1. Tell us about your latest published book and your current writing project.Latest published book is sexy contemporary Blueprint For Love (as Monya Clayton), in October last year as an e-book from The Wild Rose Press and e-selling sites. It’s been available in print on Amazon and the other online booksellers since January. It’s very modern, has a strong heroine with a vulnerable heart. She’s an environmentalist who objects to the hero’s latest project which will destroy a seafront palm-tree garden. He’s quite yummy and they’re attracted, but being on opposite sides of the argument the sparks certainly fly between Cathy and Paul!
Current project, lol, is editing my second contemporary, A Mismatched Pair. Next is to edit my second historical, Sister Portman’s Pirate. Some way down the track to publication for both of them yet! And all the other unfinished novels on the computer, the typewritten first drafts, and the ideas in my head, are patiently waiting their turn.
With contemporary one can’t get much wrong, as in fashions, dialogue etc., because the world is all about you. As for historical, I’m deeply interested in the past and how people lived.
3. What is the most difficult aspect of writing each?
With contemporary I at first had a problem with sex scenes, but I feel they’re natural to the times and should be included. I’m sixty-plus so it’s a generational thing. I think I’m getting better at it, but the scenes must be relevant to the story and to the relationship and not included simply for titillation.
With historical it’s the concern with getting things right, the research. For The Pirate And The Puritan (as Mary Clayton) I knew the basic background but needed to learn much more. It was written before I owned a computer so the research was conducted mainly in libraries. I’m Australian so couldn’t do it personally. I wrote to the U.S. for some information about Charleston (then Charles Town), South Carolina. It was extremely interesting to learn, for one thing, that in 1704 the city was the only walled one in the Americas. I did make a couple of small mistakes, I discovered later. I live in a warm climate and mentioned lemons once or twice, and of course they weren’t common or procurable at that time. One of the British-born members of our local Writers Group told me that until the 1950s England imported all its citrus fruit from Spain, and I believe only limes were available from the West Indies in the 18th century. It’s a tiny thing, and no one else has noticed yet! It’s a case of letting go of one’s modern mindsets.
4. Tell us about the most fun you had at a book signing.Oh dear, I haven’t had a formal book-signing yet! It will happen, but there’s the difficulty of importing print copies from the U.S. So far I have signed copies in several local newsagents, and hopefully will gradually place them in bookstores as well. This is a country area, I live in a small town (1200 people), and the nearest bigger towns are each about fifty kilmotres away. (Thirty and thirty-five miles respectively.) And, like all modern businesses, the bookshops are stocked by their head offices in Sydney. There are a couple that are franchises though, and I’m in the process of sounding out their willingness to stock my work.
5. Which author/book had the most influence on your writing and why?
That’s actually difficult to answer! Of course there are writers and books I love, but my own style is that of a storyteller and not in their league. When I was a youngster I preferred boys’ adventure yarns to girls’ fiction, and that has carried over into great admiration for C.S. Forester (the Hornblower series & other works like Brown On Resolution), Patrick O’Brian (the Aubrey-Maturin series), and George MacDonald Fraser (the Flashman series). Mary Renault’s historical fiction set in the classic Greek world and the older Cretan civilisation, such as The King Must Die, are absolutely superb. Georgette Heyer is in a class of her own with her 18th century and original Regencies such as Arabella and The Grand Sophy. What I admire most about their work is their lucidity. Editors used to pull me up for being too wordy, but I’m definitely improving in that area. As Hemingway once said, “If it reads easy, it was writ hard.”
6. What writing habit are most proud of?
I am not organised and never have been, though I tend to write at night when my husband is asleep and I have few distractions. I expect it’s the fact I’m hanging in there and trying not to get discouraged by the whole competitive nature of writing in these days when there are huge turnovers of romance books and thousands of authors. There’s also the necessity of self-promotion, which can be very time consuming but is absolutely necessary if one is to bring one’s name to the attention of the reading public.
7. Describe your writing space.
We built our home here, physically, ourselves, and moved inside in 2001. We included a room specifically for me to work in and keep my books. A few thousand, if I bothered to count them. My desk is big and second-hand and never neat. I occasionally tidy it up! The computer apparatus takes up half of it, and I have a plastic set of filing drawers beside it, and more stuff (research, old ms. etc.) in the desk drawers. A little shelf set to one side holds the mechanical things and the dictionaries etc. My favourite is the Reader’s Digest Word Finder. It also holds my clear nail polish and a small mirror and set of eyebrow tweezers for the times when I can’t think of the next word! Oh, and one window, in front of the desk, has to be left open for the cat to come in and out of. This gets a bit chilly in winter!
8. How did you meet your husband? (We love a romance.)
I can tell you how he first heard of me! We were both at high school in our home town of Ipswich, about 90 miles way. We weren’t in the same class but had some teachers in common. Since I always did well in English the English teacher was in the habit of taking some of my essays around the other classes, and he said he resented it! I was pointed out to him one day, he said, and since I was skinny and plain he was not terrifically interested. However, when we finished high school we ended up working in the same place, a large joinery and cabinet-making workshop, he as an apprentice and I in the office. After about two years he asked me out, and after going steady for a year and a half we sort of took it for granted we’d get married. Our 50th anniversary is coming up in a few months. We’re complete opposites, he immensely talented in practical matters like cars and woodwork, and I a reader and writer, but we rub along well, Especially now we’re oldish and very few things are worth the effort of an argument!
