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Wednesday 27 March 2013

Evonne Wareham talking to Leigh Russell

Evonne Wareham was born in South Wales and spent her childhood there. After university she migrated to London, where she worked in local
government, scribbled novels in her spare time and went to the theatre a lot. Now she’s back in Wales, writing and studying history and living by the sea.
Evonne writes romantic thrillers. Her debut book Never Coming Home won an award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Her latest book
Out of Sight Out of Mind will be out in paperback on the 7th March 2013.

Q.       You mention on your website that your books are a form of escapism, presumably for you as well as your readers. Do you think we need fiction to offer us a break from reality?
A. I’m sure that people read for all sorts of reasons, but getting away from the humdrum, into an alternative world, has to be high on the list. In the case of the things I write, ‘escapism’ is a big factor, as my books are rather more ‘out there’ than some other varieties of crime writing. I want readers to be clear what they are getting into when they pick up one of my books. It’s feasible that anyone might have the misfortune to become involved in the type of crime depicted in a police procedural.  It’s a little more unlikely for them to encounter the type of people and situations I write about – particularly the latest one, which features two scientists who read minds. So classing my books at the ‘escapism’ end of the spectrum is a signpost to the sort of story you are going to get. I write to entertain. It’s a simple as that. I enjoy writing them, and getting into a different world, and I hope that comes over to the reader. 
Q.       You have lived in London and on the Welsh coast, very different environments, I would imagine. How much does location inform your writing? How important is it to you when writing your books?
A. Location is very important to me. I hate the cold, so my books have a tendency to take place in warm weather and warm places. I like to use beautiful settings – places that I have visited, like Italy and the South of France – I think it can add to a sense of menace to have sinister things happening in supposedly romantic surroundings, and readers seem to have responded to this. Despite the issue about sun and high temperatures, I try to include at least a cameo appearance from Wales in my books. In my first it was one small but crucial scene – in Out of Sight Out of Mind a large part of the action takes place in Pembrokeshire – but as I was in charge of the weather, it was Pembrokeshire mostly in sunshine.  

Q.       ‘I’m writing the kind of books I like to read’. Do you think that’s a given?
A The genre I write – romantic thrillers or romantic suspense – is not a prominent one in the UK. It has a much higher profile in the United States. I was experimenting with writing different kinds of romance, while reading a lot of imported American romantic suspense. It took quite a long time for the penny to drop - that I might write the kind of thing I was reading and enjoying, but set it in Europe. Then it was a matter of doing some classes in crime writing, to strengthen my ‘crime muscles’. And I also took an evening class in forensics – a bit gruesome, but invaluable on understanding things like DNA, blood splatters and arson.

Q.       As a historian, do you specialise in a particular period, and if so what attracted you to that time?
A. The historian is what you might call my day job, as I am studying for a PhD. The topic is World War Two in Wales, so it is nothing like my fiction. It’s an interesting time, with good records available. When I have finished, a little of the history might find its way into a book, but at the moment I like to keep the two separate. Very different kinds of writing, but they balance each other – when I’m stuck with one, the other welcomes me with open arms. The problem comes if I get stuck with both!

Q.       Describe your ideal writing day, assuming anything is possible.
A. Do you mean the one that starts with a walk on the beach, and goes on to include the production of an unfeasibly high word count, an e-mail from my publisher passing on a couple of glowing reviews, an astonishingly well organised half hour, exchanging witty messages on social media, the intermittent production of some simple and gloriously healthy meals and an evening with friends or family having dinner, or at the theatre?

Q.       Now tell us about your typical writing day.
A.          Well – sometimes I manage the walk on the beach. Otherwise it usually includes some permutation of wrestling with a recalcitrant computer, managing the diaries of recalcitrant family members, making tea, spending far too long messing about on twitter - reading everyone else’s messages but not posting any of my own, rummaging in the freezer at five minutes to lunch, to see what will defrost the fastest, hunting for the research book that I have started to read and now seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. Making more tea.
Actually I write in bursts and I find that I function better by setting aside blocks of time to do nothing but write, with meal breaks, otherwise the day rapidly degenerates, as above!

Q.       Is there a special place where you write?
A. I do first drafts in handwriting - the legacy of years of academic and professional note taking – so I can write just about anywhere. I’m not one who writes in coffee shops, and I don’t have a study, but I do a lot of work sitting in a comfy chair in the corner of the dining room. And on trains. That is a legacy too – from the time when the only writing space I had in the day was the half hour commute to work. 

Q.       I’m writing two series so that as one manuscript ends, the next is clamouring to be written, with regular deadlines every few months.  Tell us about the freedom and the challenges of starting out afresh with each book.    
A. Freedom – it’s great to have a fresh slate and go in whatever direction you want. Except when the fresh slate turns into a blank mind J The challenges are, of course, building a new world every time, working to engage the reader with your characters – and making sure there is consistency in the quality and the tone of the writing. Readers always expect the next book to be as good, if not better, than the last – as is their right – and that applies to a series or a stand-alone. In the case of a stand-alone I think they also expect to be in territory that is somewhat familiar in style, if not in content. I realise that I am on slightly dangerous ground with my second book, in that it has a paranormal twist. A lot of people will not read paranormal at any price. I have my fingers firmly crossed that readers will be willing to come with me on this. It is not a fangs and furs paranormal – the protagonists are most definitely human – and their mind reading gifts are a source of hazard and danger, something that they have to struggle come to terms with and learn to manage. I hope that the feel of the book, the emphasis of shared danger and the growing relationship, will carry the reader along.

Q.       You are a self confessed romantic, claiming ‘there is nothing better than receiving red roses and a heart bedecked card’.  Yet you talk about your ‘bottom drawer’ manuscripts. Might a bit of detective work reveal that the real love of your life is writing? As a historian, how important is writing fiction in your life?
A. There’s still a lot to be said for the big, classic romantic gestures, or they wouldn’t survive. Receiving
flowers, even if it is only a posy picked from someone’s garden, is always a special thing. Writing is, of course, a huge part of my life, whether that is fiction, or academic writing, I love both.  My work as an historian is very different – but I must admit that some of my favourite discoveries are the small human and domestic things that come through in official files – doodles and comments in margins. They rarely contribute to the research, but they are lovely to find.

Q.   In a recent blog post you said your current WIP, about a heist, crept up on you unexpectedly. Can you tell us about it, and how it is progressing?
A. That was the result of watching a lot of old movies over the Xmas holidays. I love the ones with complicated robberies – all that planning and preparation. It appealed to the side of me that likes to over-egg her plots. I started to think that it would be fun to write a heist book and then it began to unravel in my mind to the extent that I think it will be the next full book. (I have a couple of novellas almost completed that I really do have to finish first!)  It most certainly wasn’t in the forward plan and it’s not yet clamouring to be written, but it has all the signs. At the moment it is still at the thinking stage, but I already know quite a lot about how it will develop, which is a good/ominous sign, depending on how you look at it. One thing is perturbing me – it has arrived with a scene set in the snowbound Brecon Beacons. Given that I dislike cold, that is going to be a real test of willpower – but you see there is this corpse, buried in the snow…
Never Coming Home - Winner of the Joan Hessayon New Writers' Award 2012

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