiarly atmospheric about these amazing pillars that withstand the seas and storms and beam their light to save passing ships from foundering on treacherous rocks.

3. Your descriptions of the scenery were all very well written. Are the places in the book all areas you have visited?

Yes, I visited the lighthouses mentioned in the story in Cornwall, Devon, Yorkshire, plus a few others.  All wild and rugged and lonely spots but so beautiful. Broughhampton is an imaginary place, but I know Bournemouth, a seaside town in the UK, from many visits when my children were small. And I lived in London for thirty years and worked in some of the areas I've written about during that part of the story.

4. How much research was involved in writing “Middle Watch”?

Most of the research was done from visiting the areas and reading a lot of interesting books.  Some from my own life experiences.

5. "Middle Watch" is a chronicle of Bridie's life beginning at a young age and going to adulthood. How did   you develop her story, and how did you decide what areas to pay particular attention to?

Well, we had to start with the 'orphan' story to establish the pain and misery of Bridie's early childhood.  The story hinges on those experiences and the anxiety and fear that never ceased to dog her life. Her joy at being 'rescued' would then follow on. In a way, though, the story just grew naturally.  I seldom plot in much detail, just let the story flow and create itself. The characters always seem to know what they're doing, even if I don't!

6. The two main love interests in the book are very different. How did you build these characters? Do you decide all of a character’s qualities beforehand, or let them develop with the book?

As I said they come to life by themselves.  Ryan had been brought up in lonely places all his life and so his nature would be more inclined to thoughtfulness and silence. Jim had to be a contrast, more urbane and charming, to provide the conflict and to indicate the two sides of Bridie's own animus, her own inner conflict.

7. Bridie, despite her rough life, remains a very naive girl in many ways. How did you balance the abuse she suffered (which could make one very cynical), and her life spent away from people which contributed to her naiveté?

I think she is one of life's innocents and yes, naive as well...due, as you rightly say, to the lonely life she led... but also to something intrinsic in her, a Nature girl with a love of simplicity, silence and peace - which is why she recognizes Ryan as her soul mate. Some people have a childlike nature but also have a wisdom that goes with it; the Wise Child who understands life at a deep, natural level. Thus she could roll along with what life flung at her and take it pretty philosophically. Nature would always heal her.

8. Who are your favorite authors?

Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Daphne du Maurier, Robert Goddard, Ruth Rendell, Nikos Kazantzakis.

9. Do you have any unusual rituals or habits when you write?

Oh yes. The desk has to be tidy and everything in place. It clears the mind, I feel!  And I do like to have pictures of what I'm writing about around me such as lots of lighthouses with Middle Watch, Pre-Raphaelite pictures with The Crimson Bed and WW1 pictures with The Long Shadow. It sets the mood.
I bought lots of little lighthouse ornaments when writing Middle Watch! Just love them around me.

10. Can you tell us about any other projects you are working on?

I'm currently writing a sequel to The Long Shadow called Dying Phoenix.  The Long Shadow will come out as an e-book in July when I get my rights back. It's been in a 'desert' for seven years and I want to make it known and loved to a wider public. Both these stories are set in Greece, the first one during WW1 and the sequel during the takeover of Greece by a military regime of Colonels. Being half Greek myself, I do enjoy writing these stories and exploring this part of myself.

Thanks again, Loretta for taking the time to let us get to know you and your writing a little better!

Middle Watch is available now at Amazon USAmazon UK, and Matador.