Nothing really romantic, but then I found out later he’d fought every single other apprentice in that joinery for the right to ask me out. He won, of course. He’s still 6feet 41/2 inches tall and still, nearing seventy, very strong. And determined!
9. How did your family get to Australia?
My mother’s parents were both born here of immigrant parents in the 1890s. Her father’s parents were German, her mother’s English. There is a romantic story in the family that my grandfather’s dad was from a wealthy family of wine-makers in Prussia and ran off to the other side of the world with one of the housemaids! Don’t know how true it is but it sounds good. My father’s parents were of English and Irish extraction and I’m afraid I don’t know anything of their predessors.
Their name was Conroy and it’s always tempting to wonder if there was an Irish convict in my paternal granddad’s background. Having a convict ancestor in Australia is a cause for a weird type of reverse kudos. Many of course were transported for what today would be trifling misdeamenours like stealing a loaf of bread. But some were real criminals!”
Monya, my first name, sounds as if I have exotic ancestry like Russian or Aboriginal Australian, (the latter were here at least 50,000 years before the British arrived on their doorstep, complete with convicts, in 1788.) But my name has a simple explanation – my mother saw it in a movie! Of course, it was unusual when I was young in the 1940s and 50s, when girls were called things like Glenda, Janice and Dorothy. Mind you, I took a secret pride in the fact it was apparently unique. Right up to about two years ago, when I googled it… The first page alone was hilarious
10. Tell us something about your corner of the world – we love travel.
Our small town in south-east Queensland is very quiet and pleasant and has all the necessary shops – grocer, chemist (drugstore), post office, hairdresser, doctor, etc. It is in a farming area, grows wheat, peanuts, corn and sunflowers. The largest industry is the piggeries. It’s on the Darling Downs (I know that looks odd but it was named for a governor of New South Wales of that surname). We do our main grocery shop in Warwick, small city of 10,000 with more amenities. Larger town, Toowoomba, has a population of 90,000 and even more amenities, like specialist doctors, hospitals, large shopping centres. It’s called The Garden City and hosts Australia’s oldest yearly garden festival, the Carnival of Flowers. It’s quite lovely, but I remember it as a big country town when I was a child and find it’s getting some unpleasant city edges!
11. Chat about your pets – we love those, too.
One dog, one cat. Dog is Woofer for reasons plain to everyone who walks past. It comes in handy for my husband, who has hearing aids and knows when Woofer barks in a certain tone someone has come in the gate. We acquired him at age 2 from a neighbour who moved away and he’ll be 11 years old in June. Still pretty healthy. He’s what we call a ‘bitzer’ or ‘mongrel’ in Oz, half Blue Heeler (cattle dog) and half German Shepherd (Alsatian). He’s never bitten anyone in his life but I couldn’t swear he wouldn’t if either of us was threatened. He loves the grandchildren, any children really, and even the cat (when we’re not looking).
Cat’s name is Smokey, a grey tabby, he’ll be 3 years old in August. We found him as a kitten in our carport, in the empty engine bay of our car when my husband was working on it. As far as we can work out, his mother was a stray and put him there for safety. He certainly landed on his feet. Because my husband found him he’s Arthur’s cat and jumps on Arthur’s lap for cuddles. But he’s becoming much nicer to me since he worked out I’m the one who feeds him. Well fed too, he’s a big boy! He’s given up chasing birds and he doesn’t DO trees, but he’s a great mouser and presently having the time of his life since it’s autumn (fall) here, coming on winter, and winter is mouse season. (Farm country, plenty of them). I just wish he wouldn’t leave the bodies in the bathroom…
12. What is your favorite southern Australian food? (We like to ask a “southern” question since we live in the American South.)
Actually, we don’t have much food change from coast to coast or north and south, and not much in the line of regional differences except city and country. (Sydney and Melbourne alone are home to a third of the population.) Being in the southern hemisphere, we in the northern part of the country are in the warm area. If there’s a common Australian preference it’s for seafood, though that’s around the (considerable, since we’re an island continent) coastline. Inland they go more for steak, eggs and potatoes and similar uncomplicated tucker (food). We’re fortunate to have climate zones much like the U.S., stretching from cold temperate Tasmania in the south to the tropics of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory in the north, so just about anything can be grown and is.
We ate fairly plainly until the 1950s, until Greek, Italian and other immigrants introduced us to new cuisines. And we ate and cooked mostly at home until the 1980s, when the restaurant and cafe culture caught on. Of course, the larger the city the more eat-out places it possesses. As for take-out, that was pretty much meat pies and fish and chips until the 1970s when KFC and MacDonalds started up. In our little town we even have two choices of eat-in and, including the shop, three of takeaway. But it’s still cheaper to cook. And thank goodness for the freezer. http://historicalfictionbooks.ning.com/profile/MonyaClayton