Hold the candles – it’s not my actual birthday (that’s November 5, you still have time to lovingly wrap my gifts). Today is a birthday of another kind. Backtrack four years, and I was completing my Diploma of Business, which bored me to the back teeth. As much as I enjoy the aspect of running a business, a job most likely in an office was never going to make me happy. Ever. Everyone thought me mad to want to work in a sail loft, but the practical element spoke to me.
Four years ago, I met a Spanish man here in Auckland, and naturally the subject turned to his country that I love so much. I had already learned much about Spain’s 20th century (and earlier) history, and his story inspired me. I logged the info away, along with the info of my missing great-grandfather, and the story of a New Zealand nurse I had been reading up on around the same time. Then I discovered the ultimate time-suck for any woman at home with babies – online fiction. A few reads and I thought (in a fit of self-righteousness) ‘I could do a better job than this. Writing is a piece of cake. I’ll just write a story about Spanish Civil War graves.’ And ta-da, on October 25, 2009, I started posting online fiction. Luna Montgomery was born.
Oh, it’s that easy to be a writer? Yes and no. Any hack can write. Anyone can post online. Boom – writer. Doing it well is another story. I started writing creatively twenty years ago, but with teen years filled with dreams of sailing and then fending for myself at 17 trying to make it as a sailmaker, writing never got much of a chance. Enter adulthood, marriage, children – the storylines were still going around, but no outlet until late 2009.
While I plodded along with blog posting for several years, it wasn’t until October 2012 that the book inspired by a kiwi nurse, my missing great-grandfather, a civil war grave and the story of a random Spanish guy was published, Blood in the Valencian Soil. Until then, around 4,000 people followed my In the Hands of Love blog (the prelude to the books) and I love each and every one of you for all the support. My three-part Secrets of Spain book series Blood in the Valencian Soil, Vengeance in the Valencian Water, and Death in the Valencian Dust was made easier with your support.
In 2010 I started on a different project, to encapsulate and destroy all the things about storylines that I don’t like. Females characters so often get a bad run in books and films. They are often (but not always!) the victims, sidekicks, sex objects, weaklings, gold-diggers. There aren’t many good quality female villains, and too many stories end with everyone happy and evil defeated. So I set out to online post Canna Medici in Nights Wants to Forget, which got 100,000 reads in 10 months. Nothing angers people faster than drugs, abortion and euthanasia. I quickly adapted it and published the book in late 2011 and is still my best selling book of my published works. With the sequel Violent Daylight out a few months ago, things are looking better than ever. I wrote that book in record time, and the Canna series has no weight of expectation on me. My Secrets of Spain has a huge weight of expectation on it. No one has tried to point out anything in terms of historical accuracy yet, so I’m taking that as a sign Blood in the Valencian Soil is all it needs to be.
So, after four years of full-time dedication and three, soon to be four, books released, I finally feel like I can legitimately say I’m an author for the first time. I wrote it on my departure card at an Australian airport last week and the guy asked ‘what do you write?’ ‘I write historical fiction based on the Spanish civil war and following Spanish dictatorship.’ The guy went a bit bug-eyed for a moment. Let’s just say I have a niche going in this part of the world.
What am I doing to celebrate?
Excellent question – by giving more to you out there. I have not posted any online fiction in a year, and I miss it. Giving out work in that form gives me instant feedback from readers in the comments section/twitter. Plus, it gives me time to flex my writing muscle (as it were) when I want to write but feel a bit stuck. Rather than my In the Hands of Love style of writing (which ended up at 300 chapters!), I will write stand-alone short pieces of fiction to enjoy. There will be a theme that runs through them, but you can stop by and read any time without getting lost.
Indeed there is. Each week I will be reviewing one Hemingway book of my choosing. Many people know the man but not the work and I will be digging in and giving you a review of his writing. We will start the next week with one of my personal favourites Death in the Afternoon. The fact I fell asleep while re-reading it on a train from Barcelona to Valencia was not the book’s fault, I swear. It was the porrón from the night before that did it.
I also have some other book reviews to post – Jeremy Treglown’s Franco’s Crypt, and Henry Buckley’s The Life and Death of the Spanish Republic (which took me forever to finish). I have read a lot of books on Spain, fiction and non-fiction. I assumed many people interested in the subject have also read them (think Paul Preston or Gerald Brenan’s backlist for example), but I am beginning to find I am ahead of others. If there is a book you are interested in reading, or don’t have time for and want a synopsis posted, let me know I will add it to my book review posts. My bookshelf crying under its own weight will be happy to share.
One more thing, purely out of interest, I would like to know what (if any) of my writing that you read. Multiple answers are an option. Help out your Spain obsessed blogger and leave your feedback.
Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read my work in any form
(and thanks random Spanish guy, you know who you are)
If you haven’t already, here is an interview with me talking about coming up with Luna Montgomery on Talk Radio Europe. (I’m surprised how many people have listened to be honest!